Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Order of Things - Story II

            “What does Kismet mean, anyway?” Miriam asked as she propped the bicycle against the phone booth.  She was fishing in her shorts for a dime.
            “It means” Servi intoned sagaciously, “fate in Turkish, Urdu, Hindi… but it comes to those languages from the Arabic qisma, who got it from the Persian…”
            “People sure do steal a lot of things… even words.  Do you have a dime Servi?”
             Her tight pockets had produced nothing, and Servi was not surprised.  All her shorts really did was inadequately cover her skin, the contours of which were visible for all to see, even the neat cleft in her crotch.   Her long white hand was now outstretched, and Servi placed a coin in it, left of center, almost dropping it.  Why make it too easy for this beguiling mendicant, Servi pondered, when all the world lay before her… ripe pickings for the Elect.  
            Miriam thanked him and opened the phone booth.  All along the central path in Saltaire, people were jogging, biking, strolling.  The day was overcast, but humid.  Since the morning, the scent of heavy rain lingered on the air, teasing relief which never came.  Every boy and man looked at Miriam in the phone booth, the tight space she inhabited suggestive of other intimacies.  Servi couldn’t blame them, for she was preternaturally comely, high, and tapered as a reed.  
          But as a counterpoint, her hips were pronounced, especially in the tiny shorts, and her small, pert, breasts, were scarcely covered by a white tank top.  Her white shorts came down to mid-thigh, enough to cover and suggest far more than the eye could see.  Men gazed at her on a continuum from rapture to despair.  And after soaking Miriam in, they looked at Servi, and some form of incongruity passed over their features.  If Servi was having sex with her, that look appeared to say, what other imbalance may exist in the cosmos?
            It took sometime to reach Jack on the phone.  Servi sat on a bench and took out Marcus Auerlieus’ Meditations.  He read a passage at random: “Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.”
            Servi put the book down.  He had, lately, thought of becoming a Stoic.  At twenty-two, events had converted him to the notion that struggling against the outside world was fruitless and doomed to pitiable failure.   
            Why not just toss it in?  Not suicide, but resignation.  The world was beyond Servi’s control.  Why not find something he could control. “You have power over your mind --- not outside events.  Realize this and you will find your strength,” the Philospher-Emperor wrote nearly two thousand years ago.  
            This was a world weary philosophy, but Servi was weary.  The problem was that just as Servi could certainly not control outside events, he could no more control his mind.  His passions had him in a vice grip.  He gazed at the arch of Miriam’s thigh and felt himself harden.  This was what he had to work with.  He might as well force a compass to point south, as to try to control his impulses around Miriam Henderson.
            “Hello Jack, where have you been?” he heard Miriam finally speaking to Jack in her lovely, smooth-phone-tone.  And it was lovely.  Everything about her was the dead end epitome of loveliness, and an inspiration of lust.  And Jack was not shy about detailing Miriam’s erotic preferences.  Like: she stroked her clitoris while Jack fucked her, all little counter-clockwise motions, and brought herself to climax that way, while Jack just kept probing along.  
         He took great pride that he could come at his leisure.  Servi had to hear it all.  And the fact that he could get up and just walk away while Jack told tales of clitoral self-stimulation and their like, and did not, only disgusted Servi.  Servi wanted to watch Miriam manipulate her clitoris while he was inside her.  He wanted her to get her fill of herself in this ritual of self-satisfaction, in what should be a moment of shared proximity.  Servi knew what it was:  it was the second best thing to being an accidental voyeur.  If one comes across a couple making love, especially friends, best to walk on and pretend nothing was seen.  But to stay and pant along, the third wheel in the erotic juggernaut, passive and pathetic, what would Marcus Auerelius say?
            “Where am I Servi?” Miriam asked.
            “Saltaire,” he answered, and then, playing along with Miriam’s pantomime of ignorance, the dumb blond routine: “Fire Island, New York, Planet Earth.”
            “And where am I going again?”
            “Kismet,” she repeated into the receiver, turning away from Servi and laughing.  “It means destiny in Urdu.”
            She said with irony, for she knew damn well what Urdu was, and who spoke it and where.  One of the more galling aspects of Miriam Henderson was that the surface brilliance of her form was more than mere patina.  She possessed a rare intelligence not overburdened with too much analytical skill; she would never be crippled by anything as specious as excessive thought.  She had a biting wit, the corollary of true intelligence, without an overabundance of meanness.   With her looks, why be mean?  She was casually creative, but she muted this behind the veil of her crushing beauty.  Why work so hard at beautiful things, Servi imagined her reasoning, when this or that will fall in her lap, literally or figuratively, with such well formed and proportioned charms.
            Marcus Auerelus was correct about most things, Servi thought as Miriam emerged from the phone booth.  This life is just a little breath, a fleck of flesh, an interlude of light between two states of darkness.  All that we had was the control of the Mind.  But Servi lacked this mechanism.  He could not reign in a single, errant thought.  His concepts did not deserve the grand capitalizations which Marcus Auerlius’ translators gave to Stoic concepts like Reason and World-Mind.  Servi’s god was flux and change, little ‘f’ and little ‘c’. 
            “Look, the phone gave me back your dime.  What luck!” she said, and Servi felt like she had given him back the deposit on the thoughts he had been thinking for the last five minutes.  “So,” Miriam said, standing in front him eagerly, hopping on both feet, ever so slightly, “show me this destiny of yours.”
            Miriam rode well.  The bicycles slid in the sand, which was constantly blowing in the humid wind over the slats of the broad walk in Saltaire.  Her posture on the seat was a sight to behold.  She held her head high and flush with her spine.  Her buttocksgripped the seat snuggly, like a ball in a socket.  Her shoulder length blond hair blew behind her, like a Germanic after image, a coda of light.  It was only with Saltaire behind them, when they encountered the open country of broken dunes, beach grass, and sandy paths, where Miriam lost her poise.   
           A bar of sand, like a semi-permeable speed bump, had drifted across the trail, and in a moment the bike slid out from beneath her.  Servi watched as she skipped along the sand for a few feet, the bicycle riding along and to the right, as if racing her to a finish line.  There was a moment of silence, the only sound the whipping wind, and then a wail.  Miriam was weeping without control.  Servi leaped from his bike and ran toward her, imagining a broken bone thrusting from that firm, yet maddeningly soft flesh.  But after a quick survey he realized there wasn’t as much as a scratch on her.  Miriam was just sitting there in a little sand filled ditch, crying.  He was about to ask her what was the matter, when she provided the unexpected answer.
            “I cheated on Jack!” her lovely, tear stained face pointed to Servi, her face scored with shame. 
            “Excuse me?”
            “I cheated on Jack.  I’ve been cheating on him,” Miriam raised a hand to her green eyes, shielding them from Servi’s quizzical gaze.  “I know you are his best friend.  I know he tells you everything about me.  But I consider you my friend too.  I have to tell you this.  You’re so kind.  Please, please, please, don’t tell him.  After I tell you this, just forget that I ever said anything…” and Servi knelt down in the sand next to her, feeling it was the only appropriate; he didn’t want to tower over her during something as hallowed as a confession. 
Then he listened once again to the sexual exploits of Miriam Henderson.  But this time, it was not through the refracting lens of Jack’s ego, but in the purview of another man, a man who satisfied her more than Jack.  She could keep her hands to herself, she said, or better yet, on her more masterful partner.  Servi was deeply shocked, even appalled.  He never imagined that such a sublime creature could be so indelibly confused about issues of love and lust.   
He had always imagined the flesh of Miriam Henderson as some how different than the clay of other men, a more subtle substance.  She and Jack, two Nordic Gods, straight, light, resplendent in the glow of perennial spring, always laughing at Servi, the limping Hephaestus, dark, stooped, hirsute, morose.  Jack couldn’t even bring her to orgasm!  But the law student at NYU never failed at this feat.  Miriam was left standing high and dry on the shoals of indecision, between a man she loved and a man who satisfied her lust.  To Servi, it was enviable perch.  Servi imagined the priapic law student bringing Miriam to a shuddering climax, and he sighed:  he was the voyeur in the mental shrubbery, stroking a cock which could never be satisfied, for it existed in his imagination.  He was panting at the window yet again, gazing at life’s feast grunting and groaning on strange sheets.
