An ex-girl-friend-stripper-artist once told me that being beautiful – as painful as she found it to admit – was just as bad as being ugly, an Achilles heel, a burden that people hate you for. She may have called it “beauty persecution” or something like that.
Well, Emke saw it differently. Emke considered her considerable beauty to be like a lead guitar, the bumper on a ’62 Cadillac, a backlit Ingres in the Louvres, a spring-loaded firearm… Her beauty, simply put, made others nauseous. It had a destabilizing effect in crowds. Imagine Marilyn Monroe stepping off the Whirl-i-gig into Madison Square Garden during a cock fight. Everyone suddenly gets up off their haunches, standing erect as if saluting the flag, silent and humble for a few endless seconds as their cocks scurry about. Some people will never understand this almost vengefully ecstatic, life-fucking aspect of beauty.
Needless to say, it was great being seen with Emke; it was esteem by association as revenge for all the sins of those who did not take me seriously. And suddenly one day I’m walking around like Sly Stone or Grace Jones or somebody with a character-enhancing crick in his left knee.
I met Emke at a benefit for a battered women’s shelter at CB’s Gallery I’d been invited to perform at by Prudence P [”PP is OK for short; just don’t call me Prude”]. The stipulation being that I had to be cross-dressed to participate. Three hours of connived artfulness by PP and VV, and I looked intriguingly like a young Joan Crawford. But I’m not the one to ask because I was high as the Acid Queen, having picked this auspicious evening with a city councilwoman, VV and Susan Sontag in the audience, nursing non-alcoholic drinks, with their six knees tightly cramped under a wobbly sliver of café table to test the psylocybin mushrooms that friends had been cultivating in their Brooklyn basement.
Evidence of their efficacy: I was queen with a boundless love for all mankind, warmly reading my short story about an aborted affair with Andy Warhol, well not with him, but with his wigs. An apprenticeship for which Warhol expressed his gratitude in his own affectless remunerative- affectionate way. I could feel the audience listening, grooving, repeating, masticating my every word like some gastronomic delicacy. People followed me into the bathroom to just gaze. One couple stood stiffly before me to declare: “You remind us of Rita Hayworth in Gilda.”
“Yeah, a Rita a little melted around the edges.”
People with names and affiliations shook my hand, squeezing it just ever so suggestively. You know, when someone grabs your hand with both their hands and doesn’t let go? Did I really agree to work on the councilwoman’s reelection campaign in the West Village? That’s what Carol told me the day after.
Emke walked over to my table where I was sitting with PP who had come to NY to win the Marilyn Monroe Look-a-like Contest sponsored by Esquire and L’Oreal. Was it the mushrooms or was I having my picture taken by a Daily News photographer flanked by – yes – two Marilyn Monroe look-a-likes? They gazed at and into each other like two women meeting in a strange psychic seam, at a crossroad where the personae they have assumed will either take hold or float away like a cool wraith-like breeze passing over us.
I wanted to pronounce the word doppelgänger right, but when I did it sounded like the name of a utility infielder for the Milwaukee Brewers. And Emke and PP continued peering into one another’s eyes and shaking hands as if their arms had become detached from their bodies.
“I have to meet you,” Emke said in a warm, breathless whisper. She pressed a tightly folded wad of paper into my palm, “You’re an impressive woman.”
“So are you.”
“I’ve been practicing longer’n you.” She was gone. I stuffed the wad securely in my pocket and checked countless times on the way home to make sure I had not lost it.
I went to her place on East 20-whatever street, sniffed my underarms, took a deep breath before ringing her doorbell.
She greeted me in a low slung gown tied at the waist with a fancy sash “borrowed” from the Frick. She leaned mythically in her doorway as if there was a world of bedding and boudoir behind her. She stepped onto the welcome mat, closed the door behind her, fiddled with the doorknob behind her back. This did not bode well.
“I’m really, really, really sorry but this hand-puppet troupe from Berkeley breezed in a day earlier than expected. There’s seven of them staying with me. It’s like the Marx Brother’s stateroom scene but not as funny. They’re stayin’ a week; they’ve appealed to my weakness for good causes, which is to convince East Coasters to shed their leather shoes for shoes made of hemp.”
“You can smoke’m after they wear out.”
“Not that kinda hemp. They brought wine and they don’t mind if you come in. We won’t hang out with them. The tall guy with the dreads, he’s my ex as in capital E, capital X. X right through his photo with a kitchen knife but that’s long ago. He’s better as a guy I just know.”
“No, I’m making it up, he’s going to decapitate you while you’re making love to me.”
After meeting the Punchin’ Breaded Puppet Theatre we retreated to her bed, in what the landlord listed as another room but was really just an oversized dresser drawer with a mattress stuffed into it, wedged under the staircase.
