Music and Sex: Scenes from a life - A novel in progress (first chapter here).
[Warning: the chapter below contains "adult situations." Seriously, this one's not for the faint-hearted.]
Walter’s new home, Carman Hall, was an utterly soulless pile of cinder blocks. No effort at all had been made, during its design and construction two decades earlier, to build in anything conveying the slightest sense of warmth. No carpeting in either the halls or in the suites, no wood anywhere except the doors, no decorative touches, nothing but bare straight lines. One imagined it had been designed so it could be hosed down with minimum effort between school years to as to be literally as well as aesthetically antiseptic. There was not even any accommodation made for cooking; not only were there no kitchen nooks, even hotplates were forbidden (though, given that they were horrific fire hazards, that made sense, which was not to say that the ban was not widely flouted).
Eventually, some students had insisted on a bit of color, so murals had been painted, by students, one on each floor on the wall facing the main elevator banks. 10 Carman was blessed with the best of them, the gatefold of In the Court of the Crimson King; in a whimsical bit of naughtiness, the leering figure's outstretched hand proffered whippets to the viewer -- a high so ludicrous that no administrator had bothered to censor it, though perhaps they hadn't realized the nitrous oxide connection. Certainly Walter hadn't -- it had been explained to him, along with what King Crimson was. He’d gotten used to not knowing things in his new environment, and though he wouldn’t usually ask, if somebody inquired whether he knew something, he'd found that the embarrassment of admitting ignorance was less than the embarrassment of the mess that could result from claiming knowledge he lacked -- because in this milieu, people would call you on that shit.
The only thing Walter really disliked about dorm life was the lack of privacy inherent in sharing a room. Gone was the convenience of being able to masturbate that he'd had on Long Island, where he had a room to himself that nobody would come into without knocking; and with the creaking wooden boards of the hallway and stairs, he'd always had some early warning of potential interruption. In the dorm with its plastic tile floors, and of course with a roommate, that security was gone. He had to learn his roommate's schedule to know when he could whack off without fear of discovery: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to 11 AM were the safest times. (He eventually conjectured that when Jimmy from the other room in the suite took forever in the bathroom in the middle of the day, that was probably what he was doing in the shower, but Walter didn't use the stand-up-and-jerk-off technique; he ground his crotch against his pillow. That was how he'd originally discovered his sexuality, in his early teens, waking up with his pillow between his legs and a little hard-on, and he'd never moved on from that.) At least his old fear of newsstand clerks telling his parents about his Playboy purchases no longer applied. Walter had bought Playboy's Women of the Ivy League issue, and while most of the Ivy Leaguers showed very little, he had immediately developed a crush on centerfold Vicki McCarty for her girl-next-door pertness.
The best part of dorm life was the camaraderie, which was entirely different from high school because one could hang out at night in a communal environment rather than occasionally at one another’s homes. One night Walter was in the TV lounge on 10 Carman with a few guys, including Rick, who worked at CU-TV, the campus television station, which had immediately gotten him dubbed Captain Video after some cartoon character Walter hadn’t ever heard of before. As they were sitting there tittering over the community access cable adventures of Ugly George, a pervert with a video camera who devoted his show to accosting women on the street and asking them to show him, and his camera, their tits, Marcus walked in and said, "Hey, it's Captain Video and Captain Vinyl!" Thus was Walter's LP collection/obsession made a matter of public record, and news of it spread outside the confines of his dorm suite.
As time went on, the music-obsessed found each other. A guy named Garrick whose parents were divorced -- and who had, as a result, grown up in the disparate locales of Georgia and England -- lived one door down from Walter. Garrick's tastes were as disparate as his homes, ranging from the Southern-eccentric bar-bandish Tav Falco and Panther Burns to the archly baroque prog-pop of elfin-voiced English singer Kate Bush. Hanging out in the TV lounge, Walter and Garrick were nerdishly drawn together to compare their treasures. Garrick's were more exotic, as many were imports -- not only the the more exquisitely decorated English pressing of Bush’s The Kick Inside, which contained the semi-hit "Wuthering Heights," on which her high vocal range was most impressively deployed, but also a seven-inch of the Hollies’ 1967 hit "Carrie Anne" on the German Hansa imprint, the domestic but long-out-of-print debut LP of ? & the Mysterians, and another import, the Yardbirds' eponymous album (also known as Roger the Engineer after the scrawl identifying the sad figure on its cover) with the dazzling "Over, Under, Sideways, Down," which was oddly askew in its headlong angularity.
Garrick didn't care about much of Walter's collection; there was certainly nothing exotic about his many Billy Joel, Bread, Eagles, and Springsteen albums, nor did Garrick care about jazz or classical. He did, however, appreciate Walter's Warren Zevon LPs, was obsessed by his original edition of the first Buffalo Springfield album with "Baby Don't Scold Me" before it had been replaced with the hit "For What It's Worth" (Walter had only recently acquired it, for the exorbitant sum of $20, at a shop in the Village), and borrowed Johnny Cash's Greatest Hits for a month before finally returning it. Walter's new pal also fancied himself a singer, and had scribbled some lyrics in search of a song that led to him theorizing a band with Walter that would be a mix of garage rock and punk. After much banter, Walter dubbed the theoretical band Captain Vinyl & the Disk-ciples, and even furtively graffitied a stairwell wall in Hamilton Hall with the name. As the prominence of Walter’s nickname showed, he considered himself the leader, even though Garrick was the lead vocalist. But then, he'd never actually heard Garrick sing, since they hadn't succeeded in recruiting any other band members.
There was a musician with whom Walter dearly hoped to collaborate, a quite buxom redhead named Jessica who lived on the eleventh floor (one of the few co-ed floors in Carmen Hall), but she, like Walter, played keyboards, so being in a band with her probably wouldn't work. Anyway, she was already dating another eleventh-floor dweller, the annoyingly hip Roland. Not that Walter hadn't availed himself of the opportunity to check out Roland's small but extremely eccentric, hence interesting, LP collection. It included stuff Walter was only confused by -- a Luigi Nono set that seemed like random sound, but which, Roland explained seriously, had been composed to uplift Italian factory workers.
More rewarding to Walter's ears was Harry Partch's And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma, a 36-minute instrumental piece on a CRI LP. Fascinated, he learned that Partch had constructed a unique musical style with a just intonation scale that had a whopping 43 tones per octave, and then invented and built instruments that could play this music. Many of Partch's instruments were either percussive or plucked string instruments. The combination of plinks and plunks, the disconcerting effect of the unusual tunings (not always the 43-tone scale), and Partch's fascination with archaic cultures, especially ancient Greece, make the purely musical aspects of his work strikingly unlike anything Walter had ever heard before in his life. The sheer sonic colorfulness of the sounds of the Partch instruments makes the music immediately attractive, but it was also considerably more complex rhythmically and sonically than what he was used to, piling musical material up in interweaving layers to achieve a dizzying interplay of rhythms, textures, and colors. He taped it.
On the other side of the tape -- not that it matched, but he didn't worry about that -- he put a recent Cecil Taylor album. Cecil Taylor Unit was the title of the album, but the music was far more imaginative than that. The other members (no pun intended) of the Unit were alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, trumpeter Raphé Malik, violinist Ramsey Ameen, bassist Sirone, and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. Taylor played piano like a wild man, but Walter sensed some intuitive logic at work; it might be cacophonic, but it wasn't chaotic. The musicians responded avidly to each other, weaving complex lines together in a free-flowing fashion that was so obviously built on classic jazz procedures that it was hard to imagine them existing or developing separately, though apparently lots of jazz fans considered it not to be jazz. Walter felt that it was impossible to clearly distinguish between what might be composition and improvised on the album. The textures mutated freely, from spare passages of lyrical beauty to energetic, passionate outbursts -- and that was just Taylor's playing on his instrument of choice, a Bösendorfer with an extended keyboard (96 keys rather than the standard 88), giving him a bass-rich sound. The contrasting timbres of alto sax, trumpet, violin, and bowed or plucked bass were deployed to maximum effect around Taylor's piano, sometimes in roiling passages of all players at once, or frequently in ever-shifting combinations of instruments. Walter couldn’t care less whether it was considered jazz or not; what it was, was an organic celebration of the dense complexity and emotionality of life.
Most of Walter's taping was of LPs he'd borrowed from the library. Not the dinky one he worked at, which only had assigned listening for Music Humanities; rather, the main music library in Dodge Hall. He would listen to them at the library first; if he liked them, he would take them home and tape them. He would try out things he'd read about, or that friends had recommended, or that just looked cool or were on labels he trusted. He filled many gaps in his class schedule making musical discoveries that life on Long Island and listening to WNCN had not previously revealed to him. Merely because it was on Columbia and included the Gregg Smith singers, he played Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel one afternoon and was knocked out by its unusual combinations of timbre (chorus, viola, and percussion), the amount of space in its construction, and the way it seems to be organized in a way he had never encountered and couldn’t figure out, but was drawn to. Short motifs were repeated, mutated, and abandoned in a sort of free-associative process that seemingly owed nothing to sonata form. Clouds of sound hovered and dissolved as the choir sang wordlessly; the viola occasionally waxing lyrical in their midst. If the other side of the LP, the chamber instrumental For Frank O'Hara, was not as entrancing, it was still fascinating to listen to and to try to follow the logic of. Though the album was only three years old, obviously other people had also been strongly attracted to it: side one was full of ticks and skips, and even with a penny on the headshell, he couldn’t eliminate all of the latter when he taped it.
He also investigated Arnold Schoenberg by checking out Maurizio Pollini's Deutsche Grammophon LP of the seminal Serialist's solo piano music. Serialism was reputedly dry and academic music, but Walter found this music (much of it pre-Serial, admittedly) quite unforbidding. The cool clarity of Pollini's performance couldn’t hide the Romantic heart beating in this music's piquant harmonies. Yes, even though the Serial pieces were technically not using harmonic language, since Serialism was deliberately atonal, to Walter’s ears it felt like a new kind of non-repeating harmony in starkly focused miniatures. Then, down in the Village browsing the used-LP bins, he found that Glenn Gould, whose Bach playing he adored, had also recorded these pieces, and Schoenberg's songs as well. Gould's Bach was pointedly anti-Romantic, and Gould made clear that it was Schoenberg’s polyphonic approach that attracted him, but the Canadian pianist inflected these iconically modern works emotively, with generally greater breadth than Pollini allowed (notably in Op. 23, especially Nos. 3 and 4) but just as much clarity and even greater attention to inner voices. Gould lovingly sculpted phrases and frequently lingered, or indulged in passionate surges that imbued his readings with vastly more heart-on-sleeve emotion than Pollini did. Then Walter found the Dodge library included another set of these pieces by Paul Jacobs, who in a sense found the mid-point between Pollini and Gould in terms of emotionality, but played with a softer, more rounded tone than either. It had never occurred to Walter that one could fruitfully compare varied interpretations and enjoy them all for their different effects without having to declare one correct and the others inferior. Part of him found the inability to declare a winner frustrating, but another part he hadn’t known was inside him was exhilarated by the implications this realization offered him as a listener.
Other notable recordings included the CBS Masterworks box set of Webern's complete works in all their pointillist glory (he liked that one so much he went to J&R and bought a new copy), and an abundance of choral polyphony, with Josquin being particularly revelatory (no way his church choir on Long Island could have handled any of it, not that Congregationalists sang Latin masses anyway). The Dodge library had many useful books as well, of course, notably the Liber Usualis with its complete Latin liturgical texts, along with translations (learning that it was out of print, he was tempted to steal it, because Dodge had so many copies, he rationalized, that what difference would one less make? -- but, fearful of not the [unknown] penalty of being caught, but rather the potential shame, he turned that rationalization around and thought, no need to steal one when there’s always access here). It was also in Dodge that he found Walter Frisch’s Schenkerian analysis of Brahms's symphonies, which was his introduction to the work of Schenker.
Meanwhile, Professor Hatch was skimming through the peaks of the Western Classical tradition in Music Hum., with the most emphasis on Haydn’s symphonies and string quartets, simple but witty; Mozart’s late symphonies and operas, sublimely perfect within their own world (the trombones in Don Giovanni making almost as much impression as the Symphony No. 40's minor-key tugs of the heartstrings), and especially Beethoven: symphonies, piano sonatas, and string quartets. The late piano sonatas were a world away from the "Moonlight" (a piece he'd had in his lessons, though Walter had never managed to get the final movement up to speed). As played by Artur Schnabel, they seemed to make time stand still (finale of No. 32) or move with thrilling, seemingly impossible impetus (much of the "Hammerklavier"), and Schnabel's wrong notes mattered less than his strength of gesture.
Speaking of piano, Walter was taking lessons again. After he'd broken his left wrist playing football on the playground in the Autumn of his senior year of high school, he’d stopped his private lessons, so he was rusty -- and had never been that great before that. Fortunately he was allowed to choose what he wanted to study, so he was devoting himself to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II, not that that didn't challenge his meager digital technique. But he persevered, partly because if he were to become a music major -- not that he'd had to declare a major yet -- he would have to pass a piano proficiency test, and that thought filled him with dread. But mostly, he did it because playing Bach inspired a feeling of ecstasy in him, as though through it he touched a better universe in a sort of sacred rite.
One weekend he saw a poster for a movie series at International house, a few blocks west of the campus, and decided to go. As always there was his vague hope that it would be an opportunity to get away from Columbia's (nearly) all-male environment and thus increase his chances of interacting with women, but of course he soon saw that sitting in the dark with all attention on the screen was completely unproductive for that purpose. But it was quite a movie: The Night Visitor, starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman. He couldn't read all the subtitles, because he had stopped wearing his glasses, and it seemed a bit vague even beyond that, but it was certainly suspenseful, especially a scene where von Sydow's character was hiding in a dark room with a parrot in his pocket, hoping it wouldn't make noise and reveal him. And Walter was immediately smitten with the cool blonde beauty of Ullman, who reminded him of his German professor (well, not actually a professor; he couldn't remember her official title), Fraulein Rilke, who was also tall, slim, blond, and beautiful. She was casual and friendly, and Walter had a huge crush on her. She seemed only a few years older than her students, and in fact was visiting from Germany because she was researching Yiddish for her dissertation and New York, she said, had the highest population of Yiddish speakers outside Israel.
German I was at 9 AM three days a week. Two of those days, Walter had Phys Ed at 8 AM and would dash from the gym pool back to his room and then to Hamilton Hall. (There was a swimming requirement, because long ago an alum’s son had drowned and he’d donated some presumably huge amount of money to have Columbia make sure that every able-bodied student had to show a minimum proficiency at swimming. Walter knew how to swim, but had failed to place out because he'd underestimated the endurance required to make it from one end of the pool -- much bigger than the one in his backyard -- and had essayed a speedy crawl, exhausted himself halfway, swallowed some water, and grabbed onto a lane divider, disqualifying himself.) He was sometimes late to German, but Fraulein Rilke wasn't all that punctual herself. She was young and living in New York City, so doubtless she was staying up late some nights. Though perhaps he was making unfair assumptions; for all he knew, she was late to class after late nights researching and writing. But she did invite the class to the West End the night after the midterm. Walter had taken German in high school, and that helped him do okay. In the simple conversations that were part of the class, he one morning impressed her by guessing her astrological sign, Taurus (some of her traits had reminded him of his Taurus father).
Not long after the midterm, though, the class materials had passed what Walter remembered from his three years of high-school German, perhaps because what he had found most memorable about those earlier classes had been staring at Frau Schmidt's voluminous breasts, especially standing at her desk looking into the deep valley of her cleavage, which might have had something to do with his mediocre grades -- though she had certainly called him to her desk often enough and never remonstrated with him about his visual attentions. He had harbored fantasies about her. As he did about Fraulein Rilke, until the time late one evening when he observed her entering the faculty dorm on 113th St. hand in hand with another woman; he had found that although something being highly unlikely to happen on a conceptual level did not dampen his ardor, personally witnessed contrary evidence made too big an impression to be ignored.
Near the end of the semester, his attention perhaps should have been focused on studying for finals, but instead he was consumed with excitement for the Barnard-Columbia Chorus’s concert early in December. The music was mostly holiday-themed, but all high-brow classical, the centerpiece being Bach’s Magnificat. On Long Island, singing either in his church's volunteer choir or in the mediocre high school choir (the conductor had taught him to resolve sevenths upward!), there had rarely been the opportunity to sign such relatively long masterpieces, and Bach had long been Walter’s favorite composer, so he was thrilled by the feeling of singing the Magnificat, complete with chamber orchestra.
Even though it was not a church service, the choir wore robes and processed in. After the concert, there was a reception in the basement, with mulled wine, another new experience for Walter, along with fancy cookies. Word went around among the choir members that there would be further events later that evening: a rock show on the Barnard campus (including the band Martial played in, Needle Dik, followed by the band Jimbo played in, the Maliboo Dolphins) and slightly earlier but overlapping, after-party in the lounge of the Barnard dorm at 616 West 116th Street. Walter volunteered to bring some LPs to the party, so he had to swing by his dorm room between the concert and the party. He pulled a bunch of popular albums that were relatively upbeat off his shelf: The Eagles' On the Border, Funkadelic's One Nation Under a Groove, Hall & Oates's recently released X-Static, Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, and the eponymous Pat Metheny Group LP because it made him happy.
At the party, each one stayed on until somebody requested a change. He started with Off the Wall, which of course was so massively popular that nobody complained and all of side one played. He didn’t flip it over because the really slow ballad in the middle of side two would have killed the momentum. Side one of One Nation lasted until the weird spoken track. He started X-Static on side two and nobody interrupted it. Metheny didn’t fare as well. When he put the Eagles on, Janie Diaz dragged him into the middle of the room to dance, her pulchritude rippling as they gyrated to the uptempo “Already Gone.”
Jason Layt, one of the first tenors, cut in for the bluegrassy "Midnight Flyer." It wasn’t a great party album, Walter realized too late, because next came two slow tunes in a row, but the party was winding down anyway. Jason clung to Janie for "My Man," but Walter reclaimed Janie's attentions for "Best of My Love" as many people started leaving and others cleaned up. "Do you want to go over to MacIntosh to hear Martial’s band?" Janie whispered in his ear as they slow-danced. "Sure," Walter replied, then began to wonder how to deal with the LPs, which he didn't want to lug around all night. At the end of the song, he stopped the music and got Peter Fell to agree to take them in return for a future beer.
Walter wasn't sure what was going to happen, but he figured if he just went with the flow and managed not to alienate Janie, he might get lucky, even though he hardly knew her. She was older -- a General Studies student, he'd heard. Walking across 116th Street, she held his hand. Walter hoped that he wouldn't sweat. True, it was December, but as nervous as he felt, he still worried. Once they got to MacIntosh and went down its spiral stairs to the lower level, he bought two beers and they danced for a couple of songs, including the band's eccentric take on "Brown-Eyed Girl," which switched in and out of reggae. When it was over, Janie leaned against him. "Do you want to come home with me?"
Walter, who appreciated her directness since it surprisingly spared him having to think of a come-on, smiled and said, "Yes." Janie tilted her head back a bit and moved her hand up to Walter’s neck. He sensed a hint, and bent to kiss her. It went better than the previous time a girl had tried to kiss him, when he'd been over at his friend Mark's place on Walter's birthday and Mark's sister Lauren decided to give him a birthday kiss. He'd assumed it would be a kiss on the cheek, she'd aimed for his lips, he'd turned his head, and her kiss had ended up between his lips and his cheek. Lauren had laughed, said "do-over," and lip-to-lip contact had been achieved, but he'd felt embarrassed and disappointed. Not this time, though. There was no doubt where Janie's kiss was aimed. Her lips were large and soft, and they parted quickly; her tongue slid into his mouth. Walter had never done this before, but went on instinct, sliding his tongue against hers, then went farther and entered her mouth. She sighed, and her hands grabbed his butt and pulled him closer. The anticipation of possibly losing his virginity had him excited already; when she crushed herself against his erection, he thought he might burst.
Janie pulled away, took his hand, and they walked out of the little auditorium. "I have to go to the ladies'," she whispered, "wait for me?" Walter nodded yes and leaned against the wall, finishing his beer. A little while later, she re-emerged, smiled at him, and said, "You’re still here! I was afraid you’d get bored and leave." Walter had no idea why she would say such a thing. Could she be as nervous as him? He doubted that. Confused, he guessed it was a joke, so he just smiled, afraid of saying something stupid and blowing his chance.
Out on Broadway, Janie hailed a cab. "Ninety-first and West End," she told the driver, then snuggled against Walter. "Do you do this much?" she asked.
"Like, never never?"
"That’s right," he admitted, blushing and mentally cursing himself.
"Oh, you’re a freshman. Well, you’re not in high school anymore."
They were quickly at her apartment. She held his hand as she walked up the stairs. To reassure him, or to keep him from running away? She didn't have to worry; as nervous as he was, he had been anticipating this moment, this event, this milestone, this achievement -- hell, this affirmation of his manhood -- for years, more eagerly since escaping from Long Island, and nothing would deter him from going through with it now.
Once in her apartment -- just a bedroom, tiny kitchen, and tinier bathroom off the short hallway -- they sat on the bed and she turned on her TV. Saturday Night Live was on. After just a minute or so, she excused herself and went into the bathroom. Walter immediately stripped off all his clothes and got into bed, covered below his waist by her bedclothes. While he waited for her to come back, he noticed that the head of the bed was littered with pillows -- big practical ones, medium-sized ones with frilly cases, tiny ones with colorful designs.
"Oh, is that how it is?" Janie expostulated on her return. But she had changed into a sheer nightgown and was already turning down the dimmer switch on the lights. She didn’t seem the least bit offended by his presumption. She turned off the TV, turned on the radio, which was tuned to WBLS, and crawled into bed next to Walter.
"You’ll be happy to know that while I was gone, I put in my diaphragm," she announced. Under the covers, she reached toward him and unerringly found his erection. She lightly trailed a finger along it. "Is this for me?" she inquired mock-ingenuously. Walter hesitated for a second, trying to think of a clever reply; couldn’t; wondered if the blood normally allotted to his brain had been diverted to his penis; and settled for answering, "All for you."
"That’s what I like to hear," Janie answered, and shifted closer to him. Her fingers fluttered butterfly-like against his manhood as she leaned against him and brought her mouth to his. This time she kissed him more hungrily, and he responded in kind.
Walter found himself fascinated by her wobbling breasts, her nipples dark and puckered against her off-white skin in the low light. Adopted, he felt -- though of course he couldn’t really remember -- that he had not been nursed in infancy, just given a bottle in the orphanage or wherever he'd been until age two. He looked forward to sex, of course, but he’d given himself plenty of orgasms. It was breasts he longed for most deeply -- to hold, to suck. And now he could finally give himself over to this desire, which he did with unfettered enthusiasm. Never having done it before, he worried whether he was doing it right, but assumed from Janie’s soft moans that she enjoyed his attentions well enough.
He now became aware of his cock feeling harder than he could ever remember. So hard that it seemed about to overstretch its own skin. The sensation distracted him from Janie's breasts. Perhaps it was time to lose his virginity. He stood on his knees and moved to go between her legs, the bedcovers pushed up and back. Janie, however, got to her knees as well, commanding, "You just lie down and let me show you."
Walter wasn't going to argue. He laid on his back, his erection pointing up at an angle, and Janie straddled him, adjusted his angle with one hand, nestled his cock head against her furry pussy, rubbed it up and down her slit to clear a path through the hair, then slowly lowered herself onto his straining rod. It was the greatest sensation he had ever felt. No, the sensation now, as she rocked against him, grinding back and forth, was the greatest. And then that was surpassed by the feeling of his first orgasm inside a woman.
"Really?" she said, and sighed. "I guess I should have expected that. Well, now I will teach you what to do when that happens."
Walter was torn between two strong urges: to do whatever she asked of him to make her happy and repay her for the highlight of his life to this point, and to fall asleep. He resisted the latter impulse. "Sorry! Please show me," he said, trying to keep his embarrassment from his voice.
"Oh, you’re so sweet. Don’t worry about it, honey, I’m sure you’ll get better. Just stay where you are." Janie crawled up him until her crotch was resting on his mouth. She pulled herself up a bit, grabbing her bed’s headboard. Holding onto that with one hand, she reached down with the other and spread her lips open. "Lick right here. This thing between my fingers" -- she wiggled her index and middle fingers against herself -- "and once in a while under it."
Walter followed her instructions. After a minute, her muscles clenched, and suddenly his chin was wet. He adjusted his head so he could see better, and saw his own cum oozing back out of her and onto him. It seemed like a good time for the alternative she'd suggested, so he pushed the tip of his tongue against her slit and licked his cream out of her. Then he returned to gently flicking her clit.
"You’ve got some natural talent," Janie whispered. She now had both hands on the headboard, and her thighs were twitching. "A little harder now," she urged, so he put the flat of his tongue against her and flexed it up and down. "Yeah, baby, that’s good," she responded and started grunting "uh, uh, uh." Her legs pressed against the side of his head, and she trembled as if she were shivering. She was moving around spasmodically, so Walter instinctively clutched her buttocks to hold her in place. Perhaps because of that, or maybe just because it was bound to happen at that time, her thighs shook and she moaned more continuously. Walter's own orgasm had been magnificent, but the satisfaction he felt at having given her pleasure was nearly as profound. He felt powerful in a way he never had in any other situation. He clenched her to his mouth, but she broke away and slid down next to him. "No more," she gasped, "not now, at least." She pulled the sheet and blanket over them and rolled onto her side with her back to him, silently answering his unspoken question of what would come next. Sleep, no cuddling or talking required. Both of them were quickly unconscious.
Walter woke before Janie. The sun was shining in her window, and he was in an unfamiliar bed, and he had to pee. Once he was done with that, he couldn't think of anything else to do but get back in bed; that woke up Janie. She immediately went to do what he'd just done, then returned to the bed but on his side, snuggling up to him and French kissing him. He thought of all the times he’d woken up alone with a hard-on. Where was it now that he needed it? He put the hand that wasn’t pinned under her onto her voluptuous side, then slid it down to her hip and around to her ripe right buttock. Meanwhile, he felt himself becoming aroused, and she saw it and moved the process along a little faster by gently juggling his balls with her fingers. He quickly finished hardening, and she grabbed his arm, rolled onto her back, and said, "Ready for more, tiger?" while pulling him onto her. Apparently he was allowed to drive this time. He entered her immediately and easily, though slowly, hoping to hang in there longer this time.
"Hang on, let me adjust my diaphragm," she said, pushing him away. She reached into herself for a few seconds and then said, "Okay, this ride is safe now," guiding him back into her. He looked at her clock. 7:21. He tried to move in and out as slowly as possible. The sensation was even more exquisite than the night before. Also, the sunlight gave him a much better view of her than he’d had the previous night.
Each time he had gone as far in as possible, he held himself there, pushing against her, straining to hold back, but her insides squeezed him. How the hell was he supposed to last? Not that it didn’t feel amazing when she did that. He looked at her clock again. 7:23. As he slowly pulled back, she tightened ever more; pushing back in, he felt her do something he couldn’t even describe, or conceptualize, and as he paused, pushing against her depths, suddenly he couldn’t hold back anymore. He felt himself turn inside out and explode inside her, spasming uncontrollably. A thought came to him: he finally knew, truly, the meaning of "tension and release," not as a mere concept but as a fully felt experience. His orgasm the night before had been a brief burst; this morning's was a more drawn-out sensation of deeply felt agony and ecstasy combined in such a way that it seemed to suspend time. But it didn't really; he looked at her clock again: 7:25.
"Don’t stop," she urged. There was nothing he wanted more than to stop, to collapse utterly, but he resumed moving in and out. He wanted to scream; it was a lesson in a new kind of pain that instead of hurting was instead an overload of pleasure that threatened him with an unbearable degree of sensation, but he felt, after last night's failure, an obligation to persevere until she too had climaxed, until he had somehow raised her, via sheer willpower, to the same plateau on which he was suspended. He kept moving, mechanically, the liquid he had released squishing around him, vastly reducing friction, making it more difficult to stay hard, and yet even though he was less hard, he could still push in and out. Until he couldn’t. But, "just keep pushing," she urged, so he did what he could and ground against her. His legs were jelly and his arms were exhausted, which was absurd after just -- 7:26 -- five minutes of exercise.
"Nice try, that was better than the first time," Janie said, "but you’re just pushing rope now. I think it’s time to switch to your tongue again." Walter crawled back until his face was down at her crotch. He easily recalled her instructions of the previous night. Today she had a new one to add: "Put some fingers inside. No, not all the way back. Rub around the top. Lick too. Oh yeah." With his fingers in her, Walter had to confine his oral attentions to her clit. He kept his touch light for a while, then applied more pressure. Finally he took her clit between his lips and sucked it. Janie seemed to enjoy that, and soon her thighs were clamped around his ears and she was bucking against him.
Then she relaxed. "You can stop now. Did you think of that yourself?"
"Yes. It seemed like the logical progression."
"Thank you, Spock." She smiled. "It was. Do you want some breakfast?"
"Thanks, but I have to go study."
A minute later, when he had donned his clothes, she said, "Hey, I’m not going to make it to rehearsal on Tuesday. Can you return my music for me?"
Of course he would. Still naked, she let him out. As he walked north on West End, though, he thought, "If I were on Long Island, I’d be going to church now." Suddenly he felt guilty. Judged against the standards by which he had been raised, he had sinned. Sinned and enjoyed it. Enjoyed it so much that he’d sinned again.
On Tuesday, the last time the choir would meet that semester, they didn't rehearse, just had snacks and returned music to get back their $5 deposits. Martial was handing out the deposit returns, and when Walter explained that he was also returning Janie’s music, Martial grinned. "How was she?"
Walter, feeling himself blushing and not knowing what would be an acceptable answer, especially with other people around, found himself reflexively responding, "Drunk," stone-faced. Damn it, he thought, there had to be a better answer than that. Why did he even say that? To shut down the conversation, obviously, but she hadn't been drunk. The question of sin still disturbed him as well, so he wasn't in the mood to admit anything. And he supposed there was also some shame, because he had not lasted a manly amount of time. Though at least now he knew what to do after that happened.
Martial was still grinning as he handed Walter two fives.
Finals demanded Walter’s attention for the next ten days. Occasionally he found himself tempted to go down to 91st and West End to return Janie’s $5 and see what might happen, so instead he put it in an envelope and mailed it.
Somehow he managed a B in German, and Fraulein Rilke met the class at the West End that evening again. He did better in his other classes, even the Poli Sci elective where he’d felt so outclassed at the beginning of the semester. Professor Hatch, on giving him his A+ in Music Hum, asked, "Have you considered majoring in music?" He had; it seemed more attractive than Poli Sci followed by law school, or at least more fun, though he didn't think his parents would be happy about it. And he passed the swim test.
Then it was time to return to Long Island for the holidays, and two weeks of not having to pay for any meals. That part was great, but soon it was Sunday. Even though he hadn’t attended rehearsal on Thursday because he hadn’t returned in time, he knew he would be welcomed in the choir. However, he felt an existential unease about going to church after committing the biggest sin of his life, not once but twice. But he couldn't not go; that would seem unfathomable to his parents, to whom he certainly did not wish to have to explain himself. So he went.
The whole family went early, as usual, for the choir warm-up. The anthem was a Mennonite piece, the hymns familiar advent fare. He sat with the basses, but afterward the director approached him. "If Stewart doesn’t show up today, can you take his place?"
"Sure." Stewart was the best tenor, and the loudest. Sandy, the director's son, didn't project his voice all that well, and Bernie, the other tenor, didn't read music much and relied on Stew to feed him the notes. Walter and the director both knew that with Walter's father anchoring the bass section, even if the director's other son was the only other bass, it would be fine.
Walter sight-read his way through the anthem just fine, and was not struck by the lightning of a vengeful God at any point during the service. With that weight off his mind, he could relax and enjoy the rest of his vacation, including Christmas, with, if not a clear conscience, at least an undisturbed one.
When Walter returned to school in January, Janie was not at the first choir rehearsal. Nor at the second one. Nor did he get any mail from her thanking him for returning her deposit. Frankly, it was kind of a relief.
Roman AkLeff says of Music and Sex, his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, Music and Sex aspires to be a Bildungsroman for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood."