Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A love scene from "Beyond You & Me"


July 27, 1975

They say in the springtime a (wo)man’s fancy turns to love. Does the same thing happen in the depths of Summer’s doldrums? I do believe that is so.

In the Spring, it was S. Perhaps now it can happen again? I could so benefit from another human’s touch! So sweetly, so simply in love I am, I begin to think I’m destined to fall in love again and again. Can relationships work like methadone, substituting one addiction for another? So be it. I shudder at, yet crave the fierce, sudden bolts of lightning striking the innocent bystander, wantonly it would seem, seeking to destroy me in one blow, quickening my senses to an exhilarating height, I’m ready to chance failure or even disaster, my ears are humming from the blood pounding in my brain. It has been over 3 weeks since P. left and there are limits to what a vibrator can accomplish.

I awoke this morning alone again, awoke with that vague, dull insistence tugging at me, which became less vague so quickly, like speeding through a tunnel with the light racing towards you: is it the other side or a massive truck in your lane? A sense of nervous tension clutched at my stomach this morning and wrenched me fully awake with one name on my lips: Sydney.

So fresh, yet so strong, so passionate in the mouth and eyes, so intent, trusting, yet wary as the young emerging into their 20s always seem to be, breaking out from simple teenage rebellion into the full bloom of adulthood. I wouldn’t want to spoil such a lovely, beautiful thing. Well, maybe.

How did we meet? Ah, the music blaring from numerous loudspeakers in a state-of-the-art sound system urged the dancers and those sitting around the tables to “turn the beat around, you know that rhythm carries all the action.” The crowd was as far from Yale as I could imagine and still be in New Haven, the local glitter mob having proclaimed the Neuter Rooster as the center of New Haven’s nightlife. I presume the ridiculously absurd name is meant to attract the gay crowd; if so, it has worked. The building is a former strip club— I used to wonder what it would be like to audition, though P. would’ve killed me if I’d gotten the job. At that point I was a keypunch operator at Yale’s window-less computer center and taking off my clothes to dance in front of drunks seemed a better option. All that’s long gone. The crowd’s a mix of gay men, straight women and the odd dyke cruising with the boys. A few words of casual conversation and I discover she’s a Yalie— which says it all: ambitious, self-sufficient, busy and eventually they leave. Sydney will move on after graduation, while I will stay put. What again? Ah, Cassie, surely you can do better than that? Tsk, child, when will you ever learn?

More scraped knees?

I’m sitting at the bar drinking club soda when Sydney drifts up to me like a whiff of familiar perfume, so delicately beautiful and hopelessly alluring to my too-open senses. The O’Jays are telling the world “I Love Music,” and love is certainly on many minds here tonight.

“Dance?” was all she asked, the blare of the music would have made any deeper wisdom or clever lines a waste of breath.

She danced as I imagined she would: in rhythm but a little jerkily and without much style. Somehow that was quite naturally her style of dancing, perfect to her: tall and slender, with small breasts and narrow, boyish hips she skillfully, deliberately emphasized with tight white pants and a gold lame halter top. She doesn’t need good moves on the dance floor to get her way with men or women, when she took my arm after the first set and led me back to the bar, I was hooked and a throng of eyes followed our every step. As the song says, “it only takes a minute, girl, to fall in love.” During the second set, my eyes were on only her, though around the edges I could see many others watching us, we made such a perfect couple. I watched us as well, barely able to keep from pulling her to me as a man does when he wants to dance closer with a woman. I resisted the urge, I don’t know why, but I resisted. Protection I’m sure: to resist something one has never had is so much easier than once one has had a sweet—too sweet—taste. I found that out with S. So I’m heading into danger once more; I watch myself, so docile and un-aggressive, the complete opposite of with S. or Jessica. What could explain the change?

Surely not caution. No, was I afraid, perhaps, of marring her delicacy with desires I could hardly put into words? All I can think about is sleeping with her, I watch her movements with delight so naked it’s apparent I’m sure to Sydney and the entire club— at least when she opens her eyes. Most of the time she’s dancing with her eyes closed, shaking her head as her little boy cropped hair bounces to the beat of the throbbing base. My crotch is so wet at this point I wish I had a tampon in my purse, I’m glad I wore black pants instead of white. I detect in her movement and looks in my direction a sleeping vibe I want so much to awaken. I’m playing with matches and I don’t care if I set us both on fire, I’m a few degrees this side of spontaneous combustion already. Absorbing her shape, I can no longer resist, I reach out and plant my hands gingerly on her hips as we dance ‘round and ’round, I can feel the heat of her body beneath the shiny fabric of pants so tight I’m sure she’s wearing nothing underneath.

She takes my hand when the song finishes, something about “You’ve got me where you want me,” weaving herself into my self with her darting eyes, so piercing and lacking in the innocence I’d imagined they possessed, with smiles that make me feel as lightheaded as the balloons pinned to the “grand opening” sign stretched across the club’s support columns.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” she giggles, “and go somewhere quieter, more romantic.”

“Good, I think I need some air.”

We found the ’65 Mustang (P. gave it to me for a wedding present) in the parking lot, and once inside, I bent over to make sure her cranky seat belt was latched. She kissed me straight on the mouth, and my face flushed as hot as a sunburn, but still I can’t let myself go, though her darting tongue found mine tender and responsive. One kiss is all she’s after, and we drive away. I parked on Chapel Street and we walked down to a place I’d seen along the Green, an espresso bar called La Machinetta. Between the dancing, the kiss and the caffeine, I knew there’d be no sleep tonight! I didn’t care at all, being with her made me feel alive again. We talked about this and that, I can’t really remember what, she held my hand, stroking it along the knuckles, occasionally brushing the back of her hand along my cheek. I was aroused with her to an extent surprising even to myself: seductive, playful, feminine, gentle but strong, willful, leading me as well as my leading her. Then just as suddenly as at the Neuter Rooster, she wanted to leave, and I felt my heart pounding with fear she’d want to go back home to Mother Yale. Outside on the street, she pulled a joint from her bag and lit it up in plain sight.

“Here, this is great shit.”

She was right. The caffeine and the pot collided in my head at once, I no longer felt any sensations except a sense of pleasure and possibility, I could have floated away if she hadn’t held my arm. It was 2 AM, we ambled down to Book World and its racks of magazines, where the sign declares “we never close, including Christmas.” She wanted to show me the fashion mags she reads— without telling her roommates and friends, they look down on her, both for her gorgeous body and the way she adorns it with stylish clothes.
“I knew you’d be different— it was the halter top and the loose-fitting pants, they just said someone who understands style.” I didn’t tell her they were the only things I felt comfortable in after the pounds I’d put on moping around over the Summer. Gradually we moved from Vogue and Glamour to Oui and her favorite, Viva. Not what I expected from a fashion-conscious Yalie: lots of photos of beautiful women in little and less clothing. The pictures made me feel impatient with the unattainable; as I stared at Sydney, she smiled and stared back. The late night denizens gave us disapproving looks, but we were high enough I didn’t care, somehow I felt she liked their disapproval. One black dude looked me over, looked at Sydney in her abbreviated, clinging outfit as she held my arm, then looked back at me, muttering under his breath “nasty woman.” I wasn’t sure whether he meant it as a put-down or a compliment, but it made me feel bolder, and I took her hand, entwining my fingers with hers.

“Ever fuck a black guy?” she giggled once more leaning against me the way she’d lean against a man. I don’t know why, but I remembered a line from Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own that was entirely appropriate, if completely different than the original meaning: “The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.” De Man’s writings and P.’s tutoring taught me it wasn’t what Woolf intension that mattered, it was the meaning her words conveyed. Right now they seemed intentionally making me think of sex. KC and The Sunshine Band’s song was playing full-tilt in my head: “do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight.” I put my arms around her neck and pulled her lips to me in one of the most passionate kisses I’ve ever given anyone.

The entire store of seven or eight guys broke into applause and cheers.

“Thank you, thank you all!” I blurted out, with a broad grin, then grabbed Sydney’s hand and headed for the exit.

I can still feel her riding my fingers like a surfer on a sea of desire, the wetness I felt on my palm made me feel powerful. Unlike with Alex, I didn’t care she was lying back letting me pleasure her, it was an aphrodisiac playing the conductor driving her train to orgasm, I wanted her to come, to beg me, when she’s almost there I slow down, and yes, as I imagined it, she pleads, “please!”

“Tell me to fuck you,” I whisper, hoarse from my own irresistible desire.

“Oh, yes, fuck me! Girl-fuck me!” She’s coming now, I can still feel the electricity and spasms of her cunt surrounding my fingers days later, her sex juices were on my fingers, squishy and slippery, and I could feel the thrill she’s feeling in my own body, lips so swollen I can only hope she’ll know what to do once I’ve finished pleasuring her.

My fears about spoiling innocence prove totally, I mean TOTALLY groundless— Sydney seems virginal and sweet, yet her mouth is old beyond its years, in naughty words and sensual desire. Experienced in the ways of Sapphic love, she begins with her tongue on my labia, then when I’m breathing harder than I can ever remember, she slips fingers inside of me, moving her mouth up to the hood and beneath it, my clit. I can’t tell how many digits are inside me, it doesn’t matter, either, the long time between sex, the build-up of tension, the excitement of a night spent dancing and flirting are more than my self-control can or will handle. I let it go until I’ve nearly passed out from the intensity of my pleasure. Spent, I tell her that if I never see her again, she will always be in my heart, a melody, an aria, she is Delibes’ “Flower Song” from “Lakme” (I saw a production by the Metropolitan Opera when they visited Philadelphia junior year of high school).

I kissed her face the next morning as we parted, I could have floated out the window of her dorm room, not even finding my car had been towed away could drive out the magic of our night together. There was no time to walk back to my apartment, so I shocked the poor denizens of the library one additional time, arriving for work in my dancing clothes. The revealing halter top, so prone to show off the outer contours of the sides of my breasts if I bent over too far, was, well, inconvenient that day. The temperature was heading for the high 80s, yet I found an old sweater in the back to drape over my shoulders. Then Ellen made a sneering gesture, and I simply let the sweater fall to the floor and walked into the back in my click-click-click high heeled dancing shoes. They’d make sure everyone knows I was coming, knows I had fun last night, knows how I was decked out.