amoral 9 - Inner Beautyview galleries
Martha was sitting at our table when I opened the pub door. She turned to me, I smiled and I fumbled my signing in. But as we sign in everywhere we go these days even when I am wondering how I should respond to Martha being earlier than usual. Should I be asking what is wrong? Should I already know what is wrong? Would I need to do something different?
“One of those days. No need to get me a beer, I have already got mine.”
With a simple instruction I was at ease again. I knew the normal order of things was to continue, as they did every Tuesday afternoon. I scanned the pub while waiting for Aesop to assign me to my table and serve me a beer. The usual patrons were in their usual seats. Along the bar was the older man, sitting quietly with his beer, alone this time. The table of three were reading books. The large group in the booth were chatting quietly. Snowy and friends were on their phones. Ant and friends were chatting too. There are quite a few people I recognise but don't know their names as Martha has not introduced us through her little stories.
“So, why are you early?”
“My bubble has been closed so I left as soon as the bell went.”
“Doesn’t that mean you should be isolating?”
“No, just the pupils are isolating. We have to come in. They give us stupid tasks. Anyway, it isn’t bad. It is shit for the parents who have to stay at home to look after their children but for us it is fine.”
“Except for it being virus stupid.”
“Yeah, well there is that.”
“So, what would you do if you weren’t at work?”
“I'd work on my tiny living cardboard city.”
“I rearrange my small space to best contain all my things, I am rather bad at collecting things.”
“You live by yourself?”
“But weren’t you with someone when I left HB?”
“Yeah, it didn’t last. Isn’t that always the way.”
“And since then.”
“Well, I have done loads of lockdown dating. That is what my tiny living cardboard city is all about. Creating different backgrounds and situations for online dates. Have you done any swiping?”
“No, just been me for a while now.”
“It is fabulous really, you should try it. If you want. The chatting bit at the beginning is wonderful, the getting to know people. It is such a laugh, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. It is just like hanging out in a pub like this, chatting about nothing and everything, leaning close because the music is too loud.”
“But there is no music in pubs now, precisely because of that, shouting spreads disease.”
“Weird isn’t it. Imagine if we had been in this pub Before. I would be leaning right up close to you, and my pheromones would be driving you wild.”
“Yeah, that was all a ploy to test my virility, if I was able to withstand your germs I would give you a stronger offspring.”
“Oh I love it when you talk dirty to me, Mister Darwin.”
“It is what it is. I was listening to a programme which simply pointed out this was all simply a Darwinian response to overpopulation.”
“Yeah, like you’d never get massive herds of antelope wandering across the Serengeti.”
“But they don’t have tiny living cardboard cities to find their mates.”
“It isn’t strange, it is just putting a few things out to stimulate conversation. Otherwise all the conversation is about the new new normal.”
James came into the pub. He waved at us while he scanned in.
“I am sure James would love to hear all about how the other half lives.”
“Your half or my half.”
“You are intent on teasing me today.”
James spoke as he approached the table.
“It is just because we love you, Another beer?”
Once again I cast my eye about the pub as James purchased beer for himself and Martha.
“When last, do you think, did that man at the bar have a date?”
“No, the man on the stool. Whenever I have been here he has been seated on that stool but I have never noticed him talking to anyone.”
“Harvey. He can be a bit grumpy I guess. And he is a bit of an institution here in Aesop’s playground. He was much more talkative before. Though to be honest I haven’t spoken to him much. I guess he has always seemed really nice but I am attracted to a little rough.”
“Jees, he is old enough to be your father.”
“All I am saying is I think he is nice. And he is wearing a nice mask.”
We watched James come back from the bar, beers in hand. Martha was unusually quiet so I spoke.
“We are talking about the fox in the mask.”
“Oh, I know that one. It is about being beautiful on the inside and not the outside.”
I looked at him confused, had he heard our conversation about Harvey all the way across the bar? Martha, however, responded immediately.
“What no foreplay at all? Your first words just push me up against that metaphorical wall.”
“Sometimes the thirst compels you to reach for the fabled cup without so much as a word.”
“And oftentimes when not even a word is spoken, that hand will find the fabled cup dry on the draining board, after all, that is where the fabled cup is to be found between feasts.”
“I fear that if I start talking about Aesop’s taps we might head in a different direction, I do miss beer on tap. Perhaps I will suggest the solution of having a lockin when the next lockdown is called to drink the tap dry. I will put my name at the top of that list.”
“There is no need to change the subject. I was certainly not prevaricating, you asked for a story and you shall get one. If I remember correctly, Aesop’s fable goes that a fox finds a mask in a theatre prop store, I think, and at first believes it is beautiful but when she realises the mask is empty she reflects that inner beauty is what counts.”
“Yes, that is the sum of it for me. But I assure you I was not demanding a story at first word, I really thought that is what you were talking about.”
James and Martha exchanged a silent word and I finally understood the conversation. James had thought I had been referring to an Aesop’s fable, which is very exciting as each of the last eight weeks Martha has delighted us with erotic stories about the patrons of this fine establishment based on an Aesop's fable. I too looked silently at Martha with anticipation.
“We had been talking about Harvey at the bar, who may have a story of inner beauty but I have to admit I do not know it as I have had very few conversations with him, and my friends have not talked about him.
“However, there is a little something Grace told me that I think fits this amoral tale. Grace is the fine looking woman seated next to Bea today. Now, you may remember my telling a little tale about Bea and Leo and their delightful child who was at school today. Today’s adventure is about the fine looking woman Grace and the stunningly beautiful man opposite her at the table: Leo. It is up to you to guess who might be playing the role of the mask, attractive and empty, and who is the foxy fox.
“The Venetrix, my own little word for the fierce warrior women of Aesop’s Playground often found seated together in the booth on a Tuesday afternoon is the starting point for this tale as that was where Leo got talking to Grace. Leo was attracted to approach the group for the chance of a conversation with the beautiful blond Freya, who was indeed as amazing as the god she was named for. Don’t condemn Leo to the role of the mask because he only approached the group to talk to the blond, he is just man doing what men do. Freya was not only blessed with Marylin Monroe looks, but also with a sparkling wit and a fine intelligence. She is not here now, the last I heard she was making waves in Berlin. As for Leo, to his credit when he approached the group to chat his aim was an interesting conversation. The conversation was indeed interesting to both him and the group so he joined the table. That day he learned that Freya was meeting her partner, it was probably boyfriend as this happened a while ago, for Salsa class. He expressed an interest in Salsa classes and was introduced to Grace, Freya’s housemate of the time.
“And it was settled. They finished their drinks and left for the world of Salsa. Leo found out Grace was a teacher. Grace found out Leo worked in online marketing. Leo found out he did not learn dancing quickly. Grace enjoyed their touches that were more often coordinated than not. They both laughed, smiled, and looked in each other’s eyes with longing.
“And when the class was over they came back to the Playground where they sat at a table by themselves hoping the evening wouldn’t end. Grace learned Leo played squash. Leo learned Grace’s father had died while playing squash. Heart attack. The conversation did not dwell, it was not that kind of evening. It was an evening of honesty and sharing but it was also an evening of possibility and an evening of anticipation. The beer flowed, the conversation flowed and they continued to laugh, smile and look in each other’s eyes with longing. But as it does, time flows and the last orders was called at which point they both discovered they were traveling by bicycle, and they were traveling in the same direction. Indeed Leo had to cycle through Grace’s area to get home, so they set off together with laughter and smiles, but not looking into each other’s eyes with longing as that is not how to cycle. That is until they got to Grace’s front door, when looking into each other’s eyes with longing they kissed.
“And Grace invited Leo in for a tea. She actually made him a tea, they chatted quietly in the kitchen, not wanting to wake Freya, though the next time Leo saw Freya the knowing smile said they had not been quiet enough.
“In the bedroom with the tea cups safely on the dresser a long way from the bed the clothes started coming off. Within a moment Leo was naked, his sporty yet solid physique was more suited to a rugby player than a squash player, or a cyclist. Leo was lying back on the pillow and Grace said: this is where they usually change their mind. She undid her bra and let it slip down, and as it slipped down so did her breasts. I don’t suggest we all gaze at her chest at this moment, and it would not make any difference as when dressed Grace looks as would be expected of a woman in her mid thirties, who has not had a child yet.
“Now Grace is a confident woman but she did admit she is acutely aware of the unusual nature of her breasts. It was not a question of gravity or age, her breasts had always drooped and in her twenties they had whithered. She had created strategies to try to find men who would see her inner beauty. She seldom went for one night stands, not anymore anyway, but she’d liked Leo, and he had made a play for her when she was hidden behind the dazzling Freya.
“Leo did not run when Grace revealed her breasts, but the intensity changed ever so slightly. Only someone who had studied responses would have noticed the change. What she noticed was momentary pauses as Leo thought about the actions he should take, or not take. He smiled at her. He reached out his hand. He sat up to kiss her. He ran his fingers along her side. His fingers gently tickling her skin while his tongue playfully ran along her teeth. He took control with gentle guiding touches. He leaned her back onto the bed. His lips drifted along her cheek until his warm breath was heating the nape of her neck. His tongue ran lightly, so, so lightly, along the hairs on the edge of her ear. And back to the nape of her neck. And a pause, which later she would interpret as the moment he would usually play with her breasts. Instead he shifted his weight and was at her waist unbuckling her jeans. Another shift and he was pulling them off. A comic moment, as it so often is when jeans are even the slightest bit slim fit. Then a pause, once again he might have been considering sucking her nipples to move into position. Missionary or cowgirl are the only options for first times, and she was already lying on her back. Instead he shifted his weight, lifted her feet and removed her knickers, shifting again as he placed her feet on either side of himself.
“She thought his smile was a little curious, later she would interpret it as another pause for decision making. Perhaps, she thought, he was of the school of men who believed there were two forms of foreplay for women. Suckling or cunnilingus. That school would not consider going down on the first sexual encounter but Leo decided it was the thing to do. He did a little mime, pinched his nose like he was doing a going-underwater dance and his mouth was over her fanny, his tongue running up and down the outer lips, probing in between the lips. He made his tongue thin and poked it in as far as he could. Then he made it fat and moved his head in a bobbing motion to force his tongue in and out. Grace enjoyed it. The sensations were good and she was about to slip her hands into his hair to encourage him to continue when he stopped.
“He leaned over to his jeans, pulled out his wallet, pulled out his condom. She liked that he was the kind of guy who kept a condom in his wallet. That he was the kind of guy who would not try to get it in without asking. That he was the kind of guy who would not rely on her to manage protection. Even though she was on the pill.
“When he was ready he put one hand on her side and used the other to line up and slip into her. Then he leaned forward, rocking his hips slightly to slip deeper into her and his face approached hers. Then another pause. A moment away from kissing her but instead he dived his head down to the nape of her neck. And the gyrating hips became more missionary: in out in out. It was nice but it was not getting her closer to that orgasm that had seemed so close when his mouth had been doing the work. The quick bumping action seemed to be working for him as it became first slower then faster, then a whooo and an oh yeah and a tight tense thrust. He came. And he sat up, shifted to the end of the bed, and started dressing. Then he was gone.
“But the story does not end there. The next day when she emptied her bin she found the condom neatly tied but empty. For a moment she panicked about where his spunk was if not in the condom but then she realised he had faked his orgasm to get out of there. When she had calmed a little she thought of another possibility: he might been a little too drunk to manage to come. After all she hadn’t come either. Fair’s fair.
“They continued to enjoy each other’s company, they continued to meet here in Aesop’s Playground, but they didn’t go to another Salsa class, and neither did she invite him in for a cup of tea on their way home.
“So, those few years later when I she told me the tale, and now when I am retelling it, Leo was indeed playing the role of the fox: when the beautiful mask was flawed he lost interest. That may not have been the moral of Aesop’s fable, but Grace and Leo are friends to this day.”
“Well, to be fair there are a lot of possible interpretation of what the fox might have been thinking, that is how it is with fables.”
“Indeed it is part of their lasting charm.”
Martha smiled at me. I must remember to use words like charm more often. I finished my last sip of beer.
“And thank you, until next time.”