There are tales about losing your virginity, and then there are tales about how you lost it but had the good fortune to get seriously laid at the same time. In his enigmatic world, Steven J. Haldin experiences an enviously perfect first time. He meets the dark, beautiful Nikola just before it’s too late before his alienating addiction to dark glasses at night takes firm hold. Upon removing the glasses, Nikola discovers Steven’s brooding good looks, leads him through the demimonde of Cannes and teaches him how to take firm hold of his most unalienated sexual tool. L.D.
In 1960 I was just eighteen and still a virgin when Grandmother decided it would be good for me to see the world.
I was skinny, without adequate chest hair, and still shaved only every other day. Needless to say. I was insecure and didn’t mix well, and thus I was labeled haughty and stuck-up. I was so insecure, in fact, that I wore sunglasses day and night.
We were staying at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, France: the capital of the French Riviera. The Carlton was a great, white-washed island of marble and crystal elegance that overlooked soft-sand beaches filled with attendants in white, sun worshipers, and the hotel’s characteristic gold and orange umbrellas. Beyond was an azure-blue miracle: the Mediterranean.
Although this wasn’t a nude beach, the men and women wore the tightest and smallest of swimsuits. This beach was a watering trough for the extremely rich and so drew the most beautiful women of Europe. It was a common sight to see old, potbellied men wearing shorts and matching shirts their legs showing untanned borders of white chicken-skin as they walked arm in arm with beautiful women who were half their age.
I had spent enough time on the beach, or at the tables on the Carlton’s porch, where I would sip Campari and watch the women passing by. But I was too shy to make the proper moves, and when I tried, I was either ignored or politely rebuffed.
In the evenings, I frequented the softly lit Whiskey-a-Go-Go, which was near the Quai St. Pierre. I would sit in the lounge and drink and watch the dancers. Then I would go to the Municipal Casino which was just east of the Whiskey, and which also overlooked the Golfe de la Napoule.
There I would gamble a few dollars, usually by playing the red and the black at the roulette table, and I’d watch the impulsive highrollers lose their fortunes.
But eventually it all became frustrating and, finally, boring.
So I said “fuck it,” plain and simple. I decided to stay in my room and read. This vacation would be over in another week and I could go home.
It was then that Grandmother took pity on me.
She seemed to know everyone on the most personal of terms: from the doorman to the famous composer who took his whiskey and soda in the bar every night, promptly at seven. Grandmother was, after all, still a rather young and good-looking woman. She was born in Morocco, married at thirteen, and had my mother at fourteen. And, bless her quickly beating heart, she was definitely not spending her nights alone. I guess I take after my father’s side of the family, unfortunately.
We were having dinner at the hotel, and she was telling me for at least the fifteenth time that this was where the show “Foreign Intrigue” used to be filmed, when a young woman stopped at the table. Grandmother introduced her to me as her “dear friend Nikola” and Nikola sat down with us. She was German, perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three: full-bodied, with a delicately featured Nordic face and long brown hair that reached to her waist. She had the tiniest of scars under her right eye and a mole on her shoulder which was uncovered, for she was wearing a strapless gown that suggested more than it revealed. But it was obvious that she had large breasts, a flat stomach, and hips that were a bit wider than those usually found in American fashion magazines.
Then, uncharacteristically, Grandmother said she was tired and was going to retire leaving me with Nikola.
“I vacation here every summer,” Nikola said. “And what about you? Your grandmother has told me that you are, how do you say, a loner?”
And so we talked, about her and about myself actually mostly about myself , until I became completely at ease with her. She was forward, relaxed and charming. “Why do you wear sunglasses in the night?” she asked.
When she saw that I was taken aback by her frankness she laughed, leaned toward me and gently removed them. “Now, isn’t that better?” she asked. “Now I can see your face you have a very nice face and you can see me better, is that not so? Perhaps if you don’t like what you see, you might want to put the glasses back on.”
Although I was blushing, I told her that indeed, I liked very much what I saw.
We left the restaurant and walked in the balmy evening air. Cannes was bustling, as it always was in the early evening: men in tuxedos women in chic, outre evening gowns sailors whores tradespeople the usual mix of street vendors also young Americans, Italians, and Germans all looking for the best time possible. The casino would be overflowing with gamblers: the Whiskey-a-Go-Go would become packed, as would all the other cafes, whorehouses, and nightclubs situated outside of Cannes proper. Even the navy had their own whorehouse, guarded by M.P.’s, for there were always American ships in port.
Nikola suggested that we go “slumming.” She knew of a place that I might enjoy called The Jungle Club. We drove in her car a rusting Volkswagen Beetle that needed a new muffler. The club, filled with hanging plants and ferns, was dark and hazy with cigarette smoke and terribly crowded it had a dangerous edge to it. There was an exciting mixture of the criminal elements, the wealthy, and the more daring of tourists. The call girls were everywhere. One could easily pick them out, for they wore elegant evening gowns and looked like rich, American women. The street girls were casually dressed in very revealing clothes, and wore heavy eye makeup and lipstick. Nikola seemed to know everybody and I wondered if she had ever brought Grandmother here. She introduced me to everyone she passed and, to my surprise, seemed possessive of me: Whenever I would stare at one of the randier-looking girls, Nikola would scold me and make it known that we were together. She would remind me that I was her date.
It was absolutely wonderful, like a dream, for other men were constantly approaching her, and she would tell them. “No, I’m with my friend, Steven.” We stayed and mingled and drank Pernod over ice for about an hour. Then she asked me, “Do you wish to leave this place? We can go to my apartment and talk together. I think I am sick of all these people, yes?”
I agreed, although I couldn’t hide my nervousness as we drove back to Cannes.
Her apartment was small, no more than a room, actually. She opened some white wine, which we quickly drank. Then I ventured to kiss her, and was, of course, awkward. She smiled, took a sip of her wine and returned my kiss.
Suddenly my mouth was full of the wine and her tongue.
I was surprised and jumped a bit. She pulled away, then put a Johnny Mathis record on her machine beside the bed and lit several candles while I watched. I sat on the bed like a hungry tomcat that had been lucky enough to sneak into the room when the door was open a crack.
Then she sat down beside me and kissed me again, running her tongue over my lips as she took my hands and placed them over her breasts.
My hands were shaking she had to unhook her bra, for I just couldn’t seem to manage it. She leaned against me with her eyes closed. I brushed my hands over her skin, touching her heavy, brown-nippled breasts, so white in comparison to the rest of her sun-exposed flesh. I felt the rough sand papery patch that was her birthmark, and ran my hands down her waist to her thighs the tips of my fingers touched her curly pubic hair, which was sparse. But then she pushed me away, indicating that I should stand up. As I stood beside the bed she undressed me. Without removing my briefs, she took my erect penis out through the fly, exposing it. It was throbbing, red and hard with pulsing blood, and moving slightly, as if in meter.
She leaned forward, for she was sitting on the bed, and with her hands gently squeezing my testicles, she kissed the head of my penis. Opening her mouth, she began sucking on it. I felt a tingling, a wonderful, rushing hot warmth unlike anything I had ever experienced. I found myself caressing her face, careful not to pull her against me, lest I hurt her. She was moving her head forward, taking the entire length inside her mouth and throat, until I heard myself moaning. Soon I was literally shaking from the intense desire to have an orgasm.
I felt a rushing, a burning, and I almost collapsed backward as my semen spurted into her mouth. My knees felt weak and watery, and I had to sit down on the bed.
I thought this would be my last orgasm.
I could not conceive of becoming hard again, but after she carefully removed my
briefs, which were tight around my exposed scrotum, she went back to sucking and licking the shaft of my penis, Then she sat up and kissed me, her mouth sour, tasting almost as if of baking soda. She pulled my head down upon her breasts, asking me to suck hard on her nipples. I did so, and she asked me to bite them. She moaned and massaged my penis, which was, of course, hard again, although now it ached from the blood that filled it.
We lay down together on the bed and touched each other. I slipped my finger inside her vagina, testing, searching. feeling the uneven, lubricated walls within her the shape of her. She pulled my hand away and said, “Like this, like this.” Then she guided my fingers to her clitoris, which I rubbed she slowed my hand, guided it, teaching me.
With my index finger, I lightly touched her as she had shown me. Then she began to moan and tremble, and pull me to her.
I placed myself on top of her, and she taught me to brace myself on my elbows so my weight wasn’t all upon her. Then she guided my penis into her vagina, removed her hand and let me lean myself into her. The thought passed through my mind at that second that she was like a ripe, soft fruit that had just been opened. I felt her pressing, unseen muscles around my penis, her legs strong and spread wide. The sensation was so intense and pure that I thought I could continue it forever, but she broke the spell by saying, “Sweet boy, you must put it in entirely.”
To my shame, I suddenly realized that I had only partially entered her, I pushed into her as far as I could until she touched my haunches, orchestrated my movements, and we had an orgasm together. I felt my sweaty face sliding against hers as we licked each other. Our bodies made sucking noises as our contact became slick with perspiration.
Sight, sound, and touch combined into a synesthesia of moaning, warm surging and an overpowering, transcendent, cleansing ecstasy which ended in deep, sweaty sleep as the record needle whispered back and forth, sliding on the smooth plastic near the center of the record.
I awoke at dawn and watched Nikola sleeping, curled against me, her arm folded over her breasts, her smell sour and earthy as fresh bread. I didn’t want to awaken her, so I quietly dressed and walked back to my hotel.
It was a perfect morning. The ocean was like cellophane, the air moist, salty and cool. The vendors were sweeping the street, shouting back and forth to each other, putting out their goods to sell on this beautiful, unique, landmark day.
For I was no longer a virgin.
I felt…wonderful. I spent the morning walking and thinking and watching the world come to life.
When I met Grandmother for breakfast, I detected a certain look I had not seen before perhaps it was ironic. But I also felt that she was proud of me, although all she said was, “How is Nikola?” and, “It’s nice to see your face without those sunglasses.”
I saw Nikola every day after that, although never until late afternoon, for she said that she had “things to do” earlier. And there were some nights when she was not available. During those times I was restless. But as open and guileless as she seemed, she would never open up and talk honestly about herself. She said she would be my enigma.
We spent marvelous days together Nikola, Grandmother, and myself. We traveled, as tourists do we even went to the nude beach in Nice, although none of us went sunbathing. And every night Nikola and I would go out to a caf , the casino, or the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. She never spent much of my money, even though she knew Grandmother made sure I had enough.
And then we would make love in Nikola’s apartment.
Under her tutelage, I became more sure of myself. I knew now what pleased her and, of course, everything pleased me.
But suddenly, impossibly, my vacation was over, and we had spent our last night together. It was two-thirty in the morning, and she insisted on walking me back to my hotel. Grandmother and I were checking out early. Because I felt so sated from Nikola’s lovemaking, I simply could not imagine going to the hotel and never seeing her again.
We walked past the now familiar hotels and outdoor cafes. The tall palm trees on the streets looked preternaturally green in the artificial light of the street lamps. We paused beside a garden encircled by a low, wrought iron fence. A fountain gurgled as it sprayed water onto mossy rounded rocks.
“I cannot stand to leave you,” I said matter-of-factly.
”But it was wonderful, was it not?” Nikola said.
“Let’s do it one time in the garden.”
Nikola smiled and said, “Steven, I was born in a bed, not in a garden. It is late, and you must be up early.”
“Come on, and then I promise I will do as you ask,” I said.
“Okay then, just this time,” she said, stepping over the low fence.
I followed, and we found a secluded spot.
“There is one thing we have not yet done,” Nikola said. “I will show you something that pleases me, and will please every other woman you will be with.”
“But I only want to be with you,” I said mournfully.
Nikola pulled up her skirt and slid her underwear down her legs pulling one leg free, spreading herself, she gently guided my face to her lap. As I licked her clitoris and kissed the moist lips of her vagina, she told me how to use my tongue to best effect. I felt angry that she was still treating me like a schoolboy. But when she began to moan I felt the power of being able to give her real pleasure. She smelled faintly of cologne for she always kept herself clean there. I licked her as she directed, moving my head up and down. When she asked if she could suck my penis, I repositioned myself. She unzipped my trousers to release my now solid penis and gave me pleasure as I did her, until I wasn’t certain if I were following her cues or she mine.
We came, but my sensations were somehow more quiet and intimate than the night’s earlier rock-hard lovemaking. As we lay exhausted together, we heard people talking on the street.
Nikola giggled, for they were talking about us.
We lay still, like two naughty children trying to muffle their laughter, until the spectators left.
“Nikola,” I said, when it was quiet again. My pants and shirt were wet with semen, and I felt as awkward as I did that first night we drove to her apartment.
“I love you.”
“And I love you too, Steven. But now you must go to your hotel and sleep!”
“No,” I said, “I mean that “
“I know what you mean, but we must now become beautiful memories to each other.” She dressed, and I followed suit. Then she was back on the street, and I had to hurry to catch up with her.
“Didn’t any of this mean anything to you?” I asked. I could feel my heart pounding. Straight ahead was the Carlton, looming huge and brightly lit, as if it were made of white neon.
“Of course it did, but now we must go on and do what we must. You must go back to school. And I too must go back to my life.”
“We could see each other again,” I said, pleading frantically. “You could come to America.”
“Perhaps, I would like that.”
“Then we should exchange addresses.” I felt a rush of relief. It wasn’t over between us. I would see her again..
“Your grandmother has my address.” Then Nikola took off a jade ring and put it on my pinky finger.
”This is for you to remember me. But you will never forget, for I am your first.” Then she kissed me and hurried away before I could stop her.
I called to her, and I felt like crying. The sweet smells of the grass and flowers around me exaggerated the poignancy of my mood. I felt empty and yet sadly, achingly alive .
Grandmother and I left in the morning. I was hurt, but not surprised to discover that Nikola had never given Grandmother her address.
Grandmother was very understanding. For, after all, she had planned everything.
The fifties was that “innocent” era when post-war America was strong, and premarital sex was wrong. That decade holds a nostalgic appeal, even for those too young to remember Anita Ekberg, Danny and the Juniors, chlorophyll toothpaste, And God Created Woman, pointed bras and cars like the 1957 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer a classic Detroit muscle car with acres of chrome, tail fins like surfboards, three hundred and ten horses, twin four-barrel carbs and a backseat the size of a bed.
As much as we might like to recall Anita Ekberg’s tits or Danny and the Junior’s hits, nothing sums up the fifties more definitively than the macho street machines produced by America’s big three automakers. Cars like the ’51 Ford Custom Tudor Deluxe, ’55 Chevy Bel Air or ’57 Plymouth Fury were symbols of freedom, affluence and virility.
For the first time in history, middle America was rich enough to give its teenagers their own cars. Jalopies were chopped, channeled, raked, chromed and blown by young mechanics intent upon building hot rods to attract hot chicks. As one automotive historian points out, “There were restrictions that prevented kids from getting into motels and making use of their homes and college dormitories as they do today at that time cars were big and roomy.”
Because premarital sex was a sin during the fifties, girls were programmed to just say no, even if their hormones were screaming, “Yes!” This often led to a protracted battle of the bra inside a steamed-up car. For the lucky guy who discovered a little bit of heaven inside his girlfriend’s blouse, there was still the cotton curtain of her underpants to overcome. Countless backseat sessions were likely to ensue before that last barrier to total passion was finally cast aside. And at that moment of long-anticipated lust, there was no sweeter fucking in the world.
Although it may be impossible to recapture the sexual rapture of that bygone era, the fifties’ car culture can be revisited in the San Francisco Bay area without taking a ride in a DeLorean time machine. The first stop on that tour is Mels sic Drive-In, the burger joint that played center stage in George Lucas’ popular nostalgia flick American Graffiti.
Back when Truman was in the White House, MacArthur was in the doghouse and Ike was swinging presidential timber in the on-deck circle, Mels Drive-In was a popular restaurant chain located throughout California. In that carefree era before the discovery of cholesterol and polyunsaturated fats Mels served all-American food like burgers, dogs, BLTs, fries, shakes, malts and cherry Cokes. But twenty years ago, just about the time McDonald’s, Toyotas and disco were invented, Mels Drive-In faded from the scene. Seemingly gone forever, the institution has recently been resurrected in all its fifties glory in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles.
The Mels Drive-In on Lombard Street in San Francisco is everything a fifties drive-in should be except a drive-in. Carhop service, once a fundamental part of the Mels mystique, isn’t even offered. But the burgers, fries and cherry Cokes taste even better than they did thirty-five years ago.
Despite a slightly forced fifties ambiance Frankie Avalon on the jukebox, posters from American Graffiti and photos of old Mels Drive-Ins the restaurant is very much a part of the nineties. The menu, featuring seven different salads and an emphasis on fresh ingredients, is sensitive to current tastes while presenting old favorites like cherry Coke, which has spun up the inflationary spiral to reach its current price of one dollar and fifteen cents.
But the entire point of visiting Mets is to take a trip back in time. Watching a pretty waitress carry a tray of burgers conjures up images of the old Mels, when the drive-in was a hangout for car-crazed teenagers. Greasy ducktails, chrome lake pipes and little deuce coupes were the essential elements in that eternal search for a good time bad girl.
Having left Mels hungry for the crucial ingredient missing from its new menu those sexy carhops of yesteryear my friend and I cruised north toward the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County, where we’d heard that a man could still be serviced in his own car by a sweet young thing in uniform.
While crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, we had time to think about the fifties’ sex and swap clubs that pioneered the sexual freedom movement before the days of the open sexual communities of the sixties and seventies like Sandstone Retreat, Harrad West, Libre and Lama. One such underground group still exists in the Bay Area, and calls itself Back Drop. Back Drop has been around in one form or another for twenty-three years.
The monthly calendar for Back Drop reads like a laundry list of sexual choices:
May 8 Golden Showers, Dos and Don’ts
May 9 Spanking Demonstration
May 13 Foot Fetish Day
May 17 Enemas
May 23 Mistress/Slave Training Session
May 31 Pony Girls and Boys: Equestrian Training as a Fantasy
June 7 Hospital Fantasies: Doctors, Nurses and Hospitals.
We found our drive-in, an A W Root Beer restaurant, in the Marin County town of San Rafael. The place features waitresses on roller skates and claims to serve with “a taste to remember.” The immediate nostalgia value of this A W is somewhat limited by the eighties aqua and pink paint job. The joint looks more like an elaborate studio set for “Miami Vice” than a fifties drive-in.
On the other hand, the burgers and fries were exactly as we remember them from the fifties. For those who thrive on tofu and sprouts, forget about the A W. The carhops were pleasant, pretty and busy. But unlike their fifties role models, modern carhops come in every ethnic variety including Vietnamese.
After assessing the fare and ambiance at A W, we headed for another fifties drive-in, the old Foster’s Freeze, also in San Rafael. Sadly, the beloved home of the “Frosty Softy” is gone. In its place is a video rental shop. Taking a look around to see how a drive-in can be converted into a video joint, we wandered back to the adult movie section. There, much to our surprise, was a huge collection of amateur sex tapes. “These things are just unbelievable,” said one customer as he piled several tapes in his hands. “People set up video cameras on a tripod by their bed and make fuck films. And most of them are just horrible. I must have watched fifty before I saw a good one.”
The other drive-in, the movie type, also reached its peak of popularity during the fifties. The years haven’t been kind to these cinematic passion pits and they, too, are an endangered species in the Bay Area. Only a few remain. Most have been converted into mini-malls or parking lots.
Drive-in movies used to be synonymous with sin, as cars parked in the back row usually had steamed-up windows and often rocked to the rhythm of the couple inside. For a girl to accept a date to the drive-in was tantamount to agreeing to neck through a double feature. And the double feature the boy found most fascinating was inside his date’s ironclad Maidenform.
Today’s cars are too small to roll around in, and today’s kids seem to have the freedom to fuck anywhere, rendering the quaint practice of necking and groping in any isolated lot obsolete. Drive-ins now attract families looking for a cheap way to entertain the little ones. And even these families will more often choose their home base, ultra entertainment systems, complete with ultra stereo surround sound over the relatively old-fashioned drive-in. A few die-hard romantics still take advantage of the sexual opportunity at the motor movies, but the delicious aura of forbidden passion has all but disappeared in an era when most teenagers are knowledgeable and sophisticated, and are getting laid more often than their parents.
If drive-in restaurants and movies have all but disappeared, the cars associated with them have only become more popular. Attesting to that popularity are the books, magazines and clubs devoted to Detroit iron from the fifties. Classic car dealers in the Bay Area get considerably more than the original sticker price for these American masterpieces. Just sitting in a ’57 Chrysler 300C convertible evokes memories of a simpler time, before we knew more than we wanted to about air pollution, ozone depletion or oil spills and dying dolphins. The massive hemi V8 engine boasts three hundred and ninety horsepower. Mechanix Illustrated described the car at the time as ”the most hairy-chested, fire-eating land bomb ever conceived in Detroit.”
A couple of classics sitting in the same showroom a ’51 Ford Deluxe Tudor sedan and a ’55 Cadillac De Ville convertible exemplify those vehicles that openly appealed to the American male’s infatuation with big breasts. The grilles on these two cars, especially the Caddy, look like nothing more than a pair of huge chrome tits. Breast-shaped grilles or bumpers were called “Dagmar tips” in honor of a busty television starlet.
While chrome tits were popular in the fifties, grilles shaped like vaginas were a design disaster. The infamous ’58 Edsel was the biggest sales bomb in Detroit history, sporting a concave grille resembling a view often seen by gynecologists. This was not at all popular in the fifties. Perhaps the “innocence” of the era was not ready to handle sophisticated equipment design. Cars that sold well echoed the sexy photographs of the era: Tits were in and pussy was out.
Returning to the nineties from our fifties tour, my travel companion and I reflected upon the changes. Although it might be fun to be young and innocent again, much has changed for the better over the years. Steamy backseats have been replaced by king-size beds in sunny apartments. Inhibited girls filled with the fear of sex have given way to wanton women who know all the tricks of pleasing a man. A pretentious men’s magazine with its vaginaless “virgins” has been overtaken by explicit, erotic magazines like this one. Only the cars, like the ’57 Dodge Royal Custom Lancer, were really better back then.
This is how I might write it if I were writing it today:
“‘Come on,’ she said, her green eyes wild with hunger for it. ‘Are you ready to fuck or aren’t you?’
“Her clothes dropped away and instantly, at the sight of her full, hard-nippled breasts and the dense, dark thatch of hair at the base of her belly, his cock sprang up into aching rigidity. She grinned and came toward him and knelt before him, slipping one hand under his swollen balls and grasping his stiff shaft with the other.
“‘Go on,’ Holman said hoarsely. ‘Suck it! Oh, Jesus, suck it, babe!’
“She tickled the tip of his dick with her tongue and rubbed it voluptuously for a moment or two between the heavy mounds of her tits, and then her lips slid over him and she took him into her mouth. Deep. Amazingly deep. And moved slowly back and forth, back and forth, wringing moans from him, driving him wild with sensation. Her mouth was as soft and as sweet as a velvet cunt. She squeezed his balls lightly as she sucked. He could feel the jism starting to pulse within him, on the verge of leaping forth into her throat. But then she pulled back and spread herself for him, and an instant later, to his amazement and delight, his hard cock was plunging into the hot, throbbing depths of her moist pussy, and “
The year was 1959, though, and the American government’s ideas of what was permissible to print and sell through normal commercial channels was very different, so this is what I actually wrote:
“She undid the garter belt herself and rolled down the stockings, and then she was nude, and he stood up, dropping his trousers, and she reached out and caught his arm and pulled him down again, and they rolled off the couch together, down onto the carpeted floor.
“For what might have been an hour they lay there, side by side, lips glued, hands roaming up and down bodies, breath coming shorter and shorter. Holman opened his eyes and saw her staring at him, her eyes moist and the pupils that peculiar shade of green again. He smiled into her eyes and brought his fingers lightly down the small of her back, pausing at the dimples just above the firm swell of her buttocks.
“It was like he had pulled a trigger. She began to gasp excitedly, and she dragged him over on top of her, her green eyes going tight shut, her lips dropping open, moist and passionate.
“‘Now, darling! Take me now!’
“She shuddered convulsively as the moment of union came. Her thighs tightened around him, and she began to write and moan an animal moan, low and deep in her throat, coming from the same place that those deep, sad blues came from.
“Holman clenched his teeth and gripped her shoulders tightly, and she cried out three times, a whimper of excitement following, and then they were thundering away together on a tornado of passion, and she dug her fingers into the skin of his back and gasped out, breathlessly, ‘Oh, oh, oh, oh,’ and Holman felt the explosion in his loins, and then they were lying quietly all of a sudden, limp and sweat-soaked, and he could feel the pounding of her heart when he touched her breasts, and the fireworks stopped.
“It was over.”
Hot stuff, yes? Well actually it is, in its quaint fashion. No tits or cocks or cunts are mentioned, nor any other nasty Anglo-Saxon words no clits, no moist pussies, no vivid descriptions whatsoever of genital organs, erect or otherwise not even of pubic hair. An orgasm isn’t a fountain of hot jism or anything else anatomically specific, it’s a metaphorical “explosion in the loins.” People don’t fuck or screw, they experience “union.” The tone is very antiseptic, almost prim, you would say. Even so, all the basic ingredients of the good old beast with two backs are there, the moans and groans, whimpers of excitement, and, yes, the explosion in the loins everything you would want in a scene describing passionate sex, if you were living in 1959.
This is, in fact, the opening erotic passage of Love Addict, published by Nightstand Books of Chicago in October of that year the first one hundred fifty novels of what we now would regard as innocent soft-core porn that I would write over the next five years for Nightstand under the pseudonym Don Elliott.
That’s right. One hundred fifty full-length novels in five years. Thirty books a year, better than one every two weeks, month in and month out, between 1959 and 1964. Written on a manual typewriter, no less. There were no computers then, not even IBM Selectric typewriters. Other writers whose names would surprise you very much were turning the books out at almost the same sizzling pace. We were fast in those days. But, of course, we were very young.
I was twenty-four years old when I stumbled, much to my surprise, into a career of writing sex novels. I was then, as I am now, primarily known as a science-fiction writer. But in 1958, as a result of behind-the-scenes convulsion in the magazine-distribution business, the whole science-fiction publishing world went belly-up. A dozen or so magazines for which I had been writing regularly ceased publication overnight as for the tiny market for science-fiction novels two paperback houses and one hardcover , it suddenly became so tight that unless you were one of the first-magnitude stars, like Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov, you were out of luck.
I had been earning a very nice living writing science fiction since my graduation from college a few years earlier. I had a posh five-room apartment on Manhattan’s exclusive West End Avenue one hundred fifty dollars a month rent a fortune then! I had fallen into the habit of spending my summer vacations in places like London and Paris I ate at the best restaurants and was even learning something about fine wines. And suddenly two-thirds of the magazines I wrote for were out of business, with a slew of older and better established writers competing for the few remaining slots.
But I was fast on my feet, and I had some good friends. One of them was Harlan Ellison, a science-fiction writer of my own age, who seeing the handwriting on the wall in the science-fiction world had left New York to accept a job in Chicago as editor of Rogue, an early men’s magazine that was trying with some success to compete with its crosstown neighbor, Playboy. Penthouse didn’t yet exist in those far-off days. The publisher of Rogue was William L. Hamling, a clean-cut young Chicago suburbanite whose first great love, like Harlan’s and mine, had been science fiction. Bill Hamling had published a science-fiction magazine called Imagination, which bought one of my first stories in 1954. From 1956 on, he had paid me five thousand dollars a month to churn out epics of the spaceways for him on a contract basis. Now, though, Imagination was gone, and Hamling’s only remaining publishing endeavor was his bimonthly girlie magazine.
Harlan, soon after going to work for him, convinced Bill that the future lay in paperback erotic novels. Hamling thought about it for about six minutes or so and agreed. And then Harlan gave me a phone call.
“I have a deal for you, if you’re interested,” he said. “One sex novel a month, fifty thousand words, six hundred dollars per book. We need the first one by the end of July.” It was then the beginning of July. I didn’t hesitate. Six hundred dollars a month was big money in those days, especially when you were a young writer at your wits’ end because all your regular markets had crashed and burned. One book would pay four months rent. They were going to publish two paperbacks a month, and I was being offered a chance to write half the list myself. “You bet,” I said. By the end of July Harlan had Love Addict a searing novel of hopeless hungers, demanding bodies, girls trapped in a torment of their own making, etcetera, etcetera. I’m quoting from the jacket copy.
Bill Hamling loved Love Addict. By return mail came my six hundred bucks and a request for more books. I turned in Gang Girl in September. I did The Love Goddess in October. Later that month I wrote Summertime Affair also. Two novels the same month? Why not? I was fast, I was hungry, I was good.
In October, also, the first two Nightstand Books went on sale mine and something called Lust Club, by another young writer who also was making a quick adaptation to changes in his writing markets. His book, like mine, was really pretty tame stuff. What we were writing, basically, were straightforward novels of contemporary life, with very mild interludes of sexual activity every twenty or thirty pages. But the characters actually did go to bed with each other, and we did try to describe what they were doing and how they felt in as much detail as the government would allow.
At that time, fairly rigid censorship still prevailed in American publishing. It was illegal to publish or sell such classics of erotic literature as Tropic of Cancer or Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and even the presence of words like “fuck” or “cunt” in a book could bring its publisher a call from the district attorney’s office. To a reading public eager for vicarious sexual thrills, Bill Hamling’s Nightstand Books, which were openly and widely distributed, offered a commodity that was in instant and enormous demand. Incredible quantities of the first two books were sold. It was impossible to reprint them fast enough.
Hamling sent me a bonus of two hundred dollars for each book I had written thus far, and raised my price to eight hundred dollars from then on. And he decided to publish four titles a month instead of two. “Can you possibly write two books a month for us?” he asked.
A Nightstand Book, you understand, was two hundred twelve pages, double-spaced. I was setting myself up for an unthinkable amount of typing not to mention the problem of inventing plots, characters, settings, all that stuff. But I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I could type quickly and I could think quickly. And I had arrived at a perfect formula for these books. They were stories about ordinary people who were in the grip of powerful sexual obsessions that got them into trouble.
What I did was take a sympathetic character male or female who has normal, healthy sexual desires that are somehow being frustrated the hard-working husband who suddenly feels a powerful need to have an affair the woman who unexpectedly discovers that drinking too much makes her want to let go of her sexual inhibitions, with all the risk that that involves. Remove the frustration. But the fulfillment of the desires leads to complications and then more complications, which create tensions that can best be satisfied by more sex, and so on and on, in and out of bed and in and out of trouble, until in the end everything is resolved and the protagonist’s life shows signs of becoming calmer.
Any setting would do. I just had to pick my characters and set them in motion against a vivid background. I told tales of illicit goings-on at plush Caribbean resorts, of high school kids learning what to do with their bodies, of suburban swap clubs. Where I could make use of my own experiences, such as they had been at the age of twenty-five or so, I did. The rest I spun out of whole cloth, or out of my own teeming, steamy fantasies. For I had grown up in the repressed ’50s, and had plenty to fantasize about.
I wrote Pawn of Lust and Nudist Camp in November, 1959. I wrote Warped Lusts and Suburban Wife in December. January produced only Sin on
Wheels, but in February came Sin Ranch and Trap of Desire. And so on and so on, month after month. Each book took me exactly six days: one chapter of eighteen pages before lunch, one of eighteen pages after lunch, twelve chapters and two hundred twelve pages in all. No book came out short and none, of course, ran long: I became adept at moving my characters around in such a way that the climax of the plot always arrived on schedule in chapter twelve. The books sold well and more retroactive bonuses were paid to me for the early titles. Now I was getting twelve hundred dollars a book for the new ones. That was an income of better than a thousand dollars a week at a time when dinner for two at the finest restaurant in New York cost about forty dollars, including a bottle of first-rate French wine. My new career in pornography was rapidly making me rich.
I felt absolutely unabashed about what I was doing. Writing was my job, and I was working hard and telling crisp, exciting stories. What difference did it make, really, that they were stories about people caught in tense sexual situations instead of people exploring the slime-pits of Aldebaran IX? I experienced the joy and there is one, believe me of working hard and steadily, long hours sitting at a typing table under the summer sun, creating scenes of erotic tension as fast as my fingers could move. Of course, what I was writing was not “respectable,” not even slightly, and so when people asked me what I did for a living I told them I was a science-fiction writer. I was still writing some of that, too, as a sideline. I could hardly tell my neighbors in my elegant suburban community that I was actually a professional pornographer. But was I really writing pornography?
Not if the use of “obscene” words or graphic physiological description is your definition of pornography. As the sample I quoted earlier should show, the stuff was really laughably demure. Everything was done by euphemism and metaphor. No explicit anatomical descriptions were allowed, no naughty
words. About as far as you could go was a phrase like “they were lying together, and he felt the urgent thrust of her body against him, and his aroused maleness was penetrating her, and he felt the warm, soft, moist clasping and the tightening…”
Unmistakably these people are doing it. But his “maleness” is what’s penetrating her, not his cock or his prick or his dick, and something is clasping and tightening, presumably a vagina, but we aren’t told that in so many syllables. Characters didn’t “come” they reached “the moment of ecstasy.” Men had neither cocks nor balls they had “loins.” Foreplay was a matter of cupping breasts and letting a hand “slip lower on her body.” Anal sex? No such concept. Dildos and other sex toys? Forget it. Oral sex was indicated by saying, “He kissed her here and he kissed her there, and then he kissed her there.” And so forth. None of it was much spicier than Peter Rabbit.
I limited myself to words that were in the dictionary because I had been warned at the outset that the publisher would not tolerate what he termed “vulgarisms” in the books. One reason for this was that he genuinely didn’t like them he was basically a very earnest and straight type of guy, who would much rather have been publishing science fiction but also he knew that he might very well go to jail if he started printing them. Jail, yes no matter what the First Amendment might say. And eventually he did, many years later not for publishing sexy novels, but for violating the postal code by sending an advertisement for an illustrated history of erotic art and literature through the mails!
The list of what a “vulgarism” was, though, kept changing in line with various court actions and rulings affecting Nightstand’s competitors in the rapidly expanding erotic-book business. All across the nation, bluenosed civic authorities were trying to stamp out this new plague of smut. Whenever a liberal-minded judge threw out a censor’s case, the word came down to us that we could take a few more risks in what we wrote, although our prose remained exceedingly pure by later publishing standards. And whenever some unfortunate publisher was hit by a fine, the word was passed to the little crew of Nightstand regulars that we had to try to be more proper.
One day the word “it” became a vulgarism. “It” as in “‘Do it,’ she cried,” I mean. By this time Harlan Ellison had moved along to Hollywood, and my Nightstand editor in Chicago was Algis Budrys, another top science-fiction writer who had found it necessary after the science-fiction crash to switch from freelance writing to editing. Budrys phoned me to say that I must restrict my use of “it” from now on. I took a look at a recently published book of mine and saw that they had indeed changed all my “it”s to “that”s, creating stuff like: “‘Do that,’ she cried. ‘I want that! I want that!’”
This sounded nuts to me, and I told Budrys I would refuse to abide by it. To prove it, I turned in a book in which “it” was just about every other word: “Give it to me! I want it! It! It! I must have it!” I was the star of the line, the first and most reliable and prolific writer they had, and I got my way. “It” was removed from the list of vulgarisms.
By this time it was about 1962 I was turning out three Nightstand books a month. It was a fantastic amount of work to do, but I had no choice. Like many writers Sir Walter Scott, for example, or Mark Twain I had gone in for owning fancy real estate. I had bought myself an enormous mansion in the finest residential neighborhood of New York City, close to the Westchester County line, for the immense sum then of eighty thousand dollars. The place had twenty rooms, all of which needed to be painted and furnished, and then too I had to think about the heating bill, property taxes, etcetera, etcetera. So I upped the output. The record for June, 1962, for example, shows Unnatural, Illicit Joys and The Flesh is Willing a typically productive month. That month the plumbing in the house broke down, and I remember a team of five plumbers digging around in the backyard, simply trying to locate the water main, while I sat upstairs trying to turn out words fast enough to earn more than their combined hourly rate. And I did.
One way I managed to keep up this amazing level of output was to assemble a sheaf of what I called “modules” prefabricated sex scenes that I could simply plug into any book. Plots and characters had to change from book to book, of course, but under the highly restrictive rules we were forced to use there were only so many ways to describe what my people were up to in bed, and so I extracted relevant scenes from my books a basic seduction scene, a copulation scene, a voyeurism scene, a lesbian scene and so on and recycled them into the new manuscripts in the appropriate places, as needed. Nobody objected. If computers had existed then, I could have done it all with one keystroke. Instead I had to type it all out, over and over.
The Nightstand line was now running to eight or ten books a month, maybe more, and as the list grew, a lot of other clever young men joined the roster of writers. Entry to the list was by invitation only the publisher didn’t want to deal with amateurs, only with crafty young pros. In an insecure career like freelance writing, those guaranteed monthly checks were very tempting. You would probably be astonished at how many eventually famous writers were among my colleagues at Nightstand. We were like a bunch of future major-leaguers getting a chance to sharpen our skills in Triple-A minor-league baseball.
I won’t name names, because it’s not my place to do so. But I can tell you that two of today’s most widely admired mystery novelists, now enormously popular and successful, were Nightstand regulars under the names of “Andrew Shaw” and “Don Holliday.” Their work for Nightstand usually had a broadly comic touch, which mine never did. Sex was always Serious Stuff to me. Another, who wrote under the name of “J.X. Williams,” became a major best-selling author of historical novels, specializing in American history, and I mean major. The author of the “Don Bellmore” books went on to a career as a Hollywood writer. “Clyde Allison” was the pseudonym used by a brilliant young mainstream novelist who died of alcoholism while still in his thirties. And, though I have no proof of this, I was told on good authority long ago that one of the Nightstand writers was a man who was already a best-selling author even then, and who was knocking out Nightstands on the side for the fun of it, without his wife’s knowledge or his regular publisher’s and having the payments sent to the mistress he was keeping.
We were all working hard, having fun and making plenty of money. So was the publisher, who left Chicago for a Palm Springs estate. Of course all sorts of governmental units right up to the federal level were trying to put us out of business, and there were indictments all over the place, and a nasty censorship trial in Houston. Since we writers worked under pseudonyms, and got our checks from a dummy corporation, we weren’t involved in that.
But one day the FBI came to talk to me. It was all very silly. I received them in the paneled library of my imposing mansion. We chatted about my writing my science fiction writing. I showed them a few recent books on archaeology and science for young readers I had written l was doing that too, in my spare time, and I just happened to have the books close at hand. The word “pornography” was never mentioned. They did ask me if I had ever done business with a company called Such-and-Such Enterprises. Evidently that was one of the dummy corporations that paid the writers for the Nightstand lines but it so happened that my checks came from This-and-That Enterprises instead, a different dummy corporation, and the nice FBI men had gotten things mixed up. “No,” I said, absolutely truthfully. “I’ve never done business with Such-and-Such. I’ve never even heard of them.” And that was that. The FBI men left, probably thinking there was some case of mistaken identity here, and no one ever bothered me again.
But I did stop writing for Nightstand a year or so later not because I was afraid of more government harassment, but because after one hundred fifty erotic novels in five years I was getting pretty tired of marching my characters in and out of bedrooms. I wanted to get back to the intellectual challenge of science fiction, which was making a strong commercial recovery after its slump in the late Fifties. And my nonfiction books on archaeology and science were very successful too I wanted time to do more of those. So in a final flurry–E for Eros, One Night Stand, Sin Kitten–I went out of the business of writing erotic novels.
But I have no regrets about those five years in the sex-book factory none. I don’t think any of us who wrote Nightstands do. It isn’t just that I earned enough by writing them to pay for that big house and my trips to Europe. I developed and honed important professional skills, too, while I was pounding out all those books.
Working at fantastic speeds I once did a complete novel in three and one-half days, just to see if I could , we mastered the knack of improvising plots from scratch and making everything work out neatly at the required fifty thousand-word length: a wonderful exercise in structural discipline that has stood me in good stead ever since. There was no time to make mistakes: we had to get it right on the first draft, and we did, telling good stories in crisp, no-nonsense prose. And because we worked under pen names, we were free to let all inhibitions drop away and push our characters to their limits, without worrying about what any-one else friends, relatives, book reviewers might say or think about our work. We had ourselves a ball and got paid nicely while we were doing it.
And also we never forgot that we were doing the fundamental thing that writers are supposed to do: providing pleasure and entertainment for readers who genuinely loved our work. Huge numbers of the books were snapped up as fast as they came from the presses, which meant that they filled a need, that somebody appreciated them a whole lot. It meant something to me to know that my novels were brightening the lives of a vast host of people in those dim, dark days of thirty-plus years ago, when puritanism was riding high and sex was in chains.
One hundred and fifty novels! Passion Patsy! Flesh Flames! Sin Hellion! Gang Girl! The Orgy Boys! Writing those books was a terrific experience, and I look back fondly on it without shame, without apologies.
There I was amidst the rich mahogany shelves and crystal chandeliers of one of the most exquisitely elegant bookstores in Paris, browsing through a classic of eighteenth-century French literature in English translation. I remember pausing for a moment on page seventy-four to savor in astonishment and stunned admiration this celestial passage:
“She grasped my prick, plunged it into her cuntlet. ‘Push,’ she cried, ‘push, divine prick, squirt fuck into my cunt!’ While holding forth in this strain, she flung her ass about with such energy I was soon lodged in the depths of her cunt…long live common everyday cunt-fuckery! Of the forty manners of being rid of one’s load, ’tis by far the best. I had her mouth, her tongue, her white breasts, the view of her charming countenance, always made doubly attractive when the woman’s being fucked. Her sweet phrases: Dear, most beloved prick, divine prick, oh how it itches my cunt. Thrust, drive deep, bugger, deeper…I’m coming…I’m discharging…fuck, a river of fuck…your tongue, dear cunt-fucker, dear lover…oh, I’m discharging again, fuck, bloody bucker, suck my tits…”
I had never read anything like it before. The book was Pleasures and Follies of a Good-Natured Libertine by Restif de La Bretonne. The year was 1957. I was young, and Paris was as ever the beautiful city where all things are possible. In that far-off era, when Dwight Eisenhower was President and the Dodgers still played baseball in Brooklyn, American citizens were forbidden by law to own or read or I suppose even to think about erotic literature and for generations it had been a tradition for those of us who rebelled against such prohibitions to smuggle the classic stuff back from France Henry Miller, Frank Harris, the Marquis de Sade. Now it was my turn, a callow and horny American in Paris, and of course I meant to fill my suitcases with forbidden books, regardless of the dire risk.
I had had the usual kind of repressed adolescence that boys who grew up in America in the forties and fifties generally had. Women were unapproachable mysteries sex was something you learned about from acne-spotted older friends in whispered conversations. A good-night kiss at the end of a date was a big deal. To be allowed a bit of groping under her sweater was a triumph. We did a lot of furtive peering through the slats of Venetian blinds at bedroom windows across the way, and dreamed of finding the mythical peep-hole that gave a view into the girls’ locker room at school. A few pioneering men’s magazines had begun publication in the early fifties, but they airbrushed out all hints of pubic hair and can you believe it? nipples, so even such nudity as we were permitted to see had a peculiar androidal quality about it. The closest thing to really hot stuff was National Geographic, which for some weird reason had been permitted to publish photos of bare-breasted women since about 1903, though never any of white women, only “natives.”
We did start to get laid now and then, when we were eighteen or so. But such events were lamentably few and far between and required all sorts of verbal gyrations having to do with love, the possibility of marriage, and the absolute certainty that you would respect her in the morning. Oh, it was a tough time to be young and healthy and American! But we all had heard rumors of the fabled amorality of Europe, where pornographic books and magazines were casually sold over the counter and striptease clubs abounded, where you could actually get to see a woman’s body without having to promise to marry her first. Tantalizing flashes of bare, quivering female flesh were regular features of the movies that were coming out of France and Italy and Sweden. Though the prints we saw in the States were, all too obviously, heavily cut.
And I was a scholarly literary type, after all there were those legendary classic books, known to us only by third-hand report. Tropic of Cancer! Lady Chatterly’s Lover! Justine! Everything in English, of course special editions put out by thoughtful French publishers as a friendly service for the censorship-burdened American visitor. The French at that time had plenty of censorship of their own, I would later discover. But it only applied to French books and films. The French authorities didn’t care two escargots for what got published in Paris in barbaric foreign languages for barbaric foreigners.
It seems very quaint now to think that just a generation ago you needed to travel to distant foreign lands to buy books that had words like ‘fuck” or “cunt” or “prick” in them that people could go to prison for publishing such things in New York or Chicago that the U.S. Customs Department searched the luggage of travelers returning from overseas, and confiscated any vile books they found that it was unlawful to publish photographs showing genitalia or even pubic hair that the various states of the union maintained boards of censors whose main job it was to remove shots of bare breasts from foreign films that as recently as 1952 there was a great outcry in New York because the word “virgin” had been used in an American movie. It was another era another planet, almost. It was my fate to grow up in that rigorously puritanical culture. Anybody over the age of fifty remembers it all too well a nightmarish time of censorship, repression, denial, hypocrisy, and neurosis.
I was twenty-two years old when I first found myself in joyous Paris, city of cheerful lust. By that time I had been married for a year we got married young, then it was the only way to see any action. My wife and I intended to visit the Louvre, of course, and take a boat ride on the Seine, and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. But it was buying those books that set my imagination simmering. My wife was curious about them too a little uneasy about the extent of my prurient interest, you understand, but secretly pretty prurient herself. You simply can’t comprehend, in today’s anything-goes world, how fascinated we were by the allure that erotica held for us. I’m not talking about stag movies and nude photos. I’m talking about blunt Anglo-Saxon words, arranged on the page in such a way as to describe blunt physical acts. Those of us who were married were free to perform those acts all we liked, of course, In private, and preferably with the lights out. But the idea of seeing them described in a book on the printed page the notion that we might discover how the great masters of prose had dealt with the most powerful of all human subjects, and that we might even learn a new trick or two from what we read, and see the mighty, proscribed four-letter words blazing in type before our eyes oh, it was a fantastic, heady feeling to be setting out onto the streets of Paris for the first time in search of one of those celebrated bookstores where the real stuff was sold.
We were staying at the Hotel Londres et New-York, a fleabag near the railway station, maybe seven dollars a night with a bathroom at the end of each floor. We unpacked and got out of there fast, and strolled in wonder down the decreasingly shabby streets that led toward the Seine. In a few moments we were gawking at the opera house, a flamboyant, baroque affair that looked like an imperial palace. We crossed the street and found ourselves on the Rue de la Paix. The Paris of the movies, the Paris of our dreams! Onward, dazzled, into the elegant classical beauty of Place Vendome, past the Hotel Ritz and around the famous column, peering into the glittering shops where watches and jewelry and clothing at prices beyond our comprehension were sold two awed, young New Yorkers who were slowly finding out what a real city was like and out the far end into the Rue Castiglione.
Here, on both sides of the street, were fabulous eighteenth-century buildings, serenely uniform in the Parisian manner. At street level was another arcade of wondrous shops.
One of these shops was a bookstore. Its chaste windows displayed novels by Flaubert and Balzac, Jean-Paul Sartre and Andre Gide, leather-bound sets of Victor Hugo, George Sand and Alexandre Dumas. Within I saw shelves of fine dark wood and glittering chandeliers.
“Surely they don’t sell Henry Miller and the Marquis de Sade here,” I said. My wife pointed to a discreet sign in one corner of the window: BOOKS IN ANGLAIS.
“They must mean Somerset Maugham and Agatha Christie,” I said.
“You could go in and ask.”
“Graham Greene Henry James “
“Go on in. Maybe they’ve got what you’re after. And while you’re doing it I’m going to look in that jewelry store window across the street. Don’t take forever.”
She walked away. And there I was with my bluff called. You wanted to buy porno books in Paris, Bob? Here s your chance. Just go inside and tell them what you want.
What the hell: I doubted that I was going to be the first American tourist to make a fool of himself in Paris. It’s expected of you, I told myself. So, feeling like a ragamuffin in my casual clothes, chino pants and open-collared white shirt, I entered this most upscale of librairies. I speak French poorly today and in 1957 was limited pretty much to “Parlez-vous anglais” and “Je ne comprends pas.” When the clerk bearded, professorial and fierce-eyed approached me, I simply stammered, “Books in English?” My cheeks were blazing. With an imperious flick of his fingers he indicated a far corner of the store. I nodded. “Merci beaucoup,” I muttered, barely audibly.
Yes, here they were, Books In Anglais. Yes, Agatha Christie, Somerset Maugham, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Graham Greene.
And right in the middle of everything, a row of big paperbacks with stiff cardboard covers and titles like The Bedroom Philosophers and The Debauched Hospodar and My Life and Loves.
My fingers began to tremble. The floor was suddenly swaying. I heard chimes ringing in my soul. They were all here in this gloriously spiffy Right Bank shop, dozens of them, hundreds, the famous books and books I had never heard of, enough pornography to give the entire Legion of Decency a stroke.
I took one down at random: The Debauched Hospodar, it was, by Guillaume Apollinaire. In college I had read Apollinaire’s poetry and his comic play, Les Mamelles de Tiresias I knew he had been a friend of Picasso and Braque. But pornography? By Guillaume Apollinaire?
“The Vice-Consul Bandi Fornoski was stark naked in his salon. He was stretched out, his staff stiff, on a Turkish divan, and close to him was Mira, a dusky woman from Montenegro who was tickling his stones. She too was naked and her bent position made her beautiful thick-fleshed arse stick out, brown and downy, over which the delicate skin was stretched like a drum. Between the two buttocks, embedded in the superb line of her deeply indented slit, fringed at its edges with brown hairs, you could see the forbidden hole, round as a nut. Below, quivering longly and downwards, were her thighs, and as her position forced them to have them apart, you could see her cleft, fat, thick, deep as a wound, and shadowed by a thick chevron of coarse black hair…”
Yes! Yes! I was astounded. The real thing, no doubt about it!
“This vision brought Vibescu to the limit of excitement… his big tool which was getting harder and harder began to jab at the breach of her charming coral-colored slit, stiff at the tuft of her gleaming black hair.”
I couldn’t stop reading. It was wildly erotic, screamingly funny, bizarrely explicit. I had never read anything like it. I had a treasure in my hands. I looked over my shoulder, imagining that everyone in the store was staring at me, scowling, pointing, sniggering. But nobody was paying any attention to me. Why should they? I was just another American kid scarfing up some stupid pornographic literature in Paris.
And there were so many books to scarf! I put The Debauched Hospodar aside a definite buy and reached for what was then one of the most famous prohibited books of all, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn, a small green paperback with a gaudy red sunburst on the cover and a line on the back: “Must Not Be Imported Into England or U.S.A.”
Scanning a few pages, I quickly saw why:
“At nights when we were sitting on the porch in the dark talking to the guests she would come over and sit on my lap with nothing on underneath her dress and I would slip it into her as she laughed and talked to the others. I think she would have brazened it out before the Pope if she had been given the chance…In the crowded subway, coming home from the beach, say, she’d slip her dress around so that the slit was in the middle and take my hand and put it right on her cunt. If the train was tightly packed and we were safely wedged in a corner she’d take my cock out of my fly and hold it in her two hands, as though it were a bird. Sometimes she’d get playful and hang her bag on it, as though to prove that there wasn’t the least danger…”
On and on, three hundred sixty-two closely printed pages of it. And next to it the companion book, Tropic of Cancer. I grabbed that too. Serious literature, earthy and passionate. And filthy as hell.
“I know how to inflame a cunt. I shoot hot bolts into you, Tania, I make your ovaries incandescent. Your Sylvester is a little jealous now? He feels something, does he? He feels the remnants of my big prick. I have set the shores a little wider, I have ironed out the wrinkles. You can shit arpeggios if you like, or string a zither across your navel. I am fucking you, Tania, so that you’ll stay fucked…”
I grabbed it. Onward. Frank Harris, My Life and Loves, four paperbacks badly printed on cheap yellow paper. The scabrous, probably half-fictional autobiography of a famous London man of letters of the early twentieth century, written to make a quick pound in a season of hard times. Only five or six years away from my own first sexual experiences, I avidly skimmed Frank Harris’ tales of his own, in a far more puritanical era than mine, with his French governess Lucille:
“Her dress clung to her form, revealing the outlines of her thighs and breasts seductively. I was wild with excitement. Suddenly I noticed that her legs were apart I could see her slim ankles. Pulses awoke throbbing in my forehead and throat…”
Another book added to the growing stack: reluctantly, just the first volume. And what was this? A thick yellow tome, beautifully printed: Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised, by D.A.F. de Sade. The divine Marquis at last! Whippings, torture, debauchery! “The two villains then lay hands on me, in an instant they strip me nude. ‘Pretty buttocks,’ said the Count in a tone of cruelest irony, and brutally handling these objects. When no article of clothing is left upon me, I am secured to the tree by a rope attached around my waist…”
I couldn’t take it seriously, but my government had said that I dared not own a copy, so of course I wanted it. And then there was Pleasures and Follies of a Good-Natured Libertine, by Sade’s eighteenth-century enemy Resfit de la Bretonne:
“Inflamed, beside myself, in my youthful erotic fury I exclaimed to her: ‘I’ve got to lick that little hole!’ She lay down on her back, her legs spread wide I licked, the lovely Madeleine elevated her ass: ‘Drive your tongue inside, dear little friend,’ said she, and I inserted it and she raised her fur I burrowed furiously in!…”
By now I had a stack close to a foot high a little basic library of erotica. I had to force myself to stop piling up the books. One book that I ignored was called Lolita, a future classic then unheralded and unknown, available only in the Paris tourist-porn edition. I wish now that I had bought it that first edition is worth hundreds of dollars today. Restif ran me seventeen hundred fifty francs, Sade fifteen hundred, the Millers only six hundred and though the franc of that day was worth perhaps a quarter of a cent or even less, I was running up serious money. But I had to have them. The haughty clerk rang the transaction up with the utmost of indifference, as if I had just bought a bunch of innocuous mystery stories.
My wife, window shopping across the street, wasn’t amused by the amount of time I had spent in the bookstore, nor by the quantity of books I had bought. I didn’t dare tell her how much I had spent. Later, in the hotel room, she looked at them only perfunctorily. She liked the idea of our owning such esoteric and sought-after books, but it turned out that she didn’t like the books themselves, not at all. I realized belatedly that they were threatening to her. When I reached for her in bed that night, was it because I wanted her, or because some passage in a seamy book had spurred my desire? She wasn’t sure neither was I. But she wanted me to spin my erotic fantasies around her, not to divert myself with the far more vivid stuff that I could find in these tawdry volumes. And in fact there was tension between us for days thereafter. Well, it was a troubled marriage in many ways, as I spent years discovering.
Now I had the problem of getting the books safely home to New York. We faced fines, confiscation, God knows what problems at Customs in New York. But we were equal to the daunting task. We crammed three or four of the books inside an empty box that had contained sanitary napkins would the customs man look in there? and wrapped others in dirty underwear, tucked some between sheaves of travel folders and maps, and hid a couple more inside newly purchased, still unfolded shirts. I suppose we thought we were being extremely clever. Of course, the Customs men had seen it all, many times over, and if they had been really interested in making trouble for us, I suspect that our subtle hiding places would have been the first places they looked.
But they didn’t look. At the Customs room in Idlewild Airport as New York’s J.F.K. was known back in those days my face blazed with guilt as I offered up our suitcases: intense-looking, young, bearded writer, of course he’s importing porn, plain as the beard on his face! But either I didn’t seem as obvious to the Customs inspector as I did to myself, or he was in a tolerant mood that day. We sailed right through unquestioned, our luggage barely examined.
At home, I boasted of my new literary treasures, smugly telling how I had cleverly wafted the forbidden books through Customs. Friends came over and wanted to see them. One couple, a few years older than we were and seemingly quite sophisticated, showed great interest indeed in Sade’s The Bedroom Philosophers, and as the wife thumbed giddily through it, going “ooh” and “ah,” her husband called out, “Read some aloud, Cindy!”
Cindy started to read, turned crimson before she got to the first unprintable word, and shook her head. “I can’t,” she said. “I just can’t.” And that was what the world of 1957 was like, a place where a twenty-six-year-old married woman, in the presence of her husband and two good friends, could not read aloud a sentence like “In this posture, Madame, my prick is well within your reach. Condescend to frig it, I beg of you, while I suck this heavenly ass” without blushing like an innocent schoolgirl.
I went back to Europe the next year and the next, and each time picked up a few more classical titbits Edmund Wilson’s Memories of Hecate County banned in the U.S. for a single mildly erotic passage! , Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the remaining volumes of Frank Harris, and some of Olympia Press’s modern-day stuff, Jean Genet and Akbar del Piombo and William Burroughs. But already things were beginning to change. In 1958, Putnam had dared to publish Lolita, unexpurgated, in the United States, and it went straight to the top of the best-seller list, protected by the First Amendment. A couple of years later a widely publicized court trial in England legalized the distribution of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and then Grove Press, in the United States, fought for and won the right to publish Henry Miller. The battle for erotic freedom was over at least, until the next swing of the pendulum.
It was disappointing, in a way. The books that I had so timidly bought in Paris and so deviously smuggled back into the United States now were available on every newsstand. Anybody could own them for ninety-five cents a copy. The lid was off the censors were out of business very quickly everything became legal, everything. Cindy stopped worrying about saying “fuck” in public, and soon, I’ll bet, her ten-year-old daughter was saying it too. And doing a lot more than just saying it, probably, not too many years after that!
Somehow, once the lure of forbidden fruit was no longer there, I lost interest in acquiring it. I kept my Paris-bought volumes amusing souvenirs of a vanished age but I never went looking for further additions to the collection, and I rarely buy a book nowadays simply because it has strong erotic content. You take it for granted now that a modern novel will have two to three graphic and explicit sex scenes of the kind that would have made headlines fifty years ago. All too often I find myself skipping through the passages in which throbbing cocks and hot yearning pussies come together, not because I have any less interest in such activities than I did thirty-five years ago, but because reading about them is not exactly a novelty anymore and I just want to get on with the story. I am a survivor not only of the repressive fifties but of the uninhibited sixties and seventies, and vicarious sexual information, whether obtained by peeping through Venetian blinds or by poring over the steamy pages of Henry Miller, is no longer very high on my list of needs.
But I will always treasure the little shelf of books I acquired in the haughty bookshops of Paris a generation ago. They take me back to a time when I was young and Big Brother was trying to keep us pure and if purity ever makes a comeback there are certain disturbing signs that it’s trying to I can always amuse myself in my declining years by turning, say, to good old Frank Harris, cutting a lively figure back there in 1913:
“Sophy had a lovelier figure than even Rose and ten times the seduction even of Lily: she never hesitated to take my sex in her hand and caress it she was a child of nature, bold with an animal’s boldness and had beside a thousand endearing familiarities. I had only to hint a wish for her to gratify it.”
Ah, Sophy! Ah, Frank!
Waves of puritanism may come and go. But the tried-and-true classics of erotica endure forever, be they sold under the counter or over it. How I enjoyed the thrill of defying the prohibitions our straitlaced government imposed on us back then! How I shivered as I read the unprintable words on those printed pages!
I would hardly like to see those bad old days of repression and pious denial of eroticism come back again, but there was a passionate joy in breaking the rules the bluenosed puritans imposed on us that I think the children of a more permissive era can never begin to comprehend.
We were teenagers Tammy and I and we had never done it neither of us, not ever, not with each other, not with anyone. It was the big unknown, the grand unattainable mystery. We were certain, of course, that some day we would with someone but getting across that line from never to once was the problem. For me, at any rate. All Tammy would have to do to solve it was to say “Yes” to somebody. It all seemed to be so much simpler for girls, back then.
But it was on her mind, even so. If either one of us is still a virgin when were thirty, she said, early on that warm and humid summer night of the Beethoven and the cheap red wine, “lets meet somewhere we’ll find each other somehow, wherever we happen to live then and sleep with each other. Deal?”
“Deal.” I said. And an immense wave of relief washed over me.
It was like money in the bank, I thought. I knew that Tammy was the kind of girl who kept her promises. So I was sure now that I wouldn’t have to die a virgin, so long as I managed to live to thirty. That was a long way away almost an infinite distance away years and years and years, an impossible length of time for me to imagine then. But someday my thirtieth birthday would come, and if I hadn’t laid down the burden of my innocence by then, Tammy would take it from me. If no other girl had been willing to do it with me over all those years, Tammy would be there for me when the time came.
Silly? Sure. Silly as hell. But everything a teenage boy says is silly, especially when he’s talking about sex.
And you can tell that this was a long time ago, if we could speak about the possibility of our still being virgins when we were thirty. In fact, it was a very long time ago. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime and a half ago.
It was the summer that lay between my junior and senior years in high school, and I had just begun dating girls in what I thought of as a serious way. Tammy and I had met while working on the school newspaper. She was small and fine-boned and slender, not exactly beautiful but not plain either. She had masses and masses of jet-black hair, a tiny nose, a wide and full-lipped mouth. But her eyes were her best feature, dark and shining and always alert. She was a straight-A student, very serious-minded, with a keen, inquisitive intelligence. So was I.
Next term we were going to edit the school paper together. I would be in charge of the news page, where important stuff like the dedication of the new library annex was covered, and she would run the features section, with heartwarming profiles of beloved teachers who had been at the school since 1910. She and I would have to put in a lot of time with each other in after-hours meetings and such, and everybody else on the staff assumed that we would glide from that into a torrid romance. There was a lot of envious joking about that when our election as co-editors was announced. Obviously we were meant for each other: two smart, capable, irreverent kids of opposite sexes, a natural couple.
But this was in the good old era before the Pill, before the whole sexual revolution, an era when nice girls saved it for their wedding nights or said they did and the whole topic of sex was surrounded by a tremendous aura of mystery and fear, at least for nice middle-class kids like us. And I was shy beneath my flippancy and bravado, and so was Tammy. In the eyes of others we might have seemed terribly sophisticated and dazzling and mature, but in the privacy of our own souls we were really just a couple of naive youngsters staring up in awe and uncertainty at the immense wall that stood between us and the adult world.
We dated, anyway. How antiquated that sounds! Dated. All through the second half of our junior year we spent each Saturday night together. Went to arty foreign movies with subtitles, a very sophisticated thing to do then. Went to symphony concerts. Went to hear a lecture on Michelangelo at the Arts Museum. Went to a school basketball game, even. I felt very virile, explaining the fine points of the game to her, and she managed to pretend to listen with intense interest.
We held hands a lot. After six or seven dates I was bold enough to kiss her good night as we stood on the front steps of her house after seeing a Swedish movie in which a few hot scenes had slipped by the censors. Right on the lips, I kissed her. We are talking a long time ago here. After that, Tammy usually would invite me in, and we would sit on her living room couch, snuggling up close, kissing a little, cuddling, trying not to awaken her parents. The first time I put my hand on her sweater she very calmly lifted it off. I tried it again a few weeks later and this time she let me keep it there. Her brassiere was hard and unyielding beneath the pink cashmere, and I got no erotic charge out of the contact at all, but even so I knew it was an important step forward in whatever it was we were up to.
Oh, we were a daring pair, Tammy and I!
Then one night she said, “Have you ever done it, Joe?”
Our eyes weren’t meeting. My cheeks were hot and when I risked a sidewise glance at her I saw that hers were too.
This was a new departure for us. We had never spoken of sex before. I wondered if all this was some kind of roundabout invitation. Or was it just mere curiosity, Tammy’s inquisitive way of learning things about the world and about me?
I wasn’t sure what she was up to, or how to respond. If she was trying to open the way to something serious, should I offer her some macho locker-room lie about some unspecified past conquest, to impress her with my worldliness and masculinity? Maybe that would make it all the easier for her to succumb to my greater experience, however imaginary it might be. But it seemed like a dumb tactic. I doubted that I could fool her and I didn’t want to seem like a jerk. I decided that Tammy’s question represented nothing more than intellectual curiosity, and out of respect for the integrity of our friendship I had to speak the truth.
“No,” I told her. “Never.” And then, in the same spirit of pure-hearted honesty and open intellectual inquiry: “Have you?”
She was immediately indignant. “Of course not! Did you think I had?”
“Not really. Did you think I had?”
“I wasn’t sure,” she said.
How smug that made me feel that she had thought it was even possible that I had slept with someone!
Later I asked myself whether it had been an invitation after all. Possibly so. But I had felt safer keeping the discussion on an abstract level. I wanted nothing more in the world than to experience the feel of a naked woman in my arms to see and touch real breasts, firm and rounded and hard-tipped to let my hand wander along soft, smooth thighs. And then at last to drive my stiff and swollen virgin manhood deep into the beckoning hot cleft that lay somewhere between them, and go rocketing off to the ecstasy that was every red-blooded boy’s birthright. Torrents of adolescent hormones flooded my system day and night. I moved in a sweaty fever of hopeful lust.
But yet it was all so scary. What if I couldn’t do it? Some men simply couldn’t, I knew. Or if I did manage it, would I do it badly? The theory of the thing was clear enough to me, but I wasn’t really sure how two bodies actually fit together. Would she laugh at my fumbling, unskilled efforts, or perhaps recoil at them? Would I hurt her? Would I ruin her life by depriving her of a proper wedding night? Would I get her pregnant and bring us both crashing down in monstrous public disgrace? There were a million things to worry about. I wanted it desperately and yet I feared it.
So we just talked. We speculated about what it would be like to be lovers the way we might speculate about whether there was intelligent life on Mars.
One night I said, in a carefully casual way, “We really ought to try it, don’t you think, Tammy? Just to find out what it’s like. It’s an important part of life, after all.”
“So I’ve heard.” She didn’t sound in any way eager. It was as if I had suggested that we ought to read War and Peace together because it was a very important book.
“We should,” I persisted. “We owe it to ourselves to have the experience.”
“You think so?” she said, in that same remote way. “You make it sound like a research project.”
That stung me. But of course she was right.
I tried a different and even dumber tack. “Everybody in our class thinks we’re sleeping together anyway.”
“Do they?” she said, this time with some heat in her voice. “Did you tell them we were?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“They can think whatever they like,” she said. “It’s no concern of mine.”
And there we left it once again.
Until June, until the night of Beethoven and Chianti.
The school term had ended a couple of days earlier. This was the last time Tammy and I would see each other until September: I had a summer job as a waiter at a mountain resort upstate, and she was going to go to Europe with her parents.
It was hot, that evening. The temperature must have been in the high eighties and the humidity was at sauna-bath level. There was something romantic about that, something that made us feel that night as if we were living in a steamy tropical tale by Maugham or Conrad.
As darkness fell we strolled hand-in-hand through the park you could do that then without worrying about it and we talked about all sorts of grown-up things, about love and marriage and sex and what we intended to do after college. None of those things seemed quite real to us, and we used the same abstract way of speaking about them that we always had. Tammy said that she doubted she would ever get married. That upset me a little, because on some deep level I had wanted her to think of me as a potential husband. But of course at that age I never expected to get married either, and I said so. I went on to wonder whether I would ever even have a lover. At that time I sometimes envisioned a solitary monkish life of austere study and contemplation for myself. An unworldly, cloistered scholar, far from the nastiness of crass daily life.
“That does sound appealing, doesn’t it?” she said. “I could live that way too.”
“There’s only one thing wrong with it. We’d never get to find out what making love is like. I wouldn’t want to miss out on that. I’d hate to go through my whole life without ever doing it even once.”
“So would I,” she said wistfully.
And that was when Tammy proposed our bargain: that in the event we opted for a life of chastity, we would meet when we were thirty and solemnly devirginize each other so that we would have had the experience at least that one time.
She was only being playful, I guess. But my heart soared.
Money in the bank, I kept thinking. Money in the bank!
We went back to her house about nine. Tammy’s mother and father were out and weren’t expected back until very late. The place was ours. It was swelteringly hot in the house, but we didn’t mind. Tammy turned the radio on we always listened to the classical music station and we settled down on the couch, as usual. But neither of us moved toward the other. Our mood was oddly strained. We sat stiffly apart, gripped by a strange tension, as though some great event was impending.
“I’ll get us some ice cream,” Tammy said, after a time.
But when she returned from the kitchen, I was startled to see that she had not only the ice cream but a small bottle of red wine one of those little straw-wrapped flasks of Chianti that they used to sell for a dollar or two back then. I had never had wine before but Tammy’s parents were wealthier than mine and had been to Europe several times, and I supposed they had picked up some European ways. Tammy handed me the bottle and the corkscrew. I looked at them, perplexed.
“Don’t you know how to?” she asked.
“I guess not. I’ve never done it, you know.”
“Haven’t we had this conversation before in a different context?” she asked, and laughed, and I laughed too, very nervously. But my naivet didn’t appear to trouble her. She took the bottle from me and pulled the cork from it in what seemed to me to be a highly expert way. We sat there in the darkness sipping our wine and spooning up the ice cream. The wine was tart, almost bitter. I didn’t see how people could get pleasure from drinking such stuff. But yet an intense sense of having begun to cross the boundary into real adult life began to pervade me. The wine, the heat, the dense blanket of humidity, the music, the closeness of Tammy in the dark, empty house I had a sudden intuition that this was going to be a night I would remember for the rest of my life.
The radio announcer said the next piece would be the Beethoven String Quartet Number Fourteen, Opus 131. I knew something about symphonic music then, but chamber music was still an unvisited realm for me, and the late quartets of Beethoven, I would eventually learn, were his most difficult and rarefied works in that form. Tammy and I sat in silence, listening. I comprehended almost nothing. The instruments made sounds that were like the poetry of some other planet.
“Do you understand this?” Tammy asked, finally.
“Not a whole lot of it. I guess it’s beyond me.”
We laughed again. Nervous laughter. Two kids alone in a darkened house, drinking wine on a hot night, eating half-melted ice cream, listening to music that was too deep for them.
“I like it that we can be honest with each other about things like that,” she said. “That we don’t need to pretend we understand things that we really don’t.”
“I like it too. It feels so good, not having to make it seem that we know things that we haven’t yet had a chance to learn about.”
She poured the last of the wine into our glasses and we clinked them and drank.
And then it was the heat, it was the music, it was the wine, maybe it was the freedom that had come over us after making that crazy agreement to sleep with each other when we turned thirty the tension that had gripped us for hours abruptly broke, and we put our glasses down and moved toward each other as though we had been planning to from the start. Instead of discussing, instead of speculating, instead of suggesting, we simply moved. Spontaneously, suddenly, joyously.
We kissed. Our tongues touched: something new for us. Very daring. I ran my hand over the front of Tammy’s thin silk blouse, and she made a soft sighing sound and wriggled. She pressed herself against me. Aggressively now, she kissed me again and drove her tongue deep, exploring my mouth.
This was all new. Where were we supposed to stop?
Don’t ask, I ordered myself. Just do. Do.
Astounded, I found myself unbuttoning her blouse. Astounded, I discovered that Tammy wasn’t stopping me. By sparkling moonlight I looked down at the pink cups of her brassiere. I remember a little green silk flower sewed to the strap. As though in a dream, I fumbled between her shoulder-blades, knowing that there was some sort of clasp back there, but I could no more have opened it than I could have jumped over Mount Everest, and after a moment she giggled and reached around and unsnapped it herself. The cups fell away in a tangle of loosened straps. Her breasts were small, but very round and close together, and the nipples were standing up like little turrets. They seemed like the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I clasped my hand over one of them.
“Gently,” she whispered. “Gently, Joe.”
For a long time, while Beethoven went on and on in the background, I explored the wonderful new world of Tammy’s breasts. I stroked them, I cupped and hefted them in my hands, I bent down and kissed their pink tips. Then I helped her wriggle out of her jeans and for the first time I found myself with a close-up view of the female body. She lay back, letting me look, enjoying my enjoyment of her nakedness. She was fuller below the waist than above, not at all as fragile-looking as I had imagined, with wide, flaring hips and firm full thighs and a deep-set navel. The dark triangle of hair at the intersection of her thighs was thick and lush.
I stared and stared.
I’d seen it in books, I’d seen it in forbidden photos passed around under desks. But it had never been real to me. And now it was. How different from men they are, I thought, in my nitwit virginal astonishment.
Then she was helping me out of my pants, though somehow my T-shirt and my sneakers stayed on, and we tumbled down onto the carpet, laughing and panting all at once, and rolled into each other’s arms. I looked into her eyes they were wide with amazement, and bright with excitement as well, and I knew that I probably looked just as startled about the immense thing that we were about to do.
Was I afraid? You bet I was. But the only way to conquer fear is to march straight ahead.
As though moving in a dream, I rolled over on top of her. Afraid of crushing her beneath me, instinctively I found a way of supporting myself with my knees and elbows, and her thighs parted for me and I pushed against her, a couple of blind experimental prods that got me nowhere, and I heard her nervous laugh again and then, to my utter amazement, I felt Tammy’s small fingers around the sudden immensity of my cock, and then she was guiding me into the warm, moist harbor of her body. There was a momentary resistance, just a little. And then I was deep inside her.
I had never felt anything as soft and tender and wondrous as Tammy’s welcoming cunt. I never will again. There is something magical about the sensations you experience the first time that is impossible to duplicate.
I thought I would explode with pleasure in the first two seconds. Somehow I didn’t.
But I remember thinking, as I began to move and caught the rhythm of it, gliding back and forth in her, moving almost to the brink of her lips and then thrusting deep again, that at last I understood why so much fuss had been made over this relatively simple, even faintly absurd, act of coupling. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Hero and Leander, Abelard and Heloise, Samson and Delilah I understood now what force had brought them together. Tristan and Isolde. Samson and Delilah. Joe and Tammy.
I don’t know how long it lasted. I can t tell you in any detailed way what we said or even what we did. I just know that we clung to each other and moved together and eventually, after half a minute or half an hour or half a million years, my entire body was shaken by something like a volcanic eruption, and I rocked with jolt after jolt of incredible delight as my first real orgasm went rumbling through me.
Maybe Tammy came also. I would like to think so. But in my innocence I had no way of telling, and in the renewed shyness that came over me in the period of astonished silence that followed what we had done, I could hardly have asked her. Looking back at our innocence and awkwardness, I have to say that I doubt it very much. Teenage girls who have their first sexual experiences with virginal teenage boys don’t generally get to come, except in fairy tales. But I doubt that that mattered any more to Tammy than it did to me, just then. We had done it. We had achieved the purpose of our treaty years ahead of schedule. In a joyous and spontaneous act of love, we had carried each other across the threshold of adulthood, and that was all that counted.
Afterward we were both stunned and a little shocked by what we had done. We could hardly speak. In silence we gathered up our clothes and dressed without looking at each other.
I’m not a virgin any more. I couldn’t get over it.
Today, when the kids start screwing by the time they’re twelve and take it perfectly for granted, I suppose the first time is no big deal. But this was then. Sex was like the Holy Grail for us you suspected everybody else was doing it but you never quite could figure out how to get some yourself.
And then you did, and the world changed forever.
“I guess we didn’t wait until we were thirty, did we?” Tammy asked as I was getting ready to leave.
“I guess we didn’t.”
“But it was fun, wasn’t it, Joe?”
Fun? That was a pretty trivial word to use, I thought. Fun? Is a thermonuclear explosion fun?
What the hell. “Yeah,” I said. My voice was hoarse, a Bogart voice, the voice of my new manhood. “My God, was it ever fun!”
She walked out into the steamy night with me. On the porch she leaned up and kissed me, just a peck on the tip of my nose, and then a real kiss but one without any passion in it. We had burned all the passion out of us, for the moment.
“Good night, Joe.”
Was this the moment I was supposed to tell her I loved her? I couldn’t.
“Good night, Tammy.”
She gave me a funny little smile, a Mona Lisa smile of satisfaction and mystery and enticement and I don’t know what else, and turned to go inside, and blew me a kiss as the door closed.
I went running home across the park in antelope bounds. My life my real life had begun at last!
But for Tammy and me, the beginning was also the end. I phoned her once before we left for our summer vacations, but we didn’t see each other in those few days. A couple of weeks later, while I was working upstate, I met a girl named Jimmie and very swiftly managed to get laid it was all so much easier, I discovered, once you had the first time behind you and felt only a mild tremor of guilt about it. The next time I felt none at all.
And in the fall when school began, Tammy and I didn’t pick up where we had left off. Something told us that if we resumed being lovers during our final year of high school we would only be setting ourselves up for heartbreak later on, and the enforced break was made permanent. We had a secret between us, a very special secret, but that was all there was. We worked well together on the paper, and then we graduated and went off to different colleges in different cities, and that was that.
And as for that deal we had made The year I was thirty I was teaching English at a college in Indiana, and I went off to San Francisco, to the annual meeting of the Modern Languages Association where all the college English instructors shop around for new jobs. And Tammy was there. She had gone in for teaching too.
She had filled out some with the years, but I recognized her right away. It took her longer to recognize me, because I had a beard and a mustache now. But she hadn’t forgotten our big night.
“Do you remember the agreement?” she asked.
“How could I forget?”
“We’re thirty now.”
“But not virgins.”
“Hardly. Even so ” And she grinned.
So we had our encore, just for the hell of it, in a hotel room high above Union Square. We tried to pretend we were scared kids again. But it was hard. She had been married and divorced, and so had I, and we were very different now. It showed in bed. We knew all the postgraduate tricks, the various positions, the little oral maneuvers, stuff we hadn’t dreamed of way back when. And we ran through our repertoires, and it was fun all right, but the magic was gone. How could it not have been? You get only one first time.
“Let’s meet again fifteen years from now and do it again,” I said as we were getting dressed.
“Absolutely,” she said. “It’s a deal.”
That’s the year after next. We’ll both be forty-five then. Hard to believe that the wide-eyed kids of that summer night have managed to get so old. But there’s a little life left in us yet.
Will she be there?
I wonder. But I think she will.