PALATINE STREET, CAMBRIDGE
Paragraphs for Grownups
by Mark Aster
Much later, everyone else gone home or asleep or closeted, Julie and Jennifer and James and I up in his big palatial bed in what at first seemed to be a very promising double date (him and Jennifer and me and Julie, or maybe him and Julie and me and Jennifer). But while we were fondly disrobing ourselves and each other, Julie and Jennifer made that sort of eye contact, and now James and I, naked in a comradely way, leaned against his pillows and watched soft skin on soft skin, perfect girl mouth ardent on perfect girl mouth.
"We're superflous, Dom," James said. The ladies moaned and writhed still closer together.
"Ah, well." Our dicks were stiff. I wrapped my hand around his, and he closed his eyes.
"So James isn't gay," I whispered in Julie's ear, at least as much to have my lips close to her as to say anything.
"Or not exactly," she smiled back.
Across the room, elegantly nude and artfully spread on the divan, Jennifer turned her eyes to mine again for a moment, before turning back to James, and then closing them as she arched her body against him.
We sat and listened to the cadance of their breathing for a long minute. Then Julie took my hand and guided it to her buttons. Her mouth was sweet.
The sky is deep and cold and black; under shattering stars the street is quiet, the houses on their large comfortable lots keeping their own counsel.
James' house, at the corner of the street, nearest the thoroughfare, is bright with amber light; the music can be heard, barely, out in the wind. In the back garden, the bronze nude still arches his back at the air.
They come off the dance floor with their arms around each other, hips touching. Jennifer catches my eye and winks (does she?) as they walk toward the back hall.
I notice a warmth beside me.
"Do you want to go along and watch?" Julie says, touching my hand. Her voice is like silk, like sand, like joy.
We danced very close together. How, I wondered, are we allowed to do this, our bodies pressed together (through thin sheets of cotton, elastic, buttons, but still pressed together, her breasts altogether present against my chest) right out here in public. Or at least in the living room, in the middle of the party.
Between songs, she guided me over to James.
"Jennifer would like the next dance." I said to him.
"Oh, would she?"
She wraps her arms around his neck.
Three weeks earlier
"And just what do you have in mind?"
He admires her for another moment, then walks around behind her and starts undoing her buttons. She relaxes backward against him.
"You think about sex alot," she said, smiling at me across the table.
"Well, you've told me about waking up with your lover Jennifer, and that you think James and Peter are sleeping together, and that James kissed you on the mouth, and you thought he was gay until Jennifer said she thinks he wants her..."
"Did I say all that?" I had been sitting, entranced by the fact that she hadn't withdrawn her hand, moving my fingers around her fingers, touching the warm curved planes of her glove that flexed and bent as she moved, wondering if I dared slide into a full interdigitation. Apparently I'd also been talking.
"You did. And now you're almost holding my hand!"
But she was still smiling.
I lay for awhile in the fragrant sheets, listening to Jennifer breathe and admiring the shape her body made under the white cotton. Then I got up quietly, put on clothes, and went downstairs. No sign of James or Peter; the house was quiet, the early morning winter sky peaceful and overcast.
In the garden, what was left of the snow had hardened again overnight. A young woman was sitting at one of the cold metal tables, watching the sky, doing nothing. She looked up as I walked over.
"Good morning," she said.
I sat opposite her and extended my hand. "Dominick," I said.
"Julie," she replied, touching my hand with her graceful gloved fingers, "pleased to meet you." She smiled, and her eyes looked into mine, and I felt quite happy.
It is pitch dark, because that's how they like it.
The girl is on her stomach, naked, with her hips thrust up and back. James, fucking her slowly and luxuriously as she sighs into the pillows, also has one hand down between her thighs, stroking her mons with the tiny vibrator.
He can feel the thrumming through her flesh, in the shaft of his penis.
the girl with the memorable eyes purses her lips.
Hot water and unscented soap.
His fingers are long and slim and pale.
Even at orgasm, his smile is knowing and content.
The towels are white.
I put down my book when she came into the room. She turned out the light and slid into the bed next to me. In the dimness, by the light from the windows, I could see her hair, the pattern on her nightgown, the shape of her lips.
She leaned over and kissed the corner of my mouth.
"Do you know what I want?" Her hand slipped under the covers and stroked my thigh through my pajamas.
"What do you want?"
Her fingers moved up between my legs and curved over my penis. It tugged at the fabric, trying to leap into her hand.
"I want James." She squeezed me gently, slowly, up and down my shaft, the cotton of the pajamas nubby against my skin. "I want you first, but I want James." I sighed and lay back.
"James is gay," I said. My buttocks tensed and relaxed as her fingers caressed me.
"Why do you think he's gay?" she asked, her lips close to my ear. I turned to kiss her, but she pulled back, her hand firm and motionless between my legs. "Have you been fucking him?"
I smiled. "He kissed me," I said, and then before she could move I put my hand behind her head, pulled her face to me, and kissed her lips. She slipped her tongue along my teeth and pumped my cock. Then she turned her head out of my grip and got up.
"I don't think he's gay," she said, undoing the buttons of her night gown. She let it slip it down her arms and fall to the floor. Her breasts, small and high, stood out in the dimness. Her hair shimmered.
"Why not?" I pushed the sheets down my legs and unsnapped the bottoms of my pajamas.
She knelt on the bed and put her hands on my chest. For a moment she balanced there, looking at me, letting me look at her, warm and naked, and then she knelt down and kissed my thigh. Her fingers curled around my bare cock.
I groaned as she slipped her lips down around me and gently sucked, and my erection grew and hardened in her mouth. Taking me deep into herself, she stroked me with her tongue and bobbed her head. I groaned.
She sat up and threw one bare leg over me, straddling my lap and moving forward. She moved her body, stroking my stiff rod with her stomach and with the fur of her pussy.
"The way he looks at me," she said, smoothing her hands down her chest, across her stomach, between her thighs, "like he wants to fuck me," and as she said fuck she pushed her hips forward, her small hot hand guiding me unerringly into her, and her body engulfed me.
"Ahh," I breathed, "and who wouldn't want to fuck you?" I wrapped my hands around her hips and we got a rhythm. She grinned widely and leaned forward, presenting her face to be kissed and drawing me deeper into the slick grasp of her cunt.
Her mouth was sweet. As we fucked, slowly and tenderly, her eyes rolled back in her head and she began to moan.
Tomorrow we will have to talk to James.
On the road, below the edge of the garden, a car whirred by down the hill. I thought of all the times I'd passed on that road, as a child and later driving myself, passing by the old rock wall with the trees at the top, wondering what was up there.
James slid open the glass door and came out across the slate patio. Fresh from the shower, strong bare calves and bare feet below the thick white terry robe.
I would have asked anyone else "Aren't you cold?". But even with the sun strong, strong for winter, and the snow melting even from the shadows of the trees, it was cold, and no one but James would have come out in only a robe.
"What do you think?" he asked, sitting himself on the stone bench and leaning back on his arms, legs apart, looking up at me with dark frank eyes.
The statue was beside us, at the center of the garden, among the dry leaves and dissolving snow. Half life-size, strongly realistic, the figure touched the ground only at feet and palms. The arch of the body was devastatingly strong and graceful, androgenous in its beauty but very definitely male in its details.
The dark bronze shone in the pale sun.
"Thanks," said James, smiling wider and moving sideways on the bench. The robe opened slightly in front; his chest was smooth and almost hairless. I stood looking at the statue, at the man, running my mind over his arms and the cords of his neck, the color of his skin.
"What now?" he asked.
A retrospective on the photography of Eduard Millari
Millari's first commercial photography appeared in 1994, in a series of images for Irani in Rome (Plates I-VII). While simple in conception, limited chiefly to underweight women with enormous breasts pictured beside a collection of consumer goods, some hint of Millari's vision is already present in the subtly jarring selection of colors and exposures; the images go beyond the expected media self-reflection of the time, suggesting a space that is at once aware and transformative.
Millari's 1995 work shows the next steps of this awakening. A February photo spread in the German Kleine Wichtow (Plates VIII-XII) shows underweight women with enormous breasts in a stark forest of architecture, simultaneously defining and rejecting the narrative of the urban landscape. Just a month later, we find Millari in Toronto, producing images that at first glance could not be more different: rural scenes, apparently straightforward and without irony or even self-awareness, whose enormous-breasted underweight women seem organically bound to the earth, to the bounty of the land. But even in these putatively bucolic scenes, a sophistication lurks just below the surface, in nearly-hidden juxstapositions of light and form.
Probably the best-known of Millari's work (at least until the Tahini controversy of 2000) are the "Ahabite" pictures (Plates XIII-XVI), first shown at the Armentine Galleries in Soho in 1997. They aroused political furor because of their unabashedly radical and revolutionary themes, underweight women with enormous breasts in Mao jackets and Castro caps. But at root these are images, aware shapings of light and form, before they are political statements; and in the last picture of the series (Plate XVI), where an enormous-breasted underweight woman stands in a void, off center, set off only by an amorphous swirl in the foreground, we are reminded that before society, there was vision.
After the tragic death of his sister from an eating disorder in late 1997, Millari moved his studio to Brussels and began a photodocumentary on the place of women in urban society. Financial and creative difficulties delayed the completion of the project, but in 1999 it opened in the Gallerie Claire, to critical acclaim. The images (Plates XVII-XXIII), unprocessed single frames of underweight enormous-breasted women captured in instants of daily life, ground us in a palpable reality that is at the same time as conceptual, as sympathetic, as the rounded enigmas of "Ahabite".
Rounding out this retrospective are a dozen compositions, shot and produced in Brussels in a three-month period in 2000, that defy classification. Returning to the digital processing of his earlier work, and carrying it to an extreme that both reaffirms and redefines his earlier vision, these pictures face us as puzzles, as challenges. Here (Plate XXV) an underweight woman with enormous breasts crouches, dressed as a lion, over a broken clock, the heavy solarization of the image giving it an almost Papal patina. There (Plate XVII) the model (an enormous-breasted underweight woman) is rendered almost transparent, a smoky ghost in an otherwise noir realistic street scene. These images, by their very refusal to be categorized, demonstrate the remorseless vitality of Millari's vision, and the huge, essentially unprecedented, range of his art.
I thought I heard an odd noise coming from the basement. So I was standing down there in the slight chill of the cement floor, next to the furnace, being quiet and waiting for the blower to come on. In case it was something in the blower.
Small sounds from somewhere over my head. Something thudding on the floor, or on a heavy piece of furniture. Then a grunt, and a small scream.
The blower hadn't come on yet.
"Oh, god," someone said upstairs, just loud enough for me to hear. "Oh, oh, oh, OH GOD!"
Something thumped again, and something creaked. Was that a breath, loud enough to hear through the floor (their floor, my ceiling)?
Then the blower went on.
...between rage and compassion.
In the city in those days, no hint of sex, no scent of the body, was ever visible in public spaces. No couple kissed in the streets, no woman exposed her knees or her chest, and walking arm-in-arm was risqué.
Like any custom, the rule of the time was not entirely benevolent or voluntary. To mention a body-part too directly in public was to be unemployable. To embrace was to be excluded from larger society. To touch hands was to have incurred a debt that must be paid.
But of course in those days, in the city, people were still material, still animal. In certain private gatherings, attended only by invitation, the rules were different. The women, shedding their heavy cloaks at the door, stepped into the salon in thin gowns, in tight lace hose, in breast-cups that thrust their bare nipples, sometimes rouged or jeweled, up into the light. The men, similarly, walked with bare and clenching muscles, oiled bodies, codpieces designed for show, for touch.
Knowing from the discrete invitation that a private party was one of this sort, was one of the subtler points of a city education. And, on arriving, knowing who one might approach, who one might touch, whose bare flank one might stroke on stepping up quietly behind, whose lips one might properly tolerate on one's skin, was also not simple.
It is not that there were no rules at these gatherings; in fact there were more. They were subtler. They allowed knees to show, necks, chests, scrotums; they allowed touching, fondling, even noisy rutting on the carpet. But not at will.
Most of the couples wrapped sweatily around each other were husband and wife. With care, a single man might approach a woman of his acquaintance, slip a finger beneath her gown. A woman might approach a stranger and place her hands on his shoulders. A woman might even kiss a woman, a man a man, mouth to mouth, and body to body. But only if the forms were observed, the approach made with requisite decorum, or a cleverly-timed lack thereof.
So even there on his back on the satin divan, with his wife riding his aching member and his partner's wife rubbing her wide freckled breasts against his face, his niece at his ear whispering "don't come yet, don't come", he knew that he was secure, encircled, held softly in the certaining grip of convention.
Her hair's still in the same bob. Her face is just the same. I think.
"Wow, it's been years, hasn't it? Dan! Come and meet someone. We were in college together."
In college together, and one particular night in a bed together. My fingers slid over your cunny while you moaned into my neck, and we wondered (I wondered, and I'm sure you did too) if we were finally going to lose our virginities, and have one less thing to be teased about.
"Pleased to meet you!"
One night in January, with the comforting scream of the sirens in the distance, the trucks rattling across thick metal plates, he dreamed he was standing on a road in the dark.
A rough unpaved road, somewhere in the wilderness, on a cold night in a forest of winter-bare trees. The sky was deep and clear, and beyond the stark limbs of the trees the stars were bright. He stopped walking for a moment, feeling with a bodily satisfaction the aches in his ankles and his legs, and turned, and in the sky behind him the moon blazed like a jewel.
He felt, in that instant of the dream in that cold wilderness, a penetrating joy so intense that it merged into sorrow.
The next night, in the same bed with the same city beneath his windows, he dreamed that he opened a door. In the room beyond, a woman leaned over a table; an ordinary woman in a thin dress, her hair lank around her face. But when she looked up at him, the dim light on her pale skin, her eyes deep green and too large for her face, he felt that same piercing joy, and he cried out, and awoke.
"It's a dirty world," she muttered to herself. A dirty, dirty world. A world where the sweet little blond eating you out one Thursday, tousled head down between your thighs and tongue thrumming over your clit until you throw your head back and howl at the tinsel moon in a rhapsody of bliss and despair, that same sweet blond would be taking it in the ass from the Corinthian attache the next Tuesday, and telling him things, things half true, half false, and all betrayal.
She shrugged out of the tight leather jacket and someone rolled out of the shadows to kneel before her and lap at her nipples. Looking out over the dim room, the field of writhing bodies, she dragged her mind away from the past. Somewhere out there in the heat of the orgy was the one she was looking for. And thinking about the past could get you killed in the present.
Fingers tugged at her pants, and she wriggled her hips to help them down.
... and a clean sheet of paper.
Something hot to drink
and the softness of her lips.
JULIE: Panties, definitely. I like panties. Most of mine are pastel. If you were curious! And camisoles, too, also mostly in light colors. But of course a few sets of dark silky things...
PAT: When I think of stockings, I think of stockings with a seam in the back, hot black panties, garter belts. Not camisoles so much; bustiers, maybe.
JULIE: There are innocent stockings, too. Light knee-highs. Here...
JULIE: Oh, hush.
PAT: At least turn your back to the microphone.
JULIE: Competely innocent. There: sky-blue panties, modestly cut, white cotton camisole, sheer white knee-highs.
PAT: I think we'll have to end this interview early, so I can have my way with the innocent little strumpet here.
JULIE: Oh, my!
PAT: This comes as a complete surprise to you?
I surfaced slowly out of sleep, gradually enough that my eyes were still closed, the warmth of the room in my nostrils, the sheets against my skin. I remembered the early parts of last night most clearly, dancing with Meredith, introducing her to Annie. They looked good together, talking and laughing and touching. A little sad when I saw them in a private corner, scarlet mouths pressed against each other, Annie's hand sliding down the front of Meredith's dress, pressing the shimmering fabric against her, the point of her nipple outlined by the light.
So now, waking up, I was a little surprised, opening my eyes and looking up the freckled contour of breast just inches from my face, to see Meredith's eyes smiling down at me, her hair around our heads and her leg slipping over mine. I'm sure any minute I'll remember how I got here.
"Good morning," she says, her voice soft and husky, "happy new year!"
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