Boston / Vancouver / Santa Fe

Excerpt From A Work-In-Progress

Sometimes San Francisco and often New York, but never before in Boston. Confirmation she’s arrived, a key at the desk, and then the elevator doors wipe the lobby: gray, Kubrick bellmen and baroque floral arrangements are replaced by brushed steel and some repurposed Vivaldi.

The urgency of “Summer,” allegro non molto, and then the dusk inside 21-11: the drapes are drawn not quite shut, and in the gap brilliant daylight boils; it’s almost as if God Himself has become a peeping tom. Quietly lifting your case inside, you signal your arrival with the closing door. A hallway aligns this small vestibule with the slash of blinding light at its end: the darkened bedroom that reveals itself as you reach the open door.

A crumpled duvet and decorative pillows are strewn across the room, an art-directed debris field of entangled, textured fabrics, their distance from the stripped-down bed showing the force with which they’ve been flung. She’s naked atop a single sheet, tanned flesh against the white linen, with a blindfold fashioned from a copper silk scarf that S-curves down her shoulder, leading your eyes across her breast to the aroused nipple that’s like a pink bud. Here the boiling sliver of afternoon has spilled upon the floor; it races across the carpet and up the side of the bed, where it highlights the tautness of her belly and burnishes the oiled skin. White light, oh have mercy; while I’ll have it, goodness knows.

You stand in silence by the bed, transfixed as she caresses herself, watching her excitement build when she senses what you’re doing. You’re waiting patiently for her to reach the edge before saying what she wants to hear. And then as she’s trembling on the sheet, you announce “It’s Maintenance–for the A/C.” Her back arches at the thought of this, like it’s an electrical charge. And when it does, the burning sliver of afternoon slips between her legs.White Light, don’t you know it’s gonna make me go blind.

Beatrice turns her head on the pillow in the direction of your voice, her duchess-decadence turning into working-class desire. The serpentine tail of the blindfold now points to the space on the bed next to her. “You’d better be quick, then,” she says in a whisper. “I’m expecting my lover at any time.” White Light, I tell you now, goodness knows . . . .

Later on, as Vancouver’s lights shimmer on False Creek, Julia is found at last, lost inside the lovemaking, all defenses fallen away, like the clothes and the brocade spread. Her ruined voice has always crumbled beneath the Oxford English, like powdering brick underneath luxurious, well-tended ivy, but now as you slip inside of her, the poshness disintegrates too: the passionate, whispered urgings fray the cadenced BBC–the ingraining of the boarding schools less deep than her desire–and the class-irony of Ducky momentarily disappears, letting you hear the Estuary roots that she’s kept hidden away. And so when it comes, the glossolalia of lust is chanted in her true voice.

It’s a sensuous, slow unfolding of herself that gathers speed at your touch, opening out into complete exposure as she orgasms on top of you. A release this pure only happens outside of fantasies: it needs mutual surrender in the raw moment, and not scenarios . . . .

Sometimes San Francisco and often New York, but never before in Boston. After the blindfold, after sight’s restored, after other uses for the bronze silk scarf, after all the transgressive imagining, the only thing that’s left is sleep.

*

When you wake, she’s propped up on the extra pillows, wrapped in a hotel robe; lover-into-poet, with small, black wire-rim glasses perched midway down her nose. Curtains wide-open, spilling daylight across the bedclothes-wreckage of the sex, and at the foot of the bed, near the oil-streaked sheet, her manilla envelope of manuscript pages. She’s writing, bathed in late-day light, now brittle and almost autumnal, which stresses the laugh lines cresting her cheekbones and flickering around her lips: it’s that singular beauty of entropy the Japanese term wabi-sabiWhite Light, here she comes, here she comes.

*

Blue dusk becomes two electric lights flanking a mirror-image couple in robes: similar glasses, equally long legs and bodies identically slim. You make a note about a stanza-in-progress as she reviews comments on another piece–a collaborative reinvention made far simpler than it really is . . . .

True North reversed: the deceptive south; Santa Fe, again. The heat-shimmered wastelands you can’t romanticize, mesas that lop-off mountains and everywhere and at all times, the carefully preserved memories of Beatrice.

You’re naked in front of the mirror and marble sink, which is in the bedroom instead of thebath, and which is also a meticulous reproduction, like everything else in this town. It’s meant to inject the present with a dose of the mediated past, but history here is a recreational drug, and there’s no inoculation against ghosts: in time, the historical intrusion of the sink hasceased to register, but the phantom scenes of you and her never seem to disappear. At what point does the inherently improved facsimile become reality? How little authenticity must be left (or, grimly, how much has to remain) before it’s more usefully replaced? When you had made the reservation, there was no mention of this floor plan, and your expectations were based on other anonymous rooms. At check-in, however, an exiled clerk with an out-of-place Boston accent explained that the hotel had been a brothel–the preemptive reason for this washing of hands by a bed that’s still unmade. But seeing yourself in the mirror, you realize that restoration is always self-conscious, meaning it can never accede to the past even though it tries; that in the end it’s just a kind of sepia reinvention making history seem far simpler than it really was . . . .

“White Heat/White Light” by Lou Reed, copyright 1967. Published by Oakfield Avenue Music, Ltd. All rights administered by Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc (BMI).