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PaRiS SeX TêTe


Bart Plantenga

3 O'Clock in the morning of the day that took a year: Winnie

I was the king of Paris back then. King of a place that no longer needed a king. King of a people that had threatened to "make lace out of Marie Antoinette's entrails." For a people that did not know I was their king. To paraphrase King Louis XVI as he was about to be guillotined, "I die innocent." And we all know that death and sex are intimately intertwined and we all know that the French phrase for orgasm, "la petite mort" means the little death. Every time you ejaculate, you have a small heart attack, you die a small death -- to live a larger life. That was about the extent of my philosophy back then. To paraphrase Rousseau, "I am born free, and everywhere I am in relationships."

But no, I mean, that doesn't sound right either. I'm not in my right mind now and I wasn't back then. In keeping with the psychological domain of kings, I was edging toward paranoia. Lack of sleep, lost bearings, lunging at ghosts, or something like that. Yeah, OK, but there were verifiable odd moments that were rich in imprecision and ambiguity. Hallucinations of emotion melting into concrete. And I know all about the phenomenon of synchronicity mystification. I also know all about the gang mentality -- one needy hoodlum poet feeding another under-esteemed artist's sense of self by the weaving of phenomena with fable and paranoia. Awkward moments of awareness, taken aback by a statement or an object, a photograph that revealed an underlying intrigue, something that I neither comprehend nor approve of … and then you perceive [or think you think you perceive] the giggly whisper of something going on behind my [or your?] back. In any case, keep in mind the old adage that paranoia is the first respite of the under-esteemed. What better way to think more of yourself than to imagine or KNOW you are the target of what may involve international players with a budget. What that plot might involve had something -- we and the cheap vin du table figured -- to do with international cultural perceptions of alternative lifestyles and how the U.S. Government may have been trying to regulate the international image of recreational drug use. This is mere surmise. But I wasn't alone in my assessments. But this is getting ahead of myself.

So when I declared: "We are embarking on uh historical journey from which we'll never return," no one took it too seriously because to take anything seriously meant being exposed to the mockery that the fortuitous makes of all this sobriety and earnestness.

Some of us would die aesthetically or morally, going the way of most wanks and suits, giving up the high ideals and crazy dreams to sink into the very work routines you'd fought so hard to convince us you were against, unsuited for. Others would die of sex or its absence, one or two would die of obscurity. And at least one other would die the way we usually think of dying -- corporeally. Shrivel up and die. Well she did. That this all happened in the circles that I passed through and passed out in was probably coincidence but nonetheless…

Ah, anyway, I was king for a night somewhere along the gleaming paving stones with little Winnie from Big Can-Ada. She, as a photographer, or a student of photography "who once in a while got lucky to snap something interesting" saw all things in terms of "communicating with the real" -- composition, light and shade, the visual held in place, fixed there by the magic of chemistry. When you walked around with her you learned the art of straying. To lose your way, was to find some other way. To not look where you were going was to see where you had been. When you went around with her you learned that the fastest way to something was no way at all. She could stop dead in her tracks too, fixed on a pigeon on a ledge, not even snap a photo but just stand there lyrical and dewy-eyed and then grab you and kiss you right there on Boulevard Voltaire, her whole body poised on her toes between the potential and the actual, between the Paris of abandon (night) and the Paris of discipline (day). My nose greasing up the lenses of her trendy heavy-framed Godard-style glasses, which made her round little face look like the mug of a fly. My hands roving like famished rodents over her compact torso, watching her brown doe eyes fill up with black. You reach into her shirt always white, button-down, buttons unbuttoned or missing, tails flapping in her great hurries -- there they are, floating on heavy sighs, and when you finally cup her breasts her mouth always offers a gasp which is an inside out sigh. A bit of her breath taken away. Her breasts perched there like those scruffy and perky little Parisian sparrows, les moineaux de Paris. Her back arching, her chest barreling outward with pride and urgency, her breath falling an octave or two and rising a degree or ten. And when she removed her glasses her pupils would disappear into her squint like black cherries into a swirl of cream. Passing cars swept through her eyes, but to her they were nothing more than balls of fuzz with some glimmer bouncing around inside them.

