Helena and Blake had a normal evening, keeping in mind that Tantricity Hill is synonymous with Creative Copulation. Helena had always been a Sun Worshiper and sitting and stroking herself in the sun all afternoon had made her taut and receptive. Lifting weights had the same effect on Blake, pumping him full of virility and energy and verve. During the spectacular evening meal (the calligraphic menu card read):
Legumes Printaniers et Coulis de Légumes Verts
Potée aux Pois Chiches et au Chou
Salade Composée de Pâté de Roquefort et des Pommes
Blake-the-whore had actually charmed Helena with his ingenuousness. He had worked up a prodigious appetite exercising with Devon and he kept nudging Helena and pointing at what they were eating. The first course frightened him with its sea-green color and grassy-citrus smell and he wouldn’t taste it until Apple had assured him the sauce consisted of garlic, fennel, fresh chervil (“What’s chervil?” “Pungent parsley.” “Oh.”) spinach, butter and spices. God knows what he thought the chickpea and cabbage stew was made of. Blake enjoyed three pieces of quiche, which he called “Egg Pie”, and of course he recognized the greens and apple salad with bleu cheese. As they were sipping tea, she asked, “What do you normally eat?”
He gulped the tea and burned his tongue. “Ow. Ow.” He slurped some water and said, “I only eat four things. Granola, In-and-Out and Powerbars.”
“That’s only three things.”
Blake squeezed Helena’s thigh, then extended and flapped his tongue flatly between his teeth.
“Oh my.” Helena blushed like a virginal sophomore in a co-ed sex education class. “That does make four, doesn’t it?”
“Yep,” echoed Helena. She felt better since her walk with Arnold. They’d returned to the camp; Arnold helped Apple in the tidy vegetable garden and Helena dipped, nude, in the pool and sprawled in the sun until supper. She finally, truly relaxed, soaking up the sunbeams: here at Tantricity Hill she let down her hair, her guard, and now, finally, her panties for some phallic fun that didn’t feature her own fingers or a device requiring C batteries.
Helena decided to make the most of her bought-and-paid for flesh-and-blood sex-toy. They both adjourned to Golden Gate Park and studied the illustrated Kama Sutra Pillow Book together.
And they commenced thusly:
All the floors at Tantricity Hill were soft and pliable and designed for tushy, in addition to tootsy, traffic. They were warm and spongy and inviting, so down on the floor is where Helena and Blake inaugurated their diddling with a position from the Kama Sutra entitled: Widely Yawning. Featuring the man on top, it is a Modified Missionary Mode with the woman spreading her legs upward in a Peace Symbol while her erectile gentleman caller slides in-and-out like a butter churn. From this Helena tucked her knees against her chest, and planted the soles of her feet against Blake’s pecs as he, still inserted, knelt. She couldn’t have maintained this posture for any length of time, except that she could leg press against Blake as he thrust. Oh my Jesus God, she thought and as they entered the seventh minute in this particular clinch she orgasmed with a muffled-feline-sounding-yippy-yowl.
The score was: Helena – 1 Blake – 0.
Going into Splitting the Bamboo, Helena pulled her right foot off the gas pedal on Blake’s chest, lowered it to the floor, and returned it to the pedal. She took her left off the brake, lowered and returned it. She duplicated these maneuvers for an intense, increasingly noisy and sweaty, nine minutes and thirty-three seconds.
Quite intense: Helena- 4 Blake – 1.47777 before he withdrew like LBJ should have from Vietnam in 1967. They sat panting and smiling on the floor. Blake retrieved the book from the nightstand and used his stiff, sheathed, reservoir-tipped meal-ticket to point at a picture.
Helena, panting, rejected Blake’s suggestion. He wiped sweat from his nose, turned the page and gestured again with his prod. She nodded and they were immediately onto the bed and into The Pair of Tongs. Helena sat on top and straddled Blake with her knees bent and sat quiet and content for what seemed an age, and then she morphed into The Swing, eliciting an eager groan from Blake. The Swing consisted of the young man rocking Helena up-and-down, then side-to-side and then up-and-down.
Again and again.
From this to the Spinning Top, where Helena placed her legs straight back, ground herself onto Blake and inched in a circle, critiquing the room’s décor, all 360°.
Three times; in case she had overlooked any little something.
Then two man-on-top poses: The Yawning and The Rising with an engorged, aroused Blake tossing Helena around almost violently. After their final spasmed and quaking orgasms Helena slipped out from beneath her sweaty and spent boy-toy and stood, panting, next to the bed. “If I,” she said, “may get personal for a moment?”
“Personal?” Eyes glazed and fading fast Blake propped himself on an elbow, “Lady, if I was up-inside-you any further you’d have needed a labor pain to get me outta there.”
“True enough,” smiled Helena. “But…”
“Precisely what is in those pills you take?”
“Vaso-something-or-others. In college I had to take Chemistry and I dinked around with an idea for some stiff-dick formulas. Tried them out on some dumb ass weightlifter friends until I came up with this one.” Blake’s eyes began to close and he reclined on a pillow. “Came up with this stuff. Works pretty good.”
“It’s worth millions. What you just did.”
“It’s worth four-hundred dollars. I already sold it to some geek in a suit from Pfizer. What an idiot. He paid me cash. And I still get to make all I want for myself…”
Blake fell asleep. Unconscious and drooling, his right elbow tucked beneath his face he snored slightly and rolled unto his belly. Helena smiled again and slapped Blake’s ass.
It barely jiggled.
She laughed and said, “Sweet slumbers my paid-for prince. Please dream of older women.” She tossed a blanket over Blake, then donned her robe and sandals for a mid-evening stroll around the compound. As she stood in the center of the room, observing her dozing, drool-pooling young lover she recited:
“An amorous maiden antique
Locked a man in her house for a week;
He entered her door
With a shout and a roar
But his exit was marked with a squeak.”
Missy and Arnold had also studied the pillow book.
Sexual dysfunction in a marriage, whether male or female, takes its greatest toll not in the lack of sex but more tragically in lack of spontaneity. For the couple, caution replaces passion and reticence trumps curiosity. It is, oddly enough, similar to when your neighbor purchases a mustard yellow Volvo. You didn’t know what one looked like until last Thursday and now you see them all over town, at drive-throughs, banks, and the gym.
Only with sexual dysfunction the mustard yellow Volvo is Failure.
You can’t get it out of your mind. Even when you say: Stop thinking about failure you’re not only thinking but highlighting, featuring, and emphasizing Failure. So reticent Missy and eager but cautious Arnold browsed through the Kama Sutra like a penniless Welfare couple leafing through a Nieman Marcus catalog.
The only thing they could afford, because the price of failure is oh-so-dear, was Congress of the Crow. So Arnold and Missy smiled and kissed. Then they kissed and smiled and dropped their robes and satisfied, gratified, and loved one another orally and enthusiastically.
Reclining in the afterglow Missy told Arnold all about her chat with Debra; how the girls connected immediately and intimately. Arnold related his walk with Helena, including a glowing description of the greengage orchard, the vineyards, and the oak-peppered hills. Then he added his highest approval, with the practiced laconic understatement of a native-born-and-bred-Midwesterner: “I think she’s nice.”
Missy snuggled against Arnold.
With the temperature at 66° it was just chill enough to cuddle. They laughed and rolled and cavorted and tickled and kissed some more. “Let’s,” said Missy, “go for a walk.”
Atop a hill a half-mile from Tantricity Hill they stood in wind-whipped saffron robes beneath the spring constellations of, east-to-west: Cygnus, Draco, and Leo: Swan, Dragon, and Lion. The scant lights of the compound smoldered like smudge pots beneath them. The night-sounds were a fugue of owls and insects and the ululating wind. The breeze carried a hint of a scent of the Pacific. Missy said, “Arnie?”
“What?” Arnold had been transported by the night.
“I thought this would be more clinical.”
Arnold tried to formulate a response, but couldn’t.
No matter, Missy continued, “We came here with a specific symptom; an ailment. We filled out the questionnaire. I thought there would be some therapy, some work; exercises. Maybe healing; rehabilitation.”
Her husband remained silent.
She said, “It’s all so woo-woo.”
“Touchy-feelly-California-NewAge-Express-Yourself-Hippie-Dippie-Cannabis-Huffing-Do-Your-Own-Thing-Bullshit-Woo-Woo. You know?”
Arnold said, “I still don’t get Woo-Woo.”
“Andrew Fetler said of California, when he moved here from Russia, and this was way back in the forties: ‘In our new climate every conceivable religious plant creeps, slithers, entwines, snaps, exhales, twists, breeds in the sun.’ That kind of woo-woo.”
“It’s amazing that you have a quote from some darn Russian for every conceivable situation.” Arnold sat, pulling his robe tight. He slipped out of his Hush Puppies and fiddled with his socks. “I like that.”
“Arnie,” she sat, beside him, biting her finger nails, “what’s wrong.”
The nocturnal fugue purred over the hills.
“Would it help you,” he said, swallowing hard, “if you were with someone else in bed?”
Missy hugged him and looked to the stars. “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
BREAKING UP AIN’T HARD TO DO
( i )
"It’s your fault,” said Debra.
“I don’t know why I married you,” said Devon.
“I don’t know why I stay married to you,” said Debra.
“I fucking hate you,” said Devon.
Debra, usually, would fling I fucking hate you back at Devon and the duo would play obscenity-tennis for an hour. But fortified by her heartfelt tête-à-tête with Missy, Debra abandoned the familiar script and calmly told Devon she was leaving him; not for someone else, just leaving. She had expected more histrionics and recriminations and blame and reproach and acrimony; perhaps even a shove or a shake or a slap. She knew from experience that actors, male and female, were a pampered and spoiled and self-indulgent lot. Their tantrums were almost expected; an infantile but tolerated by-product of “talent”.
But Devon had also abandoned their customary script.
He sat at the foot of the bed and laughed. He patted the bed; Debra sat. “You know what’s really funny?”
“What?” she asked.
“I was gonna tell you I was leaving.”
“What do you mean,” said Devon. “by ‘Huh?’”
Debra didn’t respond.
Ignoring Devon she drifted away and remembered as a child in Pismo Beach, thirteen-years-old, being raped.
As she’d played with the memory so many times during the years Debra had become the producer and director; the camera and subject—and she’d finally reduced the memory to a short, soundless, black-and-white snippet: she could do everything to the incident except forget it.
She was a precocious lass and, as she’d told Missy, she was sexually “experienced” before her first steady at fifteen. But for her first time she had been gagged, pinioned into the back seat of a station wagon and raped by a bearded, blubbery, whiskey-breathed old man.
And it wasn’t sex; it was violence.
An unmitigated, unrepentant assault.
She resolved right then to never care about anything. She remembered lucidly, the moment she decided to shunt off her feelings. Debra was walking slowly in the fog, home from the site of the attack, and as mechanically as an engineer cinching down valves on the doomed and sinking Titanic she fastened down her emotions. She had been dragged from being a curious thirteen-year-old to a hardened, inured and compromised adult.
If she didn’t choose not to feel she’d leak blood and ingest venom forever.
But by separating emotion from sex she realized she could use sex to get anything she wanted. A therapeutic decision that led, ultimately and directly, to her Success.
Simply because sex was what men wanted.
So Debra had been adored as a sex goddess, lauded as an actress, and lionized as a movie star but her greatest rôle, as perhaps it is for all of us, had been her persona. She hadn’t felt anything for years. Debra acted as Devon, her current director and agent—just incidentally her husband—deemed fit and apt and apposite.
Debra hadn’t, until just now when Devon told her she could have exactly what she wanted, ever felt the weight of her life. And its heft and impact had been increased through years of denial.
She said, “I feel like someone just puked on my new dancing shoes.”
He said, “Then, it seems, that I win, eh?”
“So winning is what it’s about?”
“Yessiree,” he said in uncharacteristic, unadorned Rocky Mountain cadence and candor. “Yessiree.”
“Well, okay then.” said Debra, “I guess that’s about it for us.”
