[monologue #2, cont’d] We stalked around the museum a bit, taking in German Expressionism, which, as you know, is the Portrait of Dorian Gray in the attic of the bourgeois Nazi mansion. We discussed, among other things, Wilhelm Reich. I don’t remember much about the specific paintings, other than the famous ones we all know, to be honest, because while we were pretending to look at the paintings, I was stealing glances at her, and she was stealing glances at my glances. Her exquisite posture and the perfect body it shaped! Exactly my height, similarly thin, sort of sinewy, no extravagant fat on her ass. Give me an African girl without the blubbery ass we get when we poison ourselves with Western food! As post-Africans, you know, we have that famine gene … very useful ten thousand years ago… which backfires on us in the land of McDonald’s. It takes discipline for a post-African to keep a trim figure and her self-discipline was enormous and her ass proportionally petite.
She spoke with worldly self-confidence about herself and things she obviously really knew something about, unlike so many people who speak only of that about which they very safely know nothing. She smiled her dazzling smile… I know that’s a racist cliché, the dazzling quality of an African’s smile, but her smile was genuinely dazzling. Shining perfect black skin and shining perfect white teeth is just such a perfect combination you have to marvel at the power of the propaganda that works to make you forget that, most of the time, so we can all think we prefer blondes!
I don’t remember how long we pretended to look at the paintings when she asked if I was hungry. Yes, I said, truthfully, I’m very hungry, and we left the museum and I hailed a cab and paid for the ride, from the New National Gallery to her flat on Kant Strasse, with all the money in my pocket. It was a calculated risk but liberating. Do you know the jazzy piano tune Cast Your Fate to the Wind? It commenced playing on the cab driver’s radio precisely at the moment we pulled away from the New National Gallery! The version by Ramsey Lewis. We both knew the tune, Kandy and I, and looked at one another and giggled, wide-eyed, when we heard it. We recognized it for the powerful omen it was. Something or someone, if only the ghost of Ramsey Lewis, was giving us its blessing.
Now, let’s address something important, before we continue. Why was Kandy so quick to take my hand? We were practically strangers. The explanation is this. I call it the Orphan Effect. When two orphans meet, they invariably fall in love. The shared trauma of the orphanage is a powerful thing to have in common. Two orphans together can feel like one un-orphaned child, temporarily at least, and this feeling… even in the form of a fleeting illusion… is a powerful narcotic, a balm to life’s deepest pain-clusters. And Kandy recognized me, instantly, from my manner of speech and dress and my posture, as another orphan just like her, a cultural orphan, both of us supposedly “unnatural”, in the eyes of the normal world, both of us solidly African in our genes but “Western” in our culture, because we had been raised in “The West” and we took to it. We had each been presented with the English language, as a mother tongue, from very early on and had each decided to master it. You know, as an African you’re supposed to speak in a humorous pidgin. You’re supposed to be deeply “religious” (probably Christian) and governed by your emotions and only cursorily acquainted with the written word; books are supposed to be distant objects, for you, and the only “canons” you’re supposed to know are the ones that were firing balls at your ancestors’ huts when the transport came to bring your genetics to the New World. Despite the fact that I was soaking-wet and shivering like a cur, Kandy saw that I wasn’t a “bongo man”… her term for the cliché. When she heard me speak, that was it. Finally, she thought. And that’s what I thought, too. And the fact that Kandy was physically stunning, too… that was the cherry on top of the miracle. Let’s be honest, if she’d had the same mind housed in the body of a cheap-wig-wearing, buck-toothed, overweight mother-of-five, I’d have wanted her for my friend, my good friend, perhaps, but nothing more. But a mind like that in the most perfectly beautiful presentation of female humanity that I’d ever seen in person: only one feeling, on my part, was possible. Call off the dogs, I thought, that instant she took my hand in her elegant version of a mere hand and pulled me gently through the dead-eyed Teutonic crowds of the New National Gallery and the thrillingly honest ugliness of the German Expressionists… call off the dogs, the search is over! I’d found a woman who was exactly like me, me with great tits and soft skin and a shapely arse and I was the male version of her, a flat-chested Kandy with a medium-sized but aesthetically-perfect, sleek as a carbon-fiber starship. The penis we both intended to use, that very evening, to unify the two longing halves of LOVE.
But what is LOVE? I call it “L. O. V.E.”… “Leaving Out Virtually Everything”… do you see? LOVE is normally an outrageously ruthless editing job. The genitals, via the heart, see what they want to and disregard the rest. Between Kandy and me, for the time it lasted, LOVE was about seeing everything and everything behind everything and being quite avid to see more. LOVE as the opposite of “Love” but can you blame the human? Most of us provide with our imaginations what life is too stingy to offer. The second of two primal mechanisms for dealing with mortality, I suppose. The first being Sex.
We hopped out the taxi on Kant Strasse, where Kant Strasse is crossed by Wilmersdorfer Strasse like an ignorant counter-argument, a tatty little corner of Berlin where the bakeries and flower shops just barely outnumber the Russian brothels and quickie casinos. I emptied my pockets to pay for the ride. The taxi driver, also not German, smirked at us as he drove off, waving in the rear-view mirror. I sometimes think of that man, years later, and the boyish humanity of his wolfish grin and I hope he’s happily married and the father of many.
Kandy watched the taxi disappear and said, with a little bow, before the taxi had entirely vanished, “Come!”
She unlocked the big old double doors in front of her belle epoque building and shoved me against a stone wall in the dark of the passage leading through to the courtyard, a passage just wide enough for the narrow coal trucks of the 1920s to have driven through. The little coal trucks would park to the side of the sloped trap doors of the coal cellar, which were next to the plain black door that led to Kandy’s flat at the top of the building. She kissed me. By the way, perhaps you’re aware that the English compound noun “cellar door” is cited, by some, as the most beautiful phrase in the English language? The history of the contemplation of the aesthetics of the phrase, with unexpected connections touching writers as diverse as Edgar Allan Poe and J. R. R. Tolkien, reminds me, always, when I pronounce the phrase “cellar door”, that the world is a mysterious map we hold in our childish hands, an inherited parchment only important insofar as it corresponds to another, higher, sporadically-glimpsed territory a billion times bigger, the roaring terrain called Human Knowledge, with its queer caves and golden forests and misted islands such as, for example, off the top of my head, Fibonacci Numbers and Skatole and the fact that a blue whale’s blow-hole resembles the nostrils of a cartoon version of the noses of the mysteriously enormous, sea-facing statues of Easter Island .
Every dozen meters on the way up the six flights of carpeted stairs to her flat, Kandy grabbed me and shoved me provocatively against a neighbor’s thudding door and stuck her sharp red tongue in my mouth between our sealed black lips. I held her smooth skull in my hands as we kissed while grinding our pelvises like two mortars, or two pestles, and as if I were holding my own perfect skull between my nervous fingers, afraid to drop it, from a thrillingly new point of view. You’d think we’d been in love since the soft bright gardens of childhood and were then cruelly separated by a long war and that our epic reunion had finally, as prophesied, come.
I’m not sure how long it finally took us to kick our shoes off inside her front door, and pad in damp socks across the parquet of her living room to stand beside the potential-filled wedge of dark that trimmed the edge of her inches-ajar bedroom door like a pelt, but Kandy pointed dramatically and Kandy’s eyes widened in the black diamond of her face and Kandy said,
“Listen up, Adam! Before you make love with me, and make me your Eve, you must build the bed you plan to lay me on,” and I was both charmed and shattered by the Biblical poetry of her announcement. On the one hand, what woman, in the 21st century, spoke with such heartbreaking magic? She was impossible! She was perfect! She had fingered the seams of the situation!
On the other hand: where would I find the wood, and the tools, and the knowledge, at ten p.m. , on a Friday night, to build a proper fucking bed, pardon my French? I almost hated her for saying what I knew had been the most proper and necessary thing she could have said. Before I could try to think up the equally-perfect and necessarily mythopoetic response, Kandy gestured that I should follow as she nudged the gap between the door and its jamb wider and knelt to switch on a little red plastic lamp near the door of that nearly empty room, that freshly-painted-smelling bedroom containing only that lamp, a plastic-wrapped mattress slouched like an airport sandwich against the far wall by the window and a long flat box from Ikea.
I’m afraid I’m forced to resort to graphic language now but I know you’ll forgive me. Her pussy was like an ecstatic death in hot quicksand. I’ve never, in my life, felt a pussy with such a sucking force to it! The furled wet twilight-black lips that you see, if you care to investigate, are merely a veil on the entrance to a temple’s antechamber; the real lips are hidden within and brightly ruby-red and they suck with angel greed. They could suck the paint off a Cadillac. Her pussy felt as though it was trying to suck my heart through my urethra like a cherry through a straw. And, of course, spiritually speaking, that’s exactly what happened! I’m not sure how many times I ejaculated that evening, though she didn’t come once, to be honest, and it didn’t matter. I think the number was four. We both knew it would take me weeks to learn how to make her clam sing. And I did, eventually. But even the false starts felt good. Sometimes Kandy was the man and I was the woman. Sometimes we were both women and sometimes we were both men. We were identical. That was the point.
And what a relief I felt! Do you understand what I mean by “relief”?
They’d wandered up from the roundabout at Moritzplatz along Oranienstrasse toward the scoliotic spine of the overhead U-Bahn tracks of Görlitzer Bahnhof, passing through hubbubing philological middens of Expats and tourists and German hoi polloi competing for space with Kreuzberg Turks going about the exotic banalities of their everyday lives: the traditional shouts of beetle-browed men hauling giant sacks of circular stacks of dinner-plate sized wheels of fladenbrot against a background of the prayerful mutters of ship-like housewives in raincoats and headscarves traversing crowds and side-streets and vacant lots, brandishing vegetable decisions and their choices of tinned oils and their discount meats, their whiskery scowls lifting against the setting sun’s orange and indigo arrows with stately defiance over the heads of the milling refugees. Pigeons followed the refugees everywhere they went like a running commentary.
“No. What do you mean by ‘relief’?” said Paul, who was wondering what the point of the story would be. Or had been.
He already knew that The Professor’s wife Kandy had left The Professor for Joel Somethingberg because, despite having no (visible) money of his own, Somethingberg’s family was wealthy and full of accomplished members: an older brother was a banker worth thirty or forty million dollars; another brother, who was married to a niece of the former Chief Executive of Hong Kong, was Principal Horn for the New York Philharmonic. When Kandy Somethingberg pushed her second husband, the invariably strip-searched and X-Rayed Joel, in his wheelchair, down the concrete ramp out of the holding area of the security zone of JFK International, every Christmas, it was to a private car that would rush them to Joel’s sister’s penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park, the apartment into which the elevator opened very discreetly as its ultimate stop, despite Joel’s loud, proud and incessant description of himself as a Communist, always railing against his family’s wealth and prestige (a very effective way of advertizing it).
“Why ‘relief’, Professor?”
“For years I was afraid, very afraid… scared to death… that I might have to spend the rest of my life with a white woman!”
“Well, I always feared the opposite, to be honest,” said Paul, who then took the opportunity to interrupt The Professor’s monologue with a short one (perhaps too short to qualify officially as a monologue in this book) of his own, holding up a hand like a traffic cop to maintain an opening in which to insert and assert his diatribe.
“I’ll tell you a story. Late in the summer of 1966 I took a thrilling walk with one of my uncles a little way up the street from my grandmother’s house. It was dark and probably a Friday, with quite a few people, mostly teens, carrying transistor radios, on the sidewalk. There was a high hedge around the side of my grandmother’s yard we were walking beyond and I remember the streetlight burning high over the dark top of this high hedge. We only walked as far as the corner but it was after my bedtime and I was following my uncle deep into the territory of the forbidden. It was the same sort of pre-sexual thrill I had experienced listening over and over again to the high-pitched lead vocals of the song Sherry, by the Four Seasons, the 45-rpm vinyl recording of which I had found among my Aunt’s collection of 45s the year before. In 1966 I was seven and I was already dreaming of Girls or, more accurately, The Girl. The Girl was out there somewhere in the dark because it was summer and Friday and there was a chance I might catch a glimpse of her while walking to the corner with my uncle. But it was not possible. Not in that neighborhood.”
Paul continued, “The pop songs and sitcoms and hair-color, cigarette, party-snacks and cologne ads of the mid-1960s had given me a longing I had neither the proper vocabulary nor a feasible use for. I didn’t want a seven-year-old girl, I wanted a girl who was twenty four, give or take a year or two, dressed in pedal-pushers, no-nonsense flats and a pink angora sweater. She’d have a part-time job, a portable record player, a stylish haircut much more elegant than the sticky beehive hairdos I saw everywhere in the proximate sky and a sultry tendency to drink from mugs of cocoa in front of an open fire in a ski chalet in the Alps, probably. I couldn’t have had a more farfetched dream, even if it involved interplanetary travel.”
“It wasn’t until 1968, when I’d done two more years of living vicariously through the laughably light (in hindsight) saturation of mid-20th century advertizing, that I realized that The Girl needed to speak her English, perhaps haltingly, with a foreign accent. She could not be American. An American girl could not hold the proper amount of mystery or possibility or evocative misunderstandings. American girls were known quantities who did what it said on the tin: you knew exactly what they meant, whatever they said. Even at that age, with overt sexual consciousness at least four or five years away, I intuited the essential asexuality of the perky, chipper, bouncy, helpful, open-faced, unambiguously go-go dancing American Girl they were marketing to The Heartland that year, Black or White. Who I wanted was The Girl with heavy eye-liner and a note of Existential Sorrow in her husky voice. I wanted The Girl who owned a moped and knew Spies and sipped cocoa to accordion music at canal-side sidewalk cafes after giving The Beatles their haircut. Or, again, yes, the girl in the ski chalet.”
Pause [during which Paul imagined he was a smoker, taking a drag on an extinct brand of menthol cigarette from the 1960s].
“Find me a Black girl like that and I’ll be glad to have her, Professor! Until then…” Paul made an au revoir gesture. “And who wrote this law that Blacks go with Blacks, Whites go with Whites, Chinese with Chinese? Racists, obviously. Why should anyone care who goes with what? We’re not cattle. Who cares if a so-called race disappears, one day? New so-called races emerge. What difference should it make to us?”
“But what about the beauty of being with one’s own kind, Paul?”
“Fuck one’s own kind,” said Paul, with emphasis.
“But, Paul, that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you!” said The Professor and they both laughed. The Professor added, with his pipe-puffing tone, while wiping his glasses again,
“You told me at the beginning of this walk, Paul, that you believed you’d come to the end of sex… no?”
“Well. I’m suggesting a sort of diagnosis. You’ve come to the end of not sleeping with your own kind, I think. Isn’t it obvious?”
“I disagree, Professor, in fact, if anything, I feel your little sermon may have cured me of my ambivalence. I’m ready to sleep with more blondes than ever before, now. Maybe this is the meaning of my life. Maybe I’m exogamy’s avant garde.”
The Professor patted Paul’s bouquet-clutching arm.
“You’re right, of course. My outlook is outmoded. We’re historic creatures, you and I, Paul! Take a good look at me now and a good look at yourself in the mirror when you get home. Our types aren’t long for this world. The great irony being that I’m closer to being racially ‘pure’, after ten generations of Yoruba lineage, than any ‘Aryan’ in the S.S. was. And you… you! After four hundred years of the competitive breeding practises of North American chattel slavery, you’re the closest thing to a Eugenic Superman Europe will ever see!”
“You’re too kind.”
“Oh, don’t be modest, Paul! Look at you! You are clearly the result of the results of the results of some plantation owner’s ambitious design! You’re taller and stronger than a Viking, with broader shoulders and better teeth! Do you know that the average height of the Vikings was about five foot nine? You would have towered over them! Don’t let your color fool you, Superman! And I hope you’ll reconsider the many advantages of being with your own kind one day!”
The Professor slapped Paul on the back as they waited to cross at the stop light at Adalbertstrasse. A slap and a quick little rub of Paul’s shoulder’s. And a squeeze of his arm. Then the Professor very helpfully reached for Paul’s flowers, to carry them awhile, as though a long walk still lay ahead for the two of them.
previous excerpt HERE