The shuttered apartment was so warm I didn’t want to leave. The food was good, the conversation lively. The host was an American film critic, and I was young and ambitious and I wanted to get him onside so that maybe he would give me some freelance work writing about the movies. I was the last to leave, and we talked into the small hours. He was gay, but I knew he wouldn’t make a move on me. He offered to call me a cab, but I told him the streets around his apartment in the Faubourg Montmartre were always full of them: I would have no problems.
Neither of us was aware, cocooned in that warm flat, that while we coffeehoused 6 inches of snow had suddenly fallen on Paris. As the outside door slapped shut behind me, I took in a sight I had never seen before: Paris, empty. There was no sign that a human being had ever visited this outlandish white place. There were no people, no cars, certainly no taxis. There wasn’t even any sound. I pondered whether I should ring the bell again and explain my predicament: but then the enchantment of what was before me took over. I had a long walk ahead of me, right across the ancient heart of Paris to my tiny garret on the Left Bank, but it was a walk I knew I would never have a chance to experience again.
So suddenly there was noise in this silent city: the grainy crunch of rather too-thin shoes on fresh snow; the warm laboured breath of the determined pedestrian; the soft expletives of wonder as each turn revealed something new, something refreshed and redefined. Thankfully it is always warmer when it snows, and my spirited walking made up for my lack of a hat or scarf, though I was glad of the lined leather gloves my girlfriend had given me when last I saw her in London.
The wonders of the newly naked city took me out of my direct route home. The distant green and gold and now white of the Opèra drew me down the Boulevard des Italiens, way off my southerly course, and then the prospect of the severe Madeleine softened by snow kept me tramping and crepitating on my south-westerly route. A good hour, perhaps, I had been walking, and staring at the church where Bel-Ami had prospered made me think of the warmth of my bed. Not being a fan of the desolation of Place de la Concorde, I wound my way through the side streets onto the rue des Pyramides, passing without a glance the gilt statue of the ancestor of my future, as yet unmet, wife and crossed the deserted rue de Rivoli into the Jardins des Tuileries.
My thoughts had been full of the growing dampness of my feet and the ache of limbs unused to the effort of walking through snow. But as I crossed the Tuileries a realisation grew that now, finally, I could have my moment of consummation with my favourite Parisienne, and the prospect warmed me and quickened my steps.
From the courtyard of the Louvre down to Place de la Concorde ran the formal gardens of the Kings and Queens of France, the Tuileries. I am not fond of formal gardens and usually the Tuileries are packed with tourists waiting to visit the Louvre or recovering from said visit. But scattered about the gardens are the wonderful statues by Aristide Maillol: life-size bronzes of nude women in arresting and unusual poses. One in particular I adored: a naked girl, resting on her right hip which was the only contact statue made with pedestal, her strong, shapely legs straight, toes pointed; her torso cocked upwards, her left arm held straight out along her line of sight, the fingers cupped strangely so that she might be sighting something through them, or holding (and contemplating) something invisible held within them.
She lay, as though roughly thrown, just above a sunken part of the gardens, and my steps grew more hurried as I got nearer, realising that I could now, in this hivernal emptiness, finally touch those strident out-thrust legs, those tempting nates, that deliciously carved back without anyone officiously telling me not to.
She was delicately iced with snow along her length, but even so she looked both serious and coquettish at the same time. I slowly approached her, pulling off one glove to reach a bare hand to her no doubt frigid bronze flesh.
“Elle est belle, n’est-ce pas?”
I must have choked some recognisable expletive as I turned to see the figure behind me.
“I’m so sorry, I startled you,” she said, in heavily accented English. A woman, in a long black coat over boots, a fur hat on her head and a heavy scarf draped around her.
“You are American?”
“English,” I managed to say, trying to recover from my hour-long solitude, so instantly ruptured.
“And you also like l’oeuvre de M. Maillol?”
“I admire his work, yes, but I have always loved this statue.”
The woman came closer to me.
“She looks cold lying naked in the snow, doesn’t she?”
I had recovered enough from my shock to think that perhaps I ought to hold an end up in this conversation.
“She looks, as ever, impervious I think.”
She turned to look at me. I saw that she was much older than my 25, perhaps twice that, but handsome still. She looked down at my bare hand and smiled.
“I think I interrupted you. You wanted this chance to touch her, non? Sans les gardiens et les touristes?”
I felt embarrassed that she had read my mind so easily, and she must have read that easily too.
“Allons-y.” She took my arm in her gloved hand and led me closer to the statue. “Dina won’t mind.”
I looked at her, wondering what she meant.
“Dina is the model for this statue you love so much. She’s an art dealer now. We say hello now and then. Of course, she was very young when she sat for this. Can’t you tell....”
She startled me anew by taking my ungloved hand and placing it square on one of the statues high, pert breasts.
“...these are the tits of a young woman.”
And they were. And they were icy cold.
“They were warmer then.”
The nipples, though sculpted in detumescence, were nevertheless hard against my palm.
“Her breasts are what we French call ‘an honest man’s handful’—just enough, you understand!”