            “Please don’t tell Jack, Servi,” Miriam pleaded again when she was done, even as she stood up and brushed the layer of sand which covered her fine, compact legs.  “Can you swear?”
            “I swear Miriam,” he answered slowly.  “Don’t worry.”
            “I’ll work it out on my own.  I just needed to get it off my chest.  This kind of thing is hard.  It’s hard sleeping with two men and lying to them about it.  You can’t imagine the things that go through your head when you are naked with one man in the morning and another in the evening…”
            The sun appeared, but only its disk: it was still hiding behind a film of moist clouds, like a silhouette behind a great, gray sheet.
            “Can we head back, Servi,” Miriam said, changing the topic.  “I don’t feel like a bike ride anymore.”
            “Fine with me,” Servi answered, and they picked up the bikes and walked them back to the wooden broad walk which snaked through Saltaire.  
             As they rounded a corner by an L shaped due, a sight revealed itself:  in the dim haze something was struggling by a large pile of wire used to construct erosion fences.  As they got closer, the form shifted into focus: a petite deer had gotten its antlers tangled in the wire.  It was still when they arrived, but on sensing their presence, began to buck wildly and impotently, even kicking its hind legs in the air like an enraged mule.
            “Jesus,” Miriam explained, “what happened?”
            “People feed the deer, and they’ve lost their fear.  They walk though doors of houses, they get caught in fences, and they steal food from picnic baskets.  People have made them nuisances with their misplaced kindness.”
            “Shouldn’t we do something?” Miriam asked, and Servi realized the we meant him.  He approached the animal cautiously.  Fire Island deer were bonsai versions of their brethren on the mainland, but it was still a compact and powerful beast.  When he was a few feet from the deer, its pervading sense of panic leached into him, like the transfer of liquid over a medium. 
             Servi felt the range of its fears: trapped, thrashing, panicked, unsafe.  He was a slave like this animal, to the powerful impulses which swirled and looped about his psyche, battening him down and sweeping him free.  Irritated by this revelation, Servi began to pull the deer’s head, twisting and turning it in novel configurations, anything to free it and get it out of his sight.
            “Be careful,” Miriam warned him, “you’ll get hurt.”
            But it was too late.  Servi freed the deer, and in the same motion, it reared back, throwing him four feet in the air, landing flat on his ass.  The deer, stunned and fazed, ran awkwardly up a dune and into a deep patch of beach grass until it was gone from view.  Servi thought he heard the beast snorting, but then he realized it was Miriam laughing.  
         She laughed without a semblance of control, just as she had cried with an equal lack of control five minutes before.  Servi couldn’t blame her.  Wasn’t this all absurd?  Jack’s misplaced security, the NYU student and his hearty lingam, everyone’s orgasms, a trapped bonsai deer.  Everything had become a spectacle to behold, a circus of perception, and Servi was in the back row: sidelined by a dwarf deer, eunuch to a beautiful girl and unworthy to even be her third, let alone primary lover.  Laugher was a sane reaction to his plight.  Laugher rang out from Olympus like the peel of divine ordinance.
            But Miriam was not unkind in a clinch.  She mistook Servi’s glum acceptance of his lot for hurt, and she approached him on her hands and knees, like some parody of the jungle cat.  She spoke in a strident kind of baby talk, meant to be disarming and arousing, but actually terrifying, as if she held between her teeth a blade whose sole function was castration.   
             She asked for Servi’s forgiveness over and over again in a high, infantile pitch, and came to a halt immediately in front of his face.  Still on all fours, she kissed him.  It lasted for sometime.  Servi did not dare touch her.  Her tongue entered his mouth like an intruder, and caressed his teeth and pallet in stabbing arches.  Then she sat back on her haunches and smiled.  She wiped the salvia from her upper lip with the back of her hand, and looked supremely satisfied.  She had sealed her secret discloser to Servi with a secret action, and now one could not be revealed without the other.  It was a masterful stroke.  Servi could not but be impressed.  Miriam was a genius with such matters.  Servi felt the urge to applaud on his feet as if she had just masterfully sung an aria.
            “We’d better get back, Servi,” she stood up, and pulled her little shorts down.  “No Kismet for you, I’m afraid.”

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