This story can only be found bundled with the Erotic Novella “Business with Pleasure”
Raymond’s place was a little one-story affair in the shadow of Saint Eustache; twisted and grey, it stuck out like a wart on the front of an apartment building. The man had approached me at an opening in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. I’d been instantly taken with the intensity of his gaze. Dark eyes set wide apart, with a fire burning in them that fascinated me. The long white eyebrows curling up towards his temples made him look like a poet from the Midi. The owner of the gallery introduced him as a leading conceptual artist. I had only the vaguest idea what lay behind that label, something transient, fleeting. Raymond was old enough to be my father. He was from Toulouse, went back there now and then to visit a younger brother interned in a mental hospital. There were a few friends of mine at the opening, but seeing me deep in conversation they refrained from butting in for the ritual kiss: I had only eyes for Raymond. Whenever I tore my gaze away from his, I found him dumpy-looking. But that only endeared him to me all the more. I felt an abstract tenderness for his efforts to be gracious and charming, he belonged to that anxious species, the conquistador in jeopardy, the ageing Casanova. As I stepped out of the bubble he’d blown around me, I agreed to a date for the following week. And now, on my way to keep it, my heart was in my mouth.
The huge bulk of Saint Eustache loomed through a heavy mist. At 2 p.m., it was almost dark. The trysting place was so run-down it seemed to belong to another era. Raymond opened the door and whistled at the sight of my black miniskirt. I wiped my shoes with a torn floor-cloth lying on the parquet. He returned to the chessboard on a table and resumed his seat. His partner, an elderly Asian, looked up. I shook the limp hand and began inspecting the room. I peered at yellowed volumes piled up on sagging bookshelves, old mirrors, tarnished candelabra, my new idol’s home surroundings. At 22, I was looking for male figures to admire. The old-fashioned setting conflicted with what Raymond had told me of his occupation. I saw him wreathed in the glory of the crazy artworks he’d told me about at the opening, such as covering a city with a huge mantle of parachute silk, stretched between a dozen helicopters. I toured his house. The toilets were located in a makeshift bathroom with flower-patterned walls. An ashtray kitchen, all the surfaces spattered with coffee-grounds. Perhaps my admirer was just a noisome hippie.
Back in the sitting room, I couldn’t find a folding bed and concluded that no one actually lived there. I sat down in the only armchair and crossed my legs. My skirt rode up around my thighs but neither of the men so much as glanced at my knees. I took the opportunity to examine my host, noticed his baggy grey trousers needed shortening. Finally he did see me. His gaze slid over my legs and back to the chessboard. His stone-colored beard clashed with those eyes which darted at me from time to time, two tiny black and silver pools, fluttering in the gale of emotions stirred by the sight of my body, prepared to give me the world. The divine love he seemed to feel for the insignificant little puppy I was, made me melt like sugar in a cup of scalding coffee. He thought I was bored, but he was wrong. I was getting a kick out of the waiting, the furtive glances he gave me, his opponent’s annoyance. He apologized for the game dragging on, and said: “Look round the room, darling, and help yourself to anything you like, a knick-knack, a book, whatever.” I walked to the table, picked up his queen and put it in my pocket.
An hour later, our feet were treading the sandy soil of the Fontainebleau forest. The rain had stopped. Over the tops of the pine-trees, the cirrus clouds were breaking up. As we walked and talked, I wanted to put my hand in his, or rather wanted him to take it. He was doing the talking. About Nietzsche. About Bourdieu. When my hand had brushed against his pocket a few times, he caught hold of it. Nestling in his dry palm, my fingers quite naturally began to stroke it.
Only a few minutes had gone by when I had a violent urge to pee. I pulled my hand away and skipped off, shouting, “I’ll catch up with you!”, then turned and ran to hide behind a tree. I could still see him. He had his back to me. I squatted down, keeping an eye on him. I peed sparingly at first, then with a gush of relief as my bladder emptied. The earth began to steam. The sickly odor rose between my thighs. When I put my hand back into Raymond’s – he had tactfully walked on – there was a long silence. Then he told me what had happened.
It was just before my sally into the bushes. When we’d left the car on the parking lot at the Gorges de Franchard, he’d needed to pee himself. The sexual urge that prompted him to take my hand conflicted with that other, more bodily urge. When our hands joined, the bodily became excruciating. Though usually helpful in such cases, a Zen technique of abdominal respiration had failed to ease the pressure – breathing quickly and as far as possible from the prostate, which was partly responsible, he confessed, for his discomfort. Never again would our relationship be as intense as at this moment, he’d said to himself. Never would we be so close. And he held it back. Our hands fondled each other, my flesh gave off vibrations that went straight to his heart. He was right about the intimacy. I wouldn’t have let him touch my breasts, not even through my sweater. And since Raymond had wanted to keep that little moment of happiness alive, he’d decided to pee as he walked. Drop by drop at first, then in little spurts, letting the urine dribble down his pants-leg. And I hadn’t suspected a thing.
A few months later, in August, I saw Raymond again. He was just back from Japan and made a date with me at the bar of a trendy restaurant near Montparnasse, la Closerie des Lilas. Avoiding the crowded dining room, we took supper by the terrace hedge. Elbows on the big white tablecloth, chin in hands, I listened to his account of Tokyo“ love hotels”. A prostitute who spoke no French had agreed to be his escort. Raymond was talking to me like an old cohort: I felt flattered and thrilled by a natural intimacy, a simplicity I’d never known with anyone else. Making extravagant gesticulations, he described to me those suggestive Japanese decors, revolving beds in the shape of a car or a woman’s shoe and painted a bright Chinese red, sulphurous water cascading down over the young woman (a devout Catholic) who laughed making the sign of the cross in an attempt to communicate. They’d watched a porn movie where the women wore white triangles between their thighs instead of pubic hair.
He brought up what had happened in the Fontainebleau Forest the previous spring. If only he’d been able to catch a glimpse of me squatting . . . Or at least heard me doing it! He’d have closed his eyes, knowing I was behind the branches. But from that distance, it was inaudible.
“Did it excite you to know I could have turned around at any time and seen you?”
“A little. I was afraid . . .”
“Of being seen?”