Many women cut their hair or begin painting their toenails when they break up with their boyfriends. My old friend Misty changes a letter in her name at the conclusion of a romance. She would hate to hear her old name on the lips of a new beau. There are exceptions to this practice of hers. She has on occasion made a double-switch in letters, or even taken what she calls a mulligan, leaving her name the same for the next paramour. But such exceptions are rare.
“I’ve had lovers who were bald before,” she says, “and lovers who were married. But I never had one who was both at the same time. Or so … so … what’s the word? Proficient.”
Apparently her latest flame was a bone fide chopstick lover. Fork lovers, according to her, shovel sex in as though they’re starving, indiscriminately mixing up and mashing together the various parts of the meal. Chopstick lovers savor each morsel individually. They can tie knots in Kentucky wonder beans with their tongues.
“Not bald like samurai lovers in those Japanese shunga prints, with their neat fringes of what looks like lacquered-down hair. Or maybe a top-knot. Totally bald. And totally married.”
Though Misty hasn’t altered any letters in her name to mark the permanent expulsion of the most recent Mister Right from the paradise of her bed, her couture has undergone a transformation. A loose, flowing robe in a muted batik pattern has replaced her usual mini-skirt and revealing blouse. She’s hidden her sheaf of tinted hair in a scarf, wound tightly as a turban around her head, and pasted a fake jewel to her forehead just above the bridge of her nose.
Time, of course, has changed Misty since I first met her some years ago. Traces of crow’s feet now appear at the corners of her eyes, particularly when she smiles. Gravity or some other, more mysterious force, seems to be tugging the lower half of her face away from the upper half, increasing the distance between her eyes and her mouth. The expression of her eyes and mouth, in fact, often no longer quite match.
In any event, Misty was flat on her back, the sheets awry, her latest warming her up for the main course by tonguing her wet wonder bean as an hors d’oeuvre when she unexpectedly became sad.
“I began thinking about all the restaurants he would never invite me to, restaurants with pink napkins folded up like origami swallows in the wine glasses. All the sunsets we would never see, holding hands, the vacations to Hawaii we wouldn’t take, the bagels and lox and cream cheese we wouldn’t eat while we did crossword puzzles in bed on Sunday mornings. Late Sunday mornings with the wind fluttering the bright curtains, maybe a hummingbird drinking from petunias and primroses we planted in our window box.”
It was just cunnilingus, nothing more. A sound like a doe slurping at a salt-lick. It had no connection to anything in Misty’s real or imaginary life. He had an amazing embouchure, like that of a virtuoso trumpet player triple-tonguing his way through long arpeggios of triplets, building up for the grand finale of the piece, unaware that it would never come, that Misty would never come. Misty had lost interest in the music.
Still, proficient technician that he was, he kept at it, snuffling her snaffle like a pig digging for truffles with its snout. Back and forth, slip and slick, tongue and tease, and all the while Misty’s clitoris was like the clapper of a bell that simply wouldn’t ring. Not if he wore Misty’s wonder bean down to nothing, alighted on it with special butterfly kisses from sex how-to-do-it books or did wild loop-de-loops or fondled it with his tonsils.
A little man spying on couples performing various erotic antics appears in some shunga by the artist Suzuki Harunobu. A kind of peeping Tom Thumb, his name is Maneemon, or Mister Bean. One day, when he was still known as Ukiyonosuke, a lusty Tokyo gallant, he visited a temple and prayed that he be granted all the secret lore of love. The gods gave him some magic dumplings to eat which would keep him eternally young and also shrink him to the size of a bean, allowing him to visit boudoirs unseen, to easily hide in bushes or perch like a little bird in the branches of a cherry tree, looking on while men and women mate in teahouses or paddies or along the highway. In one famous Harunobu print Mister Bean watches from a grassy bank beneath a tree while a devious scamp, who has donned a mask to trick a young maiden gathering rice into believing he is a yogarasu, a kind of god-like Casanova, enters her from behind. Her mother and father look on as she is speared. All this happens beneath a noodly mess of calligraphy which informs the reader that the maiden’s father will throw in his wife for the yogarasu’s pleasure, too, since the yogarasu has promised a bumper rice harvest.
I’m feeling a bit like Maneemon myself.
“It’s weird,” sighs Misty, “but old advertising jingles started playing in my brain. And children’s songs, like the one about Frosty the Snowman. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the sight of that bald white head stuck down there between my legs.”
As he flicked her love button with his tongue, tick tock lick lick, as though it were a time bomb set to go off after a certain number of ticks and licks, Misty amused herself with thoughts about Frosty and other snowmen, about how she’d never seen a snowman with an Afro, or a snow woman. She imagined how much she would dread the first days of spring if she were a snowman. They would constitute a rather drastic and involuntary Weight-Watchers program for poor Frosty. It occurred to her that Antarctica offers a snowman the next best thing to immortality. Eskimos have hundreds of words for the lacy protoplasm of a snowman. How impoverished our vocabulary of the flesh is in comparison! And even if a man were the greatest sinner, if he were a snowman, devils would have a devil of a time dragging him down to Hell.
Dumb jokes flashed through her mind. How many snowmen does it take to screw in a light bulb?
“I forget the answer to that one, but I remember the punch line from the one about how we know God isn’t a woman. Because if God were a woman, she would’ve put men’s genitals on their chins.”
But the jokes weren’t really funny. And the sex was empty as outer space. Sad and bored and angry, Misty moved from under the bobbing bald head of the very proficient and very married virtuoso of the bedchamber. She climbed out of bed and wrapped herself in her nightgown. He wanted to know what was wrong.
“Really,” she said, “I could give you coal for eyes and a carrot nose, a top hat, a corncob pipe and a scarf to wrap around your neck. You’d be a dead ringer for the real thing, but you’ll never be the real thing, worth me changing my name.”
“Huh?” was all he could answer to that.
“Snowmen melt. A real
snowman feels the real sun and melts. But you’re still here.”