by Ron Porter

Let me sit in the dark a while longer, like a stranger to myself. I cannot face the woman who lays sleeping in the next room. My hand flutters over the letter I have penned. Mari, I can't take this feeling of uncertainty. I have lost all sense of time, place and being. I am lost to all. By leaving, I feel to regain some sense of myself, though I long to be with you. But I can't take this waiting -- waiting for you to get off work, waiting for you to touch me. And then to have you reject my touch. Oh, Mari, I cannot take it. I must leave. All I think about is you. Like an uninvited guest, despair knocks at my door.

Wait a minute, am I a man? No, I do not have the strength. Our story runs through my head over and over. It began along the highway. I was hitchhiking to Pamplona in Spain. I had read about the running of the bulls from Hemingway. I was on the road, a vagabond. Rides were easy enough in France. I had packed my scant belongings, and I was free to roam. I had no plans other than going where my thumb pointed me.

I saw her look my way. Her sidelong look indicated that she would pick me up. Like a romantic fool, I bent down and plucked a few roadside flowers. I threw my pack into the car, then I caught my breath as I handed her the flowers. Her face was white like cream and her hair was jet-black. Her gaze through dark eyelashes penetrated my meek offering; she simply laid the flowers on the dashboard. I sat with my hands folded in my lap. She startled me by asking, "Are you American?"

But it was her second question that ran through my heart like a saber thrust -- "What do Americans do when they are sad?"

I can't remember what my reply was. Probably something stupid, but words seemed only a pretext. Suddenly it became a question decided by a fork in the road. Archchon was to the right, while Pamplona was to the left. She answered it for me by veering to the right. I sat back, somehow reassured that I would have my way with this girl. All I had to do was to be.

Doesn't the passion of rejection come from being moved?

We drove in silence. The highway gave way to a two-lane road that led to a beach resort town. She stopped and asked that I wait beside an oak tree for her to return. I sat and dreamily looked up at the sky and wondered at my luck. Never had I encountered someone so startlingly beautiful.

Seemingly within minutes she pulled back up, but she was not alone. A little face peered through the open window. Mari introduced us -- "my daughter." Every other day she would drive in from Bordeaux to visit her daughter. No, she was not married, the father of the child lived with another woman. She changed the subject by asking, "What do you call a hill of sand?" My answer was helped as we pulled in to park alongside giant sand dunes. "Dunes," came my reply.

We walked at a slant. The sun-dappled water was scattered with bathers. She laid out a towel and removed her shorts to reveal a trim bottom. Shyly, I turned to see where the child was playing, in the upper reaches of the dunes. When I turned back to Mari she had removed her bathing suit top. She said, "Et tui."

Reluctantly, I removed my shorts. We walked toward the water while my cock became a sundial. Before I could get to the water, it stood at twelve o' clock. Sunbathing was new to me. I liked the idea. You show me yours, I'll show you mine. The water helped me relax, and I felt less the tug of my cock trying to impose itself. It simply hung heavy. We sat upon the towels and I gazed at her nipples. My attention was turning on a wheel between Mari's supine body and the ocean and the dunes and the child playing not far off.

Salt turns into language as I imagine the taste between her legs, our bodies entwined, her/me naked. Ropes of come traverse the sky. I am bound to the moment like Oliver tied down. Every time I turn, I see some new portion of her body. I am younger than melancholy. Her sadness becomes me. I am moved.

We are walking along the boardwalk eating ice-cream cones. Mari says she will pay partly for a room. Would I stay the night? I ask about the child. She will take her back, and after a while she will return to our room.

I lay in the dark, naked under cold cotton sheets. Mari is warm. We have not spoken a word. My touch is shy, but I am hungry. My loins outline the crouch of her upraised hips. She likes it from behind. This she tells me with words: "It is the way he fucks me. He doesn't kiss me on the mouth. He fucks me from behind. And I put my ass in the air. And he fucks me good."

The sound of the ocean adjoins our room. I lick my fingers and slide my hand like a wet washcloth over her breast. Then I latch onto a nipple, a nipple like a piece of cordwood, knotty and hard.

I am not a friend to the day. She makes me wait, to only see her. I am not strong. To be lost is a kind of leaving. These thoughts I jot down as I sit swooned by a bluesy guitar coming out of a residential brownstone mansion. Upon its stately curb I sit slugging red table wine. I cannot find myself back in that room, those nights so long ago. I only know this anguish, this dire uncertainty. I am not strong unto myself. This woman has painted hope across my hearth. It is for love.

Back, back to that night, came the knock upon the door. Her eyes as a promise. A smile, a modest smile. Her lips lightly pink. Eyebrows dark, black pencil dark against stark, translucently white skin like alabaster. Eyes that penetrate the soul. I just want to kneel and hold her hand. Shyly, she laughs as I take her hand and I pass my lips across her lips that suck, tug for my lips. By drawing away my lips I turn full throttle upon her neck. She receives me like a cat. Her body taut, tawny. I stop kissing her. She looks at me sadly, and I feel the tears of the Madonna. My heart aches to cry. She stretches me out like the crucified Christ and sucks my nipples. Then she starts lapping at my cock. She extorts, twists and turns, her mouth is liquid fire.

I have to push her away. "No, not yet. I am going to fuck you." I rise up like a stallion.

Soft light spilling through the green sheen of light seeping from the bathroom anoints her prone body. Between her cheeks I nuzzle my nose, sending my tongue out like a relief agent. I lean and pull her up by the buttocks, then nudge up behind her and pull at her arm. She rises and turns her lips to meet mine. We are two upraised figures. One arm is behind her back. Her free hand takes my cock and places it in so sweet a place, a place musky, warm, alive, squirming like a fish.

How far does the reader want to go?

She went to a palm reader to ask about me. She cooked for me once in a distracted fashion. She was buggered by life. I was a man free. Having left family and country, I was autostopping across Europe. I left a Japanese girlfriend who read Kafka's Country Doctor and who took me to the airport upon graduation day. Six years before my degree, I took a motorcycle trip across the States, nine weeks on the road. I told myself that I would go to Europe. Here I am.

There is more to our story.

The next morning she called me. "Do you still respect me?" came her throaty whisper over the phone. I felt that the world was a hard place for her. I wanted to make things right. We talked about parts of the earth, including Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Malaysia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. I was ready to forgo family and country in one fell swoop. She would return to Bordeaux. I could come.

I have been set loose. The cat has a life outside the time we took that one night. She has no time for me. She keeps me like a domestic animal.

I am excited to see her, and it is decided that I will go to Pamplona. She takes me to the highway. I ask her to marry me. She is uncertain. It seems I love her. Her eyes tell me the same. She kisses me. I am twenty-eight. Never have I felt left standing on the edge of the world. Nothing seems to matter. She holds me like a locket. She looks into my soul. I hand her a hundred dollar bill as a talisman and tell her it will be starter money. I want only to settle down with her.

Now, as I write in the dark, I am no longer as hopeful as I was when she left me along that highway to Pamplona. Then I possessed hope. Now I concede defeat, I am broken and beaten down by the very blight of my condition without Mari.

To continue to exist, to know myself apart from Mari, I walk. As dawn touches off the street and into a spattering of blue sky, I enter the train station. I see the big clock. I wait until the sun becomes fierce and I board a train south.

You want to know what the first thing I said was when I caught that first ride, that ride that carried me away, down to the bulls, the running, the nightmarish streets of Pamplona, sleeping wrapped in newspaper? "I met a girl and I asked her to marry me."

I felt I would die in Spain. Anarchy ruled for a night in Pamplona. We huddled in circles propagating our fears. I left their smoldering fires and I sought solace as a walker. The cold night transformed the streets to hospitable. No longer did I harbor fears of violence bred into the activities of the day -- the killing, the blood-splattered sand. Hooves, men running, throwing themselves in harm's way.

Gray became dawn that found me a wreck upon a bench, looking up at a sky blue. Shaking off the cold, I sought out a path filled with sunlight. I had further to go.

I chased my dreams across acres of time. I thought I saw her in Portugal. Lisboa, where I ran amuck with a band of junkies. We jumped a trolley, caught a cab, lurked in dangerous places, drank wine, and I sat quiet as Francisco shot up and laid his Indian head upon my shoulders. That's all it was: a moment of quietude. We sat in the upper reaches of a park upon benches. And I watched as each of them had their turn with the needle. Chain to life.

Further to go.

I am back in Bordeaux. This precedes the writing of the note. The note will be written, all will come to naught.

I call her. She tells me that eight hours later I can see her. Fuck you, my heart howls. I can't live another moment. I can't suffer, but I do.

Degradation. I am buying wine for a free-spirit. He mixes it with cocola. I tell him this is no cock and bull story. I love a girl, I tell him. Women pass by and stop to kiss his beautiful free face and throw gifts at his feet -- joints, money, cigs.

He is playing a three string guitar. He doesn't care. He is living in a jungle, living up a tree, he sings loudly and plaintive. We drink.

I turn my face to a pane of glass and I see my lips have purpled like a plum. I have drunk with abandon, my cares to the wind. Mari won't return my love. Drunk out of a dying sense of self-preservation.

I remove myself from sleeping with her. She lays prone, inviting, lurid as a gypsy. She calls my hand -- "come to bed."

Do not forsake me. The hour has come. A bell tolls. I close her door and I sit in the dark. My hand flutters over the page I have written. Alone like Christ, I give up the ghost. I look not to what I wear, I will be provided for. I look to the birds who look not after raiments. And I observe how well their needs are attended to.

Surely someone as lowly as I would warrant as much as a bird.

My hair has grown long. Women present themselves to me, but Mari turns away. What is it? She cannot decide. It is the child. It is the father of the child. She is torn. She has placed me in the balance, and I tilt the scales. I crowd her world. My sense of freedom scares her. She is ambivalent. Libras cannot decide upon such grave matters of the heart. I learned this too late.

The river flows beneath the bridge and I sit gazing at the water. It will be many miles later, but I will meet a girl and she will deliver me from this torment and doubt. Little did I know it would be via hell. Lured into the Medina. Head hazy with hash among domes and minarets, by the ocean where the Rock of Gibraltar looms, I'm in a port city. She lies naked and spent. I run my hand along my shaven head. I step naked out onto the rooftop. Lights flicker and the cityscape is cast in shadow and a thin moon hangs waning upon a night sky twinkling with stars.

And I remember the Arab woman hanging out laundry. Bending at the hip with eyes veiled. My new companion was fair of skin. We met in Italy. I was in exile, fleeing the tyranny, the very cruel and unjust love of Mari. The new woman was a child sent out to find her way in the world. She gave all the right answers. I delighted in her company. Along the coast of France and down the spine of Spain. I would pull out and shoot off in her mouth. We would lay for hours in a field making love. All we did was fuck.

Lackaday lackey, a follower who has no will of his own. Her laconic love was not enough to lift how insignificant I felt without Mari.

It was not a good idea that I remain under her tutelage of despair, and when it eventually came to me like a revelation, that I had to get up and leave, I did just that.

Her smell combined with the wet masonry ruffles the edge of my mind's eye. I have them clinched tight. I am fucking her but thinking about Mari. I turn her over and drag her to the side of the bed. Her open mouth and red cheeks excite me to no end. I tell her to jack my dick. She can't help it, she loves to suck cock. I push her mouth away. She leans back on her arms, panting and squirming. Her Dutch long legs are plying their trade. She is open like a bank vault. Her pussy has a life of its own.

On the way back to the story -- we crowd around a pot of tea. Arab men are all about. Suddenly a face will emerge from the tide of people -- "you need guide."

Before I know it, this person has appointed himself my guide. What remains unknown is the price of this contact. "Stoppy here, this is my cousin, he sells leather. You like; you buy. You like mint tea. Who is the girl?"

Next I know I am sitting in a darkened theater watching Conan the Barbarian with this self-appointed Arab man intent upon putting hands on my girl and my girl letting him. Desolation beyond desolation, I jumped up and left. She followed. It was strange, because this girl was free and so was I. We had not the maturity of mind to discuss such grave matters of the heart. We lacked discernment. Touch and go.

She finally leaves. Boards a train. Promises seem sealed in blood. I am to follow after. I set out walking to Marrakech.

Immediately upon boarding the train, a dark and handsome interloper became her shadow. Her words of memory are tied into him taking her from behind, and he was forceful and virile and he pressed himself and he thrust and he came into her mouth.

From there homeward she sucked, fucked, any and all men who picked her up. Lurid confessions sicken the soul. Trust was breached.

At this point, I am way beyond thinking about Mari. I have traveled a continent to ask a girl to marry me. The blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan beauty already said yes, but forgive me Father for I have sinned, these are my crimes.

Diabolical damnations. The tale I am telling exposes the weakness in my heart. I write to free myself of the furies. Those gross inadequacies of my very emotive youth.

I believe that it is important to let all things surface of their own accord. That is the joy and the gift of the creative process. To enjoin memory and time; to be unto a Godhead, abomination of a life unfulfilled. To strive after. To reach beyond what you thought you were capable of and to swing a hammer as a carpenter, to listen to a piece by Brahms and to be taken aback at the grandiosity of his demonstrable outpouring of devotion to Beethoven.

We go through the stages of the cross. We learn by suffering. Unlearning to waste a life. As adults we reach for sanctity. We listen for the chimes of a higher calling. Some way out of the forest into a glade of light. We sit, have rest, make peace by communing with nature. I prefer challenging nature. Like swimming across a river strewn with rapids laced like pearls upon a river so green, long stretches of breath, a quickening of breath. You commandeer the shoreline some leagues downstream, and you hike triumphantly back to re-swim across.

Where is Mari?

In France, is all I know. She is only a memory, but the outline and contour of her face, down to a nose hair, I remember. I remember her distinctly French-style haircut, and her ink black eyes, so intense. Did I love her? Never have I been so stirred. Life prior to Mari was sheltered.

A divide was crossed. I am doomed to walk the ends of the earth. I look not to friends and neighbors, I am a man free.

©2001 by Ron Porter

Ron Porter lives in Florida and swims in the ocean most days. He works at his life-ambition, to ply his trade as a carpenter, and is passionate about Henry Miller, classical music, and his three children. He traveled across Europe for two years, and has crossed the U.S at least six times.

Art print by Valentina, France I

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