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Exquisite Corpse
Issue 8A Journal of Letters and Life

ISSUE 8 HOME || BROKEN NEWS || CRITIQUES || CYBER BAG || EC CHAIR || FICCIONES || THE FOREIGN DESK
GALLERY || LETTERS || POESY || REVIEWS || SERIALS || STAGE & SCREEN
France: Oxygen, a Thirsty (American-in-Paris) Satori
by William Levy
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"What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story."
      -F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon

 
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 comedies.
     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.
     The 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:

Death makes angels of us all
Gives us transparent wings
Where once had been a smooth shoulder.

And ended:

This is a lovely place
I would like to stay here forever
Until the doors would be opened.

     Leaving 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 I was.
     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, missing-you-already.
 
      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 changed considerably.
     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 wrote:
     "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."
     And:
     "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!"
     She had shaved it. Even though Healy was pushing forty this accentuated her air of a pubescent girl. Her vagina a naked butterfly with labia wings.
      "You can be Peter Pan and I'll be Wendy!" Healy said hungrily.
     A 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 her up.
      "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!"
     She 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.
     Could 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 farce.
     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.
     One 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 they burst.
     Nevertheless, 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.
     Aping 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.
     What 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.
     Knowing 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.
     Pity 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.
     As 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.
     Healy 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
rude nude
don't yet intrude
while I'm getting in the mood
with a certain similitude
an oh ooooh daddy Sylvia Plathitude:
Hey dude
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 divers homelands.
     Not 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.
     Nevertheless, 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.
     Any 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.
     And 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 slave gloves.
     One 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.
     Did 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. "Perseverance furthers."
     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 nipple.
      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."
     What 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 panties
.

     
Now 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.
     "I've 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?"
      I nodded.
     "You're sure," she said.
     I had to clear my throat to say: "Yes."
     She 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.
     As 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.
     "I'm 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." She winks.
     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.
     "I 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.
     Shake, 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.
     On 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," she said.
     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 looking for..."
     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.
     A 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.
     Healy 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.
     "There 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.
     "You 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.
 

Acknowledgment: 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.



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