Libido: Fiction: Giraglia
Friday Night Bedtime Story, December 8. Print me out... take me to bed!

By Valeria Viganò

You were looking at me and laughing. Maybe you were laughing at the world, who knows. I was looking at your body, which has no need of clothes of any kind. There was no need to hide, to cover up. No need to see only parts of you revealed so as to want to touch you. There was nothing to imagine, all the typical notions of banally elicited desire put out of joint. Desire arose out of the combination of gleaming teeth, long feet, short hair, and hard muscles. Hence, navigating along your coordinates, everywhere. You laughed because we were walking side by side holding our books. And you knew that my book would get thrown down on the sand and that you would do likewise, calling me with your eyes, with your arms held out. Our slow passage along the beach, step after step looking down at our footprints in the sand, raised our heartbeats. Our breathing grew heavier as we exchanged glances from time to time, removing our eyes from Giraglia, the island that stood before us daily, hourly. Watching it like a lighthouse marking the known limit of our horizon, we felt the certainty of being exactly there, for a handful of weeks, between the bed in our room and the refreshing showers after making love. There were only a few guests in the hotel, and we never saw them except in the morning when, with your croissant and tangy marmalade, you sat with your back to the sea. You preferred to look at me. There is no better season than when the eyes of the other repose upon you, ignoring everything else. All the rest exists as the best kind of background. It was nature in the July heat, the warm waves crashing on the rocks beyond the tables on the patio, the sticky resin of the pines all around. The French murmured at the tables between the waiter and the guests served to intensify the intimacy between us. You laughed and closed your eyes, trembling slightly. The guests saw, but could not easily decipher, the flow back and forth. It was other and far away to them. It was easier for them to understand the currents in the bay, the scudding clouds, the birds diving for fish. The high sun blinded their ill will and unpleasant thoughts from morning to night, and for once the low murmuring blocked out all suspicion. And everything ran along tranquilly, while everyone read their vacation books on the chaise lounges.

We did not use them, but chatted while lying on our elbows, looking at each other from out of the corner of our eyes, feeling each other’s hot breath. The beach towel piled with things and with our bathing suits shone forth its bright colors against our nakedness. You got dressed only to go buy an ice cream or a salade niçoise made of tuna, crunchy lettuce, and boiled egg. The flavors of our hunger dressed each meal with salt and oil, with full bites and lips joined. Drinking water greedily from the bottle, we let fresh droplets fall upon our dry skin, and you were always ready, if I would only let you, to lick their rivulets off me and return them to my mouth.

Shameful thoughts, words, and actions do not exist. There is the shame, perhaps, of recounting that which we have already abused through too-brusque immediacy or through syrupy rhetoric. And yet, if I were to say that the erotic can only be truly intimate between two people, I would be taken for mousy or for a kook. Or I would hear myself called even worse if I were to say that it is indissolubly, in its fullest realizations, bound to love. The eroticism of betrayal is the last refuge of poor, wasted loves. That of seduction, exercised without feeling, a meager gratification of vanity.

When we took our walk, we left behind our towels and our spot near the outcropping of rock. Away from the shoreline, the dunes followed one after another, rising and falling among low, thorny bushes. No one was around, but if someone had come upon us it would have been no concern of ours. We wouldn’t have stopped, I knew that. We would have offered the spectacle of two people who could not separate from each other, of breasts fused to breasts, of legs wrapped around each other, of hands clasping hips. We had chosen a cove in the shade, underneath a burning but sheltering overhang. We were naked enough to pay no attention to the sand that entered everywhere, within your blond hair and in my ass, into your golden fur, inside our ears. And licking your ears meant alternately tasting your soft skin and the hard, clear grains that had found their way into them. I licked them out with little thrusts of the tongue, and your ear shined with my saliva. And your whole face shined as I, like a little rodent, licked and nibbled it. You were the fruit to be nipped and fondled, to be sure. And our sun-warmed bodies slid against each other from that first burning afternoon on, wiping away our sweat and distilling more of it from our dilated pores from the intense energy with which we kissed each other. You always knew how to kiss extremely well. I can imagine you with all your other lovers, who came first and who after. But what I could do to you, oh yes—a lover’s meager consolation, you will all say. Because it wasn’t the number of times you came or the way. It was why. It was because you had trust in your passion and in mine. And our giving ourselves so totally to each other was letting instinct have its own way, and led to our tussles and panting disengagements, our climax upon climax.

Giraglia was closer to the ruins of the tower that we climbed after making love. Laughing and tottering, brazenly holding hands, in spite of everyone and all else. I liked it when you held my hand and led me, because you were taller and more decisive, and your green eyes held sway over my life. And lying on your dark legs, with my head against your still wet groin, I could have believed myself to be that ideal woman that you took me for. You delicately caressed my hair, your strong fingers tangled in my sweaty locks ruffled by the wind. You slowly stroked me, and closing my eyes I felt myself to be totally complete, just barely, for a moment. You could have done whatever you wanted to me, hit me and hit me, rolled me over upon the stone and taken me without asking, one hand around my neck and the other in my ass. You passed your soft palm over my ears, again and again in silence, and for me it was as if we shared the same belonging. There was not a cell in me that did not breathe in you. The rough stone scratched my legs, but you were the most comfortable of bosoms. Without ceasing to caress my lips and trace the outlines of my face, with a knowing touch that leaves its memory like an imprint of fingers upon the flesh, you directed your long eyes and thin aquiline nose toward the cove underneath the tower. You wrinkled your brow and put on your dark glasses; I squeezed your arm, and you raised them and smiled at me. I wanted you for this, for so little, for your wide, tan shoulders and your hard pelvis. I rolled over and buried my face between your thighs. There was a spot left on your bathing suit. My tongue lapped at it, soaking you with saliva. Underneath the stretchy fabric I felt you swell, heard the tremors in your voice. I stuck my finger underneath the fabric and pulled it aside. I was exposing you so that the sun would dry you. Then I let it fall back and cover you again.

She woke up to find her pajamas stuck to her sweaty body. She angrily tore them off. What the hell kind of dream was that? She felt the linen sheets against her naked skin. The partial darkness entered through the slits in the closed blinds. What the hell kind of dream? Breathing heavily, she tossed and turned in her bed and spread her legs, feeling hot. It was an insane heat, one that came from within. She felt as if she was burning up because she was devoid of any thought at that moment. A ball of fire, of fear. She panted, could not breathe. Because things enter in through the window of one’s dreams, and one is always so unprepared. How can you prepare yourself for your dreams? Not even this she knew. She passed a hand over her skin as if it were the hand of another. She passed it down her pelvis, thinking that she had no future. She passed it over her soft breast, thinking that she had a beautiful, unused body. She stared blankly at the ceiling, caressing her forehead, her neck. She brushed her fingers across her nose, her cheeks, closed her eyes. The bed was large. Her foot touched a cold wall. Slowly, wandering under the sheet, she drew close to it. She kicked off the covers completely and pressed her body to the white surface. The wall was hard and icy, but as soon as she leaned against it her body warmed it. She searched, therefore, for areas that were free of her imprint, feeling here and there with her open palms. Against her there was a solidity that repelled her forms. She too had flattened herself out, seeking relief. What kind of dreams, unpleasant and evil. . . what can one ever do to resist the attraction of bodies, the love that such attraction makes us attempt? Sleepless minutes passed. She could not even imagine that the next morning there would be light. She curled up now, and carefully caressed her feet, almost as if they were a brain to be fondled. Moments of lucidity and awareness alternated with feelings of being suspended, in limbo. She was truly naked, truly undressed and unprotected. She thought no longer of the dream, or perhaps she did in spurts, because in some part of herself she felt a diffusing sweetness take the place of the rancor toward herself. How had the idea come to her to get off track like that, to dream a happiness? She could not allow herself to let a dream devastate her. She had tears in her eyes as, ever so slowly, as if she were floating, she passed a hand down between her legs, to the only part that had been overlooked. She knew quite well both how to caress and to caress herself. Her hair had fallen over her face while, with a mixture of rage and pity, she moved around and inside of herself. The anger left by the dream guided her fingers, and her legs, distant from each other, tensed. Her breathing, which the dream had quickened, stopped and held for longer and longer periods. She felt a spasmodic desire to cast off images that would otherwise have pursued her for days thereafter, while she was eating breakfast in the morning or sitting in a movie theater at night. Now she felt neither hot nor cold. She felt nothing, no emotion. She thought of nothing, not a meeting, not a project, not an idea passed through her head. Her head no longer existed. The dampness on the tips of her fingers was her only possible existence. She could prolong the anticipation of her liberty, could come and then try again, and again, to the point of exhaustion. She knew herself well, at least this about herself. It was all her own, not to be shared with presences or apparitions, bit players in her life. It was hers, she sneeringly paraded it in the face of the dream and all its actors. No one could steal it from her. She was alone, lying on the rumpled linen sheets, and for a moment she wanted to prolong it all until the next morning. No one could strike at her, hurt her, no one could be furious with her, ignore her. While she continued to caress herself, she had no fantasies, nor did she have need of them, because they were the thing from which she had to distance herself. From images real and dreamlike that flowed ceaselessly through the region beyond her brain, images stolen once from sight and reproduced in an endless cycle, to the point of becoming a mute parallel life, wordless and voiceless.

Her pleasure arrived with great intensity. She emitted a long, hot sigh, and her hand stopped stroking her skin. She carried her finger to her lips, she tasted it. Its flavor was familiar and good, like the fragrance of fresh bread. Now she knew she would fall back to sleep. Her eyelids closed slowly, her head weighed more heavily on the pillow underneath. The brief sleep that in a few hours would deliver her again to another vigilant day of activity, and that had earlier been shaken and violated, would give her no other dream. Of this she was certain and felt at peace. The same damp hand that had confidently bestowed a pleasure on her savored by even her mouth now instinctively rested against her cheek. She gave herself a final caress, alone, and fell asleep.

Reprinted from The Forbidden City: An Anthology of Erotic Fiction by Italian Women edited by Maria Rosa Cutrufelli and translated by Vincent J. Bertolini published by The University of Chicago Press. Copyright 2000 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved.