In Victoria’s Bed

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Written by Larry Lefkowitz. Larry is a first-time Jewrotica author. “In Victoria’s Bed” is an excerpt from Larry Lefkowitz’s novel, “The Critic, the Assistant Critic, and Victoria”, available from Amazon books. Also available from Amazon is his humorous fantasy and science fiction anthology, “Laughing into the Fourth Dimension.”

Rated R
Kunzman lay naked next to this luscious woman. He found it hard to believe, especially after so many years of celebrating his celibate bed. Before he met Nitza, his ex-wife, he had not been confident with women, had only slept with one woman, and one time only.

Now he had the uncanny feeling that, like Socrates taught the ars amoris by Diotima, he was going to be taught how to make love by a specialist; this tantalizing possibility was immediately dampened by the thought (from where?) that “love takes up more space in the mind than it does in the bed”; which was followed by the yet more disconcerting thought (Lieberman’s shade at work again?): “they sleep three in a bed.”

Whimsically, Kunzman wondered if Victoria thought she could become more intelligent by going to bed with him – the Love Goddess joined to the Great Mind (here, as contra, he remembered Hans Balding’s etching ‘Phyllis and Aristotle’ which portrayed a crawling Aristotle being ridden by a woman brandishing a whip), but then, with a certain frisson, he remembered that she had gone to bed with her late husband, Lieberman, the known literary critic, no less a ‘Great Mind’ than himself. Kunzman tried not to picture Lieberman and Victoria in a sexual context. He could picture Lieberman sexually aroused only by intense literary discussion. And then he remembered, with a pang, that Nitza had once said something to the same effect about him! He strove to recall if her tone had been jocular or serious.

Prior to their entering the amorous bed (Kunzman had done so with the hope that it would not turn out to be for him a Procrustean bed), Victoria had lowered the old-fashioned wooden rattling shutter with an air that was at once languid, awkward, bustling, and all too matter-of-fact. Before the shutter descended, Kunzman caught a glimpse of the stars. He thought of Tintoretto’s painting of Juno lying prone while the Milky Way comes out of her nipple. Juno was the queen of the Roman gods, if he remembered rightly, possessed of a warlike aspect. Kunzman’s attempt to analyze the significance of her appearing at the present juncture was interrupted by music coming from a record Victoria had put on, ‘Moonlight Sonata,’ played on the piano by Rubenstein.

Victoria removed her clothing; matter of factly, without any hint of embarrassment — unlike Kunzman who did so also, most uncomfortably. She finished first. Kunzman, to his considerable embarrassment, was briefly delayed by a stuck zipper – he felt himself an actor in a Yiddish comedy; Victoria feigned not to notice, though a slight movement of her nether lip betrayed her and Kunzman thought he discerned the pale fire in her eyes suddenly go out. Standing thus naked, waiting for him to finish undressing, Victoria stood there, in all her nakedness. Seeing Victoria standing naked in all her splendor, and reflecting on his own naked form in comparison, Kunzman remembered Lacan’s query whether the phallus is still a master signifier in the present order of Western society.

He began to gather his clothes from the bed where, in his unavailing haste, he had at first put them, with the purpose of laying each article of clothing neatly on the wooden hanger which stood in the corner of the room. Victoria, grasping his intention, arrested him, in a voice of impatience, or was it disdain?: “Throw them on the floor, Kunzman,” which caused him feel like the trembling human bridegroom with whom a vast gleaming bronze Aphrodite climbs off her plinth and slips into bed with, in a story of Prosper Merimee.

He recalled Nitza’s once characterizing him as “cautious to the point of self-parody.”

His hesitation apparently got on her nerves. He thought of John Donne’s “For God’s sake hold your tongue, and let me love.” But Victoria preferred another formulation: “Nu? What are you waiting for?”

“Godot,” he didn’t reply.

Above the bed a copy of Botticelli’s painting ‘The Birth of Venus.’ He wondered if Victoria identified with the Greek goddess of the painting. According to the myth, Aphrodite (another name for Venus), the goddess of love, was born from the foam produced when Cronus threw Uranus’s genitals into the sea. This followed Cronus’s using a scimitar to remove the testicles of Uranus, at Gaes’s urging of vengeance against him. The Greeks didn’t pussyfoot around when it came to sex. Kunzman considered edifying Victoria with the Greek myth, yet feared she might consider it gauche, especially if he included the scimitar part, although Gaes’s vengeful nature might strike a chord with her.

At this point Victoria stamped her foot, perhaps, Kunzman conjectured, miffed at what she considered a delay in their proceedings. Victoria’s feet, Kunzman noticed, were long and large, unlike Nitza’s petite wide feet. Kunzman, of course, forbore from informing Victoria of this comparison. Instead, he kissed her, gingerly, tentatively. She kissed back with more force.
Above her, out of the corner of his eye, Venus was being born.

Shem zikh nit,” (Don’t be bashful), Victoria urged him.

Stop thinking so much, Kunzman admonished himself. Concentrate. The success of the evening depends upon it. Hardly propitious was his suddenly recalling the admonition: “A man is not too old until it takes him longer to rest up than it did to get tired.” As counterpoint, he recalled the Yiddish saying: Az men lebt derlept men (“If you live long enough, anything can happen”).But he was rescued from speculative philosophy as the physical requisites began to demand his total concentration. Already his pituitary gland was manufacturing a potent adrenocorticotropic substance. At the same time his adrenal glands were stimulated, his blood pressure rose, there occurred a swift breakdown of his white blood cells, his pulse quickened, his circulation jumped and his heart action sped up. It had been a long time since his physiology had been subjected to such (pleasurable) stress. He had the odd sensation that no reciprocal physiology was taking place on the part of his partner, even though the outward manifestations of the act were taking place de rigueur.

In the wall mirror, Kunzman caught himself and Victoria intertwined. ‘The enraptured beast, doomed to one day die, as so many are.’ No time now for Nabokov’s gentle reminder.

Although on one hand (after so many years of being sans the commodity) sex with Victoria was pleasurable; on the other hand, it was marred with worries on the part of Kunzman – worries beyond the basic worry of whether he would succeed physically with this fabulous, but moody, beauty. He feared a gresile; he feared a fortzele. It seemed the act, somehow, brought Yiddish expressions to his mind, or, somehow, the sight of her did (he knew that she, like him, spoke the language). He noticed her poopikel, her nezlile, her tsitskes. And what did she notice of his? He thought of Zeus’s mistress Semele, just before she was burned to a crisp by a bolt of lightning hurled by Zeus for seeing her divine lover as he really was. But the hell with it, Zeus or no Zeus, lover divine or less than divine, Kunzman concentrated on carrying out the physical pursuits at hand, murmuring to her almost without being aware of it a series of endearments: my ketzele, my oystere, my kroynele. They ceased abruptly not because of what Kunzman perceived as Victoria’s mocking half smile or the martyred line of her brows, or even her displeased murmured “Oy” at the first endearment, “Oy vey” at the second, and “Oy vey is mir” at the last, but because of her telling him that he was a maskenspieler. Kunzman sighed, reflecting: why were even his most intimate moments invariably accompanied by a flavoring of vile farce.

Perhaps this feeling was connected to another one that Kunzman often had – that he was not living his life so much as narrating it. The curse, no doubt, of the writer.

And after Kunzman had “worked” and had more or less acquitted himself in his lovemaking with Victoria — me dreyt zich, as they say in Yiddish, for good measure throwing in, after the fact, a few more whispered endearments, “mayn zeeshkayt,” “mayn ketsele,” and even “mayn katchele”(though Kunzman was fully aware that the latter was an especially egregious oxymoron as applied to Victoria) – and, having wiped the sweat off his forehead, exhausted like a hon nokh tashmish (a rooster after the hens have been serviced) yet immersed in the euphoria of successful release post copulam carnalem, his floating stage of post-coital bliss disturbed momentarily by Yeats’s “A shudder in the loins engenders there/ The broken wall, the burning roof and tower/ And Agamemnon dead” and destroyed finally by Victoria’s chattering away — unlike Kunzman’s ex-wife who promptly (and now, thought Kunzman, mercifully) slept following the act, Victoria seemed to be stimulated to speech and was going on, a sound like the buzzing of bees in his ears, while Kunzman’s fertile mind, perhaps lulled into the line of thought by his ‘conquest’, began to ruminate on the concept of memorable moments in life. He remembered that the poet Avraham Ben Yitzhak once spoke of standing at the entrance of a house, on a staircase. The house was built of wood and painted green. The sand that covered the porch steps was made up of small bits of colored glass which possessed the magic of a summer’s evening and he knew that only once in his life would he see such a sight.

