It was exactly the kind of day when we should have been outside doing something, and yet none of us felt like moving or summoning the energy to leave the couch for other than to rummage around in the bottom of the pantry for another bottle of wine.

Across the room, through the heavy lace curtains, beyond the deep shadows of the verandah, a white Spring sunshine set clouds of daisy and ragged iris and cottage flowers ablaze with colour and life. I could hear them, thick with happy bees and insects. Beyond the garden, an old paling fence, and beyond that a tall cypress hedge hugged the garden and cradled the inviting space. I kicked a toe and told myself I should be out there, with Nature. But in here it was dark and cool. And I was lazy.

Moira yawned and scratched her head and ruffled her hair. She reclined outstretched, leaning into the far corner of the couch using up all of the cushions, one foot on the floor, one calf resting across my knees. Whenever drunk her hair stood up at the back and her eyes stared opthalmically. Well, her hair was standing up, so half way there. Not that you’d otherwise know what went on inside Moira. A woman of disguise.

She wiggled her toes, contemplated them, getting bored again. She said, ‘Paint them for me?’

‘Paint them yourself.’

Hero heard us, roused himself on the floor, lifted his head. He stretched an arm into the air and flexed the wrist and dropped his head to his shoulder, pondered life from within an aesthetic pose. Hero. Everything he did was beautiful.

But he did what did, and did everything the way he did it, and wore what he wore, and wore whatever he wore the way he wore it, because he was a dancer, a dancer before a man. His head was too big and round, features pointy. His fingers were very long and very slender, the nails white and fine. His chin was small but square, artistic yet ambivalent. If I told you he was a dancer, you would believe me. If I told you he picked up garbage, you would believe me. He left Sydney for Melbourne two years ago for the sake of his mental health. He applied for a position with a senior company here, was auditioned, and in the following interview was informed that, as a matter of fact, he was congenitally clumsy. So much for eleven years’ work.

He had nice hair. Short, dark. The kind of hair that never stayed combed so he always looked like he was not long out of bed. Not a bad thing. And he would not have been complete, he would not have been Hero, without the one eyebrow forever raised critically as though he tolerated rather than participated. That’s ok. We knew him.

He rolled on the floor and stretched both arms right back, wrists crossed, easing the muscles. Moira threw away her newspaper and watched him openly. She’d never said anything, I just suspected she liked him more than she let on. His faded navy blue tee-shirt, way too small for him, showed off a flat, brown dancer’s stomach. She watched this too.

I picked fluff off my jeans while thinking hard about what I might do with the rest of the afternoon, so I only half noticed Hero doing something with hands near the floor. Moira saw my question coming. Before I could say anything, she said softly, ‘Shhh. He’s reading. Just watch.’

Now that she’d said it, I could see. Clearly. Not that I was expecting his lazy stretch to turn into a mime. He read a magazine, reclined on his side, flipping over the pages. He cleverly avoided the cliche of wetting his finger.

I turned to Moira. Her darkly flashing eyes told me for a second time that whatever it was, keep it to myself. I hunted around for my glass, filled it with the last of the wine from the bottle at my feet, wondered where my cigarette lighter had gone. Moira was sitting on it. She pulled it out from under her bottom, threw it at me. I was getting on her nerves for some reason.

Moira sighed. And while I had been busy playing the Philistine, it seems I missed something. It took me a moment to catch up, to realise that Hero was no longer alone. He glanced up and smiled into the vacant distance, then at something close. Without words he spoke to someone, someone familiar, a lover maybe, a lover from the recent past, his face lit with hope, then sombre with regret. I heard no words and yet I heard the pleasant rumble of his voice, then two voices, one his, the other hers, his lover.

They kissed briefly and she withdrew and Hero rose from the floor, convincingly pulled by the hand. He rose slowly and gracefully on the sheer power of his muscles. He stood theatrically erect, two feet planted with a sovereign adamance, pulled her to him. He held her face, wouldn’t let her go. She wanted to go, must go, and his last chance, his only chance, was the kiss. He held her face in two hands and enclosed the whole of her mouth with his. He let us see how she pushed on his chest, thumped him, struggled to pull away. Then she couldn’t. Her body returned and they became slow. Her spirit had never left him.

If he was clumsy, here and now, it was only because he’d drunk more cheap red wine than he should have. Clumsy or not, as may be, their lovemaking began. I can’t say how he managed it, and yet I watched with my own disbelieving eyes as he raised his arms and she slipped away his shirt.

She had him naked and I’d never bothered to notice that even his genitals were artistic, perfectly formed and uncircumcised, robustly delicate like those of a Modigliani cherub. Only bigger. And hairier. She was naked too, the woman he deserved round breasts and nourished belly, a thick, womanly carpet of hair standing guard of a place that voluptuously refused to be hidden. He touched her face, held her chin on his fingertips, restrained her melodramatically. She knelt before him. He resisted, but she possessed the stronger will. Soon his fingers stroked and wound her hair, urged her close.

This was not a mime, truly a dance, though no music for other than the simple rhythm of a body, no sounds to be heard, and yet the rhythm was palpable and compelling. Very human, like a steady heartbeat.

The lover crouched on all fours between his legs, her head behind, and he showed us her curves, the dip of her spine, her waist, the flare of her bottom. And below, the hanging sway of her breasts. He spanked her lightly and laughed. She laughed too, an enticing laugh, and he responded and lifted her by the hips, inverted her on her hands, breeched and kissed her nest. She growled, delighted. He dropped her and she climbed around for him, resumed her crouch, head bowed. She teased him and shook her bottom. She didn’t need to. He was very erect.

He knelt on my rug and swirled his hands, used the symmetry of the butterfly to describe her shape. His thumbs touched, followed the contour of an indentation, followed it down. He parted her gently, held her in space, carefully introduced his penis, the tip of it between the points of his thumbs.

I felt his struggle, the conflict between soul and body, between the craving desire to selfishly push and thrust, and the higher ideal embodied in the worship of a woman, or of pleasure, or the denial of pleasure.

His lips were pressed in concentration. He extended his penis a little way through and between his thumbs, withdrew, moved with a tiny motion. He repeated the penetration, deeper this time, repeated the motion. He withdrew and penetrated, his shaft going deep, rising into her. He pushed until his hairy pubis pressed against his hands, his penis fully distended, the pale skin tight.

Hell. I remembered to shut my mouth just before I dribbled, and my breasts prickled and itched. He held the woman for a long while, just like that, the aerial shape of his hands showing us where she began and where she ended, the upturned arc of his penis defining her core.

I glanced across at Moira. She was hugging a cushion, retreated into the corner of the couch, chin tucked to her chest, knees up. She didn’t notice me, cheeks burning bright, eyes wide and glassy with an obscene curiosity. She was embarrassed by Hero’s pornographic dance. But too, she was aroused, and this much I shared. I perspired. Clammy. Everywhere.

Knowing Moira, I was surprised she hadn’t already told him, ‘Hey. That’s enough.’ Let’s face it, his dance was not ordinary. And I didn’t know if I was supposed to be looking at his penis the way I did, and yet I did because I’m the sort of woman who looks at the penises on bronze statues. And the round little breasts of marble virgins.

Hero’s hands moved, his movements not random or undirected. Always something, some part of him, the gesture of an elbow or the play of a shoulder, determined the tacit beat, the pulse of the unheard music, his muscled body sensually eloquent.

The way his hands moved they showed us something. I didn’t understand at first and began to see that his lover had her arms up, palms flat against a wall, pressing on it, her belly thrust downward, her bottom risen and proffered receptively. And she moved her body forward and back for herself, not for Hero, the impetus hers alone. Hero absently obliged and held himself rigid while she used him for pleasure. His penis was fierce while his eyes remained soft and remote, tolerant of her. She had moments where she was very still, enjoying him internally, sucking him. Then she thrust as though becoming mad. When she did this, Hero made a rope of her hair and pulled her against an imaginary restraint. When she climaxed he pulled her breasts.

He was patient, held and soothed her until she was quiet. She had come, though more correctly, he had let her come, and it would be tempting to accuse him of tenderness or unselfishness. Or even love. That would be too simple. This was not what the play was about. While now she was quelled and vulnerable, in counterpoint Hero seemed to inflate in manliness, to rise above her. He mocked her bodily weaknesses. She was satisfied so easily. He revelled because he was the stronger. He revelled too because now he was assured of an utter compliance with which to satisfy himself.

He began to menace her with his hands, arrogantly, made an ugly face, reached over, around and under, gathered and weighed her breasts. There was no lust left in them. He touched her face, found the lips and pushed a finger between. There was no kiss. Just her quieting breath. He stroked her hair, the silkiness of her skin. She was warm without response. Ready for him.

He relaxed, time his own, shuffled forward on his knees and pinched her waist as though to make her tight. He showed us again where she was, her femaleness and her form. My practical senses should have seen a man alone kneeling on the carpet, his naked penis vibrating in the air, but I didn’t see that at all. I saw he and her, and I saw through them, the most intimate display of a moist, palpitating vessel yielding to a man’s pleasure. It was a nakedness that hurt. Vulgar, and yet beautiful because it was a dance. His penis danced, swelled with veins, and yet when he raised his chin and allowed his head to fall away ecstatically, then the way the sinews of his throat tensed and pulsed was the more obscene. He swallowed dryly, rapidly.

Even in lovemaking, I knew already, Hero could not forget he was a dancer, an artist. While he pleasured himself with the woman, long selfish strokes, he sculpted his body for us, Moira and me. He was intense, muscles taut, bottom and thighs snapping powerfully. A trickle of perspiration caught at his temple, his body damp with a sheen of lust. I wanted to lick it, taste it. He thrust hard and steady, and with each thrust I felt the couch tremble. This was not me. It was Moira. It was she who was surrogately and wetly impaled on that penis.

But wouldn’t I have loved to have been the woman on the floor, on my knees for him. But then, how could I watch? And if I watched, how could I be the woman on the floor. I was not two women. The only resolution was to be Hero. And I didn’t want to think about that.

He was close to his enacted orgasm, his body in a tight serpentine motion that began in the knees, rippled through his torso, culminated in a flick of the hair. Closer now, he pressed against his lover, opened his knees and swung his scrotum against her. He lengthened his body, arched back, clutched his breasts so that he and she were connected only by their genitals. No other part of them touched. He moved deep and then slowly to prolong the moment.

He sighed a shivering sigh of surrender and then came with an agonised howl, the despairing cry of a man mortally wounded. Dramatic. I saw an Illiadic warrior, winged helmet, breast-plate. He was pierced by arrows. Three of them. One after the other they thudded into his chest and went deep through his heart and he bled white blood. And when there was no more to bleed he slumped, clutched at the air, collapsed to the ground to rest for peaceful eternity in a lush green field. Crumpled and spent.

There was no curtain. No applause. Only Hero’s forlorn body abandoned on the stage.

It was a long, long while before anyone moved. Moira moved. The spell was broken and she unfolded slowly and dropped her bare feet to the floor and dropped the cushion to her knees, smoothed and patted it flat. She stared at the tragic figure on the carpet. She looked at me, and me at her, and it seemed there was nothing to say. But because the moment demanded something, she nodded and said, ‘Ker-rist.’ Her voice was very small.

My grandmother’s mantle clock chose that moment to announce the quarter past mid-afternoon with a rheumatic ding . I loved her, my grandmother, very much. We were so alike in every way. I just hoped the old clock was reporting back to her spirit. She would have approved of this kind of nonsense.

“Hero”, © 1999 Lara Nickles. No duplication, copying or redistribution without express written consent of the author.

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