“My roomie’s out of town – in detox, a kind of Betty Ford Clinic for underemployed genius post- punkers of a certain vintage.”
Her silken bathrobe came undone as if by push button, will or magic. No amount of poetry, anatomy classes or pubescent studies of Playboy had properly prepared me for the perfection of her breasts. Awestruck is probably a good term here. We shared a bottle of wine, spending a long time trying to pronounce “beaujolais,” repeating it until it took on a life of its own – Bo Joe Lay, Boo Shoe Lay, Bow Shjo Lay – until the giggles led to incursions of a most opportunistic kind, laughter as land mine removal, and the word “beaujolais” now meant just about anything to do with sex.
“I wondered about you and now the wonder is to be wonderfully consummated.” And the way we slid together was so glissando that the fine lines between reverie and reality, between her quivering wishbone and my sinister prominence became a seamless weld of giggle and sigh, of heaving and delight. You must know this feeling. If you do not, you will just have to settle for religion or the big spiraling slide down at the pool.
“I’m really annoying when I come [think P.J. Harvey plays a castrati in a Derek Jarman film or the bleat of an injured mountain goat] so, with respect for the present company, despite their didgeridoo music drowning us out, I cannot allow you to get me off here inside this…”
“Le’s go in the hallway. Discretion and all that…” A corridor of dog crap brown, mental institution green and jimmied open mailboxes. She shoved me under the staircase and yanked my pants down, spread some Chinese menus across the floor like autumn leaves so that her knees would not touch the truly gruesome fake-tile curling-cracking-pocked-with-cigarette-burns-melted-into-it linoleum.
Under the flickering hall light and in full sight of the front door, she sucked me off and at the moment of moanful crisis, she cocked my appendage, squeezing it and then cocked it forward and suddenly back to create a unique pump-action: My cock became a kind of firearm with the ejaculant hurled outward like a slow-motion Hollywood bullet hitting the wall with such force that I swear we could hear it as it dented the flaked-paint wall. My legs went gumby as we watched the sperm drool down the wall.
She held “me” firmly, bent over, gave it an Eskimo nose kiss before helping me back into my pants. “I’m intense, I don’t stop at flesh till I get to the marrow. Now get outta here.”
She passed by SS’s studio to see where I “worked,” dressed in a green fuzzy bathrobe – not much else, well, a halter, hot pants, heels – the 3 Hs. She wanted to hang – swoon – because, although beautiful, she was lonely, found NYC gals bitchy and was still clueless [at age 23!] about how to actually apply beauty to talent or talent to beauty.
The sickly light from the dangling fluorescent light fixtures hummed inside the powdery air, thread and tufts of fabric strewn about, columns wrapped in fabric, phone artistically melted into the shape of a steak, posters of basketball stars dressed in strange socks, no windows and a rack of CDs that bred pure contempt: Loggins & Messina, John Denver, Midnight Oil, Lionel Ritchie, Jew-2, an Israeli U-2 cover band.
“Ugh, these CDs are definitely an occupational hazard…. I bet you missed me – and my orifices.”
“They DO function exceptionally well.”
She sat down, “That’s because they are so finely tailored,” on my lap, “to your wildest dreams.”
“I just haven’t found an on-off switch.” She began writhing on top of me as we wheeled around in the office chair.
“What’s SS do anyhow?”
“No, he designs’m.”
“Tube socks must be the bane of his existence.”
“I love a beautiful woman who uses ‘bane’ correctly.” I made Triumph TR6 engine noises.
“The real bane of his existence is the nagging feeling that people will find out he’s sham.”
Her hand operated the stick shift as she made her own vaginal Moulinex sounds. We twirled and zoomed across the studio doing the office-chair waltz.
“Remember those socks with the different colored toes like gloves for your feet, well, he invented those. He made a fat million.”
“That is creepy. Any chance anybody’s comin’ by?”
“Let’s go in there and see what’s going on,” she pointed to the bathroom with its floor to ceiling mirrors, sock images, an old Laugh-In “Sock it to me” poster, toilet paper with his logo on it.
“Guy’s creepy. Isn’t he like half-Jewish or something? Isn’t a lightning-bolt SS logo asking for trouble?”
I took her from behind in the style of an old porn movie and there was this electricity that shivered across her skin as if her veins were electrified barbed wire. The hip bones engage in a slithering, butter-churning movement, clavicle handholds for leverage, the febrile flexing of her buttocks, a place I didn’t know even had muscles. And BOOM like that she becomes a craving werewolf with a Moulinex vagina running on 600 watts.
She pushed me to the concrete floor, buttons and pins sticking to my back. She sat on my face and holding my appendage for leverage, rocked so hard that her pubic hair chafed my face and it was finally my nose that sent her into the throes of orgasm. But orgasm, like cocaine addiction, demands more until the mind becomes a greedy suction device of unrequited need. And as my culmination arrived [67 minutes!] she squeezed my member, we stood up and then – yes, that pump action again – the sperm – WHOOOM! – shot a good 10 feet onto the mouse pad. The glob glistened like a snail under moonlight.
“I’m a naughty meat puppet,” she said as she manipulated my member, making the urethra mouth her words – yes – just like Shari Lewis used to with her Lambchop. “I am SO sorry.”
“Insatiability is my Achille’s heel. I’m never satisfied,” she admitted. “I will always be ready to service you,” I heard my urethra say. “You have the international human right to have your desires satisfied within a reasonable period of time.”
I yanked up my pants and went to wipe up the sperm but she said: “Leave it, it’ll mark our territory and prove that sex trumps senseless labor any day.”
Fearing SS’s return – he often worked evenings – we retreated, tumbled [stumbled?], north to Max Fish, me with the scent of pussy worn as aftershave and her breath smelling suspiciously of humid gonad and pheromone.
It was 10 PM – early in Fish time – a few stragglers escaping airco-less hovels. We sat at the bar balancing on wobbly [funhouse-purchased?] bar stools. After only one Fuzzy Navel she was already teetering, admitting “I get drunk easy.” We tried to behave, balancing on the stools, perusing the New York Press.
She whispered: “I’m gonna put the Press across your lap so’s I can fish out yer dick cuz I just wanna play with it.”
She surreptitiously fished “me” out. Reverting to her best Shari Lewis, she recited: “‘Oh mother, I have had such a fright! I saw a great creature strutting about on two legs. On his head was a red cap’…”
“…’All at once he stretched his loooong neck and opened his mouth so wiiiiide, and roared so loud, that I thought he was going to eat me up, and I ran home as fast as I could’…”
“My childhood. ‘My dear child, the fierce thing you speak of would have done you no harm. It was a harmless cock’ … Aesop, you sap!”
We embraced, her kneeling on the wobbly bar stool. People from under ironic baseball caps yelling “WHOA!”
“I feel so close. Like we’re co-conspirators.” I felt a sudden tug and change in her demeanor. She whispered in my ear that she was watching some guy videotaping us in the mirror. Which only encouraged her to greater emboldenments. “This is as close to a movie career as I’m gonna get.”
She faked spilling a drink, got a bead on the voyeur-culprit [we later learn it was Dan Queezie doing “field research” for his public access Channel 25 TV show, Porn to Run. Carol later said she saw us on TV. Said she liked Emke’s energy]. She smirked right into his camera as she dabbed my lap, exposing my half erect member to the camera twisting it so that the urethra could make a statement for the camera: “I am empowered to service her pursuit of happiness.” Leaning down, she gave “me” an Eskimo kiss, then stood up, approached the camera to declare: “We are a perfect love team. Me with my perfect breasts, hungry pussy and attitude and him with his perfect dick.” The boys in their strategically disheveled work shirts hunched in closer, clutching their pool cues.
She turned to the bartendress, an ethereal waif of terror, to declare: “He’s got a perfect dick.”
“So do I,” She responded as if nothing meant nothing and who cares.
Months later, I received a letter from friend Christine. In the envelope was a photo of the inside of Max Fish I’d instructed her to take as repayment for letting her crash on my couch. It showed the two bar stools – one red, one green – me and Emke had commandeered that night. I framed and hung this photo in my bathroom, which has allowed me to write this story and, whenever anyone asks, it allows me to conveniently relive those moments when for a short period of time ecstasy stopped all clocks, all aging processes, canceled all rental contracts, erased all memory, all the run-up beer tabs, something years of therapy could never hope to accomplish. And that is how we climb into the cockpit to become voyeurs ravaging our own dreams.
This is the original short story that was first published in an edited version in the anthology The Unbearable Big Book of Sex (Autonomedia 2011).
bart plantenga is the author of Wiggling Wishbone, Spermatagonia: The Isle of Man, Paris Scratch, and NY Sin Phoney in Face Flat Minor and BEER MYSTIC. His books YODEL-AY-EE-OOOO: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World and Yodel in HiFi & the CD Rough Guide to Yodel have created the misunderstanding that he is a yodel expert. He has also been a radio DJ since 1986, producing Wreck This Mess in NYC, Paris & now Amsterdam, where he lives & hopes with partner Nina and daughter Paloma.
Max Fish Bar Stools photo by Miss Bullard, 1994 (RIP, 2010)