The tight leather corset was crushing my ribs. I straightened my back and let out a sigh, checking myself in the mirror.
"Hurry up," my new boss yelled from the room next door. "We have a client in less than 30 minutes. And this guy is always on time."
The mistress who had recently hired me as a dominatrix was a five-foot-tall Cuban woman with long manicured nails and a tattoo of a dragon crawling down her back. She wore a full-body fishnet stocking with a latex cincher.
Standing five feet 11 inches, with an athletic build, I towered over her petite frame, even when she was wearing the highest of heels. "The corset is way too tight," I screamed back, gasping for air. "I can't breathe." I wasn't used to wearing clothing this restrictive, but beauty is pain. I had to look great for my first session.
Here I was, barely 20 years old, a penniless student trying out for my first real job, unless you count lifeguarding at the community pool back home in suburban Staten Island. What in hell was I doing? A month ago, I had been sitting in a classroom surrounded by gel-haired meatheads named Vinnie and Frankie, living in what seemed like an endless rerun of MTV's Jersey Shore. The boredom was overwhelming. Sure, I'd had kinky fantasies about becoming a femme fatale, the sort of woman who could control a man with a flick of her wrist. Late at night in my pink bedroom at my parents' house, I would imagine what it would be like to be Wanda, the lead female character in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's 19th-century novel Venus in Furs, the story of a cruel mistress who initially recoils at dominating her submissive lover but grows to love it.
Now fantasy had become reality. I wondered what my mom would say if she knew men were willing to pay up to $250 an hour to worship me.
The mistress rushed into the bathroom where I was applying makeup and handed me a pair of fishnet stockings. I had no money to invest in costumes, so I had to borrow hers. "Here, wear these," she said. "And fix your makeup. You look like a hippie chick. Make it darker. You're a dominatrix, for Christ's sake."
The client would be here at any minute. I sat on a bondage table next to the mistress. We were ready for the session.
I looked up at the surveillance monitor and saw the client's car pull into the driveway of the tidy ranch house that doubled as a dungeon. It was 11 a.m. on the dot. The mistress explained that the client was a sad, older man still mourning his recently deceased wife. I knew that it was a difficult time for him and that seeing a mistress was a way for him to cope with pain and loss. Of course, I put all of that out of my head. Sensitivity isn't part of the job.
He quickly undressed in the bathroom and then came out and kneeled before us, asking how he could serve these "two beautiful women." The mistress looked at me and smiled. It was my session, and it was up to me to decide what to do with this worthless slug. She was there just to observe.
I glanced around the room at the instruments of torture hanging from the red-painted walls. The assortment was bewildering. I wanted to use them all — floggers, canes, riding crops, paddles, electric wands, nipple clamps, ropes, clothespins, and all manner of leather restraints. A cage stood in the corner next to a dusty cabinet that contained rubber gloves, lubricants, metal rods, and needles for so-called medical play.
A framed picture of a woman's intimate parts hung next to a variety of ball gags. The mistress had told me the client enjoyed having his nipples tortured, so I grabbed a pair of clamps with metallic crocodile teeth.
I pulled him closer and whispered in his ear: "I think I found something you would enjoy, you little subbie."
He quivered at the sight of the clamps. I squeezed his round nipples between my thumb and index finger. He winced; clear liquid leaked out. "Oh, you're pathetic," I screamed at him and turned to the mistress. "Look what we've got here! His nipples are lactating, and I'm just getting started."
I am a pervert to some and a goddess to others. I am a professional dominatrix, and I entered this unusual line of work after arriving in Miami last August, fresh off a Greyhound from New York. My only possessions were a bag full of sex toys and a well-thumbed paperback copy of the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom. Stepping off the bus that day after a grueling 36-hour journey, I was blasted by the punishing heat like a furnace had hit me. Jesus, it was sticky. This was my first time in South Florida. Actually, this was my first time anywhere outside of New York since my family emigrated from Uzbekistan in 2002.