Pappus and Sonder: Chapter Twenty-Six
Pappus & Sonder
Chapter Twenty-Six: THE QUICKIE
Coral rang me. It was a Friday night and I went straight around to her place after work. I pressed her doorbell. It was a month before the wedding we attended together.
She hardly let me get in the door before my pants were around my knees. The encounter was fast, furious and frenetic.
Her coat rack and umbrella stand fell with us to the hallway floor. Her indoor planter rack teetered but held. It was a methodical ambush. Though Coral’s body wasn’t camouflaged. She was starkers, no fig leaf. Well not completely. Stockings held by suspenders on a crotchless scarlet garter belt.
My body were being worked over like I was subject to multiple indecent illegal frisking by several female security officers simultaneously. One hand was rubbing my chest after popping a button in her rush. Fingers extended, plying through the emerging thickness of my maturing chest hair. Her other hand massaged vigorously and rhythmically my recently unused but now happy shaft. Her hand moved from my chest to grab the flesh of my butt. Her right hand was teasing my balls, stretching the silky bag sack down towards my perineum, spreading my nuts and rubbing between them and gliding all the way back to my glans. She was rimming my arse. She was teasing and building girth at the base of my shaft. Then she was between my legs, both hands sculpting up and down, willing my cock to maximum engorged thickness.
Coral was following a sequence like prepping a cannon—my cannon—but for a moment I felt it could have been any guy who had come through the door. If it had been a race to the door between the pizza guy and myself, it probably would have been a threesome. No male losers here tonight.
Her tongue was her primer and her fingers the rammer and her mind the fuse. I was loaded and ready, awaiting my position to fire off. She was now taking my penis deep, burying maleness in her soft mouth. Coral was skilled, accomplished, and talented. This was cock happy hour, back to its place of front and centre in a young man’s life. Coral had come a long way with foreplay since the boathouse. She was working to her own internal timing and was fully absorbed in giving head. Nothing over complex here, giving head as a male would want to receive head. She knew the routine.
Then she was on my cock, giving me the sexual view ensuring pumping heavy joint friction: reverse cowgirl. She had arched forward so I could see my pecker filling her. Coral’s golden pubes spread luxuriantly as she quickened the pace, guiding in a full tight glide; the action. She leaned far forward, and then came back in startling explicit, open sex. She raised herself to a squat. I saw my cock disappear and reappear. I saw the hold of her pussy ringing my penis. It was unadulterated friction, pussy and cock pleasuring each other. We both had the experience to make it last, to sap and drain the self-pleasure from our privates pooled. And we did. We took it all. We took what the parts combined can give. We took it in the moment for our individual needs. Her lingerie though I sighed after cumming deserved romance.
As we rested, I made the comparisons you should never make. I left the uniqueness of each woman and their sexual expression. Ruby of the passionately impromptu, the sexually unexpected; she had no idea herself what would happen next, the theatre sports of sex, like grabbing some man meat for fellatio in a public stairwell. Jenny of the fluid flow, the sliding transitions in the moment, sensation built on sensation together. Coral was planned and measured; full preparation in advance. She tried too hard for herself and put faith in the pleasure of the parts working together as she choreographed. The parts will always work; the issue is the together and beyond the together.
And it struck me too; how did the women in my life remember sex? With moi first, of course, ego drive present as always; but then the sex—their partners into whom I meshed or was I held differently? What was I associated with? Then, later, or now?
A few minutes later Coral and I were relaxing on her bed. Her lingerie replaced with pj’s. My underwear back on.
“Was that any good?” asked Coral.
I qualified, “The sex was okay; well, it was way better than okay. Okay?”
“Yeah.” She actually looked sexier in her pink flannel pyjamas than naked.
“Yeah,” was echoed by me. “But we weren’t in it, like it’s not us.”
Then a bit wistful from Coral, “Not us. I thought so too as we tidied my hallway.” Her pj’s had little white lambs gambolling around and one disappearing under her arm pit.
“Mmm” I said trying to place where we were as two.
“Then where the fuck are, we, Luke?” The lambs had undocked tails.
“In your bedroom.”
Coral gave a nervous laugh and lit a cigarette; she had restarted smoking after losing her most recent male. To be honest but I would never had told her; she was slightly off her high standards of grooming; health and exercise. She wasn’t carrying obvious pounds; but she would have failed her own pinch test at her hips. Her weight didn’t bother me as much as I knew she was doing it tough. It looked like she had seriously over invested in a dude named Simon.
After a couple of drags she released, “Fuck you.”
“You just did; want it again?” I told myself off. It wasn’t really what I wanted with Coral.
“No.” But she laughed lightly. I laughed too. And it brought us part way back.
Coral had dated a management guy; Simon for about two months. She met him at the gallery where she was working. They were having dinner at Ruby’s parents’ Italian restaurant; the one Jenny and I were at for her birthday. Simon had apparently dogged one of the waitresses in the unisex toilet between courses. He had dessert early. Coral filled me in:
“Then the bitch served us up cassata with a smile,” said Coral. Her eyes indicating, she would more than like to dock Simon.
I inquired respectfully, “How did you find out?”
“Ruby as usual. She finds out everything; fuck Simon.”
“Ruby fucked Simon?”
“No; fuck Simon.”
“Geez, Coral; we’ve been here before, I’m not fucking Simon.” I wanted her content like the lambs. I wanted her slightly unorganised like the sprinkle of freckles on her cute nose. I needed time for those freckles and I might truly understand Coral I thought. I wondered if I had given them some attention in the boathouse, we might have made it together. Reality check: nope.
Still easy enough to bring her a portion of the way back, but not as easy as years ago. Coral really lived on the edge of relationship risk, putting her feelings out there all the time. I admired her, but she took too many hits; too many just not rights; she wanted someone to love her back to her envisioned plan and be a reliable one-woman fuck. Where the fuck were, they? Was I doing any better being here? In the moment, we fucked, but it hadn’t helped. We both wanted to throw it away again like we had long ago in the boathouse.
Coral lit another cigarette.
“You’ll kill yourself,” I said.
“I already am. Why not us? What do you think?”
“Too obvious. Its physical; there’s no love here. It’s too late for anything more.”
“Do we know too much about each other?” she added.
“Coral, you won’t even kiss me when we have sex.” It wasn’t what I should have said; she knew it too; we were bosom buddies.
I wondered if she kissed anyone.
“Do you kiss anyone?” I ventured it.
I could smell burning. “Coral, your sheet is smouldering.”
“Oh hell,” responded Coral as she spat with slight covered hand decorum on the cigarettes ashes’ smouldering marks.
“Add pyromaniac to nymphomaniac,” I said as I laughed. However, Coral didn’t join me.
She got up and went for a glass of water. She turned at the doorway; “I only ever kissed one boy.” Then she was being followed out of her bedroom by the cute lambs gambolling across her shapely buttocks.
I heard her in the kitchen. Well sort of; cupboard opening; tap turned on and off.
I took in the double framed prints above the bed head, previously only in my peripheral vision. I looked closely. Unreal, there was a portrait photo of Klimt with his cat and the Self Portrait as Genitalia sketch side by side. Coral had thought about our sexual signatures. As strained as she was, I wanted to know her thoughts about the drawing even more than I had in college.
I cheated; I knew she had sketch books. I opened the top draw of her dresser beside her bed; I thought I might get lucky. I did. Her sketch books were neatly piled on the right-hand side; the left occupied by a yo-yo recalling teenage Coral and a spinning top; reviving her as a child. I saw the evidence; Coral carefully kept memories.
I flipped through sketches of faces I didn’t know; the jetty I did; then I hit the vulvas. Beautiful drawings of female genitalia; acknowledging Betty Dodson as the source. Though Coral had added eyes to them. I realised Klimt had it easy; the penis head; can be drawn as a face. Female crinkly; crimped; gathered labia; kissing into each other or hidden in or by pubic hair or puffy outer folds; how to draw a face. Labia outer and inner are vertical, a mouth is horizontal. So Coral added eyes to the vulva and shaped the labia as a sort of nose, lips combo. Only two drawings were signed CP; side by side; as originals. I knew enough to know one was Coral, the other Ruby; Coral delightfully adding freckles to her labia; Ruby’s pubic mound was pappus fuzz.
I heard her coming back. I didn’t want to be caught out; this was private. I slipped the sketch book back in her drawer.
It wasn’t the time to ask about Klimt. I couldn’t get a word in.
“Fuck past love,” she said. “It’s no use right now.”
Then she drank half the glass.
“I’m not fucking you again, probably ever;” I said.
“No; I’m here now, but it’s not now I want. I want my yesterdays moved into next week now.”
No glass half empty or half full. She drained it.
I was too scared to tell Coral she wanted three things at once; sex, commitment and control.
“Geez, Luke, we’re both drifting.”
“You’ve said something similar once before...at...at the beach, with seaweed. Something like, ‘we drift, and then we pair, but is it out of love or to avoid the loneliness'.”
“Really; the things we say and don’t recall,”
She got back up; indicating and speaking; she needed to pee.
I scanned her bedroom; it was initially an odd mixture of discordant, eclectic features. Provocative artworks were next to a shelf of plush soft toys. A bear with a cute button nose evoking a sideshow alley from years ago. Josh had given it to her. She had named it Baloo. She had loved the animated Disney; The Jungle Book. Once Josh was her cuddly bear. Goldilocks and Baloo; an interesting combination. I drifted to my first day at primary school. Coral and I were in the same class, not Josh. I introduced Coral to Josh at morning break. He was happy because it meant we had enough players for Four-square at lunch.; combined with a classmate he had met who had a tennis ball. At lunch it was foursquare. We were all evenly matched; at times rotating through the king square. Coral was in it; when Max; Josh’s older mate by two grades arrived. He sniggered; “Goldilocks and the three bears.” We all kept playing trying to knock Coral out of the top square. I saw her beam at Max; he wasn’t saying anything new; I somehow naturally knew. Coral liked her hair. I liked it too. I also liked the patterns created by our shadows as they criss-crossed each other’s as we played.
Her nickname sort of hung in the background over the next couple of years. It became a more regular tag after our class photograph in year four. The three of us were in the same class that year. We were asked to get in rows on raised seats for the yearly professional school shot. Coral was positioned between Josh and myself in the standing back row. Then the photographer and the teacher were discussing something while we were all left waiting for it to be over.
Our teacher said; “Coral you need to come out of the back row, down to the front and centre.”
Coral repositioned. Our teacher nodded and added, “Just right.”
The photographer said it too. Then he asked us all to repeatedly say cheese and he clicked his large tripod camera a few times.
‘Just right’, took on an additional meaning over time as Coral organised my mate and I for activities on weekends. I liked Coral’s lead. Her direction annoyed Josh sometimes and so he called her Goldilocks, once upon a time; in an offhand teasing way.
Her room was an eclectic yet organised space. Her dressing table was over accessorised with moisturisers, eye shadow stuff, lip balms and brushes. Also, copious perfumes in interesting shaped vessels all ranged in height and colour like a rainbow.
I heard the loo flush.
“Are you avoiding Ruby? It seems like it.” Coral asked as she lit up again on returning. Chain smoker.
“I haven’t seen her much since she came back from Europe; both busy.”
“Ah,” said Coral. “You two were fucking in Paris?” I hadn’t spoken about Ruby to Coral beyond being vague and saying I had crashed on her couch for a few weeks.
I nodded and said; “Look, I need to forget all the girls in my life, okay?”
“Ah, like I need to forget about boy’s period?”
“And the girls,” I added. “I always thought you and Ruby had it off; am I right?”
I surmised Coral and Ruby had played their lesbian games at the boathouse and the spring. Still, would Coral admit it? Was she bisexual? Or was it only youthful exploration, nothing more?
“Lukey, Lukey…you know girls, we never kiss and tell.” And the way she said it closed the conversation strand like butting an unfinished cigarette.
She was smoking and thinking or first smoking, then thinking or being probing bloody Coral when she said, “What about Jenny, any redevelopment?”
“No; she’s interstate somewhere. I tried to keep her rhythm.” I said it quietly. My head dropped. Coral knew to stop.
“It’s not theirs or yours; it’s a together one” even softer than me. Maybe it was for herself as much as me.
I’m sure she heaved a deep sigh. Then Coral was reflective: “No, I don’t pick them well.” Then the longest of sighs from Coral; before: “Except Josh.” She stretched out; either trying to let go or capture a thought, and I saw the full lamb under her arm pit.
Josh’s name didn’t generate continued conversation. It was a stopper with us; had been since the boathouse.
I was close to terminal frustration. Coral was deep in dissatisfaction. Fuck, sex was frustrating; yet we had just had it.
We smiled at each other; we were beyond laughing this one out. Josh had reappeared. Though to be honest he had never disappeared. It wasn’t like I was trying or needed to airbrush him out of Coral’s bedroom. I don’t know what was then currently on the canvas at the fore of Coral’s mind.
I excused myself to the kitchen for water. Wonderful kitchen she had in this apartment. Not the appliances or fittings, it was the verdant indoor plants, made greener courtesy of a large skylight.
I didn’t stay the night. This was never either of our better selves and we both knew it; a part of our sexual trail we would both probably prefer to erase. The lambs were really cute though.
I wanted in leaving her to grasp her true architectural match to prompt me always to her essence and not repeat the slip-up of having sex with Coral; but it evaded me. Maybe we were too close to really stand back and see each other. I liked classic comparisons when we were younger; The Parthenon in particular and it stuck for a long time; elegant balanced perfection, that seemed Coral; yet the reality is as I found out later; the architects of the Acropolis trick the eye; for example; the columns are not flawlessly straight; they swell to provide the illusion of perfection.
Neither Coral or I were perfect and we knew this as went back again to confront Emin’s Tent after a drink; that night we had together at a gallery. We were both drawn back to the work, after her Granville disclosure; one last sharing of a quality provocative work before we called it a night; even as we mentally tried to avoid all of its thrown gauntlet to selves.
“It is making us face our sexual trail,” I remarked.
“As confronting as a Chlamydia trail,” added Coral seriously. “Like thinking we can lose or abandon a sex partner. Maybe physically, but never mentally.”
So Emin’s work is blunt and confronting like a dose of the clap. It’s terribly basic, yet compellingly as intimate as a tent is. A shelter; we tent our memories, but there are times we hope aspects of memory will flap away.
“I think she’s trying to tell us she either cannot find stability or commit herself to a sexual partner repeatedly, so either through choice or circumstances, over and over she is dumped. The reasons may vary, but she is cast off.”
“Yes, Luke...spot on. She is vulnerable both ways and the vulnerability is admitted. She presents herself as a slut— I don’t like using the word, but this artwork invites, nearly insists on it—she provokes us to reflect on the word and challenge it. She is a sexual being, conflicted and confronting and confronting us with the conflicting nature of our own story as sexual beings.”
Emin’s tent then is no tent of shame. It is human; it is the deeply private with a public face. A lot of Janus is out here—not everything, it can’t be; our multifaceted sexual self is so subterranean.
“I imagine it’s constructed,” I added. “To get us beyond the names, to the connections which give the names meaning; recalling the tenderness, the orgasms, the moments affixing beyond self...but equally...the selfishness, the gratification, the lust.”
The appliquéd names as I looked at them weren’t personal; however, they made me associate to my personal. Though I realised; ‘Billy Childish’ was real for Emin. Was ‘Tracy Horn’, a heart breaker or a lust filled one-night encounter? Only Emin and Tracy know. Coral was unselfconsciously stating some of the names out loud.
“The work is challenging.” I added, “It’s how we interact with the work, names lead us somewhere like each name leads somewhere for the artist. We would both approach this tent differently depending where we were in our sex lives—linked or divorced from others.”
As each name led somewhere for Coral and myself, I reflected alone. Fuck, the life of genitalia is challenging to self and others, and sometimes we would like to fuck the fucking life of genitalia for having created what you and I are in; in this precise moment.
“It’s a challenge alright,” summed up Coral. “What we all have to face up to, confront. If not here directly, when it seemingly dumps straight out of memory into your own face.”
I thought of the times I ran into Ruby unexpectedly after Paris. Never easy.
Coral continued: “Our sex lives are just that: life, messy, brazen, impacting beyond the moment, moving on, exposing vulnerability and moments of deepest reflections of who is this person attached to these private parts and who are these names.”
I knew she was winding up and we should get another cocktail.
“Names are powerful.” said Coral, twisting a strand of her hair for emphasis, “They identify, they give life to memory, they all have their tent with a story, and like Emin; it challenges because our pleasure bits bring out our extremes of being. We confront or push all sorts of limits with our naked bodies together. Her tent is powerful. I sort of wish I had a list on my sleeve—though I’d remove it.”
I had the urge to enter the tent. It was allowed and it was actually created to be explored internally. Coral did finally peer in this time but still wouldn’t do the hands and knees thing, required to get through the gap. I did. Whose self was I in? Emin’s space? My mind? And on the floor of the tent, visible when surrounded by it and separate from the names, the artist states boldly: ‘WITH MYSELF, ALWAYS MYSELF, NEVER FORGETTING’.
Cocktails and canapés eventually lose their appeal. Coral and I were done with the exhibition.
We couldn’t get a taxi to share after leaving the gallery. I suggested a late-night coffee while we waited. The place we saw was close; across the street. The coffee was well made. The deco had us both amused. It was pirate themed. Some elements like the prints around the wall worked, the skull and cross boned table clothes, well. However; it got us both reminiscing about the pirate and zombie nurse costumes at our last troupe Halloween. Though it was interesting how initially our focus was each other, not how Josh and Ruby were involved or looked.
Eventually I said; “Yeah; Ruby could always pull off a good idea.”
“With other plans behind it,” added Coral.
I had always wondered about their changing out of their costumes in the boathouse and asked directly; “What happened in the storeroom between you and Ruby?”
“Oh shikes, I’ve never told anyone, I think because I don’t know why I let it go as far as I did.”
Coral had me intrigued. I let my coffee cool. “Well spill the beans”, I urged her on.
“We were both in our underwear. Nothing sexual.”
God, positioning myself back in time, both Josh and I would have got randy seeing this pair together in their intimate underthing’s.
“Ruby asked if she could pet me. I instantly said, no. Quicker than thinking she got back, ‘No, through your undies; not inside them’.”
We both knew Ruby had the academic smarts; here was conclusive evidence she had manipulative brilliance too; for dalliance.
“Christ, Luke, I said okay. I said okay.”
I knew she would have repeated it. Organised permission within her head; double checked to proceed where she wasn’t sure where she was taking herself. She was Josh’s hetro girl; well, that was what she kept telling herself and me.
“My, even thinking about it now, the bitch, her touch was just right.”
I could tell by her dreamy tone Coral had captured this exact touch in deep memory.
“‘Thank you, she said, I appreciate your giving’. Giving, I was taking; embracing it in myself.”
I wished for a moment I had had Ruby’s skills in the boathouse with Coral.
“She pushed softy with her fingers into my cotton panties, shaping into my slit, tender and disciplined. The wench, she had me on heat.”
Our coffees were both cold.
“Ruby stated the obvious, so matter of factly; ‘You’re wet my dear’. Of course, I was frickin wet; her finger fondle was divine.”
I wondered from this point how it had ended unfulfilled; with Coral staring out the window and the brunette leaving in a huff.
“Let me finger you; she had said, leaning in and starting to kiss my neck. I drew back, I don’t know why, yes, I do; sort of.”
I knew sort of too, she was saving all these experiences for Josh.
“Well, the minx, not getting what she thought she had access to already, got a bit snarly, and insisted I wanted it, always had.”
Coral swayed her head; her long hair bouncing around her shoulders.
“I shook my head, turned, moved away, dressed in silence and left Ruby there. The rest you saw.”
Cold coffee wasn’t appealing; plus, we saw a taxi at the rank across the street and made a dash for it. It dropped Coral off first and then made its way to my apartment. I was thinking about Coral’s future more than her past then. She would soon take the leading job at a Sydney gallery and completely reposition her tent and its circle of inhabitants, but not before a final invite to the local Long Gallery she was then managing.
We always kept in touch. Touch, as in communication. Man, I was envious of Ruby’s petting of Coral. However; I eventually realised I actually loved Coral’s mind. We should have stayed there. Screw genitals.
Still, how can we not love them as we love our beloved? Despite genitals; youthful virginal stumbling’s; adventurous casual one offs; Porn fuelled learning; fluid frictional freshness; impish instructional work-outs; calculated intended trysts or intuitive intimacy; they actually explain us to ourselves.
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