By Kalev Pehme
Camille was a woman or hundreds of sexual escapades. An exotic blend of East European filtered through an Argentine combination of Spanish, Italian, and English, Camille’s figure at twenty-seven was at its matured peak. Curvy, deliciously busted, and long-legged, Camille had an intoxicating effect on men, including all the various construction men and Latinos who whistled at her and made smooching sounds blended in with various affirmations of love in broken English. Thus endowed, Camille never wanted men who sought her favors. And she tried all kinds from the well hung with great abs to paunchy sleazes who drooled over her, rich and poor alike, hipsters and nerds, geeks and Greeks that she found at various clubs and social events in Manhattan.
Camille lorded over the men in bed. None were good enough for her, and she was a great lover, she knew. Her voracious sexual appetite and erotic abandon was her great intimidation and she went through men like ancient Roman aristocratic women competed with prostitutes for numbers of men done in a day. More often than not, the grand ladies beat the tramps. She did what they wanted, and she submitted to many indignities, but in the end Camille only yawned while she pushed the men out of her apartment door. No one could spend the night.
It was one of those magnificent late June Saturdays and Camille and her best friend Kay, a Yemenite Jewess whose corvine hair and ebony eyes made her as exotic as Camille. They were walking down Fifth Avenue along the Westphalian wall of the Park, heading down towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both were immaculately dressed in summer blouses and skirts in the sun that is always too good for New York. A light breeze rustled their skirts and slipped up between their legs as they reached the northern border of the Met’s frontage on Fifth. They were walking very slowly.
Suddenly, after nothing but silly chit-chat, Kay turned to Camille and asked, “Do you see that man there on the bench way down there near the Noguchi? The one with the folded New York Times against his chest?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I want to tell you something, but you have to promise never to tell anyone, especially Christopher about what I am going to tell you.”
“Well, I have never broken my word to you. I promise not to tell.”
Kay was delighted. She had to tell someone because the experience had to be shared. She took a breath, and then continued, “He and I had the best sex I have ever had.”
Camille was stunned, and didn’t know whether Kay was playing some game with her or telling the truth. “I don’t believe it.”
“No, it’s true,” Kay averred.
“But he’s twice our age and he is not attractive at all,” Camille responded to add evidence to her disbelief.
“Yes, yes, but he is the best sex I have ever had, even better than Christopher, and you know how much I love him.”
“You always said he was very good,” Camille continued. “He’s young and strong, but this man there, well…I mean, really…”
“I meet him at the supermarket near my apartment on Lexington Avenue. It was just a few days before I had to go to Japan. I was picking out a Chinese apple when he reached over and handed me one. He said, ‘This one is the best one of the lot. You can have it.’ I thanked him, and we started to talk about nothing. I can’t even remember what we were talking about. We separated, but then we came out of the check-out lines at the same time. I was somewhat awkward carrying five plastic bags, and, as a good gentleman would do it, he took a few of my bags and added them to his own. We continued to talk as we walked up Lexington and just about when we were about to get to my doorway, right where the café is on the ground floor of my building, he asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. I nodded, and before I knew it we were sitting at a small table by the window on Lexington. I was drinking coffee; he was drinking tea.”
There was a pause, as Kay gathered up herself for the rest of the story. She was very excited, and wanted to finish before they came near to the man.
“Anyway, we started to talk about little things. You know, the what-do-you-do? question, and so on. As we talked and as we did I started feeling different. I was feeling very comfortable and he started to look completely different to me as well. Soon, I realized I was wetting my panties, and I realized that I was very horny. In fact, I was worried that the wetness would show when we got up. We had finished, and I said that I had to go, and he carried my bags to the door, and he offered to bring up the bags to my door. I nodded again, and before long he was inside my place. I practically jumped on him. I felt as I were running into the bedroom, and before long he was removing my panties and we were at all, all afternoon. I had so many orgasms I couldn’t believe it. When it was time for dinner, I cooked us a meal…”
“You never cook!”
“But I am a good cook, and we sat down on my bed and ate and drank wine. We sat around and talked, and I just couldn’t help myself. I had to have more. So we did it all evening until about eleven when we both exhausted. I let stay for the night. I had to have him there. I woke up first, and I realized that I had to go to work. I was getting off the bed when I discovered that I had difficultly walking. I never had that happen before. I laughed, and then it hit me: He seduced me. I have never been seduced by anyone in my life. You know the guys we find couldn’t seduce retarded teenager who is a nymphomaniac. I was so happy. I didn’t mind that he seduced, but I loved it. This strange middle-aged man go me in bed, gave me the ride of my life, and I loved it.”
They were now passing the fountain second fountain, nearing the man. Kay wanted to get the story out of the way quickly.
Camille, however, interjected, “Well, did you continue to go out with him or anything like that?”
“No, I couldn’t. I had to go to Japan and I was there in Tokyo for a year. When I got back, I contacted him, but we never had sex again. Now, of course, I am with Christopher and I am going to marry him, but I fantasize about that night all the time when I am playing with myself.”
“That’s quite a story.”
“Yes, and it’s our secret. Anyway, let’s go up and say hello.”
The two women, looking so Upper East Side, moved into the man’s view, and he smiled and called out, “Kay, Kay, how great to see you.”
He rose up and extended his hand which Kay seized, but she wanted her peck on the cheek as well, which he gave with obvious delight.
“André, I want you to meet my best friend, Camille.”
They shook hands. Camille was baffled. André was badly dressed, somewhere about twice her age, and he had a paunch for real. And Kay had the best sex of her life with this man? Not possible.
“I’m getting married, André,” Kay announced. “I’m marrying an admiralty lawyer. He’s a partner in Booth, Bruno & Coleman.”
“Isn’t that unusual for two lawyers to get married?”
“Oh, you’re such a tease. I love it when you talk that way.”
The man was cordial, and he asked, “I have been sitting here for the last hour trying to find an excuse to cross the street and have a drink at the Stanhope café. Would you like to join me?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, André. I have to meet my fiancé Christopher. I was walking Camille down here, because she wanted to pick up something here. Another time, maybe?”
Camille interrupted with an announcement: “I’ll join you.”
“My pleasure,” he said.
Kay gave André a kiss on his check, and then kissed Camille. She skipped a step on her way to grab a cab, while Camille and André waved to her. When she got into the cab, André tucked his newspaper under his armpit, and offered his other arm to Camille whose cleavage opened enough to catch a momentary glimpse of her breasts. They walked across the street and sat down on the southern back edge of the outdoor café. The tables were crowed, mostly with a group of French tourists who spoke animatedly, and were annoyed when told they were not allowed to smoke.
As she crossed Fifth Avenue, Camille had decided to establish her superiority over André from the get-go. The waitress took Camille’s order first, and then turned to André for his order. He casually remarked, “I have the same girly drink as the lady and I hope it comes in a nice girly glass.”
Camille was startled, but managed to keep her cool. She wanted to assert herself quickly: “Are you good in bed, André?”
Without hesitation, André replied, “I do get a good night’s sleep, and I am an avid and detailed lucid dreamer.”
“I don’t think that’s what I meant,” she pressed on.
“I don’t think you meant anything related to sex. A young woman like you, it would seem, is far more discreet than that.”
“True.” She had to give ground and redirect the conversation to an area where she would be more comfortable to regroup. With a sense of self-importance, Camille continued, “I am a curator of the Greek and Roman art section of the Met, over there. I am more of an assistant, but I am still a curator. I have a doctorate in archeology from Harvard, and I got it when I was twenty-two. I worked on the excavation of Ephesus in Turkey for a year-and-half, and then the Met hired me, but not as a curator. I’ve been working here now for several years, and now I am a curator. I love everything about my job except the pay check. But I have a little outside income to help get through…”
“Prada and Ferragamo,” André interrupted.
“Yes. And what do you do?”
André shrugged his shoulders. Camille felt over dressed sitting opposite of him at the small table, which a thick linen tablecloth and small vase with a incarnadine rose.
“What happened to Polyxena,” André changed direction.
“No, the dish with Polyxena.”
Camille quickly rummaged through her memory like going through the hidden stores in the basement of the museum, and then she remembered: “It was on loan, and we gave it back to its rightful owner.”
“Too bad. It was my favorite piece in the collection.”
“Really?” Camille was again off balance. “Why?”
“Oh, it’s just that I love the story, and the dish had that critical moment before she is about to die.”
“I know a lot of archeology, but I am not sure of the story. Tell me about it.”
André rubbed his palms and digits very lightly and then spoke: “Polyxena was on the walls of Troy when Hector first saw her and fell in love with her. She was throwing down jewelry as ransom for the corpse of Hector, whom Achilles had just slain. Achilles was like that, falling for hostile and distant women. In a while, Achilles is offered Polyxena for a wife, and he shows up at the temple in his groom’s attire, and there Paris guided by Apollo or Apollo alone fires the arrow in Achilles’ tendon. The great warrior tumbles over.
“After the city is taken, the ghost of Achilles, the man who opposed the sacrifice of Iphigenia at the beginning of the war, the deceived groom, is hungry for the blood of Polyxena. In the Euripides play, Hecuba, he describes the sacrifice of Polyxena. The young men bring her forth and King Agamemnon tells them to release the virgin. Immediately, she stands tall and tears down the tunic off her right shoulder to her waist near the navel, so that everyone could see her beautiful breasts and torso. Statuesque, she then falls onto one knee and she gives the boldest and saddest speech of all before the Greeks and before the son of Achilles, the brutish Neoptolemus, who is about to kill her. ‘Look, young man,’ she says, ‘here is my breast; if you want to strike here, then strike; if you would prefer the neck, then here is my throat, ready.’ Even Neoptolemus has pity for her, but he also has no pity for her. He slashes her windpipe with his sword. Yet, even as she dies, Euripides tells us, she fell in such a way to hide what must be hidden from the eyes of men. After that, some of the Greek soldiers scattered leaves over her.”
Camille listened very attentively, and she started to see André to be more than what she thought he was initially. With genuine curiosity, she asked, “Why? I mean, the leaves? Why?”
André nodded and responded, “The scholiast noted in the margins: ‘They throw leaves over Polyxena, as if she had won an event at the games: for this is the way they congratulated the winners.'”
Camille shook her head slowly, “That’s an amazing story. I never heard it before. I’ve read all the major classics, but not the Hecuba. I have to go back to it.”
“You won’t read in Greek?”
“Like Hell. I will too. Years of Greek, Attic, Homeric, the whole ball of wax.”
They both paused to drink some more, and Camille noticed that André was imitating the way she was holding her girly glass. She narrowed her eyes at him, and he smiled and then took a sip.
“Are you some kind of scholar, André?”
“I am not unread, but I am not a scholar.”
“Then what? Are you a writer?”
“I write a bit, but I am not a writer.”
“Oh, stopping be so coy.”
“No, I shouldn’t be,” he said. “I really don’t do much at all.”
“Are you rich?”
“Hardly. I can’t make much and have to live in a rent-stabilized place.”
“Then, what do you do?”
“I write a small column for a magazine. I’m the cultural critic for Complexity…”
“You’re André Pierre! Wow! I read you articles religiously. Oh, now, I am a bit embarrassed at the way I have been treating you.”
Everyone in the art business, the museum business, the music business, the theatre business, the movie business, who was anyone, read André’s column and articles. He terrorized everyone with his scathing, venomous critiques. They were written with such wit and such erudition that no one dared try to answer them. But they all read him, especially when there was someone who was envious or took delight in how a fellow in the business was sliced up in this work. André’s work didn’t effect prices or bring out huge crowds to shows or anything like that. No, Complexity was for the elite of New York City and what was at stake with André was prestige. In the few times that he did praise, say, a new artist at a gallery show, the prestige could translate into better prices, but more often than not it was a great boost to the confidence of the artist. A polymath, André could compare moderns with ancients, contemporaries to contemporaries, literature with sculpture, philosophical bases for various intellectual movements and so on. The acidic prose in which the works he reviewed were dissolved was, even when most brutal, a pleasure to read, at least Camille thought and now she was sitting with this man at a café, a man who had brought her friend Kay to the greatest pleasure of her life.
Still, Camille could not find him attractive. She had known so many brilliant men and women, and she was not drawn to him.
“You’re not an unattractive woman, Camille,” André broke the silence.
“Thank you.” Her breasts involuntarily rose against the nearly diaphanous fabric of the blouse with the compliment.
“And you don’t have to think of me as an attractive man or, for that matter, you don’t have to think of me as anything interesting at all.”
But he is interesting, Camille said to herself, and the more interesting he was the more attractive he started to be. Camille was confused and hesitant. “What are you working on now?”
“Not too much. I am being lazy today. Too pretty.”
“It is, isn’t it?”
“Very pretty. It’s almost delicious. You could lick it.”
“Yes, it is.” Camille glanced around at the Park, the Met, the rush of cars down Fifth Avenue, and it was so pretty, everything seemed so pretty, and she fit right in.
“You have pretty shoes on, below me, under the table.”
Camille moved her feet out from under the table to show them to André. He nodded approval. Camille thought, well, he not be well-dressed, but at least he knows good clothing. She was primping.
“Do you want another drink?” Camille asked.
“No, if I have another one those girly drinks, I’ll be falling asleep.”
Camille motioned the waitress and ordered another drink. She felt no stress at all, suddenly, and she noticed a fly had landed on her left breast. She flicked it off the cream-colored blouse with her right hand and caught the hardened nipple with her middle finger. She didn’t expect it, but thought nothing of it. It was just one of those things, happens all the time.
“What are you doing for the summer, André?” asked Camille. It was just one of those conversation pushers that she threw in to see in what path this event would go.
“Well, not very much. I would like to go to a private beach somewhere, where people are not welcome, perhaps a beach alongside of a tongue of land that has a high cliff jutting into the water. You probably haven’t experienced something that, a place where you are not allowed to wear clothing and the beach is not stones, but pleasurable smooth sand. And perhaps there is some moist beach grass along the cusp of the actual shore line, with the shore bitten by delicate waves just waving in and out.”
“I found a place like that. It was on a Greek island where there only a few people lived. Only there, the beach was very rocky. I walked around naked on the Aegean. It was so wonderful.”
“And the pleasure just begins instead of you, turns into your favorite color and fogs out of you and covers the whole beach and the world around you.”
“Yes, it’s just like that.” Camille felt the flush of the beach again, and she stared and began to evaluate André again. She looked at his face, so non-descript before, and it was wise and full or pride. There was a serenity to lips, and he spoke quietly with great authority. And as she did, the heat of the day or whatever it was, was arousing her. She felt it there, below, and she re-crossed her legs. But now that she was aware of it, and that the girly drink that André made fun of was giving her quite the lift.
“Have you ever heard of the Heraion at Argos?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“The Heraion at Argos.”
“It doesn’t exist any more.”
“No, it doesn’t. It was the sacred seat of Hera, and, as you have read Homer you know that Hera and Zeus once they married had sex with each other for seven-hundred-years. Hera, while she is the goddess of all wives, is also the goddess of the bed, the erotic playpen. In various areas in Greece, the bed was a cult object of worship.”
“Yes, in Samos, I remember.”
“Hera makes love with Zeus on?”
“Mount Gargaron, where the earth sprouts a carpet of flowers for the occasion.”
“Hera is the true goddess of sex. At the Heraion, at the shrine, the worshipper could see on the votive table an image of Hera’s mouth lovingly, longingly, sucking Zeus’s erect phallus.”
Camille choked and then let out a breathy, lengthy, and involuntary “no!”
“Not even Aphrodite would allow an image like that at her shrine,” André concluded.
Camille crossed and re-crossed her long legs again. She had made a decision, “André, I have a wonderful amphora at my apartment. It’s just a couple of blocks from here on Madison Avenue. I would like you to see it, and tell me what you think of the image. Would you do that now? Do you have time?”
“I would not turn down such an opportunity. I am not at all adverse to beauty.”
She paid, and they walked almost at brisk pace. Little was said, but Camille kept imagining what that image of Hera must have been like. She had worked on temple in Anatolia, and thus understood the whole ethos of that life. She was a specialist, an archeologist, a PhD., and all she wanted to do was to get back to her apartment with his strange man. It did not take long. Camille lived in a low-rise apartment, on the top floor, in fact, taking the whole top floor. She opened the door, and directed André into the living room where there really was an amphora.
“I’ll be right back,” Camille said. “Look it over, but don’t, by Zeus, break it.”
“I won’t touch it.”
Camille went to the bathroom. She lifted up her skirt and confirmed what she knew. Her face was flush, and the blouse just couldn’t hide it. Then, it came to her, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” She whispered it out again, “I can’t do this.” She was out of control for the first time, and she was plainly frightened.
She found a pair of blue jeans that she had left in the bathroom before she left, and thought it might afford her more protection. She stripped off the skirt, felt her panties again, and decided to leave them on. The jeans would protect her.
Camille found André admiring the amphora. “Do you know what it is?”
“Sure, archaic, red figure, with Achilles and the Amazon queen on the fields of Troy. Very unusual. I have never seen anything like it. How did you get it?”
“Actually, I did a no-no. It’s one that was stolen that I saw in a gallery down the street. I told them that I wouldn’t turn them in, if they let me have it for a little while to study. The extortion worked. The guy is also a nut for these things, like me. Now what about Achilles and the Amazon queen?”
“Oh, very simple. Impulsive Achilles, always impulsive, is at it again. Toward the end of the war, the Amazons joined in on the side of the Trojans.”
“How do you know that?”
“You haven’t been reading your Quintus. Tsk, tsk.”
“No, I haven’t. I am so ashamed,” she averred.
“Her name, you see it there, is Penthesilea, and the truth is no matter how good she is she is no match for Achilles. He slaughters her, blow after blow after blow, convinced in his own mind and imagination that he is fighting a warrior that even mighty Ajax could not handled. He has her pinned to a horse. He picks up the helm of the dying Penthesilea…”
Camille had reversed herself. André reached down and lifted up Camille’s legs and carried her down the hall to where she pointed to the bedroom.
“Achilles looks down into her eyes for the first time, and then plunges his sword into her breast. At that very moment, impulsive Achilles, so impulsive, is overcome by passion. He takes the virgin warrior with loving care and puts her down in the dust and blood and makes love to Penthesilea’s lifeless corpse, still in her armor.”
They reached the bed, and André put Camille down, and then undressed her. He put her hand on where she was wet, playing with the spot with the tips of his finger. Camille turned her face sideways as he did, until the flimsy garment was slid over her ankles and off her legs.
André lay down next to her and began by mapping her erogenous zones with his tongue, teeth, and fingers. He would be with Camille for the entire afternoon, evening, and night. It was Camille’s first time that anyone had done that with her.
She awoke first, and Camille was all smiles. She looked at André, his less than perfect body, lying on his side, his back to her. Camille gently pushed against his right shoulder, and then again. The third time, she was more forcible. “André. André, wake up.”
André stirred, and he felt the push against his shoulder again, “So, you want another crack at it, is that it?”
Camille was nearly in tears, and instead of replying she reached around him to touch him, there, down there. In the entire time they were together, Camille had not uttered any obscenities, never gave out anything but random cries in her passion, and never used any expletives that had been a part of her love making with all the other men she had laid. They did some off-color positioning, but, for the most part, it was all pretty standard love-making, and yet, yet, she thought, it was just so good. André was erect quite quickly and now she decided that she wanted to take charge.
“You get on top,” André said. “I want you to do the work. I’m still tired.”
Camille mounted him, and as she did she asked, “Tell me about Helen of Troy.”
“She is a slut,” André began. “Helen is a slut…” As the story went on, Camille worked up a regular rhythm, and as the story continued she intensified the movement. Her orgasm hit just as André recounted, “It is Leuke, the White Island, a rough coastline of dunes, rocks, and woods. The gulls guard the island. They only building on this island of castaways and people who offer sacrifices is a temple with two statues: Achilles and Helen. There are stacks of votive gifts and it is here that Helen lives with her fifth husband. People who go there chant the poetry of Homer, and the sailors sometime heard the horses’ hooves and the cries of warriors and the clashes of the swords and the penetrations of the spears.”
Camille’s orgasm wasn’t big like the day before. It was a small one that yet radiated warmly in her abdomen. She kept it in and just lay down on André’s chest.
“I’ve never been seduced before, at least not like this,” Camille confessed.
“Do you do this to a lot of women?”
“No,” he said neutrally.
“Did you tell these myths to Kay?”
“Of course not. She isn’t interested in the Greeks. You are.”
“Yes, yes, that’s true. She is a legal eagle.”
Camille started to grind against him again without getting up.
“Do you think I could sit on your face?”
Camille prepared an elegant breakfast with strong coffee. They at the dining-room table, naked. She sat not opposite, but at André’s left side. He really is unattractive, she said to himself. He is not handsome. He’s too old for me. Why, oh why did I do it?
“Do you want to stay here today, André?”
“If you like. I don’t have anything else to do, except prepare a column.”
“I am afraid that if I let you go, we’ll never have sex again.”
“That’s very likely.”
“What do you mean, André?”
“You’ll go back to being yourself again and you’ll just kick yourself for letting me into your pants. You have a very strong idea of who you are, and this lovely and wonderful vacation for me will probably end today.”
Camille thought for a moment. Oh my god, she said to herself. André made me forget myself completely. I haven’t been me at all. The image of Camille, the real Camille, reformed in her mind and regret began to filter through the pleasure that she had had. She got up, and went to a closet, pulled out a silk robe, and put it on. She returned to André and sat by his side. She leaned over and put her had on his left shoulder. Tears streamed out of her eyes, and she sobbed.
“I can’t love you, André. I just can’t love you,” she finally said. “I just can’t love you.”