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Labyrinth Beneath The Knossos Palace
forioscribe





"Ask the doorman? Ask him what? Where to eat?"
I said, yes, and why not, because he probably knows the neighborhood very well. No, she insisted, that won’t work.



The Black Princess of Côte d'Ivoire


Sharon described herself. “I’ve got high cheekbones. Long curly hair. Let’s see, how does one really create a picture in words? Well, OK, I weigh 110 lbs. And I have a beautiful face. And a neck. Breasts. 34 C.”
"Does that mean medium?"
"It means prominent. They are there. I also have a waist. Buttocks. All the equipment, fully functional.”

She paused.

“Oh, and I am Black. From Cote d'Ivoire.”
“Excellent. Very dark black?”
"No. Lighter than chocolate."
"Brown sugar?"
“Mmmmmmm.”
"Do you know that Mick Jagger song?"
“No. But I have a question, John.”
“Okay.”
“Do you like oral sex?” She said the words in a low, breathy voice.
“Yes,” I replied. “Both giving and receiving.”
“Oh, that’s very good!”

Marrakesh, a most exotic Moroccan restaurant off South Street in Philadelphia. The waiters wore baggy white linen pants, scarlet vests and fezes. We sat on cushions at a low table with an intricately designed circular brass top, and we ate course after course, beginning with bread and carrots and some sort of cold salad-like hash, and going on to various meats including chicken and veal, and a concoction of raisins and chunks of fruit-like stuff, and then bananas, apples, oranges various kinds of nuts, and several glasses of mint tea, which the waiter poured in an amazingly long stream from the brass pot he held aloft.

Sharon and I snuggled close. Her warmth and the scent of her perfume excited me, and every now and again I kissed her lips. Initially she was hesitant but then it didn’t take long for her to not-so-subtly signal to me she liked very much what I was doing, and we kissed some more and held hands.



In the taxi to Drexel University I kissed her more passionately and she responded with “zest,” a word she seemed to like. She lay back across my lap, inviting my caresses of her breasts and belly and legs. It was a fairly long ride, and I enjoyed every minute.

On the campus we walked toward the engineering building. Suddenly she broke into laughter and ran ahead. She stopped and, with a broad smile of joy, spun around like a ballerina. I embraced her, and thrust my constricted erection against her groin, and she looked deep into my eyes. Hers was an ancient Egyptian-like gaze, which excited me further. I grasped her bottom and pulled her tight against me. I unbuttoned her blouse and kissed the swell of her breast. Oh, my god, that delightful perfume, that softness…

There was something in her blouse pocket. A floppy disc. Oh! She’d forgotten about it. She said it contains some of the data she has been entering into the computer science department’s mainframe. A flow of bytes that reflect the traffic flow patterns on I-76, better known as the Schuylkill Expressway, a part of her Masters’ thesis. The subject was boring to most people, but to her it was absolutely fascinating. Did you know that traffic speed does not decline as its density increases, but nevertheless at a certain point speed and flow are indeed reduced, which means that limiting the number of vehicles that enter the highway at peak periods will actually improve speeds and lane flows at bottlenecks? No? Well, it’s true!

She said she was doing all nighters for finals, but once these exams are over she’ll have much more free time and then she and I would, uh, consummate this relationship. Meanwhile, there wouldn’t be anything at all wrong with a bit of phone sex? Are you into that, John? We could get each other really hot and then when the time comes we’ll fall naked into each other’s arms and live out every single one of our fantasies, one after another.

She was thinking maybe next weekend. Dinner at her apartment. Or perhaps we’d eat out. And then...we’d get down to something very serious and very juicy. What it all would eventually lead to, she had no idea. Maybe you and I will end up in Yamoussoukro, or Abidjan, and one of my diplomatic service relatives would give you some photo assignments at the embassy. And why not?

On the phone she was insistent. “John, tell me what you will do to me, when I am naked. Come on. Tell me. I want all the details.”

OK. My tongue will linger on its journey toward its destination. A most slow and meandering journey across your topography, pausing here and there, in the hollow of your throat, in the valley of your breasts, in the crook of your arm, on your lovely flat belly, and you will beg me to continue, but then I will make you wait. For I will retrace my steps to where I began. Slowly, slowly, until I return to your neck, and behind your ear, on your cheeks, your lips, and then….only if you beg me properly, I will consent to travel slowly back down, enticing you, teasing you, but you must submit patient, tenderly…

I told her to put her hand on her pussy and stroke her clit, and I continued to whisper that she must keep doing that, don't stop...don't stop...and finally an extended moaning, and a long sigh.

“Now it’s YOUR turn,” she said. “You must masturbate to climax.”
“No,” I said.
“Why do you refuse my command?”
“Because you would not like me very much if I did everything you told me to do.”
She gasped. “How did you know that?”
“I just sensed it.”


Sharon took her time opening the door. She was in a white terrycloth robe. “Hello,” she said without a smile, and without looking me in the eye or issuing any further greeting.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but I’m still in the shower. Please sit down.”
Is this the same girl who, with my telephoned whisperings, brought herself to orgasm just a few days ago? Apparently not. I sat on the couch and flipped through a magazine.

When she finally emerged a half hour later she asked me where I would like to go for dinner, and I said it didn't matter. She fiddled with her bracelet and left the room, then returned. For her dressing was not an event but rather an extended process. She went into her bedroom and came back to the living room, back and forth, in and out, and it annoyed me.

Then she sat down on the far end of the couch and asked me what I wanted to eat. I said it didn't matter, whatever she fancied would be all right with me. What’s your favorite food? I asked. She didn't know. Italian? I suggested. No, not Italian. Well, how about Chinese? No, absolutely not. Tell me where YOU would like go. I said we could just go outside and wander around until we found an interesting place. No, she said, that wasn't a good idea at all. Well, we could ask the doorman. She looked astonished.

"Ask the doorman? Ask him what? Where to eat?"
I said, yes, and why not, because he probably knows the neighborhood very well. No, she insisted, that won’t work. I said let's just sit here and think about it for a while, and maybe an idea will come to us.

That's how the evening started. And it didn't get any better.

Finally she went to the phone, impatiently punched out a number. Apparently she was talking to a friend. Yes, she said, we could be there in about an hour. Sure. Just the two of us. Okay, see you soon. Bye.

So we went downstairs and she asked me to hail a cab. I thought: We’re in Rittenhouse Square for God’s sake. Why do we have to go to some other part of town? Why is this turning into a campaign on the order of the Normandy invasion? She told the driver to take us to second street, not too far from the Ritz. She and I didn’t say much on the slow, stop-start-stop ride.

The restaurant was the size of a warehouse or an airplane hangar, with squared faux Corinthian columns on the wall and tall narrow dark abstract paintings and goofy looking sculptures and loud, loud, LOUD music playing and people shouting over the music and there was not one square inch of fabric anywhere to soften the clattering cacophony.

Sharon looked around the room. “I’m looking for my friend, Andrea. She’s a waitress here.”

Andrea was a native of Jordan, and of course was fluent in Arabic. She just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Bill Cosby was the commencement speaker. Graduation was so special. She loved it.

Finally Andrea appeared. Her breasts jiggled beneath her white tank top. A sweet fresh young thing, twenty-five, or maybe even younger, but she was literally radiating eroticism. She eyed me closely, suggestively, and said that now that she’s finished her degree she’s VERY eager for some excitement.

No question she’d like me to fuck her because she’s horny and also in a playful mood and wants to mess with her friend Sharon’s mind just a little bit, because this John is HOT and it’s too bad, isn’t it, that Sharon got her mitts on him first? Oh, well.

“Why don’t you two sit at the bar until a table becomes available? Shouldn’t be very long. I’ll let you know.”

I ordered a Perrier but the bartender said they didn't have Perrier so he brought me soda water in an elegant purple bottle with a long narrow neck. Sharon got a cognac. Sharon whispered what I already knew—that her dear friend Andrea is most definitely hot for me, she could tell that right away.

“I'm shocked,” I said. “Shocked!”

Sharon laughed and Andrea suddenly appeared at her side, smiling again, very pleased with herself, especially when Sharon said, “Speak of the devil.”

That was the high point of the evening. The rest was a steady slide downhill.

“Oh, look! There’s the Action News weatherman!”

Indeed it was. A tall tanned man with a perfect haircut, a slim beautiful woman on his arm. Walking clichés, both of them.


At her apartment Sharon sat with her knees pressed tight together. We talked. After a while I tried to kiss her but I felt her stiffen. “I’m so shy,” she said.
She rose. “I think I need a drink to loosen up.”

I heard the sound of a cork popping, and then a gurgle of poured liquid. And then a crash and glassy tinkling. “Merde!” she shouted.

I helped her gather up the glass shards, carefully, one at a time. She spent fifteen, twenty minutes scrubbing the floor and the walls where the wine had splattered.

When she finally got around to joining me back on the couch, I said: "I think I should go home."
“Why?” she asked.
Perhaps the time just isn’t right, I said, and it’s never a good idea to force things, to try too hard to make things happen before they were meant to happen.
“Oh, I’m such an empty barrel!” she said.

She repeated that phrase two or three times. But then I was absolutely right, she said. She wasn't comfortable at all right now.

“Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?”
“No, not at all. It takes time for intimacy to take hold. Especially for acutely sensitive people. Like you and me.”

Yes, she said, I was right, I should go home because she felt so awkward. But then at the same time she didn't really want me to go because she had been looking forward to some romance. She wanted to follow through on her plan to spend the night with me. Around and around.

She and I stood at her door and we kissed goodbye. When I hit the sidewalk I took a deep breath of the night air. Thank God that’s finally over!


Sharon,

I'm sorry that I didn't return your calls immediately, but I've needed some time to think seriously about what has passed between us. I've concluded that while on a lot of levels it has been exciting, erotic, exotic and most interesting, we probably would disappoint each other were we to try to do what we both say we want to do.

This is because, I think, we are seeing this thing more in our imaginations than in real life. I sensed your acute discomfort when I was with you the other night, and for a lot of reasons--not your fault--I began feeling uncomfortable as well, and I am not at all confident we'd be able to overcome this if we were to try again.

You are a most lovely woman, and I've enjoyed our "affair" tremendously...and please accept my most sincere best wishes in both your academic pursuits and romance as well! Love, John

Hi,

The reason of my acute discomfort was the fact that everything was so damn planned. I began to feel if something went wrong, it would be catastrophic and I guess I was right. I can't deny the fact that I had butterflies in my belly. That I wanted to be in bed with you was an absolute and with this passion also came a trifle fear of "what if he is disappointed with my body or our love making?”

But what hurt me more than anything is your apparent eagerness to throw it all in the air. And rudely refuse to even return my phone calls.

I thought you said I was worth waiting for and to wait until the time would be right.I also thought what you felt for me was not solely sexual, and recall an email where you expressed other emotions. Were you just paltering?


Sharon,

I apologize for my rudeness in not responding to your telephone calls. This is difficult for me as perhaps it is also for you and I wanted to avoid unpleasantness, and I thought e-mail would be the least hurtful way of saying what I needed to say.

My sense is that you may say you wish to become involved with me but deep down you are terrified of it. You are much more comfortable with "intimacy" that is at a great distance--telephone and e-mail--rather than in the flesh, so to speak. You may extend invitations for intimacy, but when the time comes fear overwhelms you and you retreat into distance and shyness.

My great unwillingness to attempt to overcome this comes from suddenly realizing that this is precisely the thing that happened in my last marriage. I desperately sought intimacy and affection from a woman who in the end was incapable of giving it. I suppose I’ve been pursuing unobtainable women all my adult life.

I say all of this by way of explanation of why I must say goodbye to you, and in a way I hope won’t make an uncomfortable situation even more so. You are a most lovely woman and I am sure that when the right man comes along you will be open and willing, and I don't think you will have to wait very long.

Again, I am sorry that I was so rude in not answering your telephone calls...and I do wish you the best. John

* * *



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"My sense is that you may say you wish to become involved with me but deep down you are terrified of it. You are much more comfortable with "intimacy" that is at a great distance--telephone and e-mail--rather than in the flesh, so to speak. You may extend invitations for intimacy, but when the time comes fear overwhelms you and you retreat into distance and shyness."

Dear Sharon, you did not put out. ...and I do wish you the best. John

John is merely like all other men. A pig. All he wants is to get laid.

But do you seriously believe poor Sharon was capable of achieving intimacy--sexual or otherwise? The story is one, among several others in the book, that illustrates the theme of seeking but never finding an appropriate partner. It's indeed like wandering in a labyrinth. One corridor is exactly like another, and they all lead to dead ends.

But we don't have the time to read carefully these days, do we? A quick scan, and that's all we need to form a judgment. Which curiously conforms to previously held judgments.

Men is pigs.







Re: Oh dear.

(Anonymous)
Optimism is the light that signs through trees when you are alone, the laughter that bites the air and your ragged arse, gripping hold until you cannot breathe, must attempt to acquiesce.

A perfect antidote to "The tyranny of the easily offended."

I think in your own quick scan you mistake my hasty EMPATHY for judgement. (Though, empathy is perhaps a form of judgement too...). John is like ME, I thought.

At any rate, I've certainly ditched my own fair share of men because they wouldn't put out on our first encounter. Life's too short for me to palely loiter, unfulfilled, for more than an evening!

Does that make me a pig? Perhaps. Does it make me a man? The evidence suggests otherwise.

As for what Sharon is capable of - who knows. I saw her only through John's eyes, and can imagine how she smells and tastes a lot more clearly than I can imagine her thoughts/motives. Just as this is how I saw the potential lovers in my own life through my own eyes and sensual perceptions. This is what makes the story successful!


Empathy, however hasty, is rare and valuable and I thank you. I think ditching a partner is perhaps more an expression of personal preference (which requires no justification) than a value judgment. As for potential partners' thoughts and motives, well, that's beyond our reach. We're left with observing and recording their behavior, speech. While praying that one of these days someone will say exactly what we want to hear.


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