One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
—Simone de Beauvior
How many rooms are there in the chambers of your heart? How many rooms full of memories can you describe like the one I’m going to tell you about. You know how you left him don’t you? The man you were so in love with once. Bing Cherry Silk. Another man left those for you didn’t he? And you put them on, just like I did.
I was so lonely that year. My lover was in Los Angeles. I was trying to break away from him because it was never going to go anywhere and my heart was at stake like something on a string where he twisted and twisted the manipulations.
“I hate to do this to you,” he said, whispering into the phone. “I don’t want to hang up but I have to go now, she’s coming home.”
Every night he called me. It was like children with two tin cans attached by string. I was sitting and waiting, and many nights I was crying because that’s how badly you can want someone. Someone you can’t have.
“Go out,” he said. “Don’t sit around waiting for me.”
The next day two of his postcards would arrive in the mail. Photographs. Pictures of the two of us kissing and entwined in glossy black and white. The postcards came everyday.
“I’m going to have a party,” I said. “Next week.” After I said it I listened to the silence on the other end of the line. Finally I could hear him breathing.
“I wish I could come up for it.”
None of us had any money in college. All the art students I knew were hardly making any at all. How did I know I’d be madly in love with my Art teacher? How did I know I was going to let him seduce me. He wasn’t even particularly good looking. Not even my type. Except maybe the beard. I did love those, once. God, I was in love with him. Never love a liar. The heart can only be smashed so many times.
Men have such different openers don’t they?
“I’m going to seduce you,” he said.
He said it in broad daylight as he snapped photos. His camera was like some kind of gun.
You learn about the openers and each one is a different lesson like some kind of school you have to put yourself through looking for the right man. The promised one. The glass-slipper man in the Cinderella story each of us was guaranteed since we were little girls. Do you ever give up the hope that he exists?
I was tired of sitting on the bed where he fucked me weekly, where I was looking at his stills all by myself, night after night, waiting for that phone to ring like some little slave tied and chained to a wall.
I was going to throw a party for everyone in the Art Department because one of my student loans had come through that week and I was flush enough to make a really spectacular Cioppino. I was going to throw a party as if to say, “I’m breaking away from you, Gianni, and there is nothing you can do to stop me.” At least I was trying to convince myself, I suppose. I had no idea what was going to happen that night, though. Even now I almost can’t believe the sort of opener another man left me. I wish I had kept them like a souvenir, but they are gone now like the postcards are gone. Still, those were the sexiest…
He was married too. I finally figured out who left them. It took me a week.
My apartment was so tiny — just room enough for myself and my cat Alladin, and the darkroom I turned my closet into. There was barely any room to cook and I loved to. Every time I got one of my student loans Alladin and I feasted like mad all quarter, or at least the first month, anyway. I’d go down to the wharf and get crab and mussels and shrimp and white fish right off the boats and he got all of it too, little bits of all that seafood that I made that night for all the starving art students and one or two faculty that arrived. I hated the fact that everyone was practically living in their cars to get those MA’s and Ph.D’s. I had my chic little pad and an interesting job and a view and a Murphy bed that squeaked like mad when it pulled down from the wall. Gianni had asked me for a key and I let him have one. Sometimes he’d be waiting for me in my bed when I came home from classes — roses, white wine and more photographs in hand.
I never told him what happened the night of my party. I never told him what I found after everyone had gone home, all fifty or so, that had packed themselves into that tiny place of mine. I had a hard time believing it myself when I decided to draw myself a bath that night after everyone had gone.
Something was hanging off the spout in my bathroom, in the tub. A package of sorts. It had been so crowded with all the people it’s a wonder anyone could get in the bathroom to begin with. Half of it was my darkroom. I opened the bag and it looked like someone’s panties. Of course my first thought was “ewwww.” But, as usual my curiosity got the better of me, so I opened it and shook the contents right onto my bathroom floor.
They were silk. They were the deepest red French silk bikini panties I’d ever seen. The tags were still on them. Not the price but the label. “Dior.”
There was a note as well, but it was typed on the sort of old-fashioned typewriters we wrote all our papers on. All it said was, “You are very beautiful to me,” and my name. I was actually scared a bit at first. I sat on the floor and thought *who did this?* to myself over and over. I mean, who does things like that except weirdos or something?
At first I thought I should throw them out. But they were exquisite. Bing cherries. The darkest ripest bing cherry panties, ever. I kept them. Whoever it was knew my taste in things, and maybe that’s how men look for the kind of openers they plan on pulling…
I put them on. I put them on after I had taken a bath and laid all of Gianni’s photos of the two of us all over my bed. I slid my fingers down inside them and touched myself until I came thinking of Gianni inside me. They were the color of the deep red roses he was always sending me to make up for the times he couldn’t come up. They were as light as petals.
“It was you wasn’t it?” I said to the teaching assistant who was grading all my papers. He was always trying to have lunch with me and offering to carry my books. I think he had my schedule memorized because he was always popping up out of nowhere. He’d just had a baby too, and his wife wasn’t very attractive. That dissertation was miles away. He was always trying to tell me about something called “the Snuggery,” because he was an Art Historian focused on American Art and he was fascinated by the concept of a robber baron who could construct a thing like that for the ladies.
“Thank you,” I said, over lunch. I mean what else were you supposed to say to the TA that was grading all your papers in those days. “That was very nice of you.”
“I’m glad you like them,” he said. There was something terribly perverse about the whole thing, actually. I knew that every time he saw me on campus he was going to wonder if I was wearing his panties. Maybe he was touching himself while he graded my papers. It made me wet to think he might be doing that. The way he looked at me wasn’t much different than the way Gianni did. Not really. Both of them had all the power in those days. All the power in the world over women like me. They controlled my grades. I was an A student, but they could change all that in a minute flat.
Gianni was waiting inside my apartment the following week with his roses and his photographs and another bottle of that Fumé Blanc he favored. He’d driven up again from Los Angeles even though I’d told him we had to stop. I was trying to break away from the thing that kept me pinioned to the surface of a bed, the thing that was keeping me trapped by the phone at the edge of my bed waiting jumpily for the sound of the ring. He’d used his key. I knew I was going to have to ask for it back soon. I was going to have to erect the final barrier that would slide us to an ending. He was waiting on my couch thumbing through my art books and my books on photography. The silken panties were in his lap. He’d been fingering them.
“I want to see you in these,” he said. “I like the color.”
He was always telling me I needed new clothes, but he never wanted to buy them for me. I had no conception of men that wanted to do things like that. That they existed. That there were men unlike Gianni in the world who could only look at things through lenses.
“All right,” I said.
I went into the bathroom with them in my hand. We were in our second year then, as lovers. We were going out to the beach to get the fried shrimp baskets he preferred. Before sex.
I slid the panties on under my dress, and the meeting of that dark, dark, cherry silk against my pussy caused me to flush. I looked at myself in the mirror, the way that we look at ourselves in the mirror sometimes afterwards. Today was a turning point. Another man’s cherry silk between my thighs. A man who had thought of me as he picked them out from the most expensive boutique in town. A man who knew my size because he had been staring at me in secret. As I walked I could feel his panties between my thighs, moving, as if his fingers were caressing me. The silk was slippery and it slid against my skin as we walked along the pier to the little restaurant Gianni favored.
I rocked myself imperceptibly against my seat and let the panties charm my skin, as if invisible gloves were caressing me. Kid gloves along my lips, opening them with the most delicate of touches. My awareness as I watched Gianni’s lips moving, as he told me about his week, and his latest show, and the reviews was blurred by something even I can’t describe. I let my mouth fall open a little, breathy, I could feel the air on my tongue. Gianni wanted to feed me a shrimp. He loved to do that, then follow with the deepest of kisses. He loved to kiss me violently in public until I was wet and trembling. I think he liked it when people watched the two of us. He was always so hard when we were together. Sometimes he would take my hand and say, “Look what you’ve done to me.”
I felt his tongue at my lips and I closed my eyes, leaning into his embrace. I knew the panties would soon be damp. It never took long when Gianni started. I opened my thighs under the table. The kisses he gave me were excruciating that way. He possessed my mouth in a way that no one ever has again, our tongues fucking each other in public. He loved to photograph that, moving the camera in and getting those close-ups, watching as he unraveled me.
What I felt that afternoon, though, were another man’s invisible gloved fingers stroking me. I imagined him watching, dressed as a 19th century dandy. His kid leather gloves and his suit, his top hat and his snuggery where he imagined me nude in velvet and silk. He’d have to sit in the chair and watch me as I touched myself. He was too much of a gentleman to do anything else. I imagined how he wanted to hear me tell him stories about the way that Gianni took me later from behind on that Murphy bed — the way that he yanked it down from the wall and threw me down on it, coarsely telling me how wet I was all over that silk. I was always like that with him. After he had kissed me into oblivion. Face down in the pillows. The sound of his pants unzipping.
I know what you must be thinking. You must be thinking how could she do something like that? How could she wear another man’s Bing Cherry Silk with her lover?
I was so wet as we walked down the pier back to his car. Wet with newfound power. Gianni had his hand at my ass. He loved to squeeze it as I walked. He must have liked the way that other men were staring at the two of us. I had no awareness of him that afternoon. I could only feel the panties slipping along my skin as Gianni’s fingers ran over them from behind. I could feel my thighs brushing at each other as the silk kissed my lips inside them. They were so wet my scent was rising into the wind that afternoon.
I thought about the TA who had given them to me and how he was laboring over the papers he had to grade. I thought about his poor little life in that married student housing, and the baby, and the wife he took to faculty parties, and the long dreary life that was going to stretch ahead of him because he wasn’t really very handsome and that giving me those panties was as close as he was ever going to get to a woman like me.
We never spoke about them again at school. Eventually it was over between Gianni and I. It took me years to burn the photographs because they were such works of art. The panties I threw away that same afternoon, after Gianni left and the light had slid away across the afternoon and he was on his way back to Los Angeles to the wife he claimed he never loved, and there was an empty bottle of wine on the table and all his red roses for me that would probably last out the week until he’d manage to come up again with more and there was that phone dead silent until it rang and my heart which would leap at the sound of that ring as if it was still alive. As if it still knew how to beat.
© 2013 Valentina Bonnaire. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.
Bio: Valentine Bonnaire’s erotica has appeared at Cleansheets.com and the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. Find her in the archives, and this Spring in one of Maxim’s. More on her webpage valentinebonnaire.com xxoo! or @bonnaire in the twitterverse.