This is Paris, I think, where heroes are lovers or singers of love or photographers of love -- not fighters. For every word "we" have for kill they have two for kiss. The dream had been a recurring one; I was floating down to earth, attached to a colorful parachute. Below I could see emerald green rolling hills dotted with glowing faces. As I wafted down to earth I realized that this was another land -- there were the outstretched arms of beautiful women, smiling, smirking, sighing, collapsing in toward me like an orifice swallowing an appendage, like a happy pudding swallowing an even happier spoon. Our first meal would be me drinking of their faces, the parachute serving as tablecloth.

I had nothing to accomplish with or without her; no goals, no career, no need to prove that I could handle a career, no vision that needed to be overlaid on an overhead projector and then projected onto the heavens or across her pink-hued shards of eyeglass. I wasn't busy winning a hand that wasn't about to offer itself. I had no real responsibilities (sure, get some persilique at the market but otherwise nothing). Oh, and be home on time for Sophie. It's called consideration. Yeah, ok, but somehow I'd lost all notions of what "on time" meant. ["Convenient," Sophie and her allies would mumble from a snit at a party.] No use explaining how time had just gone ragged, spread out every which way, abstract, spatial, non-linear, without beginning, middle, and end... And it is in this realm that you can emerge as a king without need for a kingdom. No walls, no assassins ... no shit because there was no asshole to shit with and no mouth that was eating...

One or another late night -- we had no agenda, no tight schedules and this is how it enabled the time and everyone floating along in it to become charmed -- I removed her glasses, hid them in my pocket. In this way, we wandered the rues of "her" Bastille, rue Keller, my arm around her shoulder, my free hand inside her tight jeans (so tight that the seam split her labia like Moses parted the seas, like Karen Carpenter parted her hair), inside the elastic of her tights, and I described to her exactly what I saw and wanted her to see as we stood in front of art gallery windows, in front of bars and monuments. My finger urging its way between her moist little loaves, burrowing ever deeper into her pouting and puckering little furrow. Plunging ever deeper, centimeter for sigh, sigh for centimeter. She bending over just enough on rue de la Roquette, so that her anal sphincter could accommodate my forefinger with the same grip that an infant holds your finger, her pussy gripping my thumb, wanting more of it until there was no more to want. I could feel that if physiology's laws were to suddenly change I could find my entire arm up there, followed by head, neck, torso. [I remember a veterinarian at a petting farm once; his arm wrapped in plastic, thrusting his entire arm up the asshole of a cow to check the calf's progress.] Winnie's orifices seemed to utilize principles similar to that of the lens aperture on her Nikon.

Then we found ourselves wandering inquisitively down little-known streets -- Passage Louis-Philippe, Cour Quellard -- arteries that led to no organ, to no where, we more alive in their anonymity. Our disappearance down those streets, streets that shy away from light, hide their beauty from tourists afforded us access to a privacy where our heavy breathing may very well enter the deep sleep of someone right above us. This is how I manufactured my own map of Paris, the boundaries showing arrondissements on the free tourist map redrawn to accommodate desires, mark trysts and lipstick tumbles, Metro Stop of Heavy Sighs, Chemin de Cuite (Drinking Spree Way), Café de la Mémoire Perdue ...

Or as mad Russian poet pal, Ivan Chtcheglov (Chiclet to us), once declared naked (save a Smilie sticker stuck to the head of his penis) on the Pont Neuf in an impromptu poetry reading he did: "Districts of the city could correspond to the whole spectrum of diverse feelings that one encounters by chance in everyday life. Bizarre Quartier! Happy Quartier! Useful Quartier! Wet Quartier! Soft Furniture Quartier! ..." And with that he climbed up on the railing and leaped into the Seine screaming "DIVE AND WONDER!" [This act a full 10 years prior to the purported "first" bridge reading claimed by a group of NY poets I was associated with, called the Unbearables who spanned the Brooklyn Bridge with babbling poets, harassing the harassed, serenading the deaf.]

Chiclet, by the way, had that ability to hide his resources, appear to exist on nothing, be destitute and yet secretly eat organic food products, emphasizing his Russian-ness which everyone wanted to believe and downplaying the fact that he grew up in Orange County, despite the fact that he'd taken a course on how to win back his Russian accent. He had the mad look, that Rhyming Rasputin look, wild hair, his coal black eyes with a bit of them on fire became the buttons on the bohemian suit that he wore everyday of that year we knew him to be still alive.

And when Winnie and me finally entered Fifi's, the bar with polished vintage motorcycles always parked at an angle in front of it on rue de la Roquette, my face is so covered with her make-up that I look like a drunken clown who has just climbed out of the Seine. Her mouth looks like it could be located almost anywhere on her face. But nobody pays us any mind. I am sitting there facing her. I am watching the red of her cheeks turn from the red of spring to the red of a glowing interior. I sit with my forefinger under my nose, elbow on table. I can smell the blossom of her entrails. We can climb right inside whatever we make of one another. She is reciting -- picture it -- the chalkboard menu, making the entrées sound like phone sex: "Bavette d'Aloyau à la Lyonnaise ... lait chaud" (pronounced lay show). I could be jacking off to her purring [visual equivalent: Brando jacking off in the dancehall in front of Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris] and no one would notice or let us know they notice. By the time I have told her of my adventures (see above) and she has told me how she stares at Brassaï's photos until she is living inside them, my pant legs are soaked with spilled beer. You cannot know how to explain this need to stave off the private by remaining in the public to intensify the private later. This is why cafés and bars exist as a kind of holding pattern, a kind of coitus prolongus. And as we flung ourselves out the door we thought we could just leave our breaths behind as placeholders to pick up the tab ...

"People who complain about Paris just don't get it. And never will." Winnie declared from her knees as she poured salt on the carpet of her sublet place in the 11th. Poured salt on my shirt.

"It sucks out the stain."

But I said it didn't matter.

"It doesn't matter." She poured salt on the dinner that was already cold and would only get colder.

"Drunkenness is always its own excuse." We finished the bottle. It may have been the second. It may have been to celebrate the fact that she'd just finished school. That meant spring. That meant all sorts of aromatic effluvia sending hormones ascatter. It could also have been the fact that she had sold one of her photos (of me -- someone I overheard during the opening had said "Nostradamus dressed as Billy Idol") that she had hung in a student group show at Parsons to a lady, a lonely diplomat's wife who, as chance would have me, I worked for in the capacity of handyman for four full days. I had gone shirtless and she had cancelled appointments. She needed to be there to show me every crack that needed spackling. I remember her declaring, "boredom's far worse than poverty". I remember there is some sort of word for this kind of ... worship. Infidelity is probably not it. Maybe we'll come up with a better word for it later.

Or it may have been for no other reason than when you act like you are celebrating something you really do begin to celebrate, like the cells in your brain devoted to parties, festivities and other obliterations begin to infect one another and ultimately the ones devoted to logic and moral qualms begin to join in; until all reason goes up in smoke and every word goes up in flames. And when you celebrate you drink and then suddenly you aren't responsible for what happens to your limbs and lunges. Your actions get filtered through a piece of wineglass, optically and psychologically distorting motive, amplifying desire, redrawing the map of holy sites.

With a lipstick (Buckets of Blood Red from Gouty) she had drawn a crown on a sheet of paper, the clean back of a page from a discarded thesis of hers. I read, "'The Surrealists expected not only to refine the rule of reason but to enlarge the yield of physical pleasure...' Is 'at you?"

"Nononono! That's Susan Sontag for a paper that just never happened."

"Maybe you didn't do enough research."

"Hmm. Dju know that in the Belle Epoque the average horse dropped 7 tons of manure on the streets."

"Not per day …"

"No, er, year. Now, imagine: there were 200,000 horses in Paris!"

"That's alotta shit."

"Exactly." She drew a quite fanciful crown. "The French value privacy and reserve. Think of it as everyone carrying around a small personal box, velvet-lined ..."

"Or fur-lined..."

"Whatever -- and inside this box are all your secrets. In our part of the world people spill the contents of the box instantly onto the bar. Life right there to take or leave. Like all your baubles and doodahs rolling around there on the bar. There you have it. Take it or leave me. Right? Tell me I'm not right."

"You're not only right but tu as raison as well. Different places demand different reactions, lifestyles."

"In France and in my mind it just seems so much more intriguing to reveal something little from the box ..." I rubbed the inside of her thighs. "Whatever I don't know about you I just make up." So that she is semi-independent from who she thinks she is projecting.

The seam of her tight jeans splitting her labia firmly into two blood-engorged little bulging lambchops. The back of my hand glanced off her fur-lined box. "Oh yeah, you might see the outside, like that it's made of wood ..."

"Wormwood or..."

"A nice white oak..."

"Or the pubic bones of a whore robbed from a Clichy reliquary store."

"But you only get one snippet, one splinter, one secret per rendezvous. That keeps life stimulated. It keeps the circuits open. It's not about instant gratification. It's about maintaining the balance between mystery and curiosity. It's about the bread crumbs leading to the gingerbread house." I again accented her point with a visual reference by wrapping my knuckles at the portal of her fur-lined gingerbread house.

"It's about a whole evening spent on a meal. Little by little things are revealed to you. You watch the lips move, glisten from the fat, hear the other chew, breathe through his nose ..."

"Here's the olives." I pinched her nipples which had emerged from outside in to inside out. And they sat there under her tee shirt like a thought that sits on the tip of your tongue.

In her one-sock-on-one-sleeve-on-jeans-stuck-mid-hip crimping her buttocks, shuffling across the room I noted she was neither Twiggy nor Rubens, neither needy nor aloof, kinetically striking out on her own, thank you very much, don't patronize her, thank you very much, "I can open the jar" thank you very much. She brought out more bottles from behind chairs and from under the sink.

"Ever since I metchu I've liked watching your little tits jiggle and vibrate when you did things. Like when you giggle your tits are giggling too." She let out a little giggle. The closer it got to departure time, back to North America "where it is a hundred miles from one heart to another" the more we thought we could possess each other or act like it or act like the liquor would convince one of us to change his or her mind. And we knew it would not happen.

"When they meet they use the more distant and polite vous. This offers space, room to gain perspective. After a long time you may invite someone to use the informal tu. This goes especially for elders. A person is not invited home until you have known them for years. I respect that. I think it shows a deeper more abiding form of friendship. It traverses surfaces of politeness until the surface reveals the potential for depths."

"Where'd you read that?"

"I made it up. Sheesh! We use the descriptions of surface realities, ay ..."

"Like your glossy photos?"

"Exactly. They serve as metaphors, as keys to explain the condition of ourselves, ay." She was fiddling with a sheet of yellow paper. "Hey look! Being part of the British Empire I know how a crown should look." She cut around the lines and voilà! -- a crown. Then to place the crown on the nog of its rightful heir she unbuckled my belt while humming what I later learned turned out to be a version of "God Save The Queen". She yanked down my pants, then my underpants with a kind of overacted ferocity like she was stripping the hide off a hare. And then she grabbed the shaft of my penis in the delicate yet determined pinch of thumb and forefinger and with her left pulled the foreskin off its purple forehead.

"A last glance at the glans?"

"Don't talk like that. You get me all sentimental which skews the focus."

"And being Canadian you must know what a good piece of lumber looks like."

"Let's take the bark back offa this deadwood and replace it with it's proper crown." And slowly she wrapped the paper crown around the glans. Around and around. I could feel it throb with the undulations of arousal and attention. Then she rolled the foreskin back up over the head so that my "turtleneck" would hold the crown in place. And then she wiggled it and wiggled it; slapped the glans against her cheeks puffed full of air.

"It's like a Gumby without the wire."

It was useless in other words -- too much drink had REALLY become WAY too much drink. She danced a little Ridicule (I don't know this dance either) with my little way gone meat puppet as far gone as the rest of me. All she could do was wipe the dance floor with me, and rub what there was of it up against her still partially-clothed (still tightly ensheathed in blue denim) vertical smile and then let it droop there unable to make miracles happen. Let's let sleeping dogs lie. Let's let nervous dogs whimper, let's let Jell-O congeal ...

"All hail King Richard, King Dick II!" She made as if her whole face was a camera and her mind a roll of film and her mouth the shutter and her eyes a very good lens and began to click away. This was not sarcasm or contempt, it was just her way of making light, of revealing that it was OK, that performance was fickle and tangential and not always aligned with desire.


"Yea, two. What if I were to ask you, it'd be like Queen Winnie the 15th!"


"You're so dick-o-centric; phallocentric -- it comes from the same root as fallacy."

And because she blamed herself and I blamed myself the next "conjunctive visit" [don't ask] promised to be an incredible kind of proof's-in-the-pudding and the flan's all over the place.

"Maybe you're better off. I grew up 7th Day Adventist. Now I'm a 7-Day-Adventurist ... for another couplea days anyway."

"No mopes."

"And we were s'posed to believe that the careless expenditure of sperm can cripple you like polio, ay." It was strange how easy it became to accept how she liked to squeeze it, stretch it like summer taffy and then slap it - whackwhack -- against my thighs. Laughter from an audience I couldn't see emerged from behind a wall or her radio.

"I mean what if I were to believe what I read aboutchu on bathroom walls?" She asked. Cupping the balls jiggling them like she was shaking dice.

"Was it good stuff?"

"It depends. One said 'I love blankety blank'."


"Well, who knows it coulda been you who wrote it..." A few remnant titters and snickers emerged from what might've been her radio or a window that led to elsewhere. But more about Winnie later.

It is so late now that it is early in Pigalle. Some stray drunks appeared to be stuck, frozen, petrified like their knee and hip joints had rusted in place. There they were, leaning against lampposts, like forgotten statuary, afraid that maybe the liquor's eaten away the cartillage, dissolved the erectus part of their homo erecti. A photographer like Winnie who could quote Doisneau at will (wait, I even wrote down what she said he'd said: "'One should not exaggerate. Reality is sufficient'.")

I'd have to counter with: sufficient for what? Then what are hallucinogens, recreational drugs, mountain climbing, leaving the work week behind all about then? But there was no time to quibble.

OK, maybe I do exaggerate. Yes, she would know just when to snap a photo of the shadow these creatures cast upon the creamy wall still washed salmon by the neon. To capture one of those Everyman photos that people can look at for years and say "that coulda been me". Then I heard a woman -- her face nowhere to be seen -- plaintively calling for her daughter or her mother, or lover, or ... her voice echoing through courtyards and down passages -- "NADJA! NADJA!" Plaintive fog horn moans, in Third Man Vienna.

I lived on rue André Antoine (maybe I was just king of this quartier wouldn't that be enough?) which leads north out of Pigalle and up into Montmartre, a hilly labyrinth of rhapsodic passageways and clandestine desires. It is the domain of the bells of St. Jean which chime so resoundingly, so intoxicatingly. As they attempt to beckon us back from temptation you can almost feel the echos reverberate in your chest. [Kirs would offer a similar philosophy regarding her little brass clit bell. It would also serve as an anti-breaking-and-entering device] Or hear the schoolchildren with bright packs on their gleeful backs mimicking the tolls -- Bong Bong Bong.

Here's where a century earlier, Modigliani wandered in search of his opium which he'd furtively snatch and carry back to his Barbès pad. It's where Nico too, copped heroin for her and her son. And where Roland barthes wandered, hands in worsted pantaloon pockets, searching for a hustler, pissed that he has fallen to "calculating" his pleasures. All this is difficult to imagine in the pre-dawn calm as I rush back to my pad. The pick-up bars are closed. And the limp sallow bodies draped nightly across parked cars, mid-gender in a narco-haze, have gone home to ... mom? Or something like one. Some, I know, just crash in roominghouses or abandoned cars -- not quite homeless but certainly not homeowners either. Their emaciated strung-out faces carved out of one of Modigliani's nightmares as he kept warm against the winter by burning all the furniture in his garret.

In the phonebooth the "woman" with breathtakingly long legs, long as the strings of an upright bass took her high heel off as she spoke, gazed into its depthless pungent hollow while holding the horn between her cheek and shoulder as she scratched the arch of her foot. The shoe and her were no longer one, in fact, it looked like she was going to just abandon both of them there and continue barefoot. She did! This is as important as anything that might make Libération headlines tomorrow. I sensed that if I just went down on my knees I'd discover the secrets of Gothic architecture among those breathtaking arches, those damaged feet that speak of what cathedrals can only hint at. And here on my knees, I'd do a brass rubbing of those arches with my tongue and fingertips. I would "ascend to the gracious androgyne" as my journal said Arthur Shopenhauer said. But it is not me speaking or remembering, it is the liquor. It is not me thinking but some desire (insanity?) located outside of myself.

It is not me grabbing her still warm shoes and stuffing them inside my jacket as I passed through the hallway which smelled of ammonia, urine or the inside of a man's cheap shoes. This is where the jittery travesti (transvestite), the one with the thin bony boyish face full of acne and dimple usually does her work, on her toes as if she's stretching to reach your eye socket with her tongue or is about to attempt a big swan dive into (or out of) somewhere. Maybe it is a mnemonic cramp from childhood ballet lessons. Maybe she knows that it stretches the jambes, slenderizes the calves.

She's had her far molars removed because they hurt and were rotted beyond repair. Or maybe it was to affect the Dietrich look of enticing disdain, I think is also something she mentioned. I call her Marlene. And she likes that. It evokes a splendor that we should all be part of. S/He attracts the bewildered and desperate, those desperate for the mirage of being able to despoil youth.

I sometimes dare to ask certain questions but I will never know if she came from the countryside, from Avaler in Bretagne, if (s)he had milked cows or pitched hay or considered sheep as sexual partners or been ticklish and shy and carefree ...

Her blue umbrella hung from the doorknob of my apartment building as she mumbled something -- défoncer!? -- with the stocky dental hygienist's forefinger in her mouth. He slid it in and out of her moan. Défoncer. He's all askew and untucked, tie tossed over his shoulder. And late for a home somewhere? Or here for a convention of oral hygienists? Her eyes have long ago left her face. Never did see his face. Does he sense other cavities he may need to investigate? Does he really need this man posing as a woman who looks like a boy who nightly needs to recreate the mirage that s/he is begging to be "introduced" into the perilous pleasures of sex? Does he care that she is no longer of this earth, is something almost alien even to these parts. Does he want to go to work on her right here? Do her wobbly legs hinder or hasten the operation? Do his thrusts and lunges suddenly seem terribly aggressive like a body check in hockey? Will her back be OK?

"Bonsoir, Marlène." Her odd sliver of rickety smile rises momentarily over the shoulder of the hulking hygienist. I quietly move the blue umbrella aside so as not to further disturb this negotiation.

Should I chaperone, linger on the first landing? I should, I do, I sit there with my heavy face in my hands, dingy runner in my cramped view, simultaneously listening for a pain that is really pain and going over my alibis, rotating the stories so that not any particular one becomes too shopworn. I think of fanciful questions at a conference dedicated to orthodontics that focus on amplifying eroticism. "Will the removal of molars or any teeth, for that matter, allow for more room in which the arena of oral gratification can be more artistically or athletically played out?" I hear music, maybe Cole Porter sung by Mistinguette coming from under the door to apt #2: "... canaries caged in the house do it / penguins in flocks, on the rocks, do it / even oral hygienists on the lam do it ..." Or maybe I am hearing something that is not happening, a vestigial memory of something that may have happened. Anyway, sometimes we hear music that may not really be playing -- not here within earshot anyway.

"Bonne chance." I finally toss down the stairs -- no response -- as I ascend to the second escalier, up to the deuxième étage, realizing she cannot hear me and that stairway acoustics make it obvious that I am speaking to myself because I will have much explaining to do. And I will need plenty of bonne chance myself. I am suddenly struck by the notion that thirty years ago I was doing the same thing, home late off the street for dinner, regurgitating excuses and explanations all the way home. I don't think my mother believed any of them. But sometimes she would reward me for a story well done with a kind of warm smile and a hand full of fingers through my blond hair. She would rub my feet until they were warm. I could hear the sizzle of my wet socks hung from the stove to dry.

"You and your doggie dick." That's not my mother speaking; that's Sophie. "Who will be leading who when you are old?" she asked, pretty sure of the answer, pillow propped against the wall, drawings of decapitated men, blood spewing from their necks strewn across her domain, the bed.

04:15 Sophie
I was still living with my then not-even-thought-of-as-my-soon-to-be ex. But I think she was beginning to sense that the lies no longer protected her from the truth or anything like it, and meanwhile, I was no longer believing that the lies were only meant to spare her either. But somehow you can't just have truths flying all over the place. It gets messy, this attrition of willful gullibility. Creates precedents that just never get lived up to. Truth is negotiable. Even if I knew that I could exploit the fact that she did not have a good memory.

The Brooklyn chewing gum that always hid all hints of all other odors revealed those very odors in the way that they so effectively hid them. If I had nothing to hide I would not have been chewing gum at 4 in the morning is the point. Let's face it. And this just became all the more offensive to her because it made it look like I really believed I could fool her.

I sit down in the kitchen, place the abandoned shoes on the kitchen table, hand around a glass of water, I wonder if these shoes can be made into something more than they were. Meanwhile I am sensing, really listening for Sophie's petite muffled sobs, sobs that could have just been sighs. If I was really the king of this, this area ... you'd think I could at least take care of my vassals, my neighbors, my bedmate, myself... And there I sat like the hundred times before, to go over the story, the excuse, the last Metro, the last drink, a friend from out of town (conveniently someone she'd never met who was on his way to the airport) helping the woman who'd fallen off her Vespa, taking her to the hospital... And I would fortify myself with this maxim: Be true to yourself and if that self urges you to taste of forbidden fruit then to live truly means to eat of that fruit. And eat I would - in the name of truth with a capital T - and sick I would get, for as a member of my own Belle Epoque and king of my own mindscape, in the frantic quest for pleasure as a dignified end in itself I would encounter nervous fatigue, moral qualms, hangovers, neurasthenia, and recriminations from the very people who had only the day before urged me onward with a "more power to you" backslap. It was like there was too much furniture in the attic. And my dick was perpetually aglow, priapic, raw, Moulinexed and more.

Sex with Sophie remained fun, gymnastic, agonizing, fruitful, loving, frequent and a temporary reprieve from what we refused to believe we were going through. Although she wanted me so badly to grow up, she had no problem chatting with Madame Bite while dressing her (penis is feminine in French. I didn't believe her either) with drink umbrellas, hair elastics, and colorful sweets. It was as if one of the lies we clung to could become the script for a new life -- if only, if only we had some money, if only we could move south, if only blank and blank would leave me alone, if only we could make the ole meat puppet do some tricks, rob a bank, if only an industrial accident would cut it off ... What is it about a French woman pronouncing the word "dick" as "deek"? Why does it all seem exotically not as ... serious? Even her utter denunciations of my character would leave me with a small snicker to cosy up to. Plus, I knew all her thoughts and indignity steeped in moral righteousness could come so easily unglued if I just so much as grazed her thighs or nudged a a hand between her loaves or casually rubbed that magic button. She was enslaved to sexual abandon. The more she could lose her head -- is the idea -- the less her head hurt with thoughts.

I mean, I had been venturing from lair to lair, from studio to rendezvous in an almost permanent state of priapic mystification for well over a year now. Call it that perfumed scent of the mind where one clings to ecstasy -- a kind of narcotic state of gratification and the thought of the next fix. I was addicted and Paris was the dealer. But funny thing is, all these adventures only remained tantalizing or appealing as long as it was easy to write them down and as long as I had friends who still wanted to hear the gory details of yet another liaison. The best friends continued to buy you drinks, they hear everything you say, but have long ago stopped listening and never let on.

