Friday, July 3, 2015
JULY 3, 1995
The July 3rd sun burned through her bare windows like it was filtered through a magnifying glass. I looked at my hand expecting to see smoke rising from it. Lilith was sleeping; her mouth was open like she was expecting to catch flies.
What went on for the remainder of last evening, I couldn’t tell you with much clarity. We must have hit two or three saloons before pressing the elevator button in her building and stumbling into her pad. The last thing I do remember is her saying that this was the tail end of her period to which I responded that it didn’t mean anything to me. And then I was down there. And then I woke up thinking that my hand was on fire.
She had a wonderful shower, the water, strong and hot. It came at me from six different directions. Her bathroom contained all the fabulous and sensual odors that women, even women of much more moderate means, had, but her means bordered on the extravagant. I used notions on my hair and body that I’d never heard of before just because I’d never heard of them. By the time I stepped out of the shower--smelling like an expensive French whore--I noticed an intense smell of bacon, intermingled with coffee, coming from another part of her pad.
“Are you almost finished?” she hollered.
“Almost. With all the shit you have in here I don’t know whether to douche or not?”
I heard the sound of her laughing. “How do you like your eggs?”
The apartment filled with a string quartet by Beethoven, an early one full of youth and promise.
“I put a robe on the bed for you.”
“Thanks,” I hollered back, and went into the bedroom where a thick, deep blue, terry-cloth bathrobe lay. It was incredibly soft on my skin and, from the look and feel of it, nearly new. I felt like a bit of schmuck wearing it, but walked toward her voice nonetheless.
Lilith heard me padding in from the bedroom and turned toward me, spatula in hand. “What a night, what a night. My god, you got me absolutely crazy!” She came over and gave me a kiss, forcing my mouth open so her tongue could find mine. She stepped back to administer to the eggs.
“Sit down,” she said, “make yourself comfortable. It’ll be ready in just a sec.”
I turned to pull out a chair from a long rectangular oak table like something you’d see in a magazine devoted to French Country furniture. It was then that I saw it hanging on the wall. It was jarring. An oil painting of her face, almost seven feet by six feet, challenged the viewer to engage the beast. Well, I’ve engaged the beast more than once in my lifetime and here was another one, a live one, as fearsome looking as any and all of them ever were.
It was Gorky’s mother; it was Neptune devouring his children; it would have made the steely spine of a burglar, unaware of its presence beforehand, choose a different pad to ransack. Her face, almost the size of the canvas, in three-quarter view, was as severe as any monomaniacal persona I’d ever seen. Her deep, brown eyes were positioned so well that her concentration never wavered between what she saw, how she interpreted it, and her defiance, denying the viewer access to anything but fearsomeness within and outside her skull. Her skin, while luminescent looking, had a sickly shade of barely discernible yellow running through it. But it was her mouth, specifically her two front teeth, that gave me the most pause. Though her lips were thin and tight, it bared her teeth in perfect form except for those front two. It was almost as if the white enamel a dentist uses to bond a tooth had slipped while applying it, spreading the white film onto the next front tooth. The sloppiness which this presented was left as was, giving the impression that those two teeth were actually one very large, very strong, and very lethal weapon, or desire.
“My ex painted that,” she explained nonchalantly.
“He did, huh? Well that clears it up. I thought at first it might have been someone whose family you destroyed, perhaps eaten.”
“Yes, not very flattering, I must admit, but he is--was--a very good artist. I don’t know what he’s doing now with his new girlfriend.”
“Let’s hope it has nothing to do with small children or animals.”
“He’s a wonderful father to Hubert,” she said quickly.
“Oh, I believe he is. I was only kidding about that. It was a bad joke,” I replied, then asked, “Hubert? Who’s Hubert? I thought you had a daughter?”
“Hubert’s a she. I took the name from my father who’d recently died and gave it to her.”
“I see,” I said, but didn’t.
“I know, I know, I know, it’s kind of weird, but we all got used to it, including Hubert.”
“Well, I’m happy about that.”
“I nursed my father all during his illness, (my mother never could be there for anyone), and I just couldn’t let him go. Keeping his name alive might be the best gift I could give him.”
The bacon hissed and spat grease from the pan it was frying in. She lowered the flame, waited for a second and shut it off, putting the bacon on some toweling paper nearby. Then she poured the eggs into the same frying pan, stirring them ever so gently. She came over to me carrying a whole decanter of coffee, large cup, and some milk and placed them near me. She glanced at the painting of her.
“He really is a wonderful father,” she said again, “I really don’t know why I hung that painting. He painted so many portraits of me that are so much better; it’s a mystery why I decided to hang that one.” She turned and went back into the kitchen.
I thought for a moment, then thought better of it. “Let’s eat, baby, I’m starved. You must have depleted my entire system last night.”
“And you, me, my dear,” she said as she placed the food before me. “The bacon is from Dean & DeLuca. The butcher told me they get it from a farm in Wisconsin. It’s supposed to be the best there is.”
“Smells delicious,” I said, and took a bite. “Tastes delicious, too. Where are the eggs from?”
“Just kidding, baby, just kidding.”
We greedily ate our food, prompted as much by our bodies need for replenishment as for the taste of the food itself.
“I’ve got something you might really like for later,” she said, with just the right amount of promise in her voice.
“Oh, yeah, what might that be?”
“A bottle of Grand Marnier that’s one hundred and fifty years old. Very few are allowed to be sold in any given year.”
“I can imagine. I don’t think I’ve ever drank anything that was older than me,” I chuckled, “just to be crude, how much does something like that cost?”
“Don’t ask, just enjoy.”
I looked at her with a mixture of curiosity and dread. “Pass the butter, would ya?” I said, and turned my attention to the bread gotten, I was sure, from a Sicilian grandmother in Sicily and flown in just for our morning’s enjoyment.
From: THE TROUBLE WITH DREAMS
© 2015 Norman Savage
Greenwich Village, 2015