Monday, November 17, 2014

Adolescent Cravings, the Second Time Around

Sacchi Green

A few days ago in a comment on Giselle’s post I mentioned a phenomenon I’d read about long before I experienced it, a surge of libido that some women are swept by in their forties or even their early fifties. It feels in some ways like a second adolescence, but one where you have much more life experience under your belt—so to speak—than you did the first time around. Hormones probably have something to do with it, sort of a final prodding of the procreative drive while it might still make a difference, even though actual procreation is not at all what’s on your mind. I think there must also be at least as much of a psychological factor as a hormonal one, a subconscious sense that those daisies had better be gathered in abundance while they're there, and you can still reach for them, even if there are very good reasons why you shouldn’t. Come to think of it, I began writing erotica in my fifties, and I can't say for sure which was cause and which was effect.  In any case, the state of mind and body is about as close to irrational craving as anything I can remember—except, of course, for that first adolescence.

Don’t worry, I won’t get any more personal than that. Instead I’ll take the easy way out, and share two excerpts from one of my earliest erotica stories, my third appearance, I think, in Best Lesbian Erotica, which would place it in 2001. Here are just a few pages from the beginning, and then from the end, which still makes it much too long, so it’s just as well that I’m skipping all the sex in the middle. (It’s all fiction, really it is. Only the craving is real.)
__________

[The beginning]

Of Dark and Bright

     How did it ever come to this? What am I doing here? The opening of my show, and I'm lurking high on a shadowed stairway looking down at the bright rectangles on the gallery walls, at my photographs, my visions, my studies in light and dark. And my whole bone-shaking desire is to step back into that sun and shadow, that scintillation of sky mirrored on rippling water, that light as it strikes so harshly even the smoothest of stream-worn granite, but flows like a lingering touch over the angles of your body.
     What I'm doing here is watching for you. Without any reason to think you will come, though you recognized the name of the gallery when I mentioned so casually that I sometimes show here. Or any idea of what I will do, if you do come. So much for the wisdom of age.
     Nature is playing tricks on me. Not that I'm complaining. A second adolescence is a torment I'm in no hurry to escape, and my body still gets me wherever I want to go. But where does this surge of raging hungers fit into life's cycle? Where's the archetypal progression from maiden to mother to crone? I've made it almost through the first two, not without joys, not without scars, not without clawing at the boundaries. You'd think some wisdom would have been gained, in all that time; but not enough to ease me through this turmoil. Or even through the next few hours. How will I bear it if you don't come? How will I bear it if you do?
           
     The first time you saw me, you retreated.
     I should have been glad. These few days to myself had been hard enough to pry from a life of too many entanglements. No matter how graceful the undulation of your line out over the stream, how elegantly precise the settling of your lure onto the water, barely creasing the tension of its silvered surface, you were an intrusion. Good fly fishing form, skilled hands, nice balance, but--go away, kid. You bother me.
     I watched, unseen, as you moved upstream, searching out the deepest pools among the rocks. No closer, I thought. Go back. Even at a distance, even before I understood, I was reluctant to let your serene concentration be rippled by a chance encounter.  
     My elkhound Raksha tensed on the opposite shore, gray fur blending imperceptibly into the rocks and driftwood. A low growl rumbled in her chest, a prelude to whatever menace might be required.
     I signaled with my eyes to be still, since my hands were occupied with balancing stone on stone, building structures to be photographed--some as cover art for a book set on a distant planet, some as a sequential study of "ephemeral art" showing the effects over time of wind and water and ice, and some for my insatiable obsession with aspects of light and dark. I should have wondered at how quickly she subsided, but I had forgotten, for the moment, that her savagery was reserved for unknown men.
     Then the trout struck. Your lean, intense face transformed with joy--and I knew. I watched you play the fish, draw it carefully, inexorably toward you, stoop to deftly grasp and then release your prize. The lines of your body revealed what the multi-pocketed fishing vest, the baseball cap over close-cropped hair, had at first concealed. But I already knew.
     The stream swirling past my hips might as well have rammed a log into my crotch. A hunger raw as pain, irrational as the jerk of a hammered knee, lurched deep and low inside me. I cursed at my old-enough-to-know-better self; and in that moment of distraction my balance wavered.
     One stone shifted, then another. I tried to restore the equilibrium of my construction, but the pebbles in the streambed turned under my feet. I staggered, and stones from the disintegrating tower bruised me on their way to the bottom of the river.
     You heard the avalanche of rocks and looked up. In a calmer moment I might have enjoyed your expression as your gaze traveled over the surreal array of stone circles and pillars, the camera and tripod on the shore, and Raksha observing you with a lupine grin. By the time you saw me I was pulling myself up onto a wide, sun-warmed boulder, and then wishing I hadn't, realizing how mercilessly revealing my soaked t-shirt had become, how inadequate my denim cutoffs had always been. Damn it, how far into the wilds did I have to go to be spared seeing myself through someone else's eyes?
     Expressions shifted across your dark-browed face like the drifting shadows of clouds on the mountainsides. I knew you were cursing the shattering of solitude, and considering what, if anything, of yourself to reveal. I saved you the trouble of deciding.
     "Raksha, stay!" I commanded, turning toward the shore, knowing that she had no intention of doing otherwise. I stepped from rock to rock until I stood beside her. Then, one hand on her shaggy neck, I faced you again, smiled, and nodded in casual acknowledgment of shared humanity.
     Your answering smile was brief, startled, and lit with a sweetness you would have cursed yourself for showing. You could pass, in the right circumstances, but never with that smile. Then you turned away. I watched you retreat downstream, leaping from boulder to boulder with a long-legged, impetuous sureness that sent a shiver of delight across my skin.
     So I've done it, I thought, gone completely round the bend. Fantasies, delusions...and delusions of what? I wasn't even sure which I wanted more, to fuck you, or, in spite of the scars the world could be counted on to inflict, to be you. Not that it mattered. My chances of one were about the same as of the other.
     But then, in the morning, you came back.
     Extension of my dreams or not, I went with it. Those dreams had left me sweaty, slippery, tangled in my sleeping bag, and utterly without relief. Raksha sniffed at my crotch with interest. I pushed her nose away and headed for the river.
     Mist rose from the water into the early coolness of the July morning. I eased into the deep cascade-fed pool between the largest boulders. The current here had often swept away tension, pain, everything extraneous to pure being; but I didn't even want it to cool this fever. Some aches are to be savored.
     Raksha stood above me on the bank, testing the breeze. I knew by her focused stillness when she caught a human scent. There, across the river, half-hidden by hemlock branches, you stood, watching her wolfish form, and watching me balancing breast-deep.
     This time I wore nothing but my river sandals. Fantasy, delusion, whatever; I chose to pretend that you cared. "Good morning!" I called across the rush of the water. "It's all right, I won't turn you into a stag."
     You grinned, not startled this time, and came down in easy strides to the riverbank. "You sure? Might be too late. Kinda feels like you already have, antlers and all. But I would've taken you for Venus, not Diana."
     "Venus?" I said. "That manipulative bitch?" If this were delusion, I'd make the most of it. Your deliberate drawl and uptake on the Actaeon myth made my skin tingle; your voice, low and with just a hint of huskiness, would have done the trick all by itself.
     "Nothin' wrong with a little manipulation," you said.
     Damn, why hadn't it occurred to me before that this could be fun? Whatever else it turned out to be. It was a gift you offered, your willingness to play the game, to take the risk of sharing this self with me.
     "Could be," I said. "Depends on the hands." I turned and waded to the shore. Slowly and deliberately I stepped up onto the flat rock where I'd dropped my towel and stood there drying myself, concealing nothing, regretting nothing. What you see is what you get. On the off chance that you might care.
     You didn't try to hide your frank gaze, but there was a trace of wariness in your stance. It made sense to be unsure, yet, how much I understood, how much I intended, how crazy, after all, I might be, building towers and arches of river rocks in the wilderness. Just as it made sense for me to wonder whether my eccentricity was all that drew you.
     "Come on across," I said casually. "I'll make some coffee." Without watching to see whether you were coming I stepped onto the bank and headed toward my lean-to shelter. My shorts and t-shirt still hung damply on a branch, so I pulled on jeans and the old flannel shirt that doubles as a pillow. I didn't button the shirt, just tied it up under my breasts for a little support; it's been twenty years since I could comfortably go braless. Not that fullness of flesh doesn't have ample compensations.
     By the time I had the fire going under the kettle you’d found the upstream ford where, at this time of year, legs as long as yours could negotiate a crossing on rocks. When Raksha went to meet you, you took her inspection serenely in stride. I had to struggle a bit myself for any semblance of serenity. Something in the way you moved, with the sureness and grace and wariness of, yes, a stag, made me shiver in places the cool breeze couldn't touch.
     I saw, with relief, that you weren't quite as young as I had thought at first. Old enough to know what you were doing; but damn, still so young! What the hell did I think I was doing?
     "Invisible antlers or not," I said, when you were close enough, "you don't seem in any danger from my hound. Raksha seldom shows her fangs to women." Just so you'd know, in case you still wondered, that I knew.  "Raksha is, in fact, a slut," I added, as she rolled on her back and wriggled for a belly-rub. "Not that I don't understand exactly how she feels."

[The ending]

I hear your voice before I see you, and the petulant reply of your companion. I struggle to be glad you aren't alone. I watch you move slowly through the gallery, studying the pictures, while she fidgets with her hair. Then you stop before the central work, the one that makes everyone stop. Your body takes on that blend of stillness and tension I remember so well; and this time you see it, too, in the photograph before you. You lie there on a wide, flat rock in midstream, leaning on one elbow, looking down into the rushing water. Sunlight slants across your naked, smoothly muscled back and buttocks, your long, lithe legs, but your head is in the shadow of a higher boulder and your face is turned away. The arm you lean on hides all but a mere, subliminal trace of your curving breast.
     Your companion pauses, says, "Ooh, sexy!" and moves on. She doesn't recognize you. No one could recognize you unless she truly knew you, truly saw you.... You should be with someone who will always know you, always feel her heart jump and her breath catch at the sight of you, at your least movement, at your stillness, all through a long, long life. It can't be me, but it won't be her, either.
     You lean forward to read the caption, then turn and scan the gallery. I have retreated up around the curve of the spiral stairway, but you come unerringly toward me, and your movements as you climb quickly and easily up the stairs make something lurch deep inside me.
     I look into your face, watching for anger, half-wanting to see you angry, at least once--your anger could be as breathtaking as your joy--but never hurt. Though your expression is casual, detached, your dark eyes are intense. "Nice bunch of stones," you say, gesturing below.
     "I'll take it down," I say, "if you want me to. You could sue me for not asking your permission, but I didn't know how to reach you." I had deliberately refused to let you tell me how to reach you, for fear that I might descend into stalking. You, sensing that my life is not elegantly simple enough to be all my own, had let it go at that.
     "You might as well leave it up," you say. "Just another pile of stones."
     "No! That's not how I think of you!" My throat is so tight I can scarcely breath.
     You tilt your head slightly, considering. "Where did you get that title? 'All that's best of dark and bright.'" You glance down briefly toward the photograph. "Sounds familiar. From a poem, isn't it?"
     "Byron," I say. "'She walks in beauty, as the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies,/And all that's best of dark and bright/ Meets in her aspect and her eyes.'" I manage a slight smile. "On top of everything else, you've turned me maudlin."
     You give me that sudden, blindingly beautiful smile, and relax, and lean your shoulder against the curving wall. "So, will you be going back to get more pictures of those 'ephemeral' towers?"
     "Next month, over Columbus Day." I'm still far from relaxed, but at least I can breathe again. "I was hoping you'd ask."
     Your wide grin makes my heart leap. "I kinda feel an urgent fishing trip coming on," you say, ignoring the querulous voice from below calling your name.
     Then you're gone, leaving me throbbing from a quick, hard, incendiary embrace. And a promise.



12 comments:

  1. Delicious - the chills-up-the-spine, followed by fever sort of delicious!

    I don't need the middle of the story (though I don't doubt it's worth reading). You've made your point with perfection.

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    1. Thanks, Lisabet. It was fun revisiting that piece, and that time.

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    2. I've been finding myself haunted by the initial excerpt over the past 24 hours. What strikes me is the way the key to this immediate attraction lies in the way the fisher-woman moves, in her grace and her stillness. You mention nothing about her sexual attributes, or even her face. Instead you're drawn to the special way this woman lives in her body.

      I've had the same experience, but I'm not sure I could describe it as perfectly as you have here. Beautiful and wholly believable.

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  2. The work of your heroine photographer reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy's work. And, as a younger man, I did lots of fly fishing, and I also had my own fantasies of running into a soft nymphet along the stream while fishing. A nymphet who admired my fishing style. Sweet tale.

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    1. I'm intrigued by Goldsworthy, and used to carry a calendar featuring his work when I owned a retail business. But I think this story was written before I'd discovered him, and was inspired more by rock sculptures I'd come across along a stream while I was hiking in New Hampshire. Somewhere I'd also seen an article about "ephemeral art," too, although I don't know that anyone did it by making rock towers. From what I've seen along the piece of frontage on a small river that goes with my cabin in NH, I'd say that such art would be very ephemeral indeed, and couldn't possibly make it in any recognizable form through the winter and spring.

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  3. Sacchi:
    The story is good, of course, but I wish you hadn't taken "the easy way out". We don't hear enough about sexuality among those of us past 50. I started writing erotica in my 60's for what looks like the same reason- a part of my life is passing away and I'm not ready to let go.

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    1. Spencer, it was really less a matter of the "easy" way than an avoidance of the more personal way, which means it was more of a cop-out. But I will assure you that sex is alive and well far past 60, if not quite as chaotic as in adolescence.

      I actually get a little more personal here than I would on my own blog or Facebook, for reasons more professional than, well, personal. I don't seem to be read all that much here, which does make me feel like a slacker, but, on the other hand, it may be just as well.

      [I can't resist admitting that I thought of titling this post "A Cougar's Craving," thinking it might grab more attention, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.]

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    2. Wow! Love that title.

      A recurring theme in my stories is older woman/ younger man.

      I think we'd all be read a little more if we did the dance of reposting to our own platforms and twitter with racy tags like the title you have suggested.

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  4. Breathtaking! I especially love the final scene.

    She doesn't recognize you. No one could recognize you unless she truly knew you, truly saw you....

    Brilliant.

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  5. Thank you, Jeremy. I have a feeling that I did my best work back when I was, if not young, younger.

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  6. I'm intrigued and kind of frightened by this idea of a second adolescence. I feel as if, in some ways, I'm having a second adolescence in my thirties. Not sure if I can handle another one!

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  7. I remember this story! It's poignant, espcially since the concept of a second adolescence (or even lust in women that doesn't go away after a certain age, such as 40) doesn't seemt o be widely recognized.

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