With Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

As I came off the street, the dusky woman of Nile pedigree looked to try to place me. This was my third visit here. Third time seeing her.

"Combien?"

"Deux." I held two fingers, pressed in parallel. To split the fingers seemed too lewd. Not a typical gesture from me. It looked like a salute.

She opened her mouth and before she could exhale a barter I said "Six cent Euros." This broke her routine. She was glad. With a nod she picked up the phone to whisper the order. I did not peruse the room. I knew the room. These were not the jitters of the first time. If I knew my place, was grounded, perhaps I would impress her. Perhaps she would let me in to who she was. I could be a sheik and she my dutiful wife of the night. Or she would master me and I would listen and get glimpses and sounds and tastes of serving Hatshepsut. Not Cleopatra, the hostess was not Greek. She was regal wherever she went. I was the interloper. I was the one imported to her world.

I breathed steadlity and kept my footfalls flat but solid as I followed her up the stairs. Her white diaphanous dress a promise not to come, but to allure. Entice & snare below, drag them upstairs. It worked. I admired the slit in the gown that showed her leg and its strong thigh. Not gamine, my usual type.

At the doorway was a curtain. Without a prompt from me she stood with one assertive kouros foot forward, less kore now than a fading ephebe turned into warrior as a guide to a battle or slaughter. Her broad feet were darker than the skin on her face and neck and arms and thigh. Maybe it was the cold, but her feet were more than flush, they were splotched red. Another's red? This was not a boudoir, though surely made to look like one, nor an abattoir. I was the one paying. This was a service to me. But I knew I would be lesser than when I came in. I would leave something from within me in this room to be rinsed away to prepare for the next one.

My eyes went first to the small table with ripe grapes so large they were probably chosen for tumescence, doubtful their taste mattered. A full pear was next to the grapes. A half apple was behind the pear, only slightly browned. Maybe someone in the room ate it. Maybe the last customer, or one before, had it for a repast before exit. The crescent-shaped plate had crumbs of cheese. Probably a fully furnished plate when the day began. A paring knife was on the floor. It was now an hour before lunch.

With a rustle behind me the hostess was gone. Then I was floating above the bed as two women were partially draped in the bedsheet gazing up at me with anticipation. Not with eagerness but from waiting for what my move would be. Which variation on their well-practiced routines would we follow? I thought back on the royal Egyptian woman boy always stronger than me and how much I wanted to howl with her and become frenzied and lost and accomplish what I want in commanding these distant women soon to be pressed to me, for word to get back to her that I was triumphant in her maison d'abattage. That I behaved myself here. That I would be welcome back here a fourth time, remembered, greeted by her again and again.

My imagination over these two waiting women split and fractured between them as I noticed parts of one I liked over the other then speculation shifted to the other's graces and potential and a split of the blue sky and white clouds soaring outside and calling out and viewing through the bay window. Perhaps we would stay and talk and pet and read and be at leisure as the light shafts shifted during the slow trek of the sun and slugabed parade of cumulus clouds.

Once I was done I would not be inclined to stay, to solicit their real names, to discuss the sublime and refuge of art and exchange witticisms over the politics of the day. I would exit and perhaps walk past a woman sitting at a spongebath and I would admire her haunches and line of her back and smoothness and splayed legs and she would see me and appraise me for how much I would bring for her. They develop a talent for judging quickly the want in your eyes and how much you would pay and how much effort they would put into drawing it from you.

Maybe I would make a quick turn when leaving this room, catch a charwoman supplementing her right to work here and live here by helping maintain the halls and rooms. She may be faded, or a grotesque, but still able to draw from a well-moneyed few with particular fancy cravings. Or the wrangler of a long-maintained clientele year over year that kept returning until they moved elsewhere or died.

I left the pear and the apple. I ate two grapes, not that good but my throat was dry and I was glad for it. The room of pink flesh and white sheets and yellow and orange light was now behind me. The open blue sky would soon be above me once I struck out on the sidewalk again. Mon bordel.