"I had a feeling that Pandora's box contained the mysteries of woman's sensuality, so different from man's and for which man's language was inadequate. The language of sex had yet to be invented. The language of the senses was yet to be explored." Anaïs Nin, Delta of Venus.
In October 2018 my installation, Artefatos, was displayed at The G.B.T.H. Project. I wrote the texts below for the exhibition, each one corresponding to a different hotel room.
Room 1 - The Chinese Dress
I arrived two hours before you. That was my plan from the start. I was coming from the most important business meeting of my life, straight into your arms. My dress smelled like airplane food, and I wasn’t wearing my best shoes. No matter how hard you protested, I had to change my panties. I took a long shower, washed and brushed my hair with the calm of a woman who had already waited too long. We are all Penelopes here, a friend once said.
My suitcase was modest, at least in matter of clothes, but filled with more lingerie than I could possibly wear in those few days. The huge, heavy hair dryer seemed indispensable when I was packing. Does that make any sense? For some strange reason, my plan was to take a long shower and make my hair look and smell good for you. I wore my Chinese dress, just like the one I was wearing when we first met. Not the same, obviously, but the closest match I could find. Short enough to let you notice the strings of the garter holding my stockings. The fabric was silky, shiny and soft. The dress had these small buttons, so many and so small, perfect to make you wait. A little revenge for having waited so long myself.
You probably didn't notice the Chinese dress. You probably didn’t see any connection between that dress and the other. But it doesn't really matter. I knew it, and that was enough. I would forever know and remember I was wearing a Chinese dress when I met you, not the same but just like the one I wore when we first met. We first met at a movie theater that no longer exists. Actually, I think you were at the café, but the café is gone now, too. We spoke the few silly lines we repeated so often during the years preceding that day. I wish I could remember the name of the silent black and white movie I was watching.
While I was waiting you I had an espresso. Or two. Or five. The coffee tasted like vanilla. You know how much I hate sugar in my coffee. But even without sugar the coffee was sweet, unlike any other I had tasted before. So good and so addictive. I probably consumed all the coffee in that small kitchen where, hours later, I would be on my knees. You would be trying to remove my corset. I was angry with you, so many hours spent choosing it, lacing it. I had bought it especially for you, and as soon as you started kissing me, you were already trying to get rid of it. I thought you knew nothing about sex. So raw, so natural, so straight to the point. But that also doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was on my knees, at the little kitchen. You body was leaning against the wall, against the ugliest painting I have ever seen, horrible but so eloquent “a new adventure”. And then I tasted you for the first time. And your taste was the inverse of everything else you are, the raw and natural you. Koffie verkeerd. I couldn’t even understand, the first time, if you came or not. With my mouth filled of you, I couldn’t understand. Because that taste, your taste, was so incredibly sweet, unlike any other I had tasted before.
Waiting for you, I opened all the windows, letting in the sunny summer day. I sat next to the window, watching the passer-bys cross the little pedestrian street. I still have no idea how I found that place, so charming and unexpected, like out of a dream, like out of a French movie. Every person who passed in front of the big window gave me shivers. Could have been you. For more than an hour, every one of them could have been you. Until one guy appeared with his big backpack and a map in his hands. He could have been Waldo, or he could have been you. No third option. He passed in front of the window, passed the door, passed the building, almost passed the little street. You couldn't find the number, and I was observing you through the window. I smiled. My legs were shaking, but I never felt so strong and so brave. I opened the old wooden door and crossed the tiny garden, our tiny night garden of wine, bread and cigarettes. I opened the heavy metal gate. You were there, finally. I didn't kiss you. I pinched your arm, and I bit you. Just like I did when I said goodbye.
Room 2 - A Life of Misunderstandings
Do you remember that party? We met there, 15 years after the last time we had seen each other. You told me that I was exactly the same, but we both know you were lying. When we first met, I knew you were the one I wanted, among all those friends of yours. If nothing else happened, it was because you didn’t want it, or that's what I thought at the time. I invited you to the movies so many times, so many refusals. A few years later I learned from her that you couldn’t afford it, and you refused because you were too embarrassed to tell me. And in the meantime, thinking that you didn’t want me, I was fooling around with every one of your friends. Yes, the ones I didn’t want. A life of misunderstandings.
We went out to smoke, a weak excuse to put your hands on me, and learn that I was naked under my dress. While I caressed you, hard inside your pants, in the middle of the street, you told me that I had broken your heart so long ago, but that you still thought of me. That you could easily love me again. In the bathroom, retouching our lipstick, I shared with her everything you had just told me. I confessed to her how scared I was with the idea of being loved, again. She offered to join us, suggested that we go elsewhere, the three of us. We messed with our red lipstick again, together, leaning against the sink, my hands under her dress just like yours were under mine minutes before.
I needed to defend myself from you. She was my secret weapon that night, a way to dilute the love you were trying to force down my throat. In the small rusty elevator of the hotel our mouths and hands were no longer contained, three pairs of hands, an antidote to avoid us being a pair.
Sitting on your lap, I kissed you and played with your leather jacket while, naked, she watched. I removed the leather band that wrapped the cuff of the jacket, carefully placed it around her neck, and closed the buckle, making it her leash. She smiled at you, not at me. She smiled at you, seducer and accomplice, and she said, "This one likes those games. And she always breaks my heart too, you are not alone”
Holding her by the improvised leash, I pushed her against you. With my hands I guided you to her mouth, hard, probably since the party. Still holding her by the collar I kissed her lips, the red lipstick again blurred, your taste on her tongue. A slow, unhurried kiss, muffling the groans that your hands and mouth provoked. I wanted you to make her orgasm in my arms. And you did. I wanted to defend myself from you, but perhaps I was giving you a little reward, payback for each and every one of your friends. Or maybe I simply did it because, although she said otherwise, it was her who had always broken my heart.
The next morning she called room service. Coffee and eggs. So beautiful, her hair in disarray, her smile wide, her makeup a mess, wearing nothing under your shirt. Just the two of us while you slept. We laughed together, talking about our absurd theories on so many unnecessary and unimportant things. Breakfast had always been our favorite meal together. Like the mornings, on the new, white and perfumed bedsheets at her house. Always newer, whiter and more perfumed than mine, perhaps because they smelled of her. I don’t know about you, but I could easily love her. She kissed me, thanked me for the night before, and told me she didn’t like you: "He fucks like a lesbian." A life of misunderstandings.
Room 3 - Beginnings
I knocked on the door of your hotel room at 6AM, after a long, sleepless night. When life falls apart, we have to go away. I went then, with a small suitcase, and two memories of her: a fountain pen and the will to begin my life. Today I know that I wanted to live for her, in her place, and lamented everything she had not lived. I wasn’t able to save her, maybe she didn’t want to be saved. But I know she wanted me to go. I was 18 years old. That’s how early I became the woman who has to go, the woman who is always leaving. I never knew why, but you followed my steps. We were so close before, but we had to go far away to get closer. The distance is never physical.
I saw you crossing the street. It was raining. And you, a grown man, so much older than me, were crossing the rainy morning to meet me. When I saw you, her fountain pen slipped out of my fingers. The nib broke on impact against the hardwood floor. I had the other memory to keep, encrusted in me, no return. Big losses, small beginnings. It should be the other way around, but it is not.
With rain and without, we walked together for a week. A bit aimlessly, we walked together through the streets and alleys, over bridges. You took me to your favorite pastry shop. We bought two éclairs. Like you said, they were the best in town. I ate with pleasure, purposely looking at you as I stuffed the pastry in my mouth, the filling trickling over the corners of my lips. You laughed aloud, shaking your head. In a wise, mature tone of voice you told me to stop fucking the food, to eat at once. I knew exactly what I was doing to you. You couldn’t help but clean the corner of my lips with your fingers, those big hands caressing my cheeks. And with a smile even bigger than your hands you told me “when we get a little dirty, it tastes better”. I wish you knew I still go to that pastry shop. And every 4 or 5 years, as someone who needs to be refueled with “beginnings”, I eat the same éclair, and I get dirty with it, my mouth and my fingers, thinking of you, thinking that when we get dirty, it tastes better.
For a week I listened to your stories. They were so many. Stories from life and stories from books. Stories of intrigue, stories of love and lust. That painting, the painting from that Danish painter. I never forgot it nor its story. I even told him about the painting, not so long ago. I told him about the painting but I didn’t tell him about you. In the painting there is a woman, we only see her back. The morning light kissing her bare neck. In front of it, your lips touched my neck. An unknown pleasure. I close my eyes and I feel it again, the warm lips on the back of my neck, your beard against my skin. As we looked at that neck, you kissed mine. And I tried to escape. I ran away from you. For a week, as we walked together, I escaped your touch, your lips, your hands. I wasn’t escaping as someone afraid, I was escaping as someone who doesn’t know, yet, how to begin.
After a sleepless night alone, kissing my own wrist, my body burning, I knocked on the door of your hotel room at 6AM. It was your last day there. Your train would leave at noon. We had a lot of time, but not anymore. Better that way. There are things that cannot be cooked slowly, in a water bath. They need a high flame. Things like departures and beginnings. So at the age of eighteen, with a broken fountain pen in my pocket and an inordinate will to start, I knocked on the door of your hotel room. And I told you, not as someone who asks or allows, but as someone giving an order, I told you that we had to fuck before you could leave.
From all that I remember, then, there are your kisses on my thighs, the mouth and the hands from which I had fled for so long. And there was my naked body pressed against the door of your hotel room, your mouth between my legs as my eyes roamed the intimate space of your room. To stand there, against the door, was not to enter completely, and my eyes roamed the room as if lurking. Your shirts folded on the table, your books, your pens, a razor. Memory is a crazy thing. And among the fragments of pleasure, my first orgasms on your mouth, what I remember is this magical sensation of entering a masculine intimate space for the first time: your books, your shirts, your aftershave, your tongue, your fingers, mixed with the joy of discovering a secret, something completely new, unknown, another world, so different from mine. A half open door, to begin.
Room 4 - Secrets to Scream Out Loud
This is a story of secrets. You told me it had to be a secret. You had your career as a young diplomat, so promising, well-planned and well executed, lined up and elegant as your suits, all these fancy suits you were wearing in your pictures. And your secrets, your dark life in hotel rooms, they didn’t fit you well, they didn’t match the image you designed for yourself. For me, I told you, to keep secrets was old-fashioned. What else did I tell you? The private is political, and all that shit. Sex wasn’t just something that happened between walls of a hotel room. It was a statement about life. But you were so much younger than me, with so much more to do in life. And so much more to lose. I agreed. We were going to keep it a secret. More than that, I proposed, we would know nothing about each other, except for the banal things we had already shared.
We were going to pretend we did not have those mutual friends. I was going to pretend I didn’t know that the boy from the big city was actually born in the small town where I lived. And if you did come back, to see your family or something, I would prevent us from meeting. No sign, no clue, it was a secret. Maybe you had already done your homework, maybe you already knew who I was. It wasn’t difficult, even if sometimes I was hidden in dark places, watching, before entering to the open sky, hunting. Bird of prey: my name in the app was all you knew, or, like me, pretended to know. I told you to wait for me in the hotel room, without the elegant suit in the first photos. Wearing nothing but the mask I sent you. In that room we wouldn’t have a name or face. Temporary suppression of all identity, except the one that interested me.
You obeyed me. You waited in the hotel room for a few hours, on your knees. I already knew that waiting was part of the game. The mask would let me see only your eyes and your mouth. I sat on the chair in front of you, legs spread wide, the dress pulled up to my thighs, so that you could partially see what was underneath, and what was not. I put on the red shoes, as I promised. Your tongue, out of the mask, looked even redder, lustrous, and it slowly crawled over the surface of my shoes. For a few minutes, which felt like hours, I stood, almost motionless on the chair, watching your lips close around the heel of my shoe as your eyes remained fixed between my legs. Until I could not take it anymore.
I took off my shoes carefully and rubbed my feet on your face. The soft soles against your tongue, I knew from the beginning, was what you wanted, but I pretended to forget. I tucked my toes into your mouth, the nails painted a glossy red, like my shoes, and your tongue. I had chosen the redder nail polish, the more open, warmer, livelier, brighter shade of red. At home I had carefully painted my toes, and doing so was a pleasure. The preparation. The pleasure of waiting, the anticipation of action. Just like your pleasure of waiting, but I wasn’t, like you, undressed and on my knees in a hotel room. Your mouth opened to me, and my toes filled you, they shut you up. I thrust myself into you as deep as I could, watching the red nail polish disappear past your lips. And while I moved, increasing the rhythm of my thrusts, I told you to scream, as loud as your lungs would let you, repeating every single word I whispered to you. We had our secret: my red painted toes filling your mouth and your loud babbling filling the hotel room.
Room 5 - On Materials
Ours is one of those stories that was not meant to be. We had nothing in common. And no, opposites do not attract. I wonder how I ended up in your bed. But you probably know how, and how many times. Because there were so many hotel rooms, so many flights. Airport bathrooms have always been, for me, places to cry before departures, or places of excitement in the hours before my arrival: changing my panties, putting on sexy stockings, taking pictures to send you "I’m almost there, see what I'm wearing? " Pictures of my legs, my stockings, panties down to my knees, photos of the skirt raised up and showing you my thighs, a glimpse of the plaid dress you liked. Parts of me, in airport toilets, as if I could arrive to you in parcels, before I arrived whole. Parts of me always, always rewarded.
In one of these boarding rooms I saw the ruler for the first time in your photos. The ruler answered my plaid schoolgirl dress, half raised, exposing my bare butt. Between the ruler and my plaid schoolgirl dress, raised, there was an obvious semantic affinity. Affinity that we, other than through these things, never had. I traveled thinking of the ruler. I landed thinking of the ruler. I kissed you, at the airport, thinking of the ruler. I caressed your thigh in the car thinking of the ruler. I shoved my hand between your legs with the corner of my eye on the ruler. I was fascinated by that piece of wood. It was an old ruler, a seamstress's ruler that belonged to your grandmother. The ruler was big and heavy. But the wood had a soft, organic, warm touch; unlike that of a plastic or metal ruler–cold, hard, limited. The ruler and my butt also had an obvious affinity. And with each stroke of the ruler I would respond, wet under the half-raised dress, opening my legs to make you feel it against your thigh.
And you also had this chair. A simple chair, the simplest one can imagine, iconic, the degree zero of the chair. Exactly what one sees, eyes closed, thinking of the word “chair”. Wooden, like the ruler, organic, warm, strong enough for both of us, but still gentle and comfortable. Your body, so much bigger than mine, amplified the chair, in strength, in heat, in comfort. And I would sit on your thighs, hugging you, a tight hug, my skirt raised. And I would swallow you inside, a tight hug. And what I liked most was how you stood completely still, like the chair, amplifying the immobility. And you would look at me while giving me what I wanted. Your feet firmly on the ground, legs open, thighs stiff, every muscle in your body tense. I did not have to tell you to hold still because you were still. We never said much to each other, to be honest. It had nothing to do with words. And the chair, whose strength and comfort were magnified by your body, held up to the slow and rhythmic moves of my body, until I could no longer hold it.
The day I left you, I knew that would be the last time. Under the cushion I hid a pair of panties and a pearl necklace. We also liked the pearls, their touch, the temperature that changed in contact with the skin, organic like the wood of the ruler and like the wood of the chair. You liked to see the glossy spheres touching my nipples, to see them squeezed between my breasts. I liked when they would become even warmer, between my legs, a touch that was somehow alive, rigid and at the same time gentle, as it had to be. When I left you the necklace, I did so because I needed to touch you in a similar way, gently but vigorously, to remind you of me with the same intensity that the ruler touched me, the same intensity with which I moved my body on the chair, on your lap. A memory to fill you with lust, but also with pain. Because I wouldn’t come back. I was leaving parts of me, in parcels, because I was gone, whole. I thought I had been so novel in my cruelty when I wrote, "Look under the sofa cushion." But I forgot that these parts of me were always reciprocated, and you answered by telling me to look in the outer pocket of my suitcase. I opened it, and I took you in my hands, hard, organic, warm, and gentle. You had left me the ruler.
Room 6 - Happy New Year
We know it will be snowing. We know I'm going to bite your chin and we know you're going to put your hands on my ass. But this is a story yet to be written. And of all the possible stories of love and lust, my favorite is always the one that has not yet been written.