people are ashamed of usually makes a good story."
-F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Last
Waking up in Paris to the feeling of having my cock sucked was one
of the things I was going to miss.
I thought I'd been around. Had become
a crusti. Solid gothic. During the past few decades basing myself
in Europe, I've published more than a score of books and magazines,
traveling throughout the Continent as a wandering minstrel and peripatetic
chronicler, living in castles, hanging out, whenever possible, with
the great and the good. So if anyone ever told me that one day I
would sell my dear, dead mother's diamond brooch, leave my family
and run off to Paris to go live in an attic with a Folies Bergères
chorus girl, I would have said they were reading too much pulp fiction.
"This is the silliest story I ever heard," I would have grumbled
derisively. "La Vie Bohème forever, eh?" Yet after
all, aren't clichés also eternal truths condensed? Most of
our life is not a divine tragedy, rather a series of grim, profane
Boredom is the most powerful aphrodisiac
and a midlife crisis is feeling filled with purposeless brooding,
chthonic fantasies, unquenched chiliastic passions. Not unlike some
acne-souled teenager, plus all those smudged years of amortized
regret. It's as if one's entire life had been an important exam
one hadn't studied for, or slept through. I became so melancholy
that whenever my work was accepted for publication, I thought the
editors were doing it to discredit me. Meanwhile, as a necessary
external justification for these feelings, I was the subject of
sustained international criticism. A book from London denounced
me as a "fascist," another from New York accused me of "murder."
Although feeling blistered, patched and peeled, I decided--Why spike
it? Don't let the facts stand in the way of a good story, as they
used to say on Fleet Street. Finally flattered by the fabrications
made up about me by former colleagues and astonished at the pains
guile took against me, I borrowed a leaf from Queen Victoria's book
of manners and covered my private self with the royal prerogative.
Never explain. Never apologize. The rust was setting in.
hope of pessimism wasn't a palliative, however. Suffering from insomnia,
right before dawn I would wake up, turn on the lamp next to my bed,
chain-smoke cigarettes and read Kierkegaard's The Concept of
Dread, or grave first person accounts of the nine hundred day
Siege of Leningrad. Or anything by George Gissing. Just for laughs!
On the principle, still and all odious, that knowing their more
complex miseries would make myself feel better by comparison. When
throwing the I Ching I got hexagram 36, "Darkening of the
Light/Wounding of the Bright." Here too the sun had sunk under the
earth. A deep malaise overcame me that stemmed from a sudden and
drastic unwillingness to believe that there was anything to look
forward to. No orgiastic future. Everyone who has read the first
line of Dante's Inferno knows what I mean: "In the middle
of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where
the straight way was lost." My particular lament about the bummer-of-being
congealed into the often-repeated simple mantric question. Where
are the dancing girls?
We met at the Hotel Krasnapolsky
on Amsterdam's Dam Square during the press conference for the First
International Hooker's Convention. It was the end of January, the
coldest, iciest part of a long winter. Dirty skies, a frigid dispiriting
wind hovering over the city. The canals were frozen. Earlier, just
that morning, I had gone skating with my seven and half year old
daughter on the Lijnbaansgracht, behind our house. That very afternoon
at the hotel, as I was reaching for a glass of wine after the speeches
and question time, a woman materialized next to me and announced:
"Hello. Yes. Hello. My name is Healy." She was dressed in an azure-blue
skirt and sweater with a matching large beret, and spoke emphatically
in a clipped, somewhat old-fashioned British accent that gave her
a curious primness using words like "dashed" to mean discouraged,
"bucked" to mean made cheerful and "twig" for understand. Looking
like a cross between an anorexic Shirley MacLaine playing Irma la
Douce and an androgynous high-fashion model, she was about six-feet
tall--with legs that seemed to start from her shoulders. Long tautly
muscular arms. And her head had smooth handsomely chiseled Pierrot
feature's, full expressive lips and very short, gleaming red hair
plastered with gel against her scalp.
Healy had been a French teacher at
some Kiwi girl's school on that far-flung country's South Island,
she said, but seeking a more adventurous life had abandoned her
husband and come to Europe in her late twenties. For the past ten
years Healy had played out the sensuous housewife's dream. Studying
Afro-Jazz dance (whatever that is), working in peep shows with a
vibrator, as a caged nude dancer in a Champs-Elysées disco,
crisscrossing France to strip at country carnivals and finally being
a Folies Bergères chorus girl. Now she was saying goodbye
to all that and trying to break into journalism. Doing celebrity
interviews, she was, for Commonwealth glossies, with people who--it
seemed were too snobbish for me--had done very little worth celebrating.
Nervous Parisian perfumers, Latin Quarter tea room savants and such.
She had come up here to the Hooker's Convention looking for luminaries
among the prostitutes and their academic cheerleaders. Rather square,
I thought. She was a dancer, however! So I took her address knowing
I had to be in Paris the next month anyway, having been commissioned
to write an article for High Times about the nouveau-expatriate
literary community. Also to do a poetry reading at the Village Voice,
a new café/book shop on the rue Princesse.
Spring was slow in coming that year.
My reading had gone well. The balcony was full, with many friends
present. A lot of gasps, a lot of laughs from the audience. A few
people stormed out in protest. It was all documented in video and
audio and was favorably reviewed in Libération. The
next morning, as part of my magazine assignment, I paid my respects
at the Père-Lachaise cemetery. For a small gratuity the black-uniformed
gatekeeper gave me a map showing where to find the graves of Visconti,
Colette, Chopin, Molière, Daumier, Balzac, De Nerval, Bizet,
Proust, Apollinaire, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Modigliani to name
just a few of the permanent residents of this neighborhood. Even
though the dead don't move around, some are difficult to find, but
"Jim," as the gatekeeper called him, was easy to locate by following
the graffiti. At least a dozen graves on all sides were trashed
in his memory. The romantic sculptured stone bust had its nose chipped
off by a rock-and-roll relic hunter. Standing there I shared a joint
with a young lad wearing a Jim Morrison button; clearly he couldn't
have been but a few years old when Morrison died. He was inscribing
a message with a spray can on the adjacent tombstone. It began:
makes angels of us all
Gives us transparent wings
Where once had been a smooth shoulder.
is a lovely place
I would like to stay here forever
Until the doors would be opened.
the cemetery, I emerged from the metro at Chatelet hurrying up the
rue St. Denis for a late luncheon date with Healy. It was my foreign
correspondent phase. I was wearing a belted, beige raincoat with
epaulets and leather buttons and a snap-brimmed sorrel brown Borsalino
hat cocked on my head, a Gitane filtre dangling from the
left corner of my mouth. Our date was at The Front Page, an American-type
eatery popular with French yuppies that crowd its newspaper-lined
walls. Here I was in the heartland of good food and she had to pick
a deluxe burger joint.
Who really makes the first move?
Healy looked at me with her large brown eyes, at once innocent and
prurient. She bent her long neck towards me.
"I want to do now what I decided to
do a month ago."
Taking this as an invitation, I reached
out across the Irish coffee, gently grasped her hand, brought it
to my mouth and sucked one of her fingers from stem to stern. She
squealed softly. Within ten minutes of circuitous walking through
the narrow worn streets of the Marais, we arrived at a multi-storied
gray building. After passing quickly through the stone arch housing
large wooden doors, past the beady-eyed concierge and across a slate-covered
courtyard, I found myself in a small and shaky turn of the century
wrought-iron elevator jerking precariously towards the top floor.
We entered a quintessential garret with two dormer-windows, one
looking out on the Sacré-Coeur, the other on the Eiffel Tower.
An entire wall was covered with photos and posters from Healy's
extensive stripping career. In a small bookcase, opposite, I noticed
what looked like the complete paperback novels of Margaret Drabble
and Patrick White, as well as volumes of pop psychology on how to
be a success. On the bottom shelf there was a seriously well worn
copy of The Joy of Sex.
Healy put on some music, a record
I had with me, the just released Fugs LP Refuse to be Burnt-Out.
Casually we undressed in front of each other and I couldn't help
but observe she was truly a natural redhead with a close cropped
bush. While dancing together nude, slow and so close that you couldn't
slip a silicon chip between us, we heard a spine-tingling, close
harmony singing interpretation of "How Sweet I Roam'd from
Field to Field" William Blake's first poem--about volunteering
to be imprisoned by the prince of love--ending:
He caught me in his silken net,
And shut me in his golden cage.
He loves to sit and hear me sing,
Then, laughing, sports and plays with me:
Then stretches out my golden wing,
And mocks my loss of liberty.
Then stretches out my golden wing,
And mocks my loss of liberty.
It felt like feathers slowly caressing
bare skin. Healy whispered into my ear. "See, if I don't go out,
nothing happens. If you move your own ass, you don't have to lick
others. You have to deserve Paris to live here!" As she led me to
the bedroom I was struck by her proverbial stallion-like thighs
poised on the delicate lines of a high instep, the fine spray of
freckles on champagne glass breasts, that fragile beauty, her brown
eyes. And noticed once again that she was quite a bit taller than
She stood at the window in the sloping
roof of the attic bedroom. I moved up behind her and pressed my
loins and belly against her buttocks. She pushed me back a little.
Her nerves needed time to pass along the message of desire. "I want
to be wet well before you touch me there," she said.
Languorously and unhurried Healy took
my arms and placed them about her, wanting me to touch her belly,
her loins, but putting my hands deliberately over her breasts, so
I could feel the hardening nubs of them. She wanted me to feel the
softness of her breasts, with their hard tips, because of the fine
tracing line of desire she knew she would feel directly from her
nipples to her loins.
"Pinch them," she said, waiting for
the moment when the soft, wet swollenness of herself would compel
her to touch my hardness with her hand, to let me know, through
her touch, how much need she had.
"You like sex alternating between
hard and soft too," I said.
She teased back; "Do you mean--as
well as other things? Or--just like yourself?"
We freely rambled all over each other's
erotic terrain. After sucking me slowly Healy stopped and inched
upward rubbing her rigid nipple along the underside of my wet cock,
then moved as if to mount me, displaying her fine, long muscular
body. Instead of penetration, while masturbating me with syncopated
vigor with her right hand and brushing the bud of her breast and
surrounding areola lightly with the tips of her fingers from her
left, Healy cooed, "It's just one of those days. You can't come
in me but--as you see--we can do other things." After I came she
rubbed the come on my abdomen and chest then arched forward, seemingly
floating in the air--as if levitating in a spiritual seance--and
sat on my face.
We spent that night together. And
the night after. Dancing in a nearly transparent lycra brocade and
a frizzy black wig she did an uncontrolled Grecian Urn striptease
for me à la Isadora Duncan. Beserker in a frenzy. I won't
try to describe it. It was indescribable. A provocation, a gift,
a madness. The quality of the sequins and the silk, the way it intertwined,
opened and closed, concealed and revealed, mimed and mutated, appeared
and disappeared, contrasted wonderfully with a maiden-like Joan
of Arc simplicity. Then Healy put on a Charlie Chaplin tramp costume,
complete with mustache, hat and small cane. She shuffled. She stumbled
about imitating the famous comedian and this time in a coolly disciplined
manner, yet with a bit of slapstick, some vaudeville, stripped bare
again. This is it, my dancing girl dream come true! Sitting on the
sex-rumpled bed, I applauded loudly.
Afterwards we took a shower together.
A kiss which began standing continued, building from a deliciousness
of lips to a wiggle of tongues, tip to tip, to the humid gaminess
of mouths lascivious and deep. She turned her back toward me as
if in modesty. It was only much later I found out how inadequate
her small breasts made her feel.
"Let's see if we can do it this way,"
she suggested, placing her arms high against the tiled walls, spreading
her legs and thrusting her perfect ass, like two hard ripe Légipont
pears, in my direction.
"Buggery," Healy said, "is
the traditional method of birth control. Put it in my hole, please."
She reached in back with her right
hand and guided my cock to the rim of her rectum, planting "kisses"
on it by a controlled flexing of the sphincter muscles. Waiting
until the release beat, I moved forward. We both grunted... Then
shouted. After I came, Healy whirled around and fell to her knees.
With long slow strokes she licked the head of my cock, looking up
at me like a twelve-year-old sucking a lollipop in the rain. I could
feel the muscles in her cheeks working as she took it all in, as
if I had given her a sacred benediction, the streams of water washing
away my sperm, her shit, our saliva.
Nice responsive recreational sex.
I was intrigued by her imaginative lovemaking, by the great expertise
she displayed, by the variety of her demands, amazed by her instinctive
compliance with any unspoken whims of my own and flattered by her
screams of delight. All this punctuated with pleasant conversations
about life and literature. Nevertheless, I had work to do and when
she saw me off at the La République metro, we agreed merely
to write each other. You know the form, have-a-nice-day, keep-in-touch,
And what a correspondence we started!
Looking at the pile of letters now I see it's at least an inch thick.
The religious poet John Donne was nearly correct. "More than kisses,"
he claimed, "letters mingle souls." Like pre-electronic lovers we
excited each other as much with writing as with sex. From the start
Healy was encouraging.
"I loved the fearlessness and generosity
with which you entered into me, and let me enter into you," she
wrote. "I feel good and whole and happy, and look forward very much
to seeing you, being with you, whenever you can make it down. The
meeting I was rushing off to the day you left, was one of a series
in which I'm trying to set up a questionnaire for women on why we
ladies are full of anger against men. After forty-eight hours of
peace and love with you, I really couldn't think of a thing to say..."
When I received a leaflet some weeks
later announcing her "Positively Last Performance"--a gig in a French
country inn, including the coach trip there and back, apéritif,
buffet, wine, dessert, disco dancing and show-time with Healy--I
started making plans to return to Paris. A small publisher had asked
me to prepare a book of my poetry. I could take care of both things
at once. That pleasure is an incentive to both--to both sex and
art--is certain. It seemed like a sign, a portent that Healy and
I were meant to be.
Took the all-night bus to Paris,
couldn't sleep and when I arrived at Healy's garret it was anything
but a rosy-fingered dawn. Human nature being what it is, we took
sixty minutes to say bonjour, during which time my disposition
Healy's spider-like touch across my
chest made me tremble and glow. "You can come in me this time,"
she said. "It's right before my period."
So began one of the most tremulous
weeks in my life, an April in Paris I'll never forget. A short sweet
ride on a runaway train. A whirlwind banquet of sex, excess and
seemingly significant events. Extremism in the cause of vice became
a virtue during a season in heaven. I was initiated into the rites
of the priestess of Isis who in the orgy of erotic passion, blots
out the contradiction of male and female, of mind and emotion, sense
and sensibility, of upper and lower, of heaven and earth, fusing
them all in Boehme's organic vision, Kepler's spiraling vortex.
Like a Philip Glass raga or James Brown shout-epiphanies of the
positive and negative energies of the soul. I became, as Tannhaüser
on the Venusberg with no desire to return.
Healy had a wide range of wonderful
archaic techniques of intimacy. She would bring me almost to an
orgasm, then grab the head of my cock and squeeze it very hard in
the palm of her hand. This delayed coming and spread those good
genital vibrations throughout my entire body. Or when fucking in
the missionary position, Healy lifted her long, strong dancer legs
into the air, like the wings of a large bird. As I was moving slowly
in and out, she gently rotated her airborne legs, extending raising
unfolding, giving a kind of detailed pleasure which all the ass
wiggling in the world can't beat. She muscularly contracted her
whole vagina grasping my cock as a gestalt, then nipping, nipping,
even more strongly. To top it off, she moistened three fingers with
spit, reached down and firmly stroked the bottom of my balls.
I loved the way her face showed joy.
Quite a difference from home. My wife and I had come to a kind of
standoff with sex. A Cold War. "I don't want nobody touching
my body," was her standard refrain. But Healy seemed just as
intent on making our affair work as I was, ignoring all the dinner
invitations on her répondeur, her answering machine.
When we weren't making love, we'd just lie in bed nude, laughing
and reading each other's work while openly conspiring an escape.
The day before her "positively last"
striptease I took her to see a particular painting in one of those
small out-of-the-way museums. I had hoped to prepare her for the
performance, inspire her. Standing in front of Gustave Moreau's
dramatic Symbolist depiction of Salome's undying lust, tattooed
and scantily clad and with a look of triumph on her face as she
holds up the severed head of St.John the Baptist, Healy merely nodded
perfunctorily in recognition at her colleague. Yet she quivered
on seeing the painting of Prometheus, transversely across the room,
his uncomprehending stare as the vultures peck his liver eternally.
On the morning of her farewell to
stripping Healy got dressed and musically announced, "No tampons.
No toilet paper. I'm going out with a coffee filter in my twat."
"If it wasn't for losing the cap on
my bottom front tooth," I called out, "I might have been able to
grasp the string of your tampon last night. Pull it out slowly.
Kissing the pink in Paris."
The bus left from a side street near
the Arc de Triomphe. Among the twenty or so passengers were the
blustery first secretary from the American Embassy who arranged
rebellions in West Africa and his gushing wife: "We can't wait to
get back to Washingto,; there's so much excitement on the Hill."
A sensuous Levantine who had the cheese monopoly in Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia; a furtive woman, flabby skinned and puffy, who specialized
in antique shop heists chaperoning a strong solemn Kenyan from an
obscure visiting trade delegation who didn't quite know how he got
there. The show was great, but the best part was knowing I would
go home with the stripper. All eyes riveted on her naked body. All
that focused rapture poured onto her skin. As if to make publicly
clear what we were up to, Healy came towards me at the end of her
performance. Clad only in high-heeled golden-leather boots, she
knelt on the ground next to where I was sitting and handed me a
long stemmed white rose.
Falling for it hook, line and sinker,
I swooned when she told me:
"I feel honored being with you. I'll
do anything for you."
"I can smell spring in your mustache."
"You have nice legs." (I don't.)
"Let's hurry home. I have a hard-on.
Women can get erect too, you know."
We were on the pont Saint-Louis, both
staring up at the rear of Notre Dame Cathedral--a view so much finer
than her front. Healy created a breathless tactile simile. She took
my hand in hers, lifted it up then grazed it down across her firm
shapely ass. Slid it across the underside of her hard upper thigh,
and said: "Like all great ladies, she looks good from every angle."
And about the river itself: "I had
heard of the silver Tiber and the golden Arno. But only the Seine
pleases me as a river: it has grace and solidity."
I was smitten. She was Aphrodite in
the bedroom and Hera in the parlor.
Stupid Cupid's arrow hit, however,
when Healy took me into a kosher pizza parlor on the rue des Rosiers
just as I had been thinking...I crave and fear two forms of madness.
One is for the love of God. In that scenario I see myself as a guardian
to the Temple of Jerusalem until the very last days. The other is
for the love of a woman. That I call my Blue Angel syndrome, where
I chase sleazy strippers and wind up holding the coat of their male
callers as they retire to the bedroom. At that moment I looked up
from my slice of pizza. I saw Healy beside me wearing an ostrich
feather boa. The two of us were sitting underneath a photo of men
praying at the Wailing Wall.
Then the whole week climaxed in a
tone of frenzied enchantment with a giant dinner-party to celebrate
the publication of my book of poetry at Paris' most well publicized
Sunday night salon.
For a while we yo-yoed back and forth
between Amsterdam and Paris. Our letterist romance flourished. Healy
"Yesterday I finished the twenty-page-long
diary entry I made about our week together. It's full of `I loved
it when,' all the questions we asked each other, my feelings at
being touched by you. There's a certain amount of doubt in there,
too, as if I was afraid this beautiful cloud where we floated would
sail out of sight. Hang on, Cloud."
"Your subtlety. That's why I love
being with you. And everything as if for the first time. It was.
It is. I loved being reached for, every time, anew. I loved your
feeling like a schoolboy when you asked if you could come down,
I loved your asking if we could sit together on the bus out to the
gig, I loved your saying `Oh Healy', I loved your almost crying.
I loved everything."
She easily convinced me that I was
leading a life of compromise and convenience. It only took a little
bit more persuasion for her to make it plain to me that I had to
make a change. A choice!
Of course I talked with friends. "It's
not unusual for a man to have a woman in different cities," said
an advertising executive who felt very much differently when his
wife took up with the carpenter in the town where they had a country
home. Germany's most popular postwar poet warned me with a misanthropic
sneer, "Women are like flies, they land either on sugar or shit.
Be careful. It sounds like a teenage masturbation-fantasy." When
I asked another confidant, look don't tell me about family responsibilities
or about following one's passion, he smirked sagely, and replied,
"Running off with a Folies Bergères chorus girl? Yeah. That
would make a good chapter in your biography."
Before I knew it I was back in Paris.
In one hand I was carrying a suitcase crammed with clothes and manuscripts.
In the other hand an old-fashioned Olivetti portable typewriter.
We found ourselves in an exchange of dreams. This moment could not
be squandered. Healy and I were in love. Together we were going
to write the Great Expatriate Erotic Novel.
When I arrived Healy was wrapped in
a white terrycloth bathrobe; her was face scrubbed, her hair wet,
copper-colored in the soft light.
"Look here," she shouted while dropping
the robe to the floor, "I did this for you!"
had shaved it. Even though Healy was pushing forty this accentuated
her air of a pubescent girl. Her vagina a naked butterfly with labia
"You can be Peter Pan and I'll be
Wendy!" Healy said hungrily.
long forgotten adventurousness seized me. It was good to be a Lostboy
in Neverland, in a strange house with a strange woman, without much
money, in a complicated situation. The lush delicacy of something
newly hatched. I only had to really really believe. Then I'd be
able to fly.
Our days began with Healy and I doing
stretching exercises together, nude. What she called an "energy
exchange." Then we'd sit behind our typewriters in the narrow attic
room. She was trying to write up the panting story about how she
was sexually assaulted at knifepoint in Greece. Another one of sleeping
with a different man every night at the Cannes Film Festival instead
of doing celebrity interviews. I was writing a dark burlesque, a
ménage à trois about how my wife and I both
fell in love with the same woman.
After reading our morning's work aloud
to each other it wasn't long before we were at it again. Healy always
seemed to be ready and willing. On the floor. In front of mirrors.
In the shower pissing on each other. Healy kept wanting me to tie
"Then you can do anything to me!
Anything. Rape me. Whip me. Beat me to death. I love you" she explained.
Or perched like a crane on a wooden
three-legged stool, totally bare, she would greet me in the morning
with her eyes raised so one could see white above the bottom lid.
"You can use violence on me," she'd hiss. "Now!"
got special pleasure from squeezing out blackheads from the soft
flesh around my rectum. Masturbating me with her hands saturated
with gooey suntan oil. Climbing on top of me, she'd put her hands
on my chest and with those sinewy elastic legs pump so hard and
fast that I thought I would go unconscious, have a cardiac arrest,
before the climax. She liked a deep thrust, her lips pursed, eyes
dilated and unfocused, uttering a high pitched growl whenever I
hit bottom. Day by day my cock seemed to grow longer, thicker, have
more weight. This inflated tumescence caused me to stop wearing
underwear. Gravity in my body shifted from the top to the center.
The screeching sound of our orgasms filled the L-shaped garret.
Sometimes in the afternoons we'd go
for walks over the hills of Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Go swimming.
Watch the jugglers and mimes in front of the Centre Pompidou. Play
peekaboo among the bookstalls along the Seine.
In the evenings Healy usually managed
to sweep me off to a variety of parties and vernisssages,
although I'd just as soon be poking my head out over Paris from
the ninth floor dormer-window. Watching the swallows swoop and circle
at dusk over the dull silver-gray slanting metal roofs and erect
clay chimney pots. Trying to catch the exact moment when the floodlights
on the Sacré-Coeur would be turned on to illuminate the fat
shiny whiteness penetrating a ripe plum-purple sky.
Previously in this city I had dined
out with friendly and curious painters like David Hockney and Ron
Kitaj, the poet Jacques Prévert, who was very sad over the
recent death of his friend Boris Vian, the surrealist Gherasim Luca,
who knew only one English word and every ten minutes or so would
jump up and shout "elbow, elbow." Amicable repasts with iconic illustrators
like Gilbert "Freak Brothers" Shelton and Roland Topor, or the third
mind in Bill Burroughs/Brion Gysin evenings. Or a rendezvous with
theater people Ken and Kathleen Tynan, the fashion designer Thierry
Mugler, the filmmaker Barbet Schroeder, or the model Jean Shrimpton,
just to name-drop a little. Although by nature not promiscuous,
over the years, among my Parisian lovers I counted a countess who
was an architect and ghostwriter for Buckminster Fuller, the Jungian-Maoist
heiress to a shipping fortune, a long-time opened relationship with
a critically acclaimed modern dance photographer. Memorable brief
encounters with a muscular Mexican schoolteacher, a Romanian sorceress,
a clandestine matinee with the cute-as-a-button upscale-preppy wife
of Time magazine's Bureau chief. With Healy now, I found
myself alloyed with the genuine haute riff-rafferie of the demimonde.
These normalite satellites of socialites and top-ten fashionists
were culture's replaceable parts. Obsessed by their own omniscience
they could not accept comfortably the divine holy spark that is
given to all.
this be just another episode of The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor
Feather, Edgar Allan Poe's story where the inmates take over
the lunatic asylum? Or something more even more climacteric? Night
of the Living Dead revisited? Behold these zombies in a moveable
There was this seven-foot-tall former
basketball player who had had a bit part in Superman II.
He wore a poncho and dealt hash. A rich alcoholic woman who was
so old she was an atheist but might lend us her villa in sweet smelling
Grasse. A dresser from the Folies Bergères and his intimate
friend, a scoutmaster from South Africa who was in town--get this!--for
the World Boy Scouts Convention. There seemed to be more than one
apprentice pastry chef. Waiters. Waitresses. In situ. Someone
named Ari who appeared to have stepped right out of the pages from
a Scholem Alejchem story. An embittered Tevye the Milkman impersonator,
of the envious and confused sort. Anyone whose jottings got more
attention than his was someone he didn't like. That is to say, he
didn't like a lot of people. Everyone was always trying to upstage
him. He believed. A common enough misreading by those who never
finish books, his idea of brotherhood, subsequently, was Cain and
Abel. The typical bully. He pushed, and pushed until one noticed
and pushed back, then ran around howling "unfair." I didn't think
he was capable of any feeling as honest, or pure, as hate or love.
He was merely a scavenger who tries to stir things up in the hope
some crumb would fall his way. Only the offer of appearing on television
could interrupt his monologues praising himself. To be fair, those
who don't have much get ugly about giving up the little they have
left. Judging from his name, however, he was unblessed by not having
a tribe. Yet by appearance he belonged to a clan called FABB, Flatulent
American Beard Bores. Ruminating on Rumi, mercifully,
this mama's boy eventually faded away in a cloud of patchouli and
frayed eagle feathers turning up later as a professional mourner
and towel-boy in a belletristic bathhouse. As Swinburne said about
Emerson goes double here, "Now in his dotage spits and chatters
from a dirtier perch of his own finding and fouling." Then there
was someone named Jones who played Mister Bones from this billet-doux
to Timbuktu. The young Americans on holiday from Sunbelt universities
where they were taking post-graduate courses in golf. Even though
never having bestowed any credit to Darwin's origin-from-apes nonsense,
with all this evidence before me, he just might have been right.
Jane Bold sort fancied herself a postmodern Marjorie Morningstar
determined to revive the anxious Fifties, its jargon of neurosis,
fear, exaltation of the cringe. Attractive; she claimed to have
been a finalist in a beauty contest for leftism. Always secretly
considered herself a swarthy, pocket size Marilyn Monroe since having
barely missed being crowned Miss K'nish of the South Shore. Like
others from this area the two primal universal powers, yin/yang,
for her were manic/depressive. As an intellectual; she knew the
precise table where Jean-Paul Sartre sat at the Deux-Magots.
She had her hair done at Michel Foucault's barber. Witty; she could
contort her face to resemble Nixon. Creative; she was editing a
book called Deserters, writings from people who abandoned,
gave up and departed. Sexually liberated; she specialized in lovers
who played guitar because they knew "how to pluck my magic twanger,
darling." Her British and Continental squeezes, however, always
dumped her. They fucked and fled in droves. No wonder. She didn't
want lovers; she wanted pets. However, to hear her tell it, she
was the one always wronged, always a zero in the equation. It was
never her fault, always unexpected: It went to pieces all at
once -- All at once and nothing first, /Just as bubbles do when
forever gritty, distressed and deluded by decades of dusty worn-out
illusions she usually presented a bemused fugue state. To anyone
who would listen she showed off her repulsive fetish. It was a dun
colored congratulations letter received from addled Adlai Stevenson.
That nincompoop grandson of a vice-president with a potted CV. A
mob controlled rich nerd who insulted poor folk with his holed sole.
Elected he would have extended the Korean War, not been able to
ever stop Senator Joe McCarthy or his attack on the Army and crucially
he would have been debt bound politically to appoint a segregationist
southerner as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. No Brown v.
the Board of Education on his watch. No sending federal troops
into Little Rock. A man so greedy for titles he eagerly became the
apologist for the Vietnam War simply to be called Mister Ambassador.
Adlai "Bloody" Stevenson.
her hero's lust for power and vainglory, this particular grammarian
had a couple of special shtiks of choice. An elaboration
of what Ed Sanders sobriquets "slash-&-burn bardiatrics" in
his hilarious fable about Fame & Love in New York.
was her MO? Wasn't it Lyndon Johnson who said that the tactical
key to winning an election was to call your opponent a pig-fucker?
Then let them stand up in public to deny it. She too knew how to
get first with the mendacious decoy, to accuse others of calumnies
she herself had initiated. Everyone humored her; no one had told
her the truth for years. Whatever one did for this Jane Bold, was
never enough. When generously including her in company she would
sometimes remain totally silent, on other occasions become abusive.
Another social skill of self-dramatizing was to say something fiercely
wounding, poisoning her associates where each one was weakest, that
is, in the pride of their strongest virtue. Before they could respond
she'd burst out crying. For the not very observant this made it
appear as if she had been the vulnerable eternal ingenue, merely
a defenseless sobbing victim. Of the person she had just peremptorily
and prepensely attacked and hurt.
she got away with this provincial lack of comity only because she
was a woman must have been an everyday humiliating experience. She
repeatedly introduced me to someone stuffy or soul sick, a so-called
VIP she claimed to know, who from their glazed expression, I noticed,
had little idea who she was. To those with a fine eye for detail
she came off as a lout, sort of an offensive Poor Soul. Yet when
she told me, "you have become too tolerant living in Amsterdam for
so long," finally I knew that was something she had right. Too tolerant?
Indeed I had been, and started avoiding her.
the fear of the predators. Those who contrive to be sophisticated
and get it wrong. They are always coarse, a bit preposterous in
their hollow needs. Scary in an insignificant way. But of course
destined to be the pride of their shrinks, their plastic surgeon
and guaranteed to garner grants. Except in this instance, closeted,
as it were, by an extravagant, uncontrollable dislike of gays. She
highlighted their contribution to the spread of AIDS. She sneered
at them collectively as the Homintern. Who was it, I wondered,
that pioneered this art of embarrassments? The problem with trying
to be amiable with major league jerks is that they know they're
uncool and resent, even despise as weakness, anyone for trying to
be friendly with them. The kind that believe when it becomes known
what a damn good sentence they write, it will forgotten that nobody
would go with them to the prom.
Yow, have I incensed everyone yet?
Is this ranting? Why am I being so reticent about these persons?
I've been a fool for lesser things. Who am I trying to protect?
Condescension is cruel; it treats someone with more than justice.
It's my story and I can be as kind as I please. No one can be so
sentimental as to think that they recognize themselves. In the preface,
The Battle of the Books, Swift said, "Satire is a sort of
glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but
their own." How irresponsible of me to compile any reasonably comprehensive
almanac of meetings with remarkably silly ladies and gentleman without
including, at least, cameo sketches of other members from this group.
The erotic marries the vitriolic smoothly. Guillaume Apollinaire's
Les onze mille verges morphing with John Aubrey's Brief Lives.
incredible as it seems, there was a final diehard from the Eleanor
Roosevelt cult, even. ("And to you, young man, I say humph!")
That was after my performance at a poetry reading Healy and I were
both invited to at something called the Paris-American Institute.
As I discovered later, this was a property scam luring rich Americans
to study art in Gay Paree meanwhile renting them expensive digs,
furnished apartments owned by the Institute's Australian director.
The woman who organized the poetic event told me in a Texas accent
thick enough to cut: "You all will recognize me. I'm the one in
the red designer dress with big pockets."
To say nothing of a large fellow
who had once been the resident beefcake and carpenter for an off-the-peg
fashion designer and thought it cutely macho to complain that the
soup's cold when it's suppose to be. The very model of a modern
superfluous man. Although to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, it wasn't
difficult to tell the difference between a Bohunk with a grievance
and a ray of light. This smiling idiot was going to design the cover
for that anthology Deserters. He was going to organize the
world pinball championships, arrange an annual music festival. He
was definitely going to do something about his roots, re-trace Ivo
Andric's Bridge on the Drina. He was going to do, going to
do, going to do absolutely nothing. In the end, nada save
gargling in his own trivia. Known as the Mad Dog, Bob Bandanna--("I'm
an artist. I'm an artist")--got no further than rodomontade, believing
the apex achievement of all human talent and refinement was banging
a drum roughly while shouting dreadful gibberish. Doing this he
lived quite well indeed by adhering to an ancient motto. Let's go
meet some interesting people. And then get them to pay us to go
away. A bargain at any price.
was also on the fringes of a burgeoning new exile literary scene
swarming together at the Village Voice, a café/bookshop/luncheonette
in Saint Germain-des-Prés. The rich in Paris, that perennial
clique, was swelled by trust fund brats by the dozen. (Nota Bene:
The history of English-language publishing in Paris is totally connected
to a high dollar and a weak franc. You got ten francs to one dollar
at the time.)
Self-proclaimed reincarnations of
James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway were littering
all the salons that semester. Southpaw poets were in. Real estate
was in. Language was in. Marriage was out. Gender boxing was in
with a vengeance by those who would have been class combatants,
or even race duelers, in a previous era and another country. In
the current atmosphere lacking all philosophy, fun and beauty, anything
for division and diversion had been resuscitated with enthusiasm.
Pacified by promises of foolishness in pursuit of false tastes in
learning, these New Totalitarians couldn't take a jest. Oh, man,
it was all so nineteenth-century. Hair-pie in the house of love.
One was constantly stumbling over some Judy Cutie from the Dorcas
Society, chirping little literary ladies with a:
Lest we too soon conclude
don't yet intrude
while I'm getting in the mood
with a certain similitude
an oh ooooh daddy Sylvia Plathitude:
Then thy shall rise rise rise rise
headed for that diamond at the end of my thighs
with an Amy Lowell poetry prize
and a lot of Dorothy Parker bad attitude.
Four or five new journals appeared from these ex-libris expats
with spiffy tiles like Exiles and Frank. That's progress
for you. In old days these types did something more meaningful with
their lives. They became disbarred lawyers, optometrists, cosmetic
surgeons for pets, pre-natal psychologists, truth dentists, ulterior
decorators, grief counselors, opened fern shops, latched on to a
Dairy Queen franchise, joined their in-laws business, sold bonds,
moved to New Mexico or Wales, secured safe government jobs. Ambitious
more than adventurous, in this context their texts had nothing to
say except "here we are" and would not have received the slightest
bit of attention, it seemed to me, had they been published in their
surprisingly the role model for these reviews was an invalid jackdaw
yclept Kathy Acker. She who doesn't know the meaning of words. Was
this hip? She reminded me of all those clotheshorse table-hopping
sorority girls I grew up with. A type one meets casually later in
life at a Poetry Festival then stalks and pesters you with invitations,
requests, groovy postcards, gifts of their works, slips something
by Duchamp into your mailbox. What a dummy. What a dreary and dyslexic
princess of privileged serfs. Although fun to fool. Kathy never
realized I thought her to be, well, kind of the most mediocre person
I ever met. An agreeable sluttiness was her lone authentic virtue,
and that was the only excuse, I confess now, for why I arranged
to have that single book of hers published in Holland. That and
as a prank, especially on the editor. He knew I witnessed him interrupting
an Allen Ginsberg reading by repeatedly shouting, in Dutch: "Go
away, you faggot kike." Then when Peter Orlovsky, who only heard
the noise and not the meaning, stepped forward and challenged, "If
you don't be quite, I'll come out there and spank you," he cowardly
ran away. I believed, perhaps naively, Kathy and this editor both
deserved each other.
this degradation wasn't enough. Kathy was still yet to experience
being laughed out of London when caught between Harold Robbins successfully
suing her for theft, and simultaneously becoming a low pub joke.
It had gotten around among the lager lads and lassies. Whenever
sufficiently horny they could phone Kathy and tell her they wanted
to do an magazine interview with her forÍ making up a name like
Idiot Stare, Android Lust, Toe Gang, Revelation
G. Rits, Frozen Modules, Kingdom Scum, Gas
Chamber or even Hub Cap Star Halo. It was a sure sex
score at her Thames-side house in Chiswick. At this time too she
was still ambulatory, nonetheless already a primo example of pre-cancerous
despair personified. One was not innerested in contracting her horrible
condition. A Barbie doll Miz Nosferatu, if you get my drift. A declension
of her name might be Kathy, Kitsch, K'vetch.
number of women commented to me how upon being introduced to Kathy
she absolutely ignored them. Starring off at a point beyond their
head, they said, she clocked the room to see who else was around,
then rapidly walked over to a group of men interrupting them with
the non sequitur conversation stopper that she was a radical
feminist, the new woman. Was this the reason gossip abounded that
Kathy was really Karl, a sex change? Having had her, as it were,
as a houseguest in Amsterdam the year before, I didn't believe it.
Although I risked being caught miserably among the majority if highly
suspicious that she herself had started the rumor.
like her these vague new epigonist Paris periodicals followed in
Kathy's path. They also subscribed to the belief that art of fiction
consisted of all lies + plagiarism + solipsistic case histories
as if Anna O., and not Freud, had written up their encounter + mocking
the suburbs + my funny family + pajama party jokes + dieting sagas
+ plumbing traumas + the difficulties of finding a good pair of
poetry editor among these illuminati had never ever heard of his
maximus Charles Olson. A graphic designer, called "Poopsie" by his
lover, thought Sade was a boutique on the place des Victoires, Céline
a manufacturer of silk scarves and neckties and André Breton
a Les Halles oyster bar. The inevitable women's rag was controlled
by the lady from Chicago, who dresses like a guy and who doesn't
think she dances, but would rather like to try--and then, only the
polka. For them the Devil was always with the adversary, artistic
tastes no more then a cover for social competitiveness.
I really hear someone say they had discovered a French writer? This
was a season and situation when insanity had become almost respectable.
Mon dieu. I simply prayed for their eternal souls.
What a spectacular menagerie of costumed
cartoons. I felt as if I was trapped inside a Nancy and Sluggo
strip, the one where they visit an art gallery This wasn't a scene,
man; it was a zoo, during feeding time. What we had here was not
neither natures or puppets, as Goethe dichotomized. This was the
third way, a car crash. Toads with tire tracks on their backs--road
kill pure and simple. As blithe as going out on a Saturday night
first date and voluntarily hanging out in the emergency room of
a big city hospital. Buffoonsville. Dork City. A Pig's Eye View
of Literature. Being Imbeciles Together. There was this Canadian
who wore eye make-up, donned a beret and shod himself in chunky
earth shoes and ran an intensely passionless English-language weekly
newspaper. He accused anyone disagreeing with him of being an anti-Semite.
And, of course, that ubiquitous "Bennington-girl"--another actor
in the theater of victims. Fat enough to qualify as the Minister
of Food for a number of Third World countries--claiming it was her
"metabolism" although I suspected greed trying to fill up emptiness--her
hygiene was so slovenly she had blackheads (would you believe?)
nearly as big as dimes. She appeared everywhere with two large German
shepherd dogs. A waddling factory of self-abuse. Andrea the Avenger.
She who hates. Her thing was fantasies of being raped. Reveries
of being burned at the stake for witchcraft. When not trying to
elicit sympathy for a predictably unhappy marriage to a thug of
a nightclub bouncer, or for her times of extreme poverty--the price
of feeding her and her dogs could feed a whole village comfortably--she
saw this wonderful world dully as a single-minded engine designed
to abuse women. I got a Holocaust. You got a Holocaust. All Gawds
chillin' got a Holocaust.
Much earlier in our relationship,
at that party for the publication of my slim volume of verse, I
had introduced Healy to a venerable elder artist I knew. He was
the last of the Lost Generation, whose first book, The Young
and Evil, Gertrude Stein had praised and whose book of poetry,
Sleep in a Nest of Flames, had an introduction by Edith Sitwell.
He had been Djuna Barnes's traveling-companion and had typed the
manuscript of her novel Nightwood. She really asked him:
"Is this your first time in Paris?" All these reassuringly fatuous
aspects of Healy's life and associations had been there from the
beginning, but now I started seeing things in a different light.
The blatant incongruities in her stories. Her knack of creating
instant intimacy. Her striving to be the prima donna of a one-night
stand existentialista. Her vampiric desire to make an indelible
impression and lasting memory.
There were the fundamental differences
in our taste. I would play tapes of Billie Holiday; she would change
it to Grace Jones records. Yet we both adored Youssou N'dour. At
dinner parties, after putting a few glasses of wine behind me, I
might start talking about the continuity and discontinuity of history.
The use of the rainbow flag in Thomas Müntzer's early sixteenth-century
peasant rebellions and its revival as a political symbol today.
Healy would stare me in the eyes, rub her knee against mine under
the table and in a hoarse voracious voice say, "You look so very
young tonight." We both adored dancing. Especially together, a very
close, high-speed slam dancing in shady after-midnight African places
with me on tiptoes. But my idea of a good time wasn't going to Balkan
restaurants so she could jump on the table, wiggle about and have
glasses smashed at her feet by strangers. "Don't give up!" I thought.
Even when I discovered I had the crabs!
The fuckin' crabs, for Christ sake. And that that was the real
reason she had shaved her cunt. On reflection, Healy couldn't decide
whether she had acquired these "cute tiny bugs" from a lithe young
Senegalese called Hyacinth she picked up in Le Club Tango or conceivably
from Henrik, the grunting Pole, who picked her up in the Luxembourg
Gardens. Was it one of those bookish Yanks who sleep in musty corners
upstairs at Shakespeare & Co.? Flushed with pride, maybe indeed
from an after hours tryst with that rich war photographer met at
the chic nightclub Bain Douche?
"Difficulties at the beginning," I
told myself. After all, I was the one who was married and obliged
to prove the sincerity of my intentions. I tried to explain that
her sleeping with other men meant less to me than her deceptions.
Was I whistling an aria to the deaf? Was I trying to shoot pool
with elliptical balls and a crooked cue? Play tennis in a telephone
booth? Like nationalism, love is a blinding, consuming passion.
One keeps making excuses for the other person. The woman I loved?
She had as her highest ambition being able to walk down a long flight
of steps gracefully in front of a large audience, looking dead straight
ahead, wearing nothing but full body make-up and a pair of spiky
high heels. Forbearance and forgiveness, however, I decided ultimately,
are esteemed by the seventh order of angels. But not before the
enactment of still another tableau. Even then, I felt she had played
this scene before.
There I was in a garret with a chorus
girl. She was wearing nearly transparent, glossy sheened scarlet
colored satin underpants, flared slightly at the upper thigh. Her
cheerful rubicund nub taunt, pert, growing on small handfuls of
breasts. She was hairless from below her eyelashes to her toes.
Her legs, her armpits and her cunt were all shaved. Her body was
shiny. She cried in my arms. Healy's salty teardrops ran down my
chest. Slowly she licked the teardrops from my chest. Suckled my
She pleaded: "Please don't go. If
you walk away from me, darling, you walk away with my heart, you
will take my heart with you."
was on offer was surrogate child sex. Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican
novelist, described a similar display in Diana: The Goddess
Who Hunts Alone, about his midlife crisis affair with the movie
actress Jean Seburg. It began slippery with syzygy. During their
first night together, he writes:
She had secretly guided me toward
her lingerie by sitting on my lap and changing her voice, whispering
into my ear in a little girl's voice, lift up my little skirt, you
will lift up my little skirt, won't you? aren't you going to touch
my panties? touch my panties, honey, pretty please with sugar on
it, lift up my little skirt and take off my panties, don't be afraid,
I'm only ten years old but I won't tell anyone, tell me what you
are touching, darling, tell me what you feel when you lift up my
little skirt and touch my little pussy and then you take off my
Healy reached forward deliberately and pulled down my zipper. She
bit her lip and looked intensely earnest. She used both hands to
undo the metal button and unfasten the top of my cut-off jeans.
She opened them and put her thumbs on the belt loops. She pulled
them down exposing my cock. I was still not wearing briefs. She
took my scrotum in her right hand caressing my balls, and my cock
in her left. She watched it become fully erect. She looked up at
me and smiled brightly, a sensual contrast to her moist weeping
eyes. It was something the way she could get different looks in
those brown eyes, from sparkly to sad to a kind of ghostly light,
one after another her eyes working me over, softening me up.
got an interest in this," Healy said. "It's mine. Now I'm going
to put it in my mouth. Is that all right with you?"
sure," she said.
had to clear my throat to say: "Yes."
tightened her grip. "Good," she said, and leaned forward. Tongued
me first all around from root to helmet with single vigorous caresses,
kissed every part, then took me fully within her lips stuffing it
deep into her mouth and back out, down and up, dedicating herself
to it as if she was trying to suck out a wound. It was the fourteenth
of July, Bastille Day, and the noisy explosions of fireworks in
the streets below seemed like a dialectic of contradictions, the
outward expression of the revolutions going on inside me storming
the prison of procrastination. When I looked down I saw the cap
of her short red hair bobbing, weaving, swaying like a slow motion
Dervish in prayer. Right before I came Healy removed her mouth from
my cock, grabbed it. And jerked, and jerked again, and jerked again,
and splashed, sprayed, spattered my seed all over her appreciative
face. Gratefully she embraced my hand.
Facials. She liked me to do this,
come on her face. One of the most vivid images from this time was
when walking down the stairs I noticed specks of sperm in her hair.
Another was Healy closely investigating her vagina with a mirror
after she came.
The very next morning we had a talk.
I complained about all the chatting and hanging around. "Running
with the herd results in an empty heart," I said. "You know, at
one of those openings you took me to, Healy, I told someone I was
a Professor of Gambling from the Republic of Kazakstan, that I was
in here for the UNESCO World Congress called Last Bingo in Paris.
And she said, `Oh yes, I've heard of that. How interesting!'"
Healy also had her reservations about
me. She wasn't at all amused when I went around telling her friends,
"I'm writing a gay minstrel show called Martin Luther Queen."
She retrieved my attention again by reaching out with her long arm
and placing it on my crotch. With her palm she stroked it, then
alternatively softly pinched the head and weighed my balls in her
hand. Caressing her lips with her tongue, Healy brushed the nappy
textured cotton against my skin until my raw responsive wand throbbed
and veritably bulged in my pants feeling at least as large as the
Obélisque on the Place de la Concorde, it seemed. It was
like there was a restless large animal in my pants trying to get
out. I sensed the rest of my body was merely an attachment to the
Washington Monument twitching in the Reflection Pool.
I started to drift away in waves of rapture again, she re-engineered
the mood by roaring abruptly. "I know something exciting we can
do," she said. "We can make an erotic film!"
A few days later I crossed the river
to visit an old friend who was director of a production company
in Montparnasse. In exchange for promising a copy of the finished
tape, I borrowed a full taxi-load of professional video equipment
and returned to our love nest in the Marais.
When Extremes Meet; that was the
title of our cinematic epic. It begins with some gender bending,
cross-dressing in each other's clothes. Wearing her tight canary
yellow dress, with one shoulder strap, toeless gold-colored sandals
and a red feather boa wrapped around my dark face, I look like a
nice-Jewish-girl with a dark bushy mustache. Healy has on my double-breasted
blue blazer with gold buttons, a blue oxford shirt and a red, white
and blue striped silk necktie, gray flannel pants and flat, black
patent leather shoes, and looks like a pretty, clean-limbed Celtic
twilight, English public school boy. Then we take off each other's
clothes. I disappear into the hallway and then arrive with two vibrators
and ask Healy to make a choice. After many preliminaries, I insert
a vibrator in her cunt, turn it on, hum hum hum on her clit with
my lips while using the fingers of my left hand to tickle her ass.
Nectar of the Gods. When coming she clearly makes a ten-inch wet
patch on the sheet.
a squirting woman," Healy laughs. "But I don't think I could take
another one of those." A studied pause. "Except maybe once a week."
In the following scene Healy crouches
on all fours as I fuck her from the rear. The slow motion, almost
lazy movements into and out of her, deliciously unhurried in the
attic bedroom. Slowly, in and out. Her beautiful unisex face, slightly
flushed, doe-eyed, damp swollen lips parted and fluttering, toward
the camera. Being a passionate exhibitionist, she couldn't get enough
of watching herself. When aroused Healy gleamed, reddened, as if
her whole body was blushing. After our climax she gets on top of
me, thick drops of come, the color of watered Pernod, fall from
her glistening pink bottom in large blobs onto my stomach. In another
scene, arching her ass toward the camera, Healy looks over her shoulder
and asks me to put the two vibrators in both of her holes at once.
want to feel them oscillate and sway between the thin membrane,"
she divulges in a stage whisper to the unseen audience, like a baby
demanding you play a game with her.
rattle and roll. As the vibrators purr, whir and grind inside her,
Healy's loins resonate with spasmodic ecstasy. Her shoulders start
to shudder slightly and the fingers of her pale hands press more
tightly against the sheets, her head buries into the pillow. Many
moans. Albeit Healy deeply cherishes these blind grinding feelings
of subterranean forces, the long torpid suck, the murk and ooze,
she thinks it looks rather inelegant on the video.
and on in that vein for about eighty minutes, ending with a separate
five minute short subject. A no-holds-barred nude wrestling contest.
Hot and weird the video wasn't much, but it did have a certain spirit.
Not unlike intimate holiday snapshots of a couple you would like
to know during the transformation of a true romance. A world première
showing of our absolutely fabulous co-production was arranged at
that prominent Sunday night salon held at a studio and courtyard
in the 14th arrondissement. We even had programs printed
up, illustrated and with urgent statements of values. Healy chimed
a fork against glass for silence and loudly invited everyone. Only
a small group agreed to see it in the cave-like cellar. Of these
some stormed out in protest. But sure enough, the video created
the succès de scandale of that summer. One veteran
Paris watcher said, "No one talked of anything else for months."
Making the film and showing it publicly
had brought us closer. We planned to rush off to the sun and start
a new life together before another wintry chill set in. Although
merely September the leaves had already begun to turn tawny, the
first chestnuts had fallen. The latter with a Newtonian thud, the
former fluttering onto the damp ground describing many forms of
metrical rhythm. Dusk was suffused with apricot hues. That's how
romantically crazy, and at one with the natural forces of the universe
I imagined myself to be. Anyone who didn't believe in miracles,
it seemed, wasn't a realist. I took the midday train back to Amsterdam
for the purpose of selling my books, picking up a few things and
to perform the difficult but necessary task of telling my wife and
young daughter I was going to leave them.
When I got home I called Healy in
Paris. It was still too early for dinner but there was no answer.
As I started to leave a message on her répondeur,
she picked up the phone and said, "Hello. Yes. Hello." Immediately
I felt a palpable chill through the line. It was as if suddenly
she was covered in glass.
"I was just going to send you a telegram,"
Bemused, nonplused, bewildered, I
asked, "A telegram?!?"
She spoke in very careful, rigid cadences
every word a separate sentence. "Yes, a telegram. To-tell-you-we-wouldn't-be-seeing-each-other-again.
You told me you'd run out of money..."
That was true. She knew I had sold
my mother's jewelry and the cash from that was coming to an end.
She seemed as tight as an unfurled bud.
"...and you got me the gigs I was
That was true too. She, who had supposedly
said goodbye to stripping, was to do a striptease on the party night
of the Fifth International Women's Festival. (My wife was director
of the event.) In addition, she arranged some nude vibrator shows
for herself in Paris after giving certain impresarios very private
viewings of our videotape, When Extremes Meet.
"...and I got all your contacts now!"
I was in a state of shock. "But."
I objected, "I don't have any contacts, only relationships. And
those who have relationships nominally tell each other the truth."
"You've said that one before," she
replied with unconcealed scorn.
I could barely get the words out.
"What you're telling me now sounds like opportunism."
"Why not?" Healy said without hesitation.
"What's wrong with opportunism!?!" Then hung up.
In my younger and equally vulnerable
years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over
in my mind ever since. "The great thing about banging your head
against the wall," he told me, "is that it feels good when you stop."
I understood he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence
I am inclined to believe that it takes two to be perverted. Oh well,
I'm not the first (or last) middle-aged man to be dumped by a dancing
girl, to have guest starred in their own X-rated soap opera, left
with an itchy case of the crabs, dragging one's cloak along the
boulevard of broken dreams, heartache lingering like a cheap cologne.
little over a year later I ran into Healy at a party in Amsterdam--at
the house of a friend of mine, someone I had introduced her to,
one of those contacts she had spoken of so cynically. Xaviera
"Happy Hooker" Hollander--who had written the forward (called Foreplay)
to my book of poetry that seems to have started this all--was throwing
a gala fête for another friend, funny girl Annie Sprinkle,
the Fanny Brice of Porn.
cornered me near the sound system balancing a beer and joint in
one hand, while noshing nervously at the banquet table set in the
center of the room. We had already greeted each other stiffly at
the door, my reaching up as we kissed each other on the cheek for
the obligatory three times going through the charade of café
civility. She was wearing a close-fitting black sheath dress. Her
short jacket was a few shades darker than her silk stockings, both
silver. In high heels and towering over me, now she began speaking
politely, even correctly, but in a way that seemed to ignore what
had happened between us.
are many people who support you, you know," she said, milk chocolate
brown eyes, limpid, starring down from her long neck topped with
glazed red hair.
should come out of the shadows," she confidentially counseled from
sexually wise full lips in her most deeply felt low-pitched cadences.
Incredible. I felt throttled. The
oxygen seemed to be sucked out of the room. I took a few quick shallow
breaths to get some air. It was as if Healy was trying to make a
flatteringly favorable first impression. If only she had more heart,
I obscenely thought, she'd have bigger breasts. Another cliché
proved to be a kind of truth: Hell hath no fury greater than a showgirl
with a lawyer. Gently, or rather with a stammer, I reminded her
that after dropping me she moved to Amsterdam and engaged a law
firm to harass me for months, threatening to have me put in jail
over When Extremes Meet, the video we had made. Hadn't we
been in love once-upon-a-time?
Healy stamped her foot. She actually
ek-shulay did. She shook her head slightly and sputtered
in her best Julie Andrews accent. "You presumptuous man!" Then she
pirouetted, spun around, shook her world-class ass and glided away,
disappearing, swallowed up by the crowd.
So we beat on, Weltschmerz
in furs, borne back ceaselessly into the orgiastic past. Wherever
you are Healy, goodnight. We'll always have Paris.
Thanks to poet and critic Kirby Olson for the inspiration--through
private epistolary example--to add the trope of invective name calling
in this satyric satori story.