Triptych

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Amateur

After the reading and dinner with an old college friend, she retired, as had become the custom, to the hotel bar. Here her company was a boyish bartender who seemed to be desperately trying to think up something witty every time he passed by her but was never quite able to get it out. He’d pause, concentrate really hard, and then move on. Men and woman of various ages were scattered at tables behind her, one guy on the phone, sighing and giving an angry “all right” every few minutes.

The bar proper was otherwise hers. She seemed destined to never achieve the kind of fame where she’d be recognized without a signpost. At a reading—at this afternoon’s, in fact—fans could be effusive, even obsessive. They’d tell you how they’d been changed, how grateful they were. Odder things, too, like the woman this evening who told her a story about an aunt who had created recipes using hamster meat in the years after her husband died. Eloise patiently took note, in that vampiric way writers do, unable after years of practice to summon up true sympathy, always on the hunt for details that could fill out a future character, hang a plot device on.

She favored martinis, vodka, twist, but with the Pacific air this seemed a liquid faux-pas, so she was immersed in a passable margarita. It had come with a twee umbrella—the bartender trying to get into her good graces, and perhaps elsewhere—which she had promptly removed, but not after favoring him with a smile. He gave her a thumbs-up, a rather bizarre gesture. Or maybe it made sense among the youth today. Kids do weird things.

She continued her sketching, which was, at this point in life, as vital as any other toilet procedure. Beneath a few fleshings of the hamster lady written in her always calligraphic cursive, she added some lines about a dream she’d had on the flight this morning, then a couplet that would serve as the nucleus to something undetermined. The bartender brought her another drink without being requested, and asked what she was writing.

“Trying to sort the day’s ideas. Sift out the 5% that are worthwhile.” She smiled. “I’m a writer.”

“What’s your name? Maybe I’ve read something of yours.”

She laughed, a surprisingly deep and buttery sound she developed at puberty. “You’re not a sexually-repressed housewife, and you’re not a teenage girl who’s yet to be fucked properly, so decidedly unlikely.”

He didn’t know what to say, so she added, “Eloise,” and shook his hand. Not that Southern Belle limp at the wrist offering, but a break-my-wrist or I’ll-break-yours exchange.

“Do you have another name?” he managed, miming soothing his hand.

“You don’t like the one I gave you?”

“No, I meant, do you have a… writing…”

“A pen name?”

“That! Yes.”

“No.”

An agent had once suggested “E. N. Henderson” to tactfully hide her sex. For flexibility in genre. As if one could only write a spy novel by dipping one’s bell-end in ink. Her Montblanc would do.

She brazenly scanned the bartender’s entire body. Long, swimmer’s build, probably surfs. She had one use for young men, never had had any other. It was possible to overlook the clumsiness and the neediness when you could spider your hands down a ripple of abs, or you had them revved up to a good jack-hammering. Otherwise, they were simply silly.

Still, to be perfectly honest, it did feel good to have someone’s glance still drifting towards her cleavage. It felt better with every passing year, in fact.

“How long they keep you here?” she said.

He looked up. “Another hour.”

She cradled her chin in her palms and tiptoed her fingernails up his chest. “You never know. Maybe you keep the drinks coming, leave me alone so I can work until then… maybe my room number will show up on a napkin somehow. Could happen.”

He didn’t quite take the hint, so she gently waved him away.

It’s nice to be wanted. It’ll always be nice to be wanted. Her thoughts drifted to a familiar place, the nugget of memory behind a story in her most recent book, one that had benignly agitated for the last twenty odd years, like the princess and the pea. There her attention perched for a few moments as she sipped her drink. The great wheels of time creaked.

You take the joys you can reach. Someone had taught her that long ago, and for the sake of karma, she’d tried to teach it to who she could.

She returned to her notebook, the familiar waters of the life she’d made.

Someone sat down next to her, but she didn’t notice.

“It’s a waste of time to state the obvious, but nonetheless, you are still every bit as beautiful.”

The pen stopped. She stared at the page for a minute, then carefully closed the book and placed it on the bar. She looked straight ahead as she reached for her drink.

“Hi, Joe,” she finally said. She took a deep breath, and a deep swig, and put her hand on her chest.

“Hi, Eloise. Glenlivet neat.” The bartender obliged, again seeming like he had something to say, but withdrew as he sensed antalya escort the magnitude of his intrusion.

“You always had good taste, Joe,” she said.

“Rather self-serving comment, don’t you think?”

“I was never one for false modesty. Come to think of it, all modesty is false modesty.”

“You haven’t changed.”

“Oh please, cliches are so fucking easy, and besides, that one’s simply ridiculous. Everyone’s changing, always. Some things are the same, of course. Some aren’t. For example, the girls ain’t what they used to be.” She looked down at her chest.

He laughed. “It’s the blight man was born for.”

“You and your fucking Hopkins, man. Do you remember making me memorize the Windhover?”

“I think if there was any evidence of the efficacy of my teaching style, it’s you. And apropos of nothing, your tits look amazing.”

She turned. The picture she had in her mind of him softly merged with what she saw. Reality pushed and bled through the memory. So the old photograph’s hair grayed, whitened. The face developed a few wrinkles. The eyes were still powerful, but they started to sink. All in all, he’d aged well.

“What are you doing here?”

“You know damn well what I’m doing here.” He laced his fingers with hers. Same big hands, same sense of her own elegance as their digits folded.

“You read the book.”

“I read the book.”

“You recognized the story?”

“Which one was that? Oh, the one about the student who turned eighteen and then begged her English teacher to fuck her? Yes, I did read that. I found it scandalous, I have to say.”

“‘Begged’? If ever there was a self-serving comment… I made a polite offer, which you accepted. Without complaint as a I recall.”

“You were, at the very least, somewhat insistent. But I didn’t complain then and I’m not doing it now.”

“Was it too close to life?”

He laughed. “How could it be? You changed my name to John. Brilliant. Anyway, who would even care at this point? It’s been twenty-five… well, it’s been a while. I’m retired. Alice has passed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

A warm and strong hand squeeze. “Thank you. No, actually, I enjoyed it. Probably for the same reason you wrote it. It is, if nothing else, a nice memory. Sometimes it pops into my mind and I have to remind myself that that actually happened to me. That I was that kind of guy.”

“And I was that kind of girl.”

He looked her full in the eyes. That was the most familiar thing about him, the way he had of locking up her attention like a bird in the hands. “Eloise,” he said, “you’re not any kind of anything. I thought you were, but you were something else entirely, and I’m sure you still are. You had the whole world wrapped round your finger before most people even realized there was a world worth wrapping.”

“Well, as with everything, a lot of it was a bluff.”

“Of course. I knew that then. Still, a lot wasn’t. You terrified me.”

“I scared you?” She laughed full-heartedly, and slumped against him. He responded by throwing out an arm and pulling her in. “I thought I’d never walk again. When you came in with that look in your eye, and later… I was lucky to get out in one piece.”

“Just trying to make it memorable, which, as I recall, was the entire idea. I succeeded.”

“We succeeded, no?”

“It was a joint effort, to be sure. Everyone contributed. No sleeping partners. Hell, let’s be honest; I was holding on for dear life. That doesn’t exactly come through in your story… much as I enjoy my portrayal as Hercules.”

“I can only write through my eyes. The eyes of an eighteen-year-old ingenue, rather. I was more than a little impressed. Smitten. Well, I hope you didn’t find any of it insulting.”

“No, but I must say, there may be a legal issue. I assume you have a very expensive lawyer.”

“Of course. She’s great. Just great. She could always use the chargeable time. What crime have I committed?”

“Well, you see, it turns out your story bears an awful lot of resemblance to one written twenty-five years ago. The point of view, granted, does differ. But even so: an eerie amount of resemblance, even if the names are—slightly—different. There could be a plagiarism charge.” And he opened a leather bag and pulled out a stack of papers, then laid them gingerly in front of her.

“Really?” Her smile was radiant. “Joe, really?”

He nodded.

“May I?”

He nodded again.

She began to read, just like some months ago, he had read a story called First and Last. Not his preferred genre of fiction, but he had known the author at one point, and tried to keep an eye on her work.

Dappled things (Joseph)

He would like to have plumply declared that yes, he knew just what he was doing, but for all his prized logic he was finding it hard to decipher this sitch. The variables were not only imprecise, their values seemed to shift when he wasn’t looking. For instance, an hour after he had read the note serik escort tucked in the poetry book, that thoughtful one she’d given him the week before graduation, he had everything properly dissected. Young mouth-waterer. Of legal age. One’s quondam student, no longer. Powerful, well aware of it, smart enough to use it, and therefore, virtually untrustable and very, very, dangerous. Desires, per note, to lose her maidenhood to “experienced practitioner.” Meet me at X, at X if interested. “Discretion guaranteed.”

This would set the bounds of the decision rather precisely, one would think. Not a crossroads one sees coming, and so perhaps it does take one some time to properly evaluate all the possibilities, but still one of the simplest versions of temptation. The risks were obvious—and the potential downsides were bads that would endure. The rewards were obvious, and just as obviously fleeting. There was the carnal gratification. Other potential benefits were… it seems there were none. So one weighs a fleeting joy with a chronic indisposition.

If in a properly logical state—say waist deep in the Arctic ocean—the path forward was clear. Burn gift. Shred note. Perhaps change email and telephone number.

Wait. Let’s assay that benefit column again. Fleeting carnal pleasure, but carnality is comprised of the virtues of the purveyor. We need to dissect that particular benefit and see what it’s made of. So said girl had mesmerizing dark-brown eyes that were frugal with blinks, always seemed a bit bored, and hovered over regal cheek bones. Said girl’s coffee skin was the result of the great American mixing pot, and was a glorious testament thereto. Said girl’s lips were full and enclosed lightning white teeth of assembly line perfection. Said girl accented her already commanding height with heels, and walked a perfected gait that shifted her taut jeans from side to side in a lazy rhythm, all producing an effect that could start world wars or drive a man as mad as any Lovecraftian horror. Said girl had chosen shirts of such perfect length that one could not complain of skimpiness, but then again, in a rare moment, one could almost swear they had had a glimpse of a divinely level abdomen—but you couldn’t be sure.

Said girl’s tits were sizeable.

And might I just point out, playing devil’s advocate, said girl’s quick wit. Spending time with her was, by all indications, probably delightful, even sans coetus. So, you know, why not just meet her?

This was, he realized, rationalization. But let’s also consider this. Yes, the fornicative act is fleeting. But are not all the best pleasures? And has not the entire history of sexual reproduction, that old bitch, groomed us for moments just such as these, for these pursuits and these delights? And had not the old bitch made the delights that much more delightful than all others? Ignoring such inducements, ruling them out too quickly, would be a betrayal of our very substance. Of billions of years of humping, tupping, rutting. Who are we to stand in the way of this perverted parade?

Still, our genes are looking out for themselves, certainly not us, and he wasn’t much fond of having someone pulling his strings. No nubile mixed-race seductress, nor sequence of uracil would cause him to override what his intelligence deemed right.

That’s what he was thinking when she walked into the bar. She’d proposed a quite distant place, in a quiet part of the city, but nonetheless she’d disguised herself enough, surely to make him feel safer. Glasses, which he’d never seen her wear before. A smart and adult skirt and top, even to the point of dullness, with a series of thin metal bracelets down her right arm and a necklace with a golden eye of Horus tapping against her left breast. With her stature, and the heels she was never without, she looked quite a bit older, but it fit her, as if this were the real Eloise, and the high school senior had been a costume she’d finally gotten sick of.

He was in the back, watching her deliberately make her way in. He watched her smile at the bartender and waiter who couldn’t help but gawk. He waved a hand and she waved back, like old friends reuniting. He was rather dressed up himself, sharkskin and a tie; a bit of effort he’d seldom put in since his single years.

“You’re here,” she said. “I really didn’t know what to expect.”

“Sit down,” he said. It was not a request or question, but he did get the chair for her. They stared at each other for a bit, evaluating the ramparts, seeing if any weak points were evident. The remnants of the teacher-student relationship were prominent, and it left a little sparkle of awkwardness on every moment. Something insisted that it felt off.

But one couldn’t deny that beneath it all there was some other relationship waiting to swallow the former at an opportune moment.

“Do you have any idea how foolish that note was? What kind of trouble you could get me into?” he said.

“I’m not an idiot, Mr. Cattelan.” He was side escort always impressed by her eyes, how they never evaded, never faltered. With anyone else, it could have been lack of social skills. With her, it was pure force of will.

“No. You’ve quite destroyed that relationship with your little note. Joe will do.”

“Joe. I apologize for any hardship I may cause or may have caused you. My intentions were…”

“Pure?”

“Not pure,” she said, with a smile. “They were… honest. Buy me a drink?”

“Diet coke for the lady,” he yelled.

“Shithead,” she said.

He smiled.

“Can I assume,” she said, “that your presence here indicates acceptance of my terms?”

He looked at her for a while. “I wasn’t entirely sure of the terms as you described them. Perhaps you could elucidate.”

She crossed her hands across her chest, making it pop, but his eyes didn’t drift. He thought, perhaps, if he could make her describe it, make her blush, then all her childness would come out and the wrongness of this situation would be clear. And the decision would be made as easily as that. But she quite matter of factly responded, after sipping from her straw.

“I’d like you to fuck me.”

She didn’t blush. She didn’t even change expressions. “This is a delicate time in a girl’s life,” she continued. “Lots of fussing about in the back of cars, bathrooms at parties. Brutes locking horns so they can spend a minute or two inside you and brag to their friends. The first time I let a guy get to second base, the entire school knew in an hour. And I wouldn’t have minded, really, had it actually been at all fun. And the stupidest rise to the top: those are the ones asking you to prom. If you actually do the readings in, say, English class, and what’s more, enjoy them—you’re incomprehensible.”

“Well,” he said, “For what it’s worth, it gets easier. You have to go through the awkwardness—that’s how you learn.”

“I’m sure,” she said. “But I’ve found a way to at least remove some of the awkwardness. See, I have a condition. Congenital. Some call it a gift. More of a status. I’d like to cure this condition. And if you want to have surgery done, you certainly don’t go to the guy on his first day holding the scalpel wrong-way up. You want a learned, steady hand. I don’t see why this should be any different. You fuck me the way a woman should be fucked—voila, no awkwardness. Condition cured.”

“Just like that, huh? And will there be follow up visits required?”

“With a procedure like this, they’re optional, depending on the judgment of the presiding physician.”

She really was fun to talk to. Some guy would be very lucky. “May I ask why I was selected for this honor? I assume you didn’t go around giving notes to all your teachers.”

“Not all.” She beamed. “Ok, well, just you. And there’s a very good reason for that. I want to fuck you, and you want to fuck me.”

“Is that so?”

“Of course. I’ve actually been dreaming of your cock for months now. I like to picture how it might look. Length, girth. Cut or not. How that little bit of precum that sometimes sticks at the head of it would taste on the very tip of my tongue. Which of your balls hangs lower. How far down your shaft I could get my lips before gagging.”

Like any man, he had the overpowering urge right now to shift in his seat, but that seemed like it’d be a surrendering of power; so he simply smiled. “Quite graphic, Eloise. What if I’m gay?”

“You have a wife,” she said.

“So did Oscar Wilde.”

“There’s also this,” she said.

“Please take your hand off my penis.”

She looked up, but her hand was quite comfortable where it was.

“Now, Eloise.” A slight anger in his voice.

She obeyed with reluctance.

“Are you even capable of embarrassment?” he said.

“Of course,” she said, “I just don’t think we’re doing anything embarrassing. And neither do you. You know what would be embarrassing? If some guy puts on a condom inside out and upside down and it slips off, and that’s your first time. Or he comes as soon as you take off your top. The ways it could go wrong are endless.”

“The ways it could fuck up my life are endless. What makes you think this is appetizing in the first place? Yes, you’re a fairly attractive young woman. But have you ever fucked a virgin? You get a lay out of it, but she ends up crying halfway through, and you don’t even get to cum. Or worse, she falls in love, stalks you afterwards, kills a house pet. I’m sure this all seems like it would never happen to you, but you’re a woman.”

“I’m actually rather offended. You always acted so woke in class. We did that feminist unit. Kate Chopin. You don’t think I can just fuck and be done with it because I have a cunt?”

“You could, but I’m talking about probabilities. Women’s first time does something to them. Dopamine flows, you get addicted.”

“Fine. Then let me down easy. Better you than some jerk. As for crying in the middle of it… well, let me put it this way. I promise, swear on my scholarship, that you will cum. I’m positive I can get that done. Past that, just think of it as a mentoring relationship. I’m just looking for some knowledge and experience. During the process, of course I’ll be yours to mold as you want.”

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