Kunzman considered interrupting Victoria’s monologue to tell her about Ben Yitzhak’s memorable moment. However, Victoria was prattling on with such determination and rapidity that he thought it best not to interrupt her; she was going on about a painting in a gallery, or was it the gallery’s owner, and then something about art and artists, quoting Modigliani that artists had different rights, different values than do normal, ordinary people because we (here she included herself among the artists) had different needs which put us above their standards, and the thought popped into Kunzman’s mind that he wished he possessed at that moment a silken cord with which, like an Indian member of the murderous thuggee cult, he would silence her. His knowledge of this cheerful cult had come from his viewing as a youngster the movie Gunga Din. Sam Jaffe had played the eponymous (how Kunzman loved that word) Indian water-bearer, Din. He and three British soldiers stopped a mass revival of the the thuggee before it could rampage across the land. He knew that in reality he was incapable of emulating the thuggee, but the idea gave him a certain pleasure. “You have an exquisite neck,” he exclaimed suddenly to Victoria. Actually, she possessed an elongated neck, longer than he preferred in women, and the neck reminded him of the neck of Josephine, Napoleon’s empress.

Victoria reacted to his compliment to her neck by staring at him uncomprehendingly with her basalt black eyes. “You’re not listening to a word I said,” she said. Kunzman had learned that a ‘conversation’ with Victoria could be an onerous proposition. It was hard to be a passive conversant with her – to listen, as was his wont. Victoria prodded, asked questions: “You understand?” “What do you say to that?” and so forth. You had to pay attention. A physically wearying process. When it was over, Kunzman felt as if had just finished a wrestling match or a five-set tennis contest. “Are you listening, Kunzman?” she would say if his attention flagged. If more exasperated, “Are you alive, Kunzman?” “Barely,” he would whisper to himself. How had Lieberman put up with it? For his sin of “not listening” on the present occasion, he immediately apologized. “Oh, don’t apologize,” she admonished him, “I can’t stand men who say ‘I’m sorry.’ (That’s probably why she liked Lieberman, he thought). Just shut up.” Nevertheless, he kissed her cheek and, resisting the urge to borrow the endearment “fire of my loins” from Humbert of ‘Lolita’, opted for murmuring a Yiddish tribute to her love-making, perhaps oy haat, zi mich anga banteshet.

(Looking back later, he sometimes believed that their mutual affection for the Yiddish language prolonged their romantic relationship. But then he realized, with a pang, that it was her need for him to complete Lieberman’s book which was the principal cause.)

Mollified (or, once again, it could be the fact that she remembered that she needed him for the book), Victoria pulled a sheet over her nakedness and, with uncharacteristic generosity, was going to include him under the sheet with her, but he signaled her to wait with that fingers-joined-in-a-steeple sign for such which in Israel obviates the need for words. Putting on his pajamas which lay sessile next to the bed, he then pulled the blanket over himself. Victoria shook her head from side to side slowly, “I like to sleep in the nude – you are a prude.” In delivering this opinion, she rose to a sitting position, causing the sheet to fall down and gather itself around her impressive thighs (on one of which she was blessed with a plexus of small veins shaped like a pink many-tentacled jelly fish concerning which Kunzman made a mental note to kiss in the future, perhaps accompanied by something verbally appropriate, “jelly fish” presumably insufficiently laudatory in Victoria’s nibbly ear).

Thus appareled, Victoria reminded Kunzman of nothing so much as ‘Victory’, the tricolor enveloping her thighs, mounting the barricade. And then this militant image gave way to another, the diva heroine of the Israeli winner of the Eurovision Song Contest whose chorus hails her ‘Viva Victoria.’ He decided against mentioning either praiseworthy woman to Victoria in his pique at her his being a prude remark and simply explained to her that he cannot sleep without pajamas. And, moreover, that the pajama collar must be folded down, that he cannot sleep if the collar is rubbing against his neck. “My neck is very sensitive,” he explained. (Would this make it easier for a thuggee who tried his silken cord on it? flashed through his mind, or even for Victoria with her long tapering fingers so soft and yet powerful as a strangler’s, as he recalled from that first kiss of hers, when she took his face in her hands and he felt like it was held in a vice.)

“And the sleeves of my pajama top I pull until they reach where the wrists join the hands. I do not suffer the sleeves to move upward on my arms, which causes me to feel exposed.” (Here Victoria bestowed on him a look mixed of scorn and amusement, or perhaps bemusement. He was not deterred.) He explained that he carried out a parallel extending process with his pajama pants – they have to reach his ankles. “The pillow,” he added, “must be crisp and hot under my head.” “Maybe you should substitute a lettuce,” Victoria observed, already half asleep, her custom to sleep naked obviating any necessity for such obsessive sleep-precluding ministrations. “Didn’t Lieberman have any sleeping peccadilloes?” asked Kunzman hopefully. “He was too great a man for such foolishness,” she snapped.

Hip on thigh.

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