Betty said she was from California, Sausalito. I said nothing all the time she was talking about it, I was tracing the aureoles around her nipples with one hand’s fingers and with the other hand massaging her vaginal lips. Of course I had been taught to say “tits” and “cunt” or “pussy,” and so on . . . when I was a strapping boy just learning what my penis, rather “cock” or “boner” or . . . was for. The neighbor girl was older than I was, but she taught me good, I mean “well.” And she took me out in the trees and lay down and pulled me down by my penis and put it between her legs and even though I had masturbated to prophesy this moment I was surprised to be so surprised that a woman felt so very good when she replaced the imaginary one . . .
She said I ought to come with her to her little house on the hill in back of the town where you could see all the boats as well as the restaurant called Trident and the people crossing the street . . . I started to tell her about Roanoke but she did to me what was unique to each woman who blessed me with her favors, I mean what she did with her mouth and her tongue and what has gone down in the history of lovemaking as one more tool in a girl’s bag of tricks in her crib. Betty did it differently than my first lover and differently than Ruby, and after Betty I would make love with a woman whose mouth and tongue would feel and make me feel more differently still. Betty also taught me how to slide my tongue between the vaginal lips and find her clitoris, . . . and I could go on but why bother? This is history every human learns on his or her own.
I asked her questions she answered about Sausalito and San Francisco and she told me about Marin County and Sonoma County and took me to the Virgin Islands, St. Croix, where she’d lived . . . but I was doing with her what HOTEL HOTEL was intended for, or so I figured, seeing the women guiding the men up the stairs from time to time . . .
Betty said she wanted me to see Mama Doll’s, but I was uneasy thinking about men paying for it. The girls with their guys going up the stairs were too appealing to my, what I learned early on were labeled the “baser instincts.”
I was more concerned about ol’ Johnny and how he’d take what was happening here when he returned to town.
Once Ira and I got to talking in the café he told me his brother killed a black man (he didn’t say “nigger,” nor did I say it or let it go uncorrected, it was after all 1965). That’s how I got to New Orleans, Ira said. Then he told me about what happened and about the child his brother had sired that he would never see now, and I asked what the black man’s name was, I knew a black woman from a town called Woolwine whose brother was murdered by her lover, and sure enough it was Ira’s brother, Rich, killed Ruby’s brother Rufus . . .
Eventually Ira told me the whole story and how he kept going south when he reached Memphis and his three brothers took off to the west, bound for Fort Smith, Arkansas, the toughest town in Indian Territory, where they could lose themselves among the thieves, murderers, and other blackguards who disappeared there until Isaac Parker was sent to clean up the place and became notorious, he’d heard, and came to be called the “hanging judge.”
So Ira knew Ruby and I told him all about her and her daughter Delia, whose father was his brother. Ira’s woman listened to it all. I suspected she’d heard worse and had seen worse still, and may even have suffered more agonies than I knew Ruby carried with her everywhere. Adore, was the only name she’d ever had, she named herself she said. I said, You have a beautiful name, it’s the only one you will ever need. She didn’t smile but then I didn’t expect her to. I was nothing if not honest, and I sometimes wondered why I stole my brothers’ money while they were sleeping and took off south and got away scot-free, that wasn’t what I called honesty, it was more like necessity.
But I didn’t say a word about that to anyone, I was ashamed of myself for doing that and if there was a God I didn’t have to tell anyone else, I didn’t even have to handle snakes to see if they could find out what nobody else knew, I did know they would because I was brought up that way, to know the snakes would kill you if you tried to hide your sins, and so I steered clear of church after that. I didn’t consider the cathedral in Jackson Square a church. I had to go to Roanoke to find out about Catholics and when I came home to visit and told the folks about it they didn’t have any time to listen, so naturally I started hanging out with priests. They always made time for me and I remain grateful to this day.
Betty and I fucked all the time we were not eating and drinking and listening to music, and she thought Ira and Adore were a lovely couple and she wanted to be around them as much as I was, which meant they got to know her and heard about Johnny through her and about his mother’s whorehouse, which Adore knew about too, being a child born and reared in New Orleans, though she was careful to add she’d never visited . . .
(10 November 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander