When I returned from the bathroom she was still in bed, and I crawled in beside her. I’d thought perhaps she’d present me with another of her delicious deserts, but there wasn’t anything for me. She seemed deep in thought, so I lay back in the soft pillow and soon I was drifting off.
Her elbow jabbed into my ribs, and I was again fully conscious. “Tell me something,” she said.
“The exact truth about what you were thinking while you were making love to me this time.”
“Oh, no. Here we go again.”
“Come on. You’ve got the gift of gab. So speak to me.”
“All right. When you were undressing the sheen of your silk panties seemed to me like the inside of a seashell. Which in turn reminded me of the famous Boticelli painting of Venus, the Greek goddess who brought love to the world.”
“Oh, come on. How do I resemble Venus?”
“Long legs, long hair. A cool, imperious look.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
I sat up in the bed, turned, and adjusted the pillow. I knew this was going to be still another of those endless interrogations of hers. Which would take a while, so I might as well get comfortable.
“Why should I kid you?” I said. “You asked, and I answered. If you don’t like what I’m saying we can change the subject.”
“You don’t have to be so defensive all the time.”
“So the white of my panties reminds you of a shell and the shell reminds you of a painting.”
“What is in the painting?”
“You’d recognize it instantly. Venus stands in a large, open scallop shell. Hovering in the air to the upper left are Zephyr and Chloris, embracing.”
“Come on, there’s more. You wouldn’t have thought of the image if it hadn’t somehow resonated powerfully somewhere in that deep, dark subconscious of yours.”
Jesus. This woman just can’t get enough! All right. Let’s really get deep into it, shall we?
“Zephyr is the Mediterranean term for any soft, gentle breeze, derived from the name of the Greek god of the west wind.”
“You mean, like, a whole lot of hot air?”
“Something like that, yes,” I said grinning. “Now the figure of Zephyr, with his cheeks all puffed out and his lips pursed, was an image Boticelli used in a subsequent work of art.”
“In the fifteenth century Lorenzo d’ Medici commissioned Boticelli to execute a series of illustrations for Dante’s Inferno. It was to have been 100 drawings depicting Dante and Virgil in their traversal of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.”
“By any chance are you making this up as you go along?”
“No, this is absolutely true, every word of it. You could look it up.”
“How in hell do you know these things?”
“I minored in art in college.”
“All right, go on.”
“Boticelli executed the drawings with a metal stylus on sheep's parchment, and went over them with a lead point similar to a pencil, and finally reinforced the strokes with ink.”
“What does this have to do with our making love and that Venus painting?”
“Be patient, babe, I’m getting to it. You recall the puffed cheeks of Zephyr above Venus?”
“Well, in one of the Inferno drawings Boticelli makes a deliberate visual allusion to it.”
“All the illustrations are meant to convey the utter horror and degradation of eternal damnation. So if you look carefully, you will see a demon’s raised bare arse. And from the anus within those swelled cheeks comes forth an enormous noxious wet fart, which spews down into the face of one of the condemned.”
Dr. Joan covered her mouth with her hand and giggled. “That’s awful.”
I pinched my nose. “Yes, utterly grotesque,” I said, sounding as if I had a cold. “But that’s the whole idea of hell, isn’t it?”
“Wait a minute,” she said. “How do we get so quickly from the goddess of love to the stink of hell?”
“Boticelli’s range as an artist illustrates that within him—and indeed in all of us— there coexist polar opposites. Love, hate. Softness, hardness. Acceptance, rejection. Come here, go away.”
I was about to add, “Of all people, Joan, you should know all about that particular topic.” But I thought better of it. No sense stirring her up.
“Do you write stuff like this in your journal?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Even about our having sex?”
"And is your private journal where you intend to keep it?"
"Absolutely,” I said earnestly. “It will remain our secret forever.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire!