There were organs playing in the crowd, she remembered. It was an idea she had had, coming here alone, on a night that should have been empty but wasn't. There were people milling around, more than she had ever imagined, expected or wanted, glasses in hand, glittering under the strobe lights, skin flashing and teeth glinting in an exercise she had come to adore. When they started playing the organs from somewhere in the middle of the hard crash-boom-bang of the techno-beat, she thought she had died and gone to heaven.
He touched her without being asked to, without being spoken to, and that amused her. When he leaned over and winked at her, his grey-green eyes creasing conspiratorialy, (were his eyelids tanned too?), and his lips moved back, to expose his grin, laughing, ravenous, questioning, she could not deny the thrill that coursed through her.
It wouldn't help to deny anything. Least of all now, when she was alone with him, all in the world, and nothing else really mattered.
So, she smiled back and touched his shoulders, though the fabric of his crisp cotton shirt and wondered whether he worked out, and she threw her head back in laughter, allowing him to tease her ear lobes. It really wouldn't matter if there were people around her, looking at her with longing, shock, trepidation and jealousy: she would have done it all anyway. The bartender looked over at them impassively, imperviously, refilled her blackcurrant shot, and tossed him a Bacardi. He sipped at it, and she loved the way his lips made love to the rim of his glass, taking their time, touching and feeling the cold wet silica-concentrate, tantalising a part of her she had no idea she had.
She moved her manicured hand down the front of his chest, had a flash of insight, extrasensory perhaps, of him, emerging from the shower, dripping, the towel wrapped loosely around his waist, but her vision was interrupted, as he leaned over and kissed her lips.
It was brutal, and this was what heaven should feel like, she told herself. The organs had receded somewhere far into the background, they simply did not matter, and this was the all, the now and the ever-after that she had sought. She had been selfish then, not wanting to share the sensation with anyone else, and so she had come alone, and even now as his brutally hard and demandng lips wanted eveything she had from her, she realised this was the only way it could have happened. Heaven was not to be shared so lightly, and hell was even more expensive. She was in no mood to be a philanthropist.
But it was about passion, she knew, and so she broke the kiss a few seconds later, when the bongo drums flared up in staccato bursts: she clasped his hand, pulling him away onto the dance floor with her. She hadn't come all this way for a drink and a kiss. If that was all she had sought, it would have been so much easier and safer to call up any of the men she had known, slept with, had affairs with, loved. But this was the unknown element, the spice she had wanted to taste but shied off from at the end. This was a creature she had never been in contact with before, one she never wanted to tame for an indiscernable future she had no interest in. This was living for the present, something that demanded Latin letters carved out in stone if she could have lived in Greco-Roman days, but for now, a smile in bed would suffice.
That, and the memory of bongo drums, beating in her ear.
I keep on wondering what drove me to her and never can find the right answer. It happened, suffice to say, it happened: that's all there is to it. Did she signal, smile, beckon, in any small, singular way that would have made me go to her? I don't recall, no. But I did go. And I touched her, laughed, let her touch me, in a way that I shudder to think about now.
I'm not shy. I'm not provocative. I'm not abashed. I'm not aghast. I'm not tender. I'm not brutal. I'm not persuasive. I'm not barren. I'm not cruel. I'm not a giver. I'm not a toy. I'm not God. I'm not forgiving. I'm not a stranger. I'm not the man who knocks on your door in the dead of night, and disappears when you get up to let him in.
Good or bad never makes sense to me. You are what you are, I am what you see, I ask you what I want, and I give you if you want me to. I take my fee, call me a terrorist, call me an instrument, call me a gigolo, and I will probably agree. The funny thing was, that night, she called me none of these. It was a night without labels, and I found it strange. Unnerving, even.
Perhaps, she should have remembered something more about the dance, she thought. But all of it seemed so trivial on hindsight. Apart from the organs in the very beginning and the thrashing bongos that had pulled her onto the floor, the rest was a blur she didn't think was very important. Yes, of course, they had danced, yes, of course they had kissed again, many times, swaying together sinuously, and she had remembered that silly childhood fear she once had of becoming pregant if a boy danced too close (or was it too far?) from her, but she had smiled in the beatific glow that the certainty of misconceptions give you when you're older and wiser, and she had pushed it all behind her.
Perhaps, then, it was just the sex she had wanted. But if it was the sex, and just the sex, it didn't explain a lot of things. The brutality, for instance. When she made him be brutal against her, egged him on to hold her hard and swallow her whole, made him hit, claw and maul her, it was difficult to understand why none of it made sense to her. She knew it was not what he had wanted, and it was not what she wanted either, but somehow, the key was in the brutality. Somehow, it had been needed: an iota of wisdom she could not do without.
Then there was the action. She had been focussed on everything he did, every little piece of sexual activity she goaded him on to. There was no romanticising it on her part, though she sensed that he was in fact trying to. But she could have none of that, and made the act completely centred upon the things he was doing to her, the way she was responding. There was so little to the brain, so much in just those organs that deflated, engorged and surged in a coarseness that she somehow identified with so much this night.
If it was about the sex, the brain would have kicked into gear, but she made sure, it never did.
There had been hurried trips, one after the other, to his washroom, and then they had faced each other, and exchanged a chaste kiss on the cheek.
"This was good."
O, yes -
"I'm so glad I saw you at the bar."
I know. I wouldn't have wanted to miss you either.
"This was fun."
O, yes -
"I'd love to meet up with you again, soon."
"Can I call you, some time?"
Why not? Yes -
"I don't have your number, though. Could you... ?"
Of course. Here, take it down -Call me.
"I'll call you."
Well, goodbye, for now.
"Yes, goodbye. For now."
"I'll call you."
Do I have my bag?
"It's late. Would you like to spend the night here?"
Perhaps, I should have remembered something more about the sex. But all of it seems so trivial on hindsight. I tried to get a grip of what she wanted from me, and then realised that she did not want what I wanted to give her. She needed to know something desperately, and I tried to understand what it was. I'm not sure I still do. She wasn't like the others, the ones who need to know they have a man with them who will be with them. She wanted to know that the man had her, that he would leave if she so commanded and pounce on her like a maritime bandit if she so desired. And yes, she desired. She was all about desire.
I tell myself that it's not true, that I'm not in love with this strange waif who dropped into my life one fine night and I saunter over to her. How can this be love? There is no tenderness, no anguish, no tiny little darts of melancholy. What there is, is a sweeping generalisation, a void, as it were, and the only thing I can think of was the dance. She danced like a bat out of hell.
I tried to hold her at first. I tried to guide her, pull her close to me, kiss her again and again, and though she allowed me to touch her and kiss her, prise her lips open with my tongue, there was nothing else. Her eyes were closed in the grim knowledge of a child who has seen the destruction of the world, her eyes were open and darting with all the epiphany of a prophet who has seen heaven unleashed, and there was no taming her. I was hers, she let me know, if I was to be anything at all.
Her hair thrashed, and I laughed, and sweated under the bright gaze of the hundred and one strobe lights. She begged me to dance with her, touched my thigh as she did so, so I did what she asked, because I wanted what she had to give. Too late, I realised, there was not much she had with her. So I danced some more, swung with her, prayed with her, and wondered how on earth I would get her in bed with me that night.
So how could that be love?
"That was good."
"You dance really well."
Thank you. You're not bad either.
"I was just following your moves."
"I haven't seen you here before, have I?"
This is my first time, yes.
"Can I fetch you something?"
"What'll you have?"
"Let me - "
They don't have it here.
"Would you like to - ?"
"My place is not very far - "