Although Sophie continued to have the urge, that urge eventually began to change choreography. She would still go down on me -- she called it "pull ze escargot out eets shell" -- and you could hear the gorged delight, vocal cues taken from a number of silly porn films we'd watched together. That her vocal chords could still produce a kind of music was frightening. But we no longer posed in full light or ever again in front of the full-length mirror. Nor pranced sylvan-like across the shaved carpet with clothespins clamped to various appendages. When it was at its best, we would do it in front of cameras, windows, mirrors, doorways, outside, loudly, flamboyantly as if to inform the whole world that happiness and fulfillment were indeed still possible. Or as if the act of witnessing our ... ordeal [help me with a better word then] would render what we had more steadfast, more binding, more etched in memory.

And then -- when? WHEN? -- the room got darker, her lips were no longer smootchy-cootchy across my recumbent body with pleas and saliva and wet breath: then only in the dark, silently, anonymously, furtively and withdrawn like her soul had collapsed inside itself like a Black Hole that absorbs all energy. And in this way she could in small ways contain the shame or whatever it was. Pain, disillusionment, disgust, whatever. And I could no longer go down on her. She just wasn't available. Her legs resistant like a pair of rusty pliers. Her entire body balled up like a fist, muscles hard, knotted, intertwined tightly inside themselves. And then -- she no longer allowed me to face her. No more face inside face, smile absorbing smile, sigh melting sigh. She was never again to be seen (by me) on her back and so I'd ride her from behind. Her face fully enveloped in her pillow. The luxury of her moans muffled, her face far gone from my gaze, her mind back in New York. My thighs thudding against her, balls swinging low in a wide arc against the insides of her thighs. Her pink sphincter dilated like the nozzle on an inflatable raft. Losing air. From behind we were just less human, less in possession of the human traits that prevents us from becoming victims of ourselves. Strangers to one another so that familiarity would not kill the moment. Strangers so that each of us could make of the other what s/he wanted. Ah, but when you start mixing pop-psych with bad versions of 60s liberation sexology and adding a little me-ism you find yourself in these kinds of fixes.

But when she came -- and she still could -- it still led to headless conniptions: sweat whipped off the cords of drenched blond hair. And she'd still (begrudgingly) admit it all felt too good to just let go of. Wasn't that good? Good enough? Isn't that all we can ask of a relationship? But a dick poking a cunt can only articulate so much, this much, not much. Immediately after denouement, after extraction of tool, me wagging off the end of its wag, she'd withdraw without emotion, like a milking machine yanked off an utter -- FWAP -- head to the bathroom to clean up so thoroughly beyond hygiene and beyond me, twenty, thirty minutes, steam coming from the crack of the door, the running hot water obliterating what could have been sobs. Soap and scrub and lather and scrub, douche and scrub ... And then with the emotion of a somnambulist nurse she'd just curl up under the blankets into a little silent ball. Next to me but not touching, no more spooning. And I could sense that I was supposed to believe she was asleep but I knew she was not asleep. I could sense there was pride in there, I just didn't know what to do with it. This is just something you can't explain. You know it and she knows it. No more rambunctious reveling and wrestling and plucking blond hairs from around her aureoli and from her chinny-chin-chin. No more all night talks that her dreams inhabiting mine, mine rearranging the furniture inside hers. Things were over but they continued anyway. Just like when a sad song ends you can still hear the last plaintive notes for a long time after. Like the notes are being preserved in the echo chamber of your heart or something. No, it was down to office visits now. Quick in and quick out. Well, not quick but perfunctory then. I tried to recall not so long ago, that other, more light-hearted era when things were said and meant and believed and savored and...


Bart Plantenga was born in Amsterdam, bred in the U.S. is a DJ, journalist, and novelist. He has been a DJ for 16 years (in Paris, NY, and now Amsterdam). He is the author of many radio, music, culture, esoteric articles as well as a short story collection, Wiggling Wishbone (1995). He is the author of four novels including Confessions of a Beer Mystic and Paris Sex Tête. Bart is currently writing a book about yodeling.

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