And she laughed, a shocking sound in that muffled silence: and her laugh had that little ragged edge that spoke of a smoker. Her hand then took mine lower, down the gentle contours of an adolescent belly and up onto the proud haunch of a woman unafraid of work and along the calf of a woman with the strength to keep going and down to the toes that I had always thought would look so beautiful splayed in orgasmic bliss.
I thought her hand would continue with mine on this erotic excursion round this beautiful form. Instead she pulled me back, and then around to the head with it’s peaceful yet puzzling expression.
“What are you thinking, young man?”
Her voice was suddenly sharper.
“Do you think she is ready to fuck? Do you think she is opening her legs for her lover? That her enigmatic hand is grasping the cock that she seeks to pull into her wet mouth? Well?”
I must have looked like a goldfish, my mouth opening and closing as I searched for an answer to her aggressive questions, for suddenly she was laughing that rough laugh again.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Forgive me, I’m only teasing you. Put your glove back on, your hand is frozen.”
And it was, from that sensual glissade along Dina’s body. I hurriedly put my glove back on.
“But what I said is what I hear, most days, from louts and perverts who hang around here and whisper the foulest things about her: about what they would do to her, about what she would do with them. About how she is a tart who spreads her legs for the world to see.”
A mute young Englishman watched a tear start in the eye of this strange French woman, swathed in black.
“But I knew her you see, know her still. She was a sweet and innocent young girl who happened to have no shame in her naked body, and he was an honourable old man whose art was dead and she brought it alive again. Please don’t sully her with your fantasies.”
“I didn’t mean to...I just love the statue.”
She looked at me then, and sighed a great cloud of breath.
“I wish her story could have been mine.”
Puzzled, I began to speak, but she stopped me with her cold gloved hand on mine.
“I need a hot drink. If you would like one too, my apartment is not far.”
We walked in silence within the greater silence of the city, her arm crooked in mine, across the Pont des Arts and up into the Left Bank streets. She lived not far from where Oscar Wilde died bemoaning the bad taste of the wallpaper, on the fifth floor (no lift, of course). The place seemed warm but poky when she switched on the lights, but then I realised the room we were in was cramped by heaped piles against each wall, covered in heavy cloths. It pushed the furniture into a small area in the centre of the room, like a wagon-train besieged by Indians. The kitchen area was curtained off with an expensive-looking drape, which she swept aside and hooked up. I could hear the sounds of a kettle filling, a match struck, gas igniting.
She came back in unbuttoning her coat, which she threw, along with her hat, gloves and scarf, onto one of the formless piles against the wall.
“I am having a tisane. What would you like?”
“A coffee, if you have any?”
“I can reheat some. I think I have some whiskey too. You like?”
She didn’t wait for an answer, but swept back into the kitchen nook. Another pan was set on another ring and the bitter smell of coffee soon filled the flat, vying with the herby aromas of her tisane.
“I was also a model, like Dina.”
She was curled in one of the big armchairs, her tisane in its outsize cup steaming away on one arm while she took a sip of her whiskey. Her dress was black and shapeless: a large piece of freckled amber hung from a gold chain on her breast.
“I grew up in Normandy, near the sea. I was a good student, and was sent to the Lycée in Caen. It was a long walk from the bus-stop home and the buses were irregular, so my parents were used to me being home late. The walk took me past a large dilapidated house, an old gentilehommerie. I had heard that an artist lived there, but no one seemed to know much about him, which was a shame as the idea of an artist living close by certainly piqued my adolescent interest.
“I had seen no sign of life there until one day in the spring of my final year. I was early, for once, dawdling on a nice afternoon when I heard this voice. ‘You girl, come here.’ I saw this big, shambling....well, mountain of a man coming down from the hitherto empty house. I remember he had on this loose white shirt over blue trousers, both dirty and stained, and his hair and beard wild and straggly. He looked a mess, frankly: but if this was the artist, well...wasn’t that how they were supposed to look?
“As he came closer to me, I could see he was looking me up and down in the rudest way. If it had been one of the Caen boys, always trying to look up our skirts, I would have said something. I had a sharp tongue. I was known for it. Not now. ‘You’ll do’, he said, and grabbing my arm pulled me towards the house. ‘There’s money in it, if you’re good.’
“Why didn’t I fight? Why did I let him drag me into his house like a goose? I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. He pulled me along a dark corridor into a back room suddenly full of light and the appalling mess of a painter in mid-flow. A large easel, canvasses stacked everywhere, paint over all, every surface streaked and dirty, and an old brass bed in front of the windows covered with a greasy-looking spread.
“’Get undressed’, he said, leaving me suddenly marooned mid-room. I stood there in my drab school uniform as he grabbed a sketch-pad and charcoal. He saw I hadn’t moved. ‘Get undressed!’ My hands trembled as I obeyed him, but the first man I stripped naked for never even looked. As I hastily removed my knickers he threw the charcoal into a corner and started instead to sharpen a fat pencil. Horribly aware of my nudity, I waited until he was satisfied with his preparations. Only then did he look at me.
“’You young girls don’t eat enough’, he said quietly as he came up to me. There was a smell about him that....it made me wrinkle my nose, but...More whiskey?”
I must have goldfished again. She chuckled and produced a half-crushed packet of cigarettes and a tiny lighter from somewhere in her dress. She lit up and exhaled a perfect cloud of smoke in the still air.
“Help yourself to more. He briefly felt my small tits, my nipples puckering madly as he handled them, then he stepped back to look down at the dark hair at my groin. His hand gripped my shoulder to twist me so he could see my bum. He handled me like meat. I was 18 and had kneed a boy in the balls for touching my bum at last year’s St.Jean. Why did I let him treat me like meat?
“ ‘Lie on the bed, on your back, arms above your head, crook your left knee open.’ I did as he told me, and he sketched: quickly, violently, a page finished and ripped off the pad and thrown to one side. ‘Pull your knees to your chin.’ ‘Hold your tits.’ ‘Rub your slit.’ ‘On all fours.’ ‘Dip your back and push your arse out.’
“I did all that and more as the sketches fluttered down until the floor was littered with them. I was embarrassed and ashamed—quelle honte. But I was also aroused and soiled, and I didn’t know what my poor heart was going to feel next. I was face down, holding my buttocks open, when I felt his huge hand on me again. He pulled me upright, sitting on the edge of the bed. I felt like I was coming out of a cloud. He was fiddling under his shirt, and suddenly produced his penis. I know now that it wasn’t prodigious, but it seemed so to me then.
“ ‘Are you a virgin?’ I managed to nod. ‘Open your mouth...and use your tongue.’
“I went home with a promise to return, a 100 old franc note and the taste of sperm in my mouth. Does my story discomfort you?”
“No....not at all.” I was hotter than the flat, but I couldn’t say so.
“You haven’t refilled your glass. Let me.”
She had the grace of a cat as she unfolded from the armchair, grasped the bottle and leant over to refill my glass. Her scent, and the warm fragrance of tobaccco, enveloped me.
“I should have been disgusted. His cock smelt rank, unwashed, sweaty, and I had sucked it. His sperm was heavy and tasted bad, but that night in bed my tongue teased behind my teeth in case a sense of him had survived the potage and the pork. I slept badly, remembering the thickness of his cock between my lips, how it bruised them as he fucked my virgin mouth. His filthy smell remained in my nostrils and made me ashamed and wet.”
She sank bank into her chair and fumbled for another cigarette.
“Of course, I went back next day. I can’t explain why. He didn’t even have to tell me to strip. He just gestured to the bed, and there I was—naked and spread for him. I was young and limber and he had me take positions I never knew could exist, and I could feel the dampness in my loins as I opened my body to his uncaring eye. I was in a world of my own lust when he pulled me roughly off the bed onto my knees. My mouth was already opening before I even saw his penis. He ejaculated on my face, told me to sit still and sketched me as I knelt there, bespattered and oddly elated.
“I played with the drying flakes of his sperm as I walked home, peeling them from my face and putting them in my mouth. There was an old lavoir at the edge of the village, and it was only there, within sight of my house, that I washed my face clean.
“Every week day, I was a model student at school and a model whore for him. As we worked he told me all the dirty words for the body and what could be done with it. After a week or so he no longer needed to fuck my mouth: I would avidly kneel to suck his cock the moment his fumbling at his flies told me our session was over. He taught me how to touch myself as I writhed for him, and I learnt to come under his implacable gaze.
“The weekends were too full of chores for me to get away, and I found myself longing for that riot of exhibition, and for the taste and torture of his smelly, unwashed flesh.
“The third week, he made me take longer poses, and spent longer on his sketches. His favourite was me on my knees, shoulders on the bed, back arched, buttocks spread. It was a particularly shameful position for me, knowing that my vagina and anus were so intimately exposed for him. It was humiliating and jaggedly exciting. I was posed thus, one day, when I felt his hand between my shoulder-blades holding me firmly down. He hardly ever touched me, and I bucked against his hand.
“ ‘Keep still. I won’t hurt you.’ I obeyed, even when I felt his other hand, cold and greasy, move over my bum. His calloused finger hurt me, despite the grease, when he pried me open. I whimpered and tensed. ‘Relax yourself, ma petite. It will hurt less, and you’ll still be a virgin’.”
I found my breath was held tight as she was speaking. Perhaps she saw it. She took a sip of her tisane and the cup clanked against the saucer, allowing my breath to escape unnoticed.
“That was a different walk home, I can tell you! The whole lower half of my body ached, and each step seemed a torment. My anus felt as if it would never close again, and the oily trickle from it only added to my shame and the hot blush of disgusted excitement. I couldn’t wash that part of me at the lavoir!
“I told my mother I needed a bath before supper. While it ran, I inspected my bottom in the mirror, bending over at a ridiculous angle. My anus was a little red, that’s all. I couldn’t help touching it. My fingertip opened me easily enough. I can’t remember how I ended up on the floor, fingers wildly fucking each of my holes as I bit down on a towel to stem my screams.
“I could barely sleep. The thought of doing such a dirty thing with a man, having his penis in my bowels, feