This Music, Excerpt III




Marrysville, Summer 1963


She twisted around on her stomach beside him, propping herself up on her elbows.

"Were you afraid when you first got to college?" she asked.

"No," he said.

"Not even a little, little, bit?" she asked.

"I was a little afraid of losing out on my friends in Long Island," he said, "but I knew I was growing away from them. That's why I chose a school so far away."

"Had you ever lived away from home before?"

"Sure, I spent the summer before in Tanglewood, and the summer before that in Switzerland."

He was lying beside her on his back. She put her arm around his chest and half buried her face in his shoulder. "When I went to USC, I had never spent a night outside my parent's house before." She went on talking about how frightened she had been. She had been sick to her stomach every morning and every night. At the end of the first semester the college doctors had diagnosed her with an incipient ulcer and loaded her up with tranquilizers and anti-acid tablets.

"Did they help?"

"At first, but then I would start to get sick at the thought of the pills."

"Did you get used to it?"

She shook her head. He sat up and took off his jacket, laid it on the floor, then lay back drawing her half across his chest. He began rubbing with his fingers in the small of her back. "I did and I didn't. I got so I could brazen it out, go to class and no one noticed I was crying inside. Some mornings I was not sick and some nights I did not cry. But I did it by hiding from everyone around me. My friend, Milly whom you met, helpt. Certain teachers were important and wonderful. When I would come back from talking to them I would feel proud and strong for a while, and if you could asked me what I was doing there and I could reply 'I have just been talking with Professor So-and-so' like pulling out valid ID."

The were in the well-appointed bedroom of her older brother's house; her brother and his wife had gone to Reno for the weekend. They had brought a candle from the kitchen and put it on the floor on a saucer. She had a younger brother going to the same school as Gregory and that is how they met.

Her back under his fingers was not hard like his old girl, who had played polo, but it was strong enough to make his fingers thirsty. The pressure of his hand passed through her body and moved her breasts and belly against him. He was getting a grip on her. "You left?" he asked.

"Yes. I was afraid of going with real guys. I went out with a bunch of little white rat finks who would do whatever I wanted because they thought I was so sexy. Then I went out with a guy I thought was....handsome, strong...something." She paused and put her forehead to his shoulder, then said: "I felt I owed it to myself to let him screw me. I mean I had to grow up sometime, didn't I? But I got scared. He turned out to be one more bastard looking for a flashy lay. God I hate him. I don't know why I ever felt different. When he got through with me I was sick for weeks. When I tried to catch up in classes I couldn't think straight. I shook so hard I had to leave class in the middle. I didn't want to eat. Some times I couldn't keep anything down for days. My mother came and took me home. She thought I was pregnant."

"Are you scared now?" he asked.

"I'm better. My acting helps. My therapist helps. If some one asked what I was doing here, I'd say I was with you."

"You are the most beautiful thing I ever touched," he said.

She tightened her arm around him and bent her forehead to his shoulder again. "I do love to hear you say things like that," she said.

"You're solid gold," he said.

They kissed. He pushed at her tongue and the inside of her mouth the way he had delved with his fingers in her back. She struggled enough only to make yielding sweet. He began to unbutton her blouse. She sat up primly beside him, both her legs folded on the side away from him and waited, smiling with her eyes closed while he took off her blouse. He could not disengage her brazier easily so he broke the hook. When she was naked from the waist up she bent over and picked the candle from the floor and set in on the night table. Her Tin Woodsman amulet hung like a silver plum between her breasts.

"You said you liked me a little, so I want you to see me." she said.

"You take my breath away," he said.

"You make my body seem much more important by saying so," she said.

"You make me feel important by wanting to show yourself to me," he said.

"Oh, Lover, the things you say!" He was still lying on his back, looking at her figure lighted with strong contrasts and warm light of the candle. She put her hands flat on his chest and leaned on them. He noticed that her belly-button pouched out.

"Will you say many more things like that to me? I don't know what will happen if you keep saying things like that to me." She leaned forward pressing him hard and letting her hair fall partially across her face.

"I'll say more as I learn more," he said.

Her hands began to grip and ungrip his shirt. He put his over hers to calm them. Oh, now he wasn't worrying much about where money would come from for the Spring, nor about what faculty would sponsor his scholarship, or what he would say about Scriabin in class three weeks hence, or even about winning at love or why it mattered.

"I'm so happy, I could feel myself dying," she said, "You might be the death of this little girl."

"I hope you will make love with me?"

She bent over and put her face against his chest. She turned it so her check was against his buttons. He couldn't see her breasts or stomach any longer, but he could feel them against his stomach.

"What do you mean?" she said.

"You know what I mean."

She turned her face and put her lips on a button where his stomach met his ribs. "I was afraid you would ask that," she said, her words a little muffled.

"I want to, and I imagine you do too."

"That's something I have never done," she said.

"Never done?"

She half lifted herself. Her nakedness seemed very frank. Her eyes seemed enlarged and he had a sensation as if only they remained still while the rest of her moved around them. "Never done it," she confirmed.

"I thought differently."

"I know," she said, "I wanted you to."

Her hands were still clenched under his. He pressed them gently. She clenched her fingers tighter and bowed down her face again.

"I told you I was just a little, little girl," she said, "trying to get grown up."

She lifted her face again. He thought of a beagle, her eyes framed by her hair in the warm, contrasty light.

"I want you to begin."

"I don't want you to see me cry," she said, and reached over and blew the candle out. It had spilled wax on the night table.

"Don't make me say it," she said. He could hear tears in her voice.

"Say what?"

"Please don't make me say it."

"We have feelings. I want to bring us together," he said.

She was crying in earnest now. "I'm still afraid. You're wonderful, but it doesn't make me any less afraid."

"Are you afraid of being immoral?"

"Shit no," she said.

"Are you afraid of getting pregnant? I've planned for that."

She shook her head. "I knew you would," she said.

"I understand," he said. "Many girls are afraid, I'm sure. That's what poets say. They also say they get over it."

"You don't understand. I'm afraid!." She rolled away from him and stretched out on her stomach without touching him. "I'm afraid...I'm more afraid of that than I've ever been afraid of anything. I'm afraid it won't work."

"What do you mean?"

"That you would find me repulsive; that you don't love me; that I would die of pain; that the world would hate me; that the world would dissolve into ice and acid; that I would kill you. God, I'm so frightened. Am I whispering? I feel as if I were screaming." She cried harder. "I knew I would fail you." she said. It seemed as if she cried a long time.

God, what feelings she had! How could he ever measure up to then? What could he do with them? He felt sorry for her and angry with her and wanted to fuck her and hated himself for getting into this mess and wanted desperately something to grab and use, and felt better than he ever had in his life. Her feelings were colored where all the other feeling she had ever seen had been gray, just as her breast were to him the perfect naked breasts of a dream woman.

"Finish undressing me," she commanded in the dark. He slipped off her slacks and underwear. "I'll get a light," he said. He took the candle out to the kitchen, got matches from her purse, carried the burning candle back into the bedroom on a larger plate. She had rolled on her back. He stood looking down at her. Going to bed with other girls he had never stopped to study. She would reward hours of study like a work of art. Everywhere he looked was some satisfying line or surface that drew him to the next. He sat down beside her and began to touch her, fascinated, nor caressing, just fingering. He touched ever where he could reach except where her cunt hair covered and the bottoms of her feet. She was stiff and at the same time faintly trembly; maybe it was part of her training as an actress. She did not move, but after a time closed her eyes.

"I hope you will be my guy," she said.

"I wish I could tell you how beautiful you are and how privileged I feel to be here now," he said.

"Please try to tell me," she said.

He wondered if she were no longer afraid and if she were willing now to try. Something reasonable in him said her fear would not go away in an hour or be appeased by sharpening desire with praise. But he could help unbuttoning his pants no more than he could have helpt fingering her legs. When he had touched her it was as if his fingers were taking root as they went, as if he were knowing the desperate pleasure of blind plant roots in their essential earth.

She put her hand in his hand as it began undoing the buckle. "Please don't, " she said. He continued. She lay still with her eyes closed. He noticed her arms were thin in comparison to the other parts of her body. He stood and took off his pants and put them over a chair. She remained still, her eyes closed.

How drunk he was with seeing her! But she was afraid. He seated himself beside her.

"Sometimes I feel lonely with you," he said.

She opened her eyes and looked straight at him. "I'm sorry," she said in a small voice.

He put his hand on her breast. Her nipple was puffed out soft, but contracted when he touched it. She reached with her free hand and took the tip of his index finger between her index finger and thumb and began to flip her nipple back and forth with his finger. He firmed his hand and pressed with the heal. She pressed too. He lay down beside her and began to kiss her face and hold hands as if they were not naked.

"What do I feel like?" she asked. "I have seen myself in the mirror, but I can't know what it is like for some one else to feel me. I have been naked with boys, but never one I could talk with."

"Like a very beautiful woman," he said.

"That's not very specific," she said.

"I have seen beautiful women and imagined them; I have seen you and imagined you was hard to know." He ran his hand smoothly over her skin, everywhere he could reach except her face and under her cunt hair. "Now I know."

"Isn't anything wrong? What is my worst fault?"

"Nothing. Nothing, Mohammed making houris could fashion nothing better."

"My nipples are so red. Don't you find them ugly because they are so red?"

What color did she expect them to be? "No, darling,"

"Do you like to feel them better when they are soft or when they are wrinkled?"

"I like to feel them change," he said. His hard cock ached at the root.

"Oh, yes," she said, "that's right, that's right!"

He pulled her over so they lay side by side facing, and kissed her, finally poking with his tongue into every corner of her mouth. When he paused she whispered in his neck, "Hold me darling." Hold her? The man rushing with has hose to put out the fire streaming from the window of his house being told to get water. ‘Hold me darling’ indeed!

She had gradually pulled over on her back. While he pressed and stroked her she remained still, a little tense. He rolled over on top of her. Her legs were straight and together, toes pointed, like a diver falling. He lay on her, legs straight as well, as if one were the figure of the other in a mirror, each part corresponding, his confidence to her fear, separated by a the fine, hard surface of reality. The root of his cock and his balls felt like coals. He could feel her thighs harden under his. Tears began to well in her eyes.

"You're still scared," he said.

She nodded.

"Forget it!" he said. He started some movement, he never knew what. She threw her self to the other side, dumping him off. Then she screamed. She rolled into a ball on her side in the big bed with her knees against her chin. "You bastard!" she yelled. Shit.

She suddenly rolled off the bed, stood up and walked to the door. "God," she said. She walked back. She walked back and forth to different parts of the comfortably-appointed bed room. He felt as if he were watching some sort of maniac. Her nakedness which had made things so personal a moment before, now made her impersonal like the nakedness of victims of war.

"God," she said, "I've got to do something. I’ve got to do something!"

"It will be easy," he said. "You are large, strong, sophisticated; more sophisticated than I. All over America sixteen year olds who fear Hell and their mothers, whose lives and sensations are narrow, who are either ignorant of the strength of their own desires or despise them, make what can only be euphemistically called love with drunken Marines in the backs of chrome-plated Chevrolets for the fist time after one drink. You believe in making love, you love me. Come on back here."

She sat down on the end of the bed. She stood up. The candle light now made her glarey and hard-edged. "I can't," she said. "Oh, I can't." She cried as she spoke these works and the sobs distorted them the way water running on the outside of a shower distorts the image of the person inside.

"Take it easy," he said, appalled at his previous speech.

"I've got to do something," she said. "I'll be sick." She went to a door, opened it, went through and closed it behind her. He could hear her puking. He got up, walked to the door and opened it. In the dim light from the candle, he could see it was a bathroom; she was kneeling with her arms around the toilet bowl.

"Go away," she said.

He stept in.

"Godamnit, get out!" she yelled. "What do you think I am? Do you think I'm some sort of exhibit?" She could be so tough. "I love you," he said. She turned and looked at him. "I'll be back," she said in a normal voice.

He returned to the bed and lay down, closing the door behind him. He wondered if he should put his clothes on. Hers were beside him. It would be taking an unfair advantage. He found his watch. It was nearly 3:00. He noticed wax on the bedside table. He supposed she would not want her brother to find it so he gently and firmly scratched it off with his finger nails and pocketed the shavings. He heard water running.

He was sitting naked on the edge of the bed when she came out of the bath room. She walked slowly over to him. Now her nakedness looked grand to him, statuesque. She had taken off her Tin Woodsman amulet and had it in her hand. She dropt it onto the pile of her cloths.

"All right," she said, "So I'm silly. So I'm childish."

He shrugged, gesturing by spreading his hands and opening his arms. She step up to him and grabbed his shoulders. "All right, God damn it," she continued, "you found me out. I'm a fake. Are you proud?" She shook his shoulders hard, her whole body moving with her violence, her cunt, before his face, moving in and out at him like a burlesque dancer.

He stood and held her away at his arms length by the shoulders. "It's a Pyrrhic victory, baby," she went on, "Does it make you feel proud to see me when the play is done?"

"The play isn't done." he said.

She shook loose from him and half crouched like a basketball guard. "Does it make you feel like a man? 'I met your sister' you'll say when you sit with Fred in one of your beer halls, 'She came on like she was hot stuff, but when I brought her to bed she couldn't do it.' You'll say I cried like a baby," she said crying. "You rotten, stinking, prick-dangling bastards. You'll do anything to put a girl down!"

"Shut up," he said.

"You can't stand it, can you?" she mocked.

"You're still playing," he said.

She ran at him and tried to scratch and bite him. He grabbed her by the wrists and held her away. She kicked him in the balls. It hurt a lot, but not so much he could not twist her around and lock her arms behind her back.

"That's not fair!" she yelled.

He pushed her face down on the bed, held her wrists together with one hand. He thought of fucking her now, this way, from the rear, bearing down on her fat ass. He took a deep breath. "Are you ready to stop this shit?" he asked. She began to cry gently and relax. When he felt she was no longer tight, he let her go. She sat up quickly. She picked up her clothes and folded them neatly on the bed. She got up and started toward the bathroom. "I'm going to comb my hair," she said half apologetically.

He sat on the bed, suddenly too tired to think. When she came out she knelt on the carpet at his feet. "I'm very sorry this happened," she said.

"I'm sorry too," he said.

"No, it's my fault," she said, "Listen closely, you won't get to hear me say that too often."

He began rubbing her shoulders gently.

"I'm such a damned childish bitch. I had it right that time. Are you my friend still?"

"Yes," he said, "I am your friend. But that is not the point. The point is, everything you do moves me so much. Everything. There is magic in your smallest gesture. If you cry I am sadder than when I see others cry; if you are angry with me, I am angry, but I am also glad to be privileged to see it. When you apologized and ask to be friends, I felt as if the world had asked me to be its friend."

"Jesus, sometimes I think you're out of your mind. Thank God you are. God help a poor girl if you were sane."

"Keep God out of this, we have troubles enough of our own," he said.

"What time is it?" she asked.


"We'd better get dressed and go home. Do you mind that so much?"

"The question is not settled." he said.

She nodded.