FICTION
There’s a Place in France

By Frieda Madland

There are a couple things that I got out of being an army brat. The first is an appetite for anything that’s not American and the second is an extraordinary weakness for nearly bald men. No, Daddy wasn’t an MP -- although he did have plenty of contact with those white-helmeted baby-fascists who’d drag him out of the Officer’s Club every now and then -- usually for drinking too many Harvey Wallbangers, but once because he set a colonel’s pants on fire. (The colonel had called him a queer because Daddy had told him he liked Walt Whitman.) Actually, I think this idiosyncracy, this peculiar penchant for pates stems from the fact that the first retina-fusing petite mort I ever experienced came at the hands and head, if you will, of a man who told me he suffered from what he described as alopecia prematura.

Even though I’d just divorced my starter-husband, I still managed to make people think I was five minutes out of college. I had that doe-staring-in-the-headlight look, that demeanor of a dreamy post graduate trolling for any pretense of culture when I met (no kidding) Harry. We were both sitting in this grimy cafe, several doors down from the snooty one for tourists on the Blvd. St. Germain. I had been in Paris all of three days and had decided the only way to confront my terror of speaking bad French to waiters (who walked as if they all had a baguette shoved up their rectums) was to read other tourists’ lips as they ordered.

It never occurred to me that the man whom I had watched order a melted cheese sandwich was as American and bald as the round doorknobs in the good old U.S. of A. That became clear when he dripped cheese on his fly, his attention momentarily diverted by a pair of saluting nipples passing by on the street. "French women! They really know how to dress," I heard him mutter under his breath.

And I, suddenly feeling like a condensed ball of loneliness coupled with vague intimations of horniness, said, "Yeah, but you sure don’t." Then I gave him a half-demonic, half-cherubic smile.

He looked at me a little fiercely, trying to decide whether or not to do the French thing -- the if-he’d-been-a-woman-and-I-a-man he’d slap my face with his glove -- or the male thing which is to always surf for possibility even if it’s rude.

"Excuse me, but you’re an Amer--" I said.

"And you’re a cheeky little twit I ought to take over my knee," he said, watching me very carefully as he wiped the cheese off his pants.

I confess to various parts suddenly becoming very hot, if only from wanting to consciously re-direct any vasocongestion. I recovered admirably when from somewhere in my most depraved depths I managed a disgustingly meek, sotto voce, "Sor-r-ry. I didn’t mean to offend." Any more of this and I would have had to test my blood sugar. But sweetness had the desired effect, and the potential thunderhead that had suddenly loomed dissipated and he asked me to pull up a chair.

My guess was that he was in his mid-thirties, maybe even older, although when a man is bald I have this theory that a prenatal hairstyle shaves off decades. So suffice it to say he was somewhere between thirty and fifty. He impressed me because he had a certain grace and worldliness -- save for the cheese number -- especially when he rattled off really useless information. He told me he worked in Paris as a translator which explained how his brain kept spilling the most arcane stuff. It seemed that he harbored a great, if not greater, disdain than I for the way most Americans conducted themselves in public. Clearly, I had met my match in the snob department.

I was seduced by our conversation in those first fifteen minutes. They included exact directions on how to get to Paul Bowles’ house in Tangiers (you look for the first tall palm tree when disembarking and go straight to the Hotel Continental where you ask for Abdul), and directions on how to properly open a bottle of champagne ("the cork should never ever be released with a sound any louder than a virgin’s burp"). Harry said he’d picked this up from a cab driver who’d informed him that the major problem with Americans was that they treated champagne bottles as if they were grenade launchers.

And so it went for the next three hours, and after several drinks of vermouth and Cassis (I had just read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and thought this ought be my adult beverage of choice), he said, "So, how about watching a bald man do a U-turn under the sheets?"

I have to admit that the few young men I had ended up doing the carnal waltz with had never quite put it that way. I found my nipples growing very hard, almost painfully so in their joyous anticipation of… what did he say? U-turns under the sheets? What a strange, almost antedeluvian expression. Or was it?

"What exactly do you mean?" I asked imperiously. Then, without letting him answer, I riveted my gaze and said, "What I think you mean is that you would like to take me back to your lair where you will unbutton the front of this blouse, pull my skirt off so that it falls in a puddle around my ankles, and then proceed to slip this cotton postage stamp that passes for underwear down from around my hips. In doing so, you will note how the thin cotton appears almost translucent in some places, clinging fiercely to the lubricious inner folds of my most delicate flesh."

"Something like that," he said smiling ever so slightly and hailing our waiter. "It’s actually more like a garret -- but there’s a great view of the Cluny Museum across the street. The best way to see it is to lean over the window sill. Your butt in the air. I actually prefer pulling underwear off from behind. Watching the fabric reveal all that expanse of ass. I like to study large clefts first. Follow with my finger that thin dark line from the coccyx down to where everything gets much darker and invites greater exploration of the hinterlands."

Harry handed the waiter a few francs and waved him on. "Of course the view of the Cluny Museum isn’t that great and I wouldn’t want you falling out the window. I’d insist you keep your bra on given that it’s a little chilly at night."

I knew I had started this little game, but for once, my tongue failed to lubricate at the same time that everything else seemed to be working overtime. All I could manage was a pathetic "but I don’t wear a bra." Before you could say le plus que je connais les hommes in passable French, we had climbed the six flights of stairs to his teeny apartment.

I’d managed to get myself so revved up that I actually pushed Harry back on his own bed, sitting on his stomach with my knees on either side of him like one of those gargoyles perched on top of Notre Dame. "You lose all that hair from too much sex, mister? I learned in science class that guys like you have too much of that hormone called testosterone and consequently lose it early."

Before I could get another word out he’d sat up and flipped me over, pulling my flowing skirt over my head. "You know," Harry said rolling me over his knees, "I think I yearn to see my fingerprints on those cheeky little buns of yours." He yanked my underpants down below my knees and ran a hand over my ass as if to measure just how much territory he planned to cover with it.

"You are rude, and from the minute I heard you tell me I didn’t know how to dress, I’ve had the urge to let you know just how insulted I feel. How old are you, anyway, you little Bennington brat?"

"Smith," I corrected. "Class of...." Before I’d even gotten it out, he delivered several stinging smacks in rapid succession, his handprint no doubt as indelible as the petroglyphs I’d seen at Chaco Canyon. I squirmed and gasped and demanded that he stop immediately, and he answered my order with at least a half dozen more really stinging swats.

"So how old are you?"

"Twenty-three!" I yelled, more furious with each new raining whack that was setting my heretofore unassaulted butt on fire. Actually, I lied. I was closer to thirty, but was relishing the role of ingenue more than I could have possibly imagined.

"Then you’re due eleven more, and with that, Harry seemed to take great pleasure in using his hand to kiss my ass at what seemed like forty miles an hour.

I still wonder if it’s possible to be as pissed off and turned on as I was at that moment. Even while his hand was bringing an even greater flush to my almost-fuchsia fanny, I felt that familiar hot rush of pleasure in a different, although not too-distant region. I think all that writhing on his lap with my pants off had rubbed me the right way -- namely, my clit was as hard as a chickpea.

He stopped abruptly, and before I could even register what I had deemed to be a most unnecessary punishment, he’d flipped me over on the bed. My legs splayed as if part of some unconscious choreography and I suddenly felt Harry’s cool tongue slide between the lips of my very swollen cleft. He drove his tongue in repeatedly and then, as if to torment me beyond distraction, looked up from between my legs and announced, "I aim to demonstrate that my tongue is as wicked as yours." He resumed this warm liquid hammering, then stopped again to say, "You know, you really shouldn’t make fun of this condition I have -- this alopecia prematura. It’s hereditary and while I’ve been able to turn it into an advantage -- I happen to like looking a little severe -- a lot of people I know just can’t handle it. You were most impertinent earlier and I needed to convey just how rude your statements were," he said in mock seriousness. "You know that a mouth like yours is destined to get you into all sorts of trouble."

Frankly, I didn’t care about his alopecia whatever and my guess is neither did he since we were both into playing this bad girl game. I don’t think I’d ever felt so ready to ignite. But he had this amazing ability to keep me from doing just that. He would blab on about something I didn’t care about -- how Mao’s Cultural Revolution would be the death of literature in China or why Jacques Brel would never outsell the Beatles no matter what. He tormented me incessantly, washing my pebble-hard clit, then interrupting himself with questions like "Do you think a tomato is botanically classified as a fruit or a vegetable?"

What I can say is that when I finally rocketed from this constant onslaught of words and tongue lashings, my legs locked around this bald man’s head and my pudenda reveled in its own pleasurable paroxysms. I gave way in a language of pure vowels that sounded much like "A-A-E-E--I--I-O-O-U--U-U. "

"And sometimes Y," Harry finished for me, gently dislodging my knees from around his ears and rising from the horizon of the bed, his bald head glistening in the dim light. "Yes, I do believe that essence de femme does help keep my condition -- this alopecia prematura -- at bay." He stroked the outside of my thighs and said, "By the way, did you know that the word ‘clitoris’ is derived from the Greek verb kleitoriazein meaning to titillate?"

I moaned sweetly that I didn’t care, although I confessed that I now knew what he’d meant by a bald man doing a U-turn under the sheets. We’d just never slowed down enough to get underneath them.

"Speaking of which, how did you contract this alopecia thing? It’s not contagious, is it?" I asked, knowing that I was probably in for an insufferably long medical explanation.

Harry jumped up and stretched out next to me. "I told you, it’s hereditary," he said, clucking my chin. "All it means is bald. It’s the Latin term for premature baldness."

With that, I threw him off the bed. Later, I made him drop his pants and prove to me that his hard-on was as long as Pinocchio’s nose.

Then, if only to torment him a little, I sucked him until his eyes rolled back, stopping now and again to leaf through my guidebook for other unusual sights of Paris.