Thursday, September 10, 2009


by Sofi

Riding up in the Stanhope’s elevator with Riccardo, I am a bright doomed fish trapped in a gilded aquarium. When the door opens on the 15th floor, a sharp hook will snag my mouth and pull me gasping and flopping to my death. My mind swarms like a nest of bees around the certainty that in seconds I’ll be in a plush uptown apartment overlooking Central Park, staring down my rival, my man’s other lover, the lover he was so quick to take up with while I traveled Eastern Europe with my father. Christ, he (Ricc) practically pushed me out the door. Said it was “my duty to my father.” Said it would be “my adventure.” Said when I returned that “everything would be the same.”

Yes, I am still the mistress of a married man twice my age.
He is still my boss and mentor.

No, I was not a nun while I was away. I had my adventure. A couple of them actually.
I’m not even over my jet lag, but I know with certainty that he lied once, maybe twice last night and that alone means nothing is the same.

The car lurches to a stop on the 15th floor. We walk past one entrance and Riccardo touches the second door. Slightly ajar, it opens on a view of her, a small, impossibly elegant olive-skinned woman swooping down the hall, descending on us. She's wearing something small and tight that was probably on a Paris runway last fall. Glossy raven hair, smooth unlined skin, high cheekbones, sensual, pouting lips--all the double-barrel allure of Italian women, and how I suddenly hate them, zipped into no more than a 4 foot 9 package. And how she smells? Oh my God!

“Hello darling,” she says, pecking him on both cheeks, dark eyes flashing. “How’s the head?”
“Better.” Riccardo rubs the welt on his forehead that he wouldn’t explain to me. I get a quick once over.
“And hello dear...”
“Sofi Levonov, I'm Riccardo's production assist ...” I stammer.

“I know, cara. But we must go now. My apologies.” She hustles us back to the elevator.
“Slight change of plans. Basta, basta. We must go. ”

The door closes, the car descends with a slight shimmy and she extends a poised hand which holds an elegant business card with a small purple dot by her name, Violetta Este de Calinni, in a scripted font. On the back of the card is a short, handwritten note. What is that amazing scent she's wearing?

“This, bellissima, is for you.” As I take it, Violetta sizes me up again. I can't read her face. Her eyes make me feel naked. “You are exquisite.”

When I'm wound up or tired or both, I chatter like a squirrel. She won't find it endearing. I fully intend to pull off a cool, aloof, “Thank you.” What I actually say (in a headlong blur) is:
“You are beautiful too. I know we have like an issue here. But I’m sure we can work it out like adults. After all …” Violetta cuts me off, not rudely, but decisively. I am almost grateful.

Scusa mi. Truly, I am late for my meeting. We’ll talk ....” Her hand finds Riccardo's, and one beautiful nail, a sliver of polished jade, scratches out a sensual Morse code on his palm; a gesture I’m sure I’m supposed to see. The elevator door whooshes open.
A domani?” she asks, staring me down, then before I can respond, bounds off quick as her clicking heels can carry her. Quicker than I ever could in those damned things. Damned if I know what I am supposed to say.
“She keeps busy.” I fix an icy stare as Vi’s receding form hops in a small limo.
“She volunteers at The Met. Something with reform school kids. And she now sits on the board.”

My lover and her doorman say goodbye. They’re on a first name basis. In the bright daylight, Riccardo tries to cop a look at the handwriting on back of the card in my shaking fingers. I obscure it deliberately. I tease him a little. He deserves it.

“This doesn’t say so, but I did some digging. Did you know your Violetta is actually Contessa Violetta Este de Calinni? Her husband is a Count Marco Di something or other and they come from two of the oldest, most important families in Italy.”
“I knew all about it.”
“So how does that not intimidate you?” I’m making the effort to stay cool. Riccardo adjusts his sunglasses and takes my hand.
“I don't know. It just doesn’t.”
“Well she scares me. This ..." I wave the card at him. "Lunch tomorrow, Café Japonais, 12:45. These Italian nobles these Medicis, Borgheses, Calinnis. They don’t play. So, do I go? Just us girls, sipping sake, eating sushi? A quiet tête-à-tête?”
He chuckles like I said something terribly funny.
“Tomorrow's just the museum shoot. The crew was booked weeks ago without you. One head more or less … ”
“You really think humor is the way to play this?"
 “No, I don’t sorry.”
He touches the bruise above his right eye. I now have a real good idea how it happened, but I want to hear him say it.
“What happened last night?”
“Nothing really." Mr. Evasive. He deserves another pop to match the one he’s got.
“I just think it’s fuckin’ weird.” He shrugs noncommittally at me overtop his sunglasses and it sets me off.
"Riccardo, I’ll call it off. I swear. I’ll call everything off!” Passersby turn to stare. So much for keeping my cool.
“She just wants to know you. That's reasonable.”
"Sofi! If you want to call it off, say the word. Say it. Do you?”

Do you? Do I?

It’s a cruel question, those two words, because he knows exactly how I’ll react.

As if relationships like ours can be undone with a flash of his assassin’s eyes or the cruel snap of two cruel words. I hate him pushing me to that edge, time and time again. Forcing me to look over. I won't push back; I will bend like the willow. I turn quickly and dab under my shades so he won't see the two perfect tears dribble down my cheeks. He adjusts his sunglasses and his eyes are just as unavailable.  I will squeeze his hand and find better words for what’s in my heart.
"You don’t love me as much as I love you."
"Not true!" He denies it so vehemently, his face stung, a rattle catch in his voice that I am happy to hear. However temporary, his pain means something.
“But” I say.
“But” he interrupts, “I'm not keeping score. Who loves who more—You already know how I feel." Already he’s recomposed himself so I do too. I take a step back and tell him what he wants to hear.
“I know you love me. I’ve not come halfway around the world to lose you. Your Contessa. She scares me. But ... she’ll never get the better of me.”
"I expect not."
The sun’s warmth lays up against my head. A handful of wispy hairs fall across my forehead. I flip them back. It's his cue. Our latest in a long line of parting kisses is soft, sad and guarded; his usual gratitude, with added tenderness I expect comes from guilt. We’re always saying goodbye. I started out trying to tell him there’s no way I’ll do this, but he insists, as much as a man with two mistresses can insist on anything. The express train from my heart arrives at my lips so I kiss his earlobe and deliver my parting shot.

“I can’t help but feel you're feeding me to the lions."
... This post continues!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Screen Kiss

Sofi carissima, it had been nearly a year and under vastly different circumstances that R and I had last seen each other. My life had just endured a series of changes, some you know of, none positive or worth dwelling on at the moment. So imagine my eager anticipation of a night in SoHo with Riccardo at the trendy Gallery G. I had no expectations beyond an interesting reunion with a charming man who'd shown me kindness in the past. It was to be a private reception, he'd explained, likely very crowded, a "pre-opening" for Gallery G's new Salgado retrospective. Riccardo had been invited, honored he said, to show six portraits he’d shot in Rocinha, Rio’s most notorious favela.

That night, I had chosen a simple black Chanel dress with a scoop neckline and a provocative plunging backline. My best pearls and new shoes completed the ensemble.

We stood, side by side, as Riccardo and a dealer he'd introduced as Emile, discussed the works of the great Brazilian photographer. And as they chatted, R’s hand nonchalantly strayed to the small of my back. The gesture, seemingly casual, sent electric tremors through my body.

From the moment he’d called on me, I'd reacquainted myself with every detail of the man. Sofi, you know me to be a woman who notices and cares for details. My first impression, shock, as he'd lost so much weight, 50 pounds he'd said! I'd been waiting, impatiently I confess, and I hardly recognized his newly trim frame as he entered the lobby. Perhaps we have you to thank for this? He kissed me on both cheeks, European style. As R held the door for me and we drove off, I took further note of the quiet intelligence that had first attracted me, the handsome new angles emerging in his face, the fashionable stubble of beard, the bedroom eyes, his stylishly rumpled black suit, the grey silk shirt open two buttons, with just a hint of rugged brown hairs peeking above the open collar. I find it so curious that Americans regard this sort of masculine display as unsophisticated for it makes me weak at the knees with desire. This Anglo male obsession with hair removal puzzles me. When some ladies I lunched with expressed distaste for hairy men ...
I thought ‘Fine, keep your hairless little boys; save the hairy men for me.’

Now in a public gathering, elbow to elbow with art aficionados from two continents, I am shamefully, uncontrollably wet down in my own hairy patch, desperate to touch the manly tuft sprouting from his collar.

But it was him touching me and in that moment, my attention only knew the few tingling centimeters of his fingers' contact with my naked back.

Was he genuinely unaware of his effect on me? Was he teasing or had he knowingly crossed this line of our friendship with this touch? How was it that he didn’t have every woman in this gallery at his feet? Lulled by the steady pressure of his fingertips and resonant, sexy voice, I lost track of the words, listening to the tones and cadences like one who recognizes the melody of a favorite song in a new, unfamiliar language.

It seemed that their conversation was going well, then the art dealer grew irritated with Ricci, though he obviously still adored him!
“Enough Salgado, Riccardo, darling, you make me mad enough to spit!"
"But why, Emil?"
"You know full well. Last week Mel makes a date. You break the date. Why?”
“It was rude of me.” Riccardo agreed. "Forgive me."
“Meet us tomorrow and all will be forgiven. The Brazilian ambassador and Mrs. Ambassador are detained tonight, but arrive in the morning. They remember your work from last year. They are here for one reason--to be sold. So no more this down the rabbit hole. Promise?”

Riccardo sighed and nodded; he seemed elsewhere. I'd barely taken note of the man beyond what is required for politeness. While they concluded their business, I'd become utterly engrossed in the nearest portrait, one of Riccardo's. The dealer shook his free hand enthusiastically, then with a stiff bow, withdrew.

Ricci turned his attentions to me. He called my name, once, perhaps twice, but I, still lost in the liquid eyes of a beautiful orphan, made a startling connection, one that had eluded me until that moment. This was the creamy voice that called from my daydreams. Turning to him, I saw his face as if revealed and I knew it for the face behind the anonymous mask in all my fantasies. Shifting my feet, I realized I wasn’t just wet down there—my whole body felt like a stormcloud saturated with desire. His unmasked face, eyes narrowed, his pursed luscious lips, closing on mine, his hand slipping beneath the elastic of my panties, seeking my other lips, drenched, already parted in anticipation of his fingers hooking me hard like a fish on a line, finding no resistance, just desire, waves upon endless waves of desire.

In truth, he'd had only touched my back.
Only? Only?

Could he not sense how vulnerable I was?

I squeezed my legs together and rocked slightly on my heels.
“Vi?” He asked.

“Sorry. I was … elsewhere.”
“No matter. Do you need to leave?”
“No. I just need air,” my voice a hoarse whisper. “Come with me?”
"There’s a fire escape off the second floor. It’s quiet.”
I looked at him uncomprehendingly.
“I need to confirm an appointment with the owner."
“Que bello.”
“Just up those stairs. I’ll only be a minute.”

So I went up the stairs, down a hall, out the back, onto a tiny fire escape, above the dark street behind tall skyscrapers. I searched for a small piece of open sky in the darkness and hum of the city. The door had barely closed behind me with a metal click. I felt my chest tighten and scolded myself...

‘A man you haven’t seen in ten months sends you off by yourself to a fire escape and you just go.' Yes, I do, I just go.

When I heard the his hand on the door I took a deep breath.
He stepped out onto the landing, eyes twinkling, a business card in hand.

“This is what I came here for.”
“Is that all?” I said under my breath.

A street light shone on my face and the moonlight on his. His lips, in wordless response gently pressed to my mouth. I felt the first delicious rush of excitement throughout my body.
I thought of those many screen kisses I had seen in Italian dubbed versions of American romances. Lancaster and Kerr in "From Here to Eternity," Bogart and Bergman in "Casablanca," Stewart and Hepburn in "Philadelphia Story." Like most young girls, I'd practiced my kisses on the back of my hand, on girlfriends, boyfriends, even tried it once with Marco who simply pushed me away. Ex-lovers used kisses to seduce me.

But who’d ever kissed me for kissing’s own sake?

Up to this point, carissima, I’d never understood the attraction of "the screen kiss." Why had all the films made such a big fuss over it? Are you shocked that I assumed they were just acting? All those decades without a real kiss vanished as our lips met as if lips alone could know and tell the whole story. My tongue probed the line of his teeth and found his tongue. He liked this. I could tell. His arm tightened around my waist, one hand grazed my breast as men’s hand do, as if to ask, may I touch you here, will you push me away, do you like it? My answer? I pushed my aching breast into his palm, then guided his hand under to the soft curves of flesh, the nipples painful with the need to be touched and sucked.

I placed a hand on his chest. He thought I wanted him to stop, but leaning against his chest, I reached under my dress and pulled my panties down past my knees, to give him, even on that darkened landing, a brief view of my small ass as my panties collapsed to the ground at my feet.

He knelt, an elegant gesture, bending to take my shoe, pausing momentarily to admire it.

(Sofia, I was so glad I'd bought the Manolos!) He removed my panties from my ankle and still kneeling, pressed his cheek boldly to my crotch, inhaling sharply to smell my body perfume. His hands traveled wildly under my dress, teasing up my calves, knees and thighs, cupping my clenched bottom, he rubbed my pussy which so craved his touch. All my long passionless decades melted like ice on a hot night as his strong fingers opened my vulva and my special hole, which also craved his most passionate explorations.

“What do you like?,” he asked.

“Oh darling. Everything. I adore … everything.” Looking down on him, I was hoarse with longing. Like the most shameless putana, I gave words to the terrible urgency of my desires. “Feel me," I cried, "Feel how completely open I am to you. You could do anything to me.”
Standing, his hands wandered up my torso and he returned to devour my mouth. He was so hard, imagining as I did, how only the tiniest distance, the thinnest of fabrics separated it from where we both wanted it to be.

Behind us then, a sudden noise. I jumped away guiltily. A gallery assistant stood at the door, tapping the window, mouthing the words “Closing time.” Poor Ricci, sweating and anxious, reached for me once more.

"No, carrissimo," I begged, "Pazienza. Just … Take me home and we’ll …”
“Darling, I … I can’t. I have to pick up my son. Then tomorrow, you heard ... Oh Vi, I’m going crazy. All day long, I couldn’t think of anything but you.”
“No, this is not true.” I protested.
“Yes, sometimes I get a, a thing in my head. And I can’t … “
“Ha. You sweet, beautiful man. You obsessed over me. I am not worth it.” .
“How can you say that?”
“Ah, no matter. Just know, the next time you come to me and it will be different.”
"Different? How?”
“Different however you want it to be my darling. Different now that I know.”
“Know what? What?"

In answer, though it was no answer he'd yet understand, I reached up and gave a little tug at the chest hair I’d been admiring all night.

As we descended the stairs, I leaned into him and did something very bold for me. I grasped his manhood through his trousers and squeezed. My palm could feel the heat of it pouring through the fabric. His breath whistled through his teeth. I released my trapped treasure just as the assistant reappeared at the first floor landing to escort us from the now empty gallery. Our poor man, holding a gallery program discretely over the prominence in his trousers. I watched the prim little assistant closely. Would her eyes stray to the agitation I'd caused? I felt so wanton and wicked at that moment, but the girl took no more notice than what was necessary to see us out the door. Perhaps lovers appear nightly on her fire escape and it is her duty to send them off to their beds!

Strange how that night air on the street seemed cooler than the air two floors above. I had the sense of great time passing or none at all. How long had we been there? I signaled for a cab with a very unladylike whistle while Ricci caught his breath.

Once inside I rolled the window down and beckoned him to come closer. As he leaned in, I called out “81st and 5th” to the driver. Then I pulled Ricci's sweet face to mine. I gave him another soft sweet kiss to remind him of our first kiss, our screen kiss, a promise of all that was to come. This kiss, though chaste in comparison to our passion on the fire escape, came with the answer I'd made him wait for, though not nearly as long as I had waited for him!

“It will be different, now that I know you want me.”

The cab started off and as if we were actors playing the farewell in a romantic movie, I turned and caught the eyes of our beautiful man, his expression so intent, as if somehow we, or at least he, had played this whole scene out before. Ricci, beloved, do you treasure this night in your memory as I do? Because it is only in reading Sofia's post, that I realize that fate, our fates are never a straight line, but many lines, some that branch, cross, circle and return to close upon themselves.

Write to me, carissimo.
... This post continues!