Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness - Suzy Favor Hamilton (2015)

Chapter 10. A WAKE-UP CALL

Even though my threesome with Sebastian and his cousin hadn’t gone the way I’d thought it would, the experience wasn’t the wake-up call it should have been. Far from it. I didn’t admit to myself that I’d gotten in over my head or that I should go back to my old life. The thought never occurred to me. I just wanted to find the next adventure, the next thrill. The mechanism within me that would have clicked on to trigger embarrassment, fear, or even self-protection wasn’t working.

Even though I had always worked hard on my body, I’d never felt comfortable showing it off in my daily life. I was uncomfortable when attention was drawn to my figure during my college running career, and as a professional runner, because I’d always wanted to be whatever people expected me to be, and that also meant having the ideal runner’s body. Although I’d always had an exhibitionist streak and felt completely comfortable being naked, I knew this wasn’t in keeping with my image as a nice Wisconsin girl, and so I’d only allowed myself to indulge this side of myself in situations where it was permissible: when skinny-dipping with friends, on a topless beach in Europe, or when I was asked to model for a swimsuit calendar or appear naked in a Nike commercial. The rest of the time, I was as modest in my dress and body language as my mom and sisters. In fact, Mark had sometimes teased me about how frumpy my clothes were and bought me more flattering alternatives—a pair of Guess jeans in college, a pair of leather pants later in our marriage—but I’d always been too embarrassed to wear them. Even now that I was blossoming, I didn’t feel comfortable wearing skimpy clothes. After the threesome with Sebastian and his cousin, I dressed for my night in the casino much as I would have at home, pulling on a pair of jeans and a loose blouse, then sweeping my hair back into a high ponytail, my signature when I was a runner. I almost never wore high heels, because I didn’t want to damage my feet, so I pulled on a pair of strappy sandals. Feeling sexy, even if I didn’t exactly look the part, I slipped into the hallway. I loved the sleek anonymity of the hotel, and of Vegas. Everything was luxurious, empty of memories or associations. No one had any idea who I was or what I was doing in town.

As I entered the bar in the heart of the Mandalay Bay casino area and glided up to the bartender, I was happy to be alone. In fact, it was a relief to be on my own, without responsibility for anyone else. I smiled and chatted with anyone around me, anyone who caught my eye. Within no time, I was sitting with two younger women I met at the bar who were drinking cocktails like water and clearly enjoying their Vegas vacation. There was a band playing on the adjacent stage area, and the three of us hit the dance floor. All I ever wanted was to go, go, go, so it felt natural to expend all of my energy out there among the flashing lights and sea of bodies.

The next thing I knew, one of the girls was up on the stage, and then the other, dancing suggestively as the band members egged them on and the male audience members watched appreciatively. They waved me up to join them, and I bounced up alongside them like it was the most natural thing in the world. I could feel all of those eyes on me now, and I loved it—loved looking out at the crowd and seeing men admire me, looking over at the musicians and seeing them want me. The drummer, in particular, was giving me the eye, and so, just like that, I opened up my blouse and flashed him, and he grinned like I’d just made his day. I wasn’t trying to pick him up, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have some fun. I laughed and danced harder, having the best night I’d had in a very long time. I loved Vegas.

When the song ended, I turned to hop down off the stage and find my next adventure. Before I could go, the drummer stopped me.

“Hey, afterward, you know, come by and see me,” he said.

I paused with my hip cocked, looking him up and down, considering.

“No thanks,” I said.

I was there to have fun, have sex, and explore this new side of myself. I would have slept with him if I’d wanted to, but he didn’t appeal to me. My marriage was still important to me. But I craved everything it was lacking: passion, intimacy, and sex. And I would find these elements I so deeply desired elsewhere if necessary.

I stood sipping my glass of red wine, flushed and sweaty from dancing, happily surveying the scene and enjoying the kind of people watching I never got to do back home. As I slid into a banquette with my drink, I noticed a handsome middle-aged black man smiling at me from the next table, where he was seated with an older, very well-dressed white woman. He had this incredible, big, friendly smile, and I felt drawn to him immediately.

“Nice dancing up there,” he said. “How’s your night been?”

“Unbelievable,” I said, laughing as I remembered the scene earlier in my room.

I thought I saw a shadow cross the woman’s face, but when she looked over at me she forced a smile.

“Are you here alone?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, “but I’m still having an amazing time.”

“Well, now you’re with us,” he said.

“Hello,” the woman said, nodding at me.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, leaning toward them and holding out my hand.

“Nice to meet you,” he said, taking my hand. But instead of shaking it, he slid it under the table and placed it on his crotch for a long moment.

Whoa, I thought.

“You should come back to our room with us,” he said.

“Sam,” the woman said, leaning toward him as if she was trying to get his attention without me hearing her words. “No.”

He was cute, and I was flattered, but I could tell she didn’t want me around.

“I have to go,” I said, draining the last of my wine.

“Here, I’ll walk you out,” he said, gesturing for me to stand first.

The woman smiled with her mouth, but her eyes were hard and angry.

As soon as we were about fifty feet away from their table, he held out his hand to me. “It was so nice to meet you,” he said.

When I took his hand, I felt a piece of paper there in his palm, and when I looked at it, I saw it had a phone number written on it.

“Nice to meet you, too,” I said, putting extra emphasis on the word you.

“So here’s the deal,” he said, talking quickly. “I’m an officer in the military, and that woman is a special friend who pays for me to meet her in Vegas a few times a year. I’d love to see you the next time I’m here, but you can’t tell anyone.”

“Sounds exciting,” I said.

There was something about Sam. I could tell he was the kind of person who was very good not only at his job, but at anything else he put his mind to.

“Call me,” he said.

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

Mark and I had a deal that I was supposed to call him to check in and let him know I was okay when I was in Vegas alone. But I put off calling him until I was at the airport, about to catch my flight home, and I knew I couldn’t avoid it any longer. Still, after twenty years together, I was in the habit of telling my husband pretty much everything that happened. I didn’t think about whether or not it would hurt his feelings.

“Are you okay?” Mark asked. “You never checked in.”

“I texted you,” I said.

“Yeah, but I couldn’t tell much from that.”

“Oh, Mark, it was great,” I said. “I saw Sebastian, and he’s really cool.”

“Yeah? Good. I’m glad you’re happy,” he said.

“Yeah, I had a fantastic time. I definitely want to do it again.”

“And how is our friend Pearl?”

“I canceled and saw Sebastian again instead,” I said, unable to keep the enthusiasm out of my voice.

“Oh,” Mark said, sounding ambivalent.

“He’s awesome,” I continued, caught up in my excitement about Sebastian, who was only the second man I’d ever had sex with and had left me with a little crush. “And we get along really well. He used to play basketball in college. We just get each other as we’re both former athletes.”

“But you didn’t tell him you were a runner?” Mark said, sounding very concerned.

“I told him I was a gymnast. Relax, it’s all going to be fine.”

“You have to be careful, you know, Suzy,” he said.

“Well, we’re boarding, so I’ll see you at home soon.”

“I don’t like this, Suzy,” Mark said, sounding angry.

“You worry too much,” I said, matching his tone.

“I don’t think you have any idea how risky this is,” he said. “And that wasn’t what we talked about before you left.”

“Mark, it’ll all be fine,” I said. “I have to go.”

I could tell Mark was more threatened by having me see a male escort than a female, and that he was maybe even a little jealous of Sebastian. But I still planned to return and see Sebastian again. It wasn’t that I wanted to hurt or alarm my husband. It was as if I’d suddenly become a teenager. I wanted what felt good and was fun, all the time.

AS SOON AS I GOT back to Wisconsin, I couldn’t wait to leave again. I didn’t want to have to pay for sex anymore, and maybe, now that I’d made a connection with Sam, I wouldn’t have to. Of course, I needed to discuss everything with Mark. I needed to explain to him that my approach was going to change, but that I’d still be safe and not get emotionally involved. I wanted evidence to support my argument to Mark that I should return to Vegas and spend a couple days with Sam. He had given me his full name, so I googled him and found information that verified what he had told me about his high military rank. And then I waited until Mark and I had a few minutes alone. He was checking his e-mail on his phone when I sat next to him on the couch with our iPad in my hand, ready to make my case.

“So I’ve been thinking about going back to Vegas,” I said.

“Already?” he said.

“You know that guy Sam I met?” I said. “The one I told you about?”

“Yeah,” Mark said flatly.

“Well, look,” I said, pointing to the website I’d pulled up in my research. “He’s a high-ranking officer in the military, just like he told me, which means he has to be discreet. I don’t want to pay for sex anymore, and if I go and meet him, I won’t have to, but I also won’t have to worry about him talking about anything that happens between us.”

Mark took the iPad from me and studied the website I’d pulled up, then tabbed back to look at the other sites that had come up in my search and read them for himself.

“You have to be safe,” he said. “And you have to be discreet.”

“He can be trusted,” I said.

“I hope you’re right,” Mark said, his tone ambivalent. “I have to leave in a few minutes or I’m going to be late.”

As he stood, he was already checking messages again. As much as I wanted my freedom, a part of me was hurt that he didn’t seem to care more. I had thought if I showed him that other men wanted me, it would make him want me again, too. I lacked the perspective in that moment to see how my actions could serve to drive a further wedge between us. All he seemed to care about was work anyhow.

Not that his reaction in any way impacted my decision to return to Vegas. I was too excited to stop myself.

A MONTH LATER, I RETURNED for my second solo trip to Vegas, with a plan to rendezvous with Sam on my first night in town. This time, I checked into the Vdara Hotel. I had quickly gotten hooked on the amenities that came with the best hotels in Vegas—upgrades to suites, room service, and spa treatments. It was all part of the fantasy life I was creating there. I was pleased to see that this time I had a gorgeous corner suite with a separate kitchen and living room, and the bedroom was sleek and very modern with a dark wood oversized headboard flanked by lamps with black-and-white-striped shades. There was an amazing view of the Strip below from everywhere in the room, but especially the bed.

Again, I took my time getting ready, thrilling at the idea that I was preparing myself for a night of hot sex with an attractive man who seemed to like me. Each time I went back to Vegas, I needed the thrill to be a little more intense than the time before. I had to do something a bit more daring. When I’d put on my makeup and pulled my hair into my usual high ponytail, I slid into my cutest jeans, blouse, and sandals. This was going to be my best night yet in Vegas.

I still had an hour to kill until it was time to meet Sam in the bar downstairs. I went into the bedroom and watched the water from the fountains outside the Bellagio leap up into the night sky. But I couldn’t stand still for longer than a few moments at a time. I paced over to the bed and back, turned on the TV, and flipped through the channels, but I couldn’t focus on the pictures. I explored every corner of the suite, enjoying how sleek and luxurious it was, until finally, bored, I went down to the bar early.

When Sam approached me at the bar, he strolled right up like an old lover and pulled me close to him, kissing my cheek. He was taller than I remembered, with that perfect military posture that made him look regal and powerful. And he was handsome, so handsome.

“Hey, gorgeous,” he said. “It’s so good to see you. Let me get you a drink.”

He immediately got the bartender’s attention and gestured for him to pour me another glass of wine. At home, I had started to bristle at the way Mark seemed to have to do everything for me, getting mad at myself as much as him because I so desperately wanted to be able to do something on my own for once in my life. But here in Vegas, where I felt in control of myself and my desires, I was attracted to Sam’s easy confidence and how powerful it made him seem. His power was as much of an aphrodisiac as his looks, and I was already tingling with anticipation about what would happen when we went upstairs.

“Is this seat taken?” he joked, pulling out the seat next to me.

I laughed, enjoying the chance to be silly in a way I never got to be at home.

“It is now,” I said.

“How was your flight?” he asked.

“Good. I couldn’t wait to get here,” I said.

“And I couldn’t wait to see you,” he said, giving me a meaningful look.

Again, I felt like I’d known him forever, like we were already friends. Well, friends who couldn’t wait to tear each other’s clothes off.

“Well, then, let’s go up to my room, so you can see all of me,” I said.

As soon as we stepped inside my room, he kissed me, and we both began stripping each other naked. The thrill of having such a sexy encounter with a virtual stranger, but one who was funny, kind, and clearly worshipped women, was revving me up even higher than I’d been before, and I threw myself into the encounter. Our sex was intense and extremely pleasurable, but we also kept laughing the whole time, like old friends. After a few hours, we both lay naked on the bed, exhausted and happy, drinking wine.

“Wow, you’re really good at that,” I said.

“I used to be a gigolo,” he said.

“Used to be?” I asked. “What about that woman I met you with?”

“She’s just a friend,” he said. “She likes to spend time with me, so she pays my expenses to stay in Vegas a few times a year. It’s just fun.”

“Did you like being a gigolo?” I asked, totally fascinated by this new world.

“Getting paid to have sex?” he said. “Sounds terrible.”

As soon as he left, I immediately wanted more of what I’d just had. As good as this felt, it wasn’t enough. My brain was filled with sex. I lay in the tousled bed, the smell of sex in the room, and an image bloomed in my mind, a fantasy of three men having sex with me at the same time. I could see exactly how it would play out, could almost feel how good it would be to have all of those hands on me. It was the thrill of what I was doing and how removed it was from my other life and the Suzy I was supposed to be that made it all so amazing. I felt powerful and in control—once unfamiliar sensations for me, but quickly becoming second nature.

The next day, I finally looked at my phone, so I could text Sam to confirm dinner plans. Again, I had promised Mark I would check in to let him know I was okay, and when I hadn’t done so the day before, he’d left a voice mail, his tone slightly irritated. Calling home just reminded me that I was a wife and mother, and that was part of what I was trying to forget.

I told myself I’d get my nails done, and then I’d call Mark later, before I went for dinner. I put off the call for as long as possible, and then, when I only had a five-minute window to talk, I paced in front of the wall of glass in my room as I dialed Mark.

“Suzy, simple rule, just check in,” he said right away.

“I’m fine,” I said. “I’m just having fun.”

“You promised to check in,” he said.

“I know, I lost track of time,” I said. “How’s Kylie?”

“She’s good,” he said. “You want to have your fun, fine. I just want to know you’re okay. Humor me.”

As soon as we got onto the topic of our daughter, the mood lightened at least a little bit. But he seemed just as glad to get off the phone as I did when I made my excuses and hung up just a few minutes later.

That night, I saw Sam a second time. He wined and dined me, and then we went back to his room for several hours. Before I flew home, I also had a quick tryst with a chef who picked me up when I sat down at the bar in his restaurant. The trip was turning out to be everything I’d fantasized it could be—exciting locale, luxurious accommodations, sexy play, and total freedom. That was it. My old life was over now.