Goldberg Variations

By Lydia Swartz

This is not what I should be doing.

The auditorium is packed. We have been told not to expect an intermission. People are leaning forward in their seats. Everyone is straining to catch every sound coming from the stage, which is awash with lights. On stage there are no props, no scenery - only one grand piano, a dark-haired pianist with the tails on his tux thrown back over a stool, and the music.

This is not sex. This is the Goldberg Variations. I chide myself: Look at his fingers! Listen to that perfect attack, the smooth and passionate execution, the way he shakes his cheeks and sweats over a ruthlessly difficult passage but delivers it as though blowing a kiss.

Stop thinking about sex, I tell myself. You are not beside me, but miles away.

But the curve of the grand piano is unmistakably reminiscent of the way your round belly curves into the furry plane of your pudendum.

The lid of the piano is propped up at a rakish angle, hiding and revealing itself at once. How could it not remind me of the way you bend your one knee next to my left shoulder while the other lies straight next to my right shoulder, and the way I coil between them, drunk with your scent and taste?

I could not see the sweating, erect artist at that keyboard without thinking of you, of the man in the boat, of the stout head of your clitoris straining toward me as I part your labia.

When the pianist's fingers scamper across the keys, I spy hammers rippling inside the torso of the piano. Can I help it if I notice that this replicates the quiver of your inner thighs, your chin, your underbelly as I play trills on your own fine ivory?

The bare boards of the stage make me ache for the pale moist flesh beneath your curly pubic hair.

The gray-haired couple in front of me grasp each other's liver-spotted hands through the wilds of Variation 5. Their heads nearly touch. Her boisterous gray curls are longer than his, and they twine into his like an insistent sweet pea vine.

I wonder what color you will dye your hair at 75. I wonder whether you will love the white brush on my head as much as you love my red buzz now.

I cross my legs, hook my ankles, and press my thighs together. Such impetuous speed. Such shimmering allegro. I put my hand to my face and I think I smell you.

Variation 14 is pitilessly ornamented, and cross-hand. Its voice volleys from one hand to another, bass to treble. The bench creaks beneath the straining pianist's agony. I am reminded of his entry, when he strode across that stage to begin. Was there a slight pause when he first encountered that piano, its shining dark wood, brightly lit, regarding him perhaps ghoulishly? A crucifix awaiting his passion? A beautiful carnivore awaiting its prey?

There is a moment when I shudder at the sight of your flesh. It is when you open yourself to me, bare your self, take away the fabric that inhibits your rich odor.

There is more to see than just one naked woman.

There is, first of all, every naked woman, dead or alive. My mother, my sister, my aunt, my daughter, my niece, my cousin. The women who rejected me, the women who loved me once and may love or hate me now. Saint Joan and Lucretia Borgia. Madame Nhu and Boadicea. Ishtar and Mary Magdalene. Margaret Thatcher and Tina Turner. I ogle all of them when you step out of your panties and look at me, waiting.

I see your nakedness as a baby, a child, a young woman, your nakedness with every lover before me. I see your skin before it had any scars. I see your face before worry wore the vertical lines into the skin between your eyebrows. And I see the way your eyes will grow heavy lidded and sad someday, your knuckles knot with arthritis.

I see myself reflected in your body, different as we are.

My round little-girl butt in your big-woman behind. (I sink my silicone dick or my hand into your ass, feeling the glorious violation as powerfully as you do. By fucking you, you fuck me. I hold your heart in my heart. Everything that happens to your body happens in mine.)

My small pendulous teets in your full, rich, womanly breasts. (You suck my entire breast into your mouth and my heart swells into the huge joyous bounty I see in you.)

My sunken, ribby gut in the opulent fullness of your belly. (Sometimes we cannot hold each other tight enough together, so we hold each other even tighter than it is possible to hold. Your belly presses into my gut, and we are a spinning comet, joined, trailing fire.)

My angular beak in your broad, short, pierced nose. (Generations before us live again - they turned to the side in old photographs, we as we kiss. I can love them for bringing us here together today, even as I curse them for the scars on our flesh and in our hearts.)

Sometimes when I reach out my hand toward your freshly naked body, my hand trembles. Sometimes the pleasure we are capable of together is intimidating. Sometimes those variations we have practiced over and over and over; that others have attempted and shipwrecked on the rocks of; that we hunger for and that crowd into our minds even in the dark listening to Bach: sometimes it is exactly that music which is the most terrifying.

And it is what I wake up for on another morning. The touch that challenges me every time I confront it, the flesh that always calls me.

The second playing of the aria is triumphant, as it should be.

I want to open my flesh and expose my soul to the music and the musician. I thank it, thank him by banging my hot, dry hands together - and by wishing everyone except you and I would now evaporate.

Get out of my way! I am in a hurry. Do they not understand? I love you. This music has been the proof of it.