Afterwards, stretched out on his bed, staring at the ceiling, allowing thoughts to move themselves freely through his mind, he was relaxed and at one with himself. The lighted candle on top of the chest of drawers flickered as momentarily a draught swept through the otherwise still room. These moments he felt belonged to another set of circumstances.
He wanted a cigarette but didn’t smoke. He wanted another vodka but didn’t want to make the effort in getting up to go to the kitchen especially when he knew there wasn’t any ice besides maybe just maybe that large one earlier was enough. He doubted that although he clung to the notion of feeling reasonably clean of alcohol.
He sought a spirit of the body and mind though he had no faith, no religious belief or persuasion – he had never been able to sit and set out his mores.
Lightly he caressed his chest. Almost hairless but for a clump of strands on the sternum. Not quite smooth. In younger days androgyny would have appealed. Not now. He needed to know that he was a male.
For effect, Jake knew, there should have been a cigarette between his fingers. And a woman beside him? No, he had pleasured himself. Besides he couldn’t deal with the complications of a close relationship at the moment. It might give more life to present circumstances, more vibrance to the still environment, an aesthetic to the scenario but it was a detail withheld.
Tomorrow, two lectures on French film making in the sixties and seventies. Audibly he groaned. Cursed his own lethargy as freely as he cursed that of his students. It would have taken him no more than a couple of hours to prepare some notes but, after all, it was his subject. His first real interest in cinema. Politically an inception. Students he reckoned were not as astute as in previous years allowing him the space to bluff it. Not that he had to. His was a good understanding of the subject.
On the telephone she had asked him what kind of massage had he considered. For some reason or another he had overlooked the fact that there might possibly be a choice.
“A good one,” he had replied touching on the vacuous.
So a massage wasn’t simply a massage. As the touch of one person was as individual as another’s. Of course there’s a difference, he thought. All that had come to mind was he wanted someone to rub the stress away from his body. Free up his body and mind. A little abandonment
At first the idea of bringing someone up four floors of a fire escape to a warehouse studio in a run down area of town and asking them to massage you seemed a bit odd. But very often a lot of straight forward ideas struck Jake as being odd. Intrinsically because they lacked a necessary complication which always seemed to make more viable although he usually argued that his proposals were not overwrought with detail£ but quite logical.
What was he so worried about. He knew Fran. Had known her for years. Knew her when she was a babyminder, a sales assistant. Had gone out with her one day after work and gotten drunk with her. If need be he could fill in a couple of pages of detail about her. He had even walked into her bathroom one night when she was peeing and spoke enough words that one might have assumed that they were intimate with one and other and that those amounted to a short conversation. Doubt had to be pigeon holed in a sfae place.
The warehouse space was a relatively new purchase. Well, it had taken the builders quite some time to get the job completed. So of its two year ownership he had been living there for four months. His new abode was the result of a previous relationship of seven undulating years that had crumbled like a piece of ancient fragile parchment in his over anxious grip. For too long he ahd held on too tightly. “Sometimes it feels as if you’re trying to suffocate me,” complained Lottie one night over the phone, “even when you aren’t here.”
Alone he might have punished himself by severly, scrutinising all the tiny details of failing and each detail of their lives seperate. Plainly, she was gone and there would be no return, no coda.
The night closed its arms around him, cradling him beneath a full white moon, engorged by madness, illuminating the bedroom through the skylight window. A tsrangege rythmn pulsed within his body that had never been a part of him before.
Struggling with himself he desperately tried to retain the afterglow although it seemed to be fading. So many times before he had, in vain, attempted to cling onto the moment. Something ephemeral, realised to be so, allowed to take it’s course, not hindered, prevented, not preserved or tainted by the desire for longevity.
An hour later he opened his eyes. The room was empty beyond himself and some sparse furnishings. Again he drifted in thought, carried by some cerebral undertow.
“You wanted to kiss my breasts. Remember. One afternoon about two summer ago,” she told as he lay on the table head down through the cutout. Her well oiled fruit smelling hands working over his hirsute thighs. A contradiction to the body.
One day about two summers ago. An afternoon about two years ago. He could recall it. He could vividly recount the increase in his heartrate, the dryness in his mouth and an erection that felt like it would rupture if he didn’t come and he would have rather have bled to death than offer up some kind of explanation. No higher had he found himself in sexual thrall for some years. The thrill of it all.
Words could not convey meaning. Lost to the inarticulate. It was all basics sounds. He had wanted to bury his face in her breasts and smell her, rest upon her womanlyness, suckle to the motherly mamilla.
“The trouble is we can’t simply go around touching people. It’s taboo. There are barriers. It doesn’t matter I think a lot of people don’t want to be touched anyway,” he said as she glided around him to continue with another part of his body. A glint of perspiration showed upon her forehead.
Since she had begun her face had worn a smile. To him it seeme as if she was immensely happy with what she was doing. He wanted to ask her but was not in a way that might be construed as sounding simplistic and insulting.
Discussing aspects of relationships she mentioned some friends who were in the process of breaking up. Luckily it was an amicable separation. Someone else she knew called Amy was also going though the motions of parting.
He could hear no more than the name Amy. Near to Amelia. The trigger squeezed itself. Amy. Amelia. Lost love. LOst lover. Gone friend.
Amelia called him her lover. Talked to him of this third party who occupied a space between them and sometimes he recognised himself. She talked and he listened. Talked about art and the theatre and world travel. He listened to her psychobabble but was really studying her beauty. All he ever talked about was the past as if it had some sort of content. Maybe that’s all you can do as you get older is talk about the past.
“You said desire. Such a strong word. Think of that emotion and if it should become physical. If it should sexually manifest itself.”
“I made mention of the words desire and death which you have chosen to omit,” he replied with a certain amount of acerbity. “Why can you never say let’s go to bed?”
“You want things to end at the point where they’re really only beginning. I’ve waited three years ˇfor this moment. I want it. I wont be denied. Three years since my husband or more correctly the father of my child walked out on us.”
He walked toward her and kissed her slowly.
“Do that again. I liked that,” she murmured. “Only this time use your hands.”
She took hold of one of her hands and slipped it into her shirt. He felt the firmness, the warmth of her breast, teased a nipple between two fingers and whispered in her ear, “It must end with what you desire.”
“Slowly. Slowly,” she murmured as if to someone other than the person in attendance. Falling towards his face and kissing his mouth and breaking away to say again, “Slowly. Slowly for those lost years.”
Jake began to compare Fran with Amelia. He wanted to know that there might be something that both women shared in common. It was absurd he knew but it was one of those thoughts running constantly through his head.
One of the few things he came up with was: one woman was six years older than himself and the other six years younger. He was a sort of mid-point. It amused him. The maths and geometry of relationships.
Next he imagined them, trolleys juxtapose, in the fruit and veg aisles of a supermarket sharing some small talk. Drawn together by energy until they realised they were of similar polarity that they had to repel each other.
What was most intriguing and a late discovery was that they lived not more than a mile from each other. How many times had their paths crossed without any recognition.
“It doesn’t worry me being a displaced person. I just can’t stand this city anymore. I need to be a woman in another landscape.”
”Life is elsewhere, I’m sure of it. I thought it or years and years,” Jake replied fixing distant images in his mind.
“If you want out you go. You shouldn’t spend years sitting around debating whether you should or shouldn’t,” she continued.
He had so few regrets about the relatiuonship collapsing in on him but over the last year or so he thought less and less of the relationship and more about the isolation he was inhabiting. His choice.
A tinge of disappointment came over him knowing that the massage was coming to it’s conclusion. He wanted it to continue until he could no longer feel his body.
Fran excuse herself from the room so she could wash the oil from her hands. Suggesting that in her absence he remain on the table and allow a stillness to pervade making more of the massage. He did so. Being overwhelmed by a sense of deeper relaxation. He heard the sound of running water and Fran humming a sonmg to herself. He didn’t recognise theT melody.
When Fran returned to the room she did so in silence. As if the song was emitted from someone else’s mouth.
Fran closed her hands around the back of his skull and clutched his hair gently but building up the pressure and pulling his head so that his face was upwards.
Sleep would not come. The time to write the lecture notes had come and gone. Possibly the opportunity had also passed him by. Now he thought of bagels and fresh black coffee, of the morning newspaper, of the city grinding it’s gears into motion again, of rushing to college, of tangerine oil.