( ii )
Devon smiled at Debra’s pronunciation of us. She spat it out as if it were spoken in her Oscar nominated role of Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar. The movie had been a labor of love for both Devon and Debra. Devon won an Oscar for directing the emotional, some said saccharine and sophomoric, tour de force. He had filmed in black&white and studiously avoided any nude scenes for his wife of nine years. He had purchased, at no little effort and expense, all the master copies of the XXX smokers she’d filmed during her formative years and destroyed them. He’d purposely and deliberately re-tooled her career, transforming the porn queen—who had once, infamously, portrayed the young Eleanor Roosevelt in Enema Party—into a serious and bankable star. Devon had also been Oscar nominated for The Bell Jar’s screenplay, which he didn’t so much write as steal from a waiter/writer who worked in an Isla Vista brewpub.
Devon took several “vacations” a year; usually while Debra worked on a film overseas. He had an unpublicized penchant for heroin and he took these narco-trips alone, usually holed up in a five-star-hotel suite, abusing his body with a needle and his production company’s credit card on room service meals he couldn’t keep down. His drugs arrived by courier and he’d spend up to a month zoned out of his mind on the needle.
Scruffy, sallow, skeletal and spaced-out he could roam California coastal towns without being buttonholed by autograph-seeking-fans. If he did receive a sideways glance it was simply because he looked somewhat familiar, and smelled badly, hygiene and heroine being mutually exclusive activities.
Years ago Devon had, initially at the behest of a handsome and lecherous acting teacher explored homosexuality. But this thing with the young Isla Vista waiter/writer wasn’t simply sexual. Timothy, never just Tim, was the most fragile soul Devon had ever met; he was the only man with whom Devon had entertained the possibility of “Having Feelings For”.
Which meant, of course, that he had already fallen in love.
At work in the brewpub Timothy cared for his customers; he ministered to them. He loved his parents and had convinced himself that he had inherited the soul of Sylvia Plath when she committed suicide on February 11, 1963: the date of Timothy’s birth. He had researched and written The Bell Jar for his entire adult life, honing the movie into a truly insightful and riveting story.
The only mistake Timothy made was giving the script to Devon Adams who re-typed it, changed the title and stage business, added his name and had it in pre-production almost before the wet spots he and Timothy had created on the hotel room floor had dried.
Yes, Devon was in love with Timothy and Love is Love; but MOVIES are, in these fragile and counterfeit American times, Life Itself. Call your brother; pay a visit to your minister, priest, or shrink and you will see flat, boring, stale, and unprofitable lives. Then mention Humphrey Bogart or Harrison Ford or Woody Allen to the anonymous guy or gal on the barstool adjacent yours and experience the passion, the zeal, the ardor which, if invested in marriage, would obsolete divorce. So Devon looked at his forfeiture of a possible relationship with Timothy as nothing more than fit payment for The Bell Jar. Devon bought Timothy’s silence with a succession of lies promising money, a producership, and story credits but Timothy, ultimately savaged by the theft and betrayal, never saw the film.
Leaving only a handwritten note for his mother Timothy had killed himself the day principle photography began. Timothy, just like Sylvia Plath, died of carbon monoxide poisoning, with his head in the oven, kitchen doors and windows sealed with wet towels.
Devon sent a personal assistant to the funeral with flowers and an emotional note of condolence for sweet Timothy’s belovéd parents thereby, he thought, obtaining closure. But egomaniacal movie makers aren’t exempt from guilt; even if they are surprised and confused by that pesky emotion.
Devon couldn’t tell anyone about his guilt over Timothy’s death and Devon’s guilt affected him psychologically and ultimately, sexually.
Thus he and Debra’s visit to Tantricity Hill.
And perhaps a divorce from the bitchy-whiney little starlet would be just what he needed to re-introduce rigidity to his floppy-flugelhorn. “Well, okay then,” said Devon. “I guess that is it for us.” He yawned, removed his shoes, and sat on the bed. “I’m so tired.”
“Me too,” said Debra.
“Nine years of marriage is eternity in Hollywood.”
“Sure felt like it.”
“It sure did. Bitch.”
Debra laughed, “Fuck you.”
“Good night,” said Devon.
“Good night,” said Debra.
It would be an uncommonly quiet, decidedly non-dramatic evening for these two illustrious, larger-than-life movie stars.