"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, February 9, 2015

Love In Small Places–The Passion Of The Back Seat Of A ‘57 Ford And Why We Should Never Lose It

As much as she hated to admit it, Haley Mello had first made love in the back seat of a ‘57 Ford. It was so, well, lame and déclassé; but back then that vinyl, faux leather banquette was the most comfortable conjugal place around.  It was certainly when compared to the bed of pine needles by the 16th hole where she and Robert Fanucci had rolled around, still unfamiliar with what went where, stuck by resin and rasped by pinecones; or standing up in her mother’s walk-in closet, a rarity for 1957 when Victorian crinoline dresses still hung in armoires in the old homes along Lincoln Street; or on the bleachers at St. Teresa’s High School.

Haley Mello was a very precocious girl for New Brighton or for any small town in America for that matter. Beatniks might have been hanging out on Bleecker Street with William S. Burroughs and having group sex in Eighth Avenue walkups, but the exploits of the Village were nothing compared to her passionate couplings in cars, closets, gyms, and especially the thick carpet-like fairways of Blanton Meadows Country Club.

Stolen sex, like stolen scenes in a movie, was the best. For both there was no concern for sceneggiatura, mise-en-scène, or set design.  That would come later.
Haley remembered her trysts with Henry Billings at the Plaza with fondness. The bed was always turned down even in the afternoon.  A soft, overstuffed French duvet was folded at the foot of the bed; and down pillows were piled high at the head.  A bottle of champagne with two crystal champagne flutes sat on a silver tray in the sitting room, and a fresh bouquet of flowers had been arranged on the settee. One hung one’s clothes at the Plaza, one did not fling them. Love had expanded from the confines of the back seat of the ‘57 Ford to Edwardian luxury.

She hesitated to tell friends about her affair with Henry Billings, for it was as stereotypical as love in a back seat. Love with Henry was as it should be – proper, conceived, and above all, tasteful.  Haley remembered little about those afternoons at the Plaza.  A pigeon cooing on the window ledge, the St. Patrick’s Day parade winding its way up Fifth Avenue, saluting the Plaza because the Prime Minister of Ireland had booked an entire floor of the hotel as he always did so he could stand on the balcony, wave the Irish flag and smile at thousands of New Yorkers who still had the feelings of a babe for his mother when they thought of Eire.

Henry was a good, consistent, and patient lover; but his solicitude dampened her enthusiasm.  No woman wants to be repeatedly asked, “Can I come now?”; and Henry made a bigger deal of it than most men.  On the one hand he had remarkable self control for a young man; but on the other she wished that he would just get it over with, and perhaps next time her arousal would be such that no questions would have to be asked.
In later years Haley’s affairs were exclusively with older men.  They were slow, steady, patient, and admiring.  Sex with a younger woman for them was a Christmas present – a surprise, a gift from God, a bestowment of grace.  Their orgasms were incidental. They reveled in her greedy, multiple comings.
Robbie Phillips was the ideal lover. “You are not my first love”, he said, “nor the best; but you are most probably my last”. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for her, no act of kindness ever overlooked.  His solicitude was complete, and his sexual intensity that of a man who knows that he only has a few shots left in the magazine.  He was the one who brought coke to her apartment.  He was the one who brought three bottles of Bollinger champagne.  He was the one who couldn’t abide the ‘Five Minute Rule” – the agreed-upon delay before going to bed.  She knew that he would come to her with three Stolis under his whiskers, and he knew from the criss-crossed empty bottles of Chablis that she had also stoked the furnace.

Sex with Robbie Phillips was just like her post-pubescent passions in the back seat of her father’s Ford.  It made no more sense than the monkey mating with Herbie Swanson.  The bedroom of her apartment was literally not much bigger than the Ford; and metaphorically the exact same size.  Both were venues for the release of sexual energy.  When Robbie made love to her he was making  love to all the young women he never had.  He was reversing a supposedly ineluctable trajectory.

Haley Mello was a smart woman and a very smart and precocious girl.  She was Tantric up to a point – i.e. sex, although liberating and exalting, could not be the be-all and end-all of her young life.  She saw how the burghers of New Brighton had worked hard and long to build factories, create wealth, and contribute to the nation’s future. Sex for them was the means for perpetuating an already long and storied genealogical history.  It was hard for Haley to even imagine the Porters, Peases, or Harts having the same unbridled sex she had behind closed doors. Sherry,scones, and a hand to the bedroom and a polite thank-you afterwards to her drunken, naked goodbyes.

Needless to say, Haley’s sexual adventures became attenuated over time. She endured a long married period which she accepted because of children.  In addition to her lively sexuality came a need for procreation.  Feminism aside, Haley felt the urge to have babies as much as she had had the urge to fuck little Dickie Hammer in the broom closet.  This urge was more mature, more refined, and certainly more elegant; and so she married, not without affairs, but with a respect and understanding of the fragility of the male ego.
In her marriage the area she shared with her husband grew.  They moved into bigger accommodations, traded up from Cleveland Park to Potomac where they shared a six-bedroom, five bath, faux-historic mansion dream house.  It was his idea, not hers, to expand their conjugal space.  Haley had never been concerned with the environmental constraints to sexual union and never would be; but at this time in her life she was complaisant. “Whatever”, she said, knowing that her destiny had nothing to do with Falls Road or high ceilings.

In her nihilism, she accepted her trajectory as ineluctable.  She was one of Tolstoy’s billiard balls banging about the felt. She might not have preferred such a bourgeois icon,but so be it.
She never gave up her cinq à sept liaisons, charging the maid to pick up her children, excusing herself from the afternoon and driving into the city to meet Raul, Francis, or Isaac.
They met in small quarters – the young men’s Bloomingdale, 17th Street, or Dupont Circle first-offer flats. Sex had to be contorted, cramped, and difficult as in the back seat of the ‘57 Ford; for only then would the sex alone matter.
Haley was in fact Tantric to the core, although she had dismissed that possibility long ago in Hardwar at the headwaters of the Ganges. There, in a cold hotel room overlooking the ghats over Holy Ganga, where she made love to an Indian Brahmin hoping to experience sexual ecstasy within a spiritual union, she dismissed such dualism.
 
Haley was the most purely sexual woman I have ever known. “Name one human emotion that matches sexual orgasm”, she asked.  God did not introduce sexual passion only for reproduction, she went on. “He had a purpose”
So, in addition to her natural, genetically-programmed, environmentally-conditioned desire for sex, Haley had endorsed theology. Orgasm was spiritual.
This is where Haley and I parted company.  The more she fell off la falaise of rational, monkey-based sexual reproduction, the less I wanted to hear her justification for her increasing promiscuity
“My God, Haley”, I said, “You’re ____!”, an age when I thought all Americans should hang up their sexual spurs and consider the failing light of their existence.  “Bullshit”,she said. “You’re only as old as you feel”, knowing full well that this bit of ironic Hallmark treacle would turn me on.
I have never known a woman like Haley Mello, and I doubt I ever will.

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