isn't the way it was for him.
A man and I go to Geneva to see Marguerite Duras' The Lover. We sit side by side but see different films. Not for one moment was I a smooth-skinned man from China, although I found the girl he desires beautiful. Even as I expected to take on his gaze as I watched this girl: It is the girl after all who invites: look at me, I am fifteen years old - with the man next to me I am too aware of eyes on her to join. I cannot watch her because I am watched.
And as the man in the film undressed the girl, fifteen, his hands on her shoulders slipping the straps back, I couldn't imagine this man next to me, his hand across the back of my chair, for even a second taking on the level stare of the heroine and imagining hands on his shoulders.
Maybe we both hear the thin fabric hitting the floor, so quickly once the straps have been all the way pulled back, before it happens, because we've both been in a room with a man and a fifteen year old girl, but the difference of course, is that in the film, in these memories, in the darkness of the audience, only one of us is fifteen, and sitting there beside him watching I am the one left standing naked in a circle of cloth.
I find the matter-of-factness of this girl's desires, her plans, her conquests and the too late, maybe, discovery of vulnerability beautiful. More beautiful than the girl. I adore her bravado, her stupidity. I relate perfectly to her stupidity. She gives me back the control I forgot fifteen-year-old girls have. Sometimes. At fifteen I was stupid; also a little brave, though not nearly so beautiful... for all my sporadic holding back, at fifteen I was invulnerable.
We've all been fifteen. I look very much the same, only at fifteen I'm a little larger, a little stronger.I'll believe anything. I tell people I believe nothing.
I am the only virgin in the world, and so I have to hurry and meet a man at this year's exhibition where I'm volunteering for the St.Andrew’s Anglican church food booth. I find one at a jewellery stand in the stadium. He's lecherous and thirty and I select him from a crowd. I've researched this a little bit. I find no one attractive, I don't find him attractive, but I'm an expert of sorts on other people's desires.He has curly brown hair which I like, he says he's a concert pianist and he's lying. He tells me all about Europe and his stories aren't very interesting.Years later I try to track down an organ he talked about playing in Holland and I see his tales slipping away from underneath me and even then, so late, I realize that a little bit of me had believed him, just a very little bit.
One reading of the story, a fairly current one, I am the fifteen year old girl who gets picked up by a conceited, paternalistic lech who sells earrings at an outrageous mark-up and lets me buy him hot turkey sandwiches at the church restaurant. Two days of hot turkey sandwiches and all my clothes are off and all of his are on, and I undo his pants with my teeth which amazes me more than him - in that moment it takes to drop to my knees I see at once that what you have to do is keep your head level with the zipper, protect your teeth with your lips and pull smoothly - and I lie and tell him that of course this is not the first time. I don't know who I else I tell this lie to. Maybe even to some of you. But really, it is the first time.When we are finished I'm not sure if we're finished. But in today's version I am the fifteen year old girl who chose the man. A siren tempting him with sandwiches and an apron reading 'the girls from St.Andrew’s Church thank you.' He didn't stand a chance. I chose the day that house/going into that dark room to undress and undress him only to satisfy curiosity. I'm sorry he didn't see that coming.
I'd apologize, but, then again, he won't remember it that way.