Friday, August 08, 2008

Sharing Henry Miller

I knew what I was doing, or so I thought. I wanted a no-strings relationship, all the benefits with none of the hassles of legitimacy. That’s not what I got. What I got was two years of bliss and secrets and torture, and it all started out as fun.

The first time we talked on the phone, my bones melted, my pulse raced, and I was wet. His voice was a deep bass rumble, his words precise and intimate and all we talked about was Henry Miller and writing. He told me about his poetry.

He’d been going downtown to the Humidor for months, drinking shot after shot of Irish courage and still unable to brave the stage. There were so many young people there and he didn’t fit in. His laugh was rich and deep like decadent dark chocolate and suddenly I didn’t care if he was in his fifties and bald and conservative. Everything he said made me want him that much more. It didn’t matter that he was married; I didn’t care. His wife could have the privileges of marriage; I wanted him.

We’d met online and talked on the phone a few times, but I broke the rules for him, my rules. We agreed to meet downtown at the Humidor on Sunday and he agreed to read some of his poetry. Sunday couldn’t come fast enough.

We sat in the back of the room and smoldered, me smiling shyly, vibrating with desire and excitement, he with a half grin on his thin, pale lips, confident and potent and oh, so Republican in his tweed jacket, Bruno Maglis, white fringe of hair, and wire-rimmed glasses, his bald head shining in the subdued light. He wasn’t my type. I wouldn’t have crossed a crowded room to meet him because I wouldn’t have noticed him, unless I’d heard his voice. For that, I would cross midtown traffic at rush hour in a blinding rain.

Lost in each other’s eyes, tentatively touching, my warm fingers resting in his cold hands, heat radiating from us like a blast furnace, we came back to earth when someone called his name. Reluctantly, he let go my hand, took some folded papers from his inside jacket pocket, and walked to the stage. All eyes focused on him as he licked his lips, swallowed convulsively, and spoke to the murmuring crowd of hip hop teenagers and twenty-something urban guerrillas. Then it was just his voice throbbing in the sudden silence.

His poems were a mating dance of sex and words—cock, cunt, soaring, flying, passion drunk power—a declaration of freedom and belief in personal greatness that transcended the day-to-day responsibilities of job, home, and family. He read from the page, apologizing for not committing his poetry to memory, but no one cared. He finished and stepped down from the stage to silence that awoke with a roar of applause that thundered and shook the tiny subterranean bar. They mobbed him. Women touched him, young men hailed him, inviting him to poetry slams and tapings, adoring, worshiping, still applauding as he came back to me, sat down, and took my hand. I was proud and aroused and I wanted to take him right there.

Another poet walked to the stage and the mob slowly moved away, looking back at him to catch his eye and smile, nodding in approval. We stayed until closing sitting close, thighs touching, his velvet voice in my ear playing my nerves and senses until I was near orgasm. “I did it for you. You made it possible.”

Outside in the snow as the rain fell, encasing the world in ice, we stood beside my car, touching, moving closer, breath mingling, rain steaming as it hit us, unaware of anything but each other. His cold long fingered hands slid around my waist, burning me, branding me. I yearned toward him, silently begging him to kiss me, unsure if or when I’d finally give in, knowing I wanted this unremarkable man the way I wanted no one before.

“Are you free tomorrow?” His words fed the fires burning inside me. Yes, I was free. “I’ll bring Henry Miller.”

So drunk with passion and desire and need, it barely registered when I hit black ice and nearly crashed into the rear of a Chevy truck on the freeway, spinning and coming to rest against the guardrail facing oncoming traffic. It took only a moment to get the car started and back onto the empty freeway headed for home. The trip back passed in a hormonal blur. Nothing existed but his words in my ears and the insistent cold press of his fingers against the fiery heat of my skin. Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough, but it finally came.

For two years of stolen moments and idyllic weekend business trips, we devoured each other, unable to get enough, always wanting more, until reality intruded. Holidays became long empty hours of mindless tasks to fill the void and the weekend trips didn’t come fast enough or last long enough. He introduced me to his cousin, his only living relative, and she hid us for a few weekends just across the border in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t enough. It was never enough.

It would have been enough if he’d never uttered those promises. “I’ll tell her I want a divorce tonight, tomorrow, this weekend, after this last family vacation.” He was always apologetic but he didn’t tell her. I didn’t want his promises; I wanted him, his time, his kisses, his body, his passion, his hands, his words. I didn’t need a ring on my finger or promises of “until death do us part”. I needed him. I only wanted him. I didn’t want legitimacy; I wanted passion. He needed, he wanted, more. I was content. He wasn’t. So I ended it and walked—no, ran—away.

Whenever I read Henry Miller or hear Miller’s voice on the tape he made of the record I gave him for his birthday, it all comes back: reading Henry Miller together, the kisses, the desire, sitting on the bed naked and sated eating pizza and drinking warm vodka, the aching need not satisfied with six or eight hours of sweat- and orgasm-soaked sheets, the poetry, sharing words—mine and his. I’m not sorry for loving him or needing him or desiring him. I feel no regret for sharing him with his wife or for telling him to keep sleeping with her when he had me to share his bed. I am ashamed of nothing and I won’t apologize for leaving even though he believes I abandoned him.

Great love requires great sacrifice, so does great passion.

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