The Garden of Earthly Delights

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The Garden of Earthly Delights by Peter Trachtenberg  

They are fifteen. She is not a virgin. Until a few weeks ago he was, though he told Beth he wasn’t. It was not enough simply to lie. He hinted at a rich erotic history, set in the East Village, where he buys drugs. Its details, should she care to ask for any, were drawn mostly from pornography. Crash pads on Avenue B. Hippie girls whose straight blonde or brown hair spilled onto the mattress. Small pale breasts with fierce pointed nipples. Their cunts, his

cock. He made up girls’ names: Sunshine, Sarah, Crystal, as in crystal meth, which he started doing this year.


He loves Beth; he is in love with her. He never gets tired of telling her, waiting for her to tell him that she loves him, too. The phrase floats into his mind dozens of times a day: “I’m in love with her.” It buoys him but fills him with unease. To fall in love is, after all, to fall. As from a precipice, pushed from behind. At the bottom Beth waits indifferently, shading her hand against the sun as she watches his plunging body. His body is a problem. It’s soft and squat, no longer fat, but still fleshy. He has the belly of a middle-aged man sitting before the TV. Not too long ago he was a fat boy watching television in his parents’ living room, alone, eating something from a bowl. The first time he and Beth fucked, they’d dropped acid, and as he moved incredulously inside her he had a nightmarish vision of his eleven-year-old self, sitting cross-legged in front of the television like a dwarf in a cave. He lost his erection.


She asked him, “What’s wrong?”


“It’s alright. I’m cool. The acid. Wow.” He made a woozy face.


He chafed his penis until it was hard again and stuck it back inside her and fucked her until she asked him to stop. Her vagina was dry. He hadn’t come but was too shy to insist.


That was weeks ago. They have fucked only once since then. It’s hard to find a

place where they can be alone. They are city kids, without recourse to woods or
barns or cars’ back seats, dependent on their parents’ absence. More than that, he senses Beth is reluctant.


He tells her, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”


“I want to.”


“I love you, Beth.”


She gazes down at the floor. Her eyelashes fall heavily onto her cheeks. He looks at the curve of her forehead, her eyes, the small nose with its fleshy upturned tip that Beth sometimes bends back to make him laugh. She is a dark-haired, mostly somber girl; she hates her parents, the other students at her school. She falls into silences that fill him with anxiety. But just when he thinks she has crawled into the cave of her grief forever, she comes out with a fanfare of goofiness, barking her seal-like laugh. Sometimes she imitates Arthur Brown singing “Fire.” You’re gonna burn . . . burn . . . burn . . . burn . . . BURN! On each “burn,” she ratchets her voice up higher, the way Brown himself does, until the last “burn” is a lunatic tittering squeal, and they both collapse with laughter. He doesn’t know why he loves Beth; the idea of “why” hasn’t occurred to him. At fifteen love — or what passes for love — is a noise so loud that it deafens the part of him that asks “why.” But it may have something to do with the threat that she will leave him and the reassurance that she hasn’t. Not yet.


He asks her, “Wasn’t it good for you last time?”


“It was fine.”


“It was good for me. I loved fucking you.”


“Do you have to say that?”


They are lying on the floor of his bedroom, which is covered in linoleum gaily spattered with drops of color, as though by a shaken paintbrush. His mother is out working. His parents divorced three years ago, and although he once found this humiliating, he is now grateful. He would be happy to be an orphan, to live in a world without parents. At night when he masturbates, he imagines that a great flood has inundated the city, coursing down the avenues, engulfing brownstones, sweeping away parents, teachers, policemen. The tops of high buildings jab up from the water like pilings with nothing moored to them. And in one such building he lies at his ease with the prettiest girls in his school. There are six or seven of them. They alone have escaped the deluge. In this refuge whose windows look out onto the gray slapping waves, he and the girls fuck and suck. Wendy Horowitz sits on his cock; she licks Rochelle Dane’s golden upturned ass while he buries his face in Rochelle’s pussy. With one hand he squeezes Nancy Beilis’s right breast, with the other he strokes a clit, not sure who it belongs to or, really, what it looks like. At a certain point in his fantasy everything disintegrates. All that is left are body parts, a garden

of erogenous underwater blooms to be sniffed and plucked and eaten. Tits and cunts and mouths and clits and asses. And himself, Aquaboy. Swimming among them.

They roll onto their sides. He slides his tongue into Beth’s mouth where it plays against her tongue, whose liveliness is so at odds with her general languor. Tongue aside, she barely moves. This, too, seems like reluctance. He thinks she’d rather be with someone delicate, a boy with seraphic blonde hair and ribs like the slats of a fence. He is suddenly angry, at the boy and at Beth. With effort he wills the feeling away. He climbs on top of her, throwing out an arm to bear his weight; he is sharply conscious of his heaviness. His free hand works its way up her sweater until it is cupping her breast. Each touch, each shift of position, is as painstaking as though he were inching his way up a rock face, as though Beth’s body, for all its friendly abundance, were a sheer cliff: he could fall off at any second.


His concentration becomes arousal, and he feels his penis get hard. For a moment he’s embarrassed, the way he would be if he got a hard-on in class. Then he remembers that this is what’s supposed to happen. “Do you feel it?” he whispers. “Feel it. Feel how horny you make me.” She makes a little grimace but lets him place her hand between his legs and with minimal prompting wraps her fingers around his penis. This is exciting, but after a while he grows impatient: it’s like she’s holding onto a doorknob. He almost snaps at her, “Move your hand!” But he has committed himself to gentleness; it’s the gift he has to offer her, the bright object he holds out to distract her from his grossness. The boy she wants is gentle, with a touch as insubstantial as a current of warm air; she would barely feel it. And so by acting gentle he becomes that other boy, a boy who, demanding nothing, wanting nothing, silently coaxes his girlfriend to move her hand around his dick.


He is so carried away by his impersonation that he forgets to be ashamed when he undresses. Or maybe he’s so absorbed by the splendor of Beth’s nakedness. Lying before him on the slick linoleum, her unclothed body is pornographic. Pornographic in the sense that it perfectly mirrors the bodies in the pornography he’s read. He has seen very little. The stroke-books he reads are literally books, with titles like The Man from O.R.G.Y., Young Starlets and the Hollywood Producer, Her Sin. He can’t look at Beth without recalling phrases from those books, hearing them in his head. Her breasts really are “opulent,” and they do seem to “strain.” The nipples are not as “big as cherries,” they’re more like raspberries, pale ones a week away from ripeness. He bends down to flick one with his tongue and feels Beth arch her back up off the floor, the first sign of excitement she’s shown him. Something makes him pull away, and her body sends up a tiny signal of protest that he enjoys

without understanding. Maybe he just wants to look at her some more. To see the “lithe” waist, the “luxuriant triangle of her womanhood.”


Beneath that triangle is Beth’s “love-slit,” which he hasn’t really seen. Both times they fucked before he kept his eyes on Beth’s. He’d wanted to know what she felt; he’d wanted her to feel what he felt, that exultant yet hopeless swoon of love. And so he had only a few brief glimpses of her sex. Now as he watches her, Beth crosses one leg over the other to conceal her crotch. It’s a pin-up pose from the forties, slutty yet naive. It doesn’t occur to him that Beth does this because she’s shy; it just seems like more evidence of her distaste. “What are you doing?” She sounds fearful.


“I’ll show you.” He opens her legs.


“Don’t look at me like that.”


Again he is irritated and again he masters the feeling. How can you love someone and yet be irritated by her? The women in pornography are sometimes hesitant and have to be coaxed or raped, though the word “rape” is never used. At least not in the books he’s come across. They have to be mastered. Seduction and rape are two styles of mastery, one soft, the other hard. Both styles yield the same result. The reluctant woman becomes willing, even the word comes into his head, “ravenous.”


“Don’t freak,” he says. “I’m not going to — ” he means to say “I’m not going to hurt you,” but doesn’t finish it. Instead, he parts her legs further and lowers his head to her crotch. He thinks: “I’m going down on her.” He thinks: “I’m going to drive her wild.” Beth’s pubic hair is surprisingly soft. Against the whiteness of her thighs and belly it seems very dark, and its shape suggests a badge, a small emblem of animality. “I love you, Beth.” He kisses her hair, which rises in a small ridge or crest down the center. He kisses it the way he’d kiss a child goodnight. “I love you.” He knows that going down involves sucking and licking, but he doesn’t know where to suck or lick, there’s just hair. He’d like to ask Beth what to do next, but that’s impossible. He looks up at her and sees her smile, a smile of timid encouragement, as of someone being given a favor she was afraid to ask for. He

moves lower and finds a parting in the hair, a seam in the flesh beneath, and his mouth goes there.


For all its explicitness, the pornography he’s read has been remarkably evasive about the vagina, which it names copiously but rarely describes. He must find his own way into cunt’s involute hiddenness, its folds and draperies, the false entrances that give onto further valances of flesh. He’s heard jokes about the smell, has even told some, but with a start of relief he discovers that Beth’s mild acridity isn’t unpleasant. It makes him think of cats, of salt and damp earth. Even if it were unpleasant, he’d plow forward. The appetite for pussy seems manly to him, it separates the men from the boys. The ethereal boy he pictures with Beth would swoon at the first whiff of it. He imagines his rival cowering between Beth’s legs, imploring, almost in tears: “No, please, not that!”


He falls to with a vengeance.


“Nice,” Beth sighs. She strokes his hair. He lifts his head to acknowledge the compliment, but she isn’t looking at him. Seen from this angle, her body resembles a child’s drawing of hills, hills that rise and fall with her breath. Above her breasts — or, from his perspective, between them — her face is a blind mask, with eyelids so heavy they might be closed. He wants her to look at him but doesn’t ask, and she keeps gazing up at the ceiling; he thinks that’s where she’s looking. When he returns to Beth’s cunt, his excitement is mixed with resignation, as though he were buckling down to some thankless task.


And as time wears on it appears that the task may be hard, too, at least harder than it first seemed. In porn women who are being eaten go off like bottle-rockets. But although Beth gets wetter and wetter and her sighs grow

louder and more frequent, she doesn’t come. Manfully he laps, sucks, kisses, tries pointing his tongue, tries flattening it like a paddle. He thrusts it inside her, spreading her open with his fingers like someone guiding a button into a buttonhole. And still she doesn’t come. Without realizing it he’s begun to think of Beth’s orgasm as something she’s keeping from him, clutching to her chest — or hoarding in some secret compartment of her vagina. He wants to wring it from her the way, years back, he’d pry a piece of candy from another child’s fist, grunting “Let go! Let go, it’s mine!” The clit, he thinks, the little man in the boat. He finds a spot that roughly fits the description, but she tells him he’s hurting her. Mortified, he moves as far away as he can; an inch higher he’d be in her bellybutton. With a slight hitch of her pelvis she summons him back. At least he thinks that’s what she’s doing. Once more he looks up, wanting guidance, but now all he sees of Beth’s face is the underside of her jaw. Her foreshortened head seems tiny, vestigial even. It’s as though all the vitality of her person &#151 and perhaps the intelligence, as well &#151 has gone south, investing itself in her belly, breasts, thighs. But the forces are most intensely concentrated in her cunt, which looms before him in all its gradations of pink, more flesh-colored than any flesh, mutely demanding to be gratified. And at the same time, refusing to be. The only way he can give it what it wants is by lashing it into submission.


In the end it’s just him and cunt. It might not even be Beth’s cunt any more. It might belong to any of the foxes in The Man from O.R.G.Y. or his Aquaboy fantasy. He’s fastened all his attention on the clit, which turns out to be where he originally thought it was and amenable to the light pressure of his tongue-tip. Again and again he flutters the small sensate knob, his tongue stretched as far as it can stretch, his neck throbbing. His upper lip is numb where it presses Beth’s pubic bone. He feels a sneeze coming. His whole face is wet, with cunt, with saliva, with sweat. He’s in agony. He’s inflamed, he’s furious. He hates this cunt the way an alcoholic hates the bottle that refuses to twist open. The guilt he feels at this hatred makes him lick faster. At last he’s rewarded by a series of clenchings and a cascade of hiccuping sighs; for a moment he thinks they’re issuing from the cunt itself as it surrenders to him. Only when the sighs cease does he remember the girl he loves. He slides up the length of her body and kisses her with his cunty mouth and at last enters her. Beneath him Beth’s face looks puffy, her lips bruised and slack. He’s grimly pleased. They fuck for a long time, twining together like sea creatures, as buoyant as dolphins. This time she doesn’t ask him to stop. But still he doesn’t come. As he rears above her, lank-haired, dripping, a thought flashes through him, not really a thought but a querulous stab of feeling: “I’ve given her enough already.”

©1999 Peter Trachtenberg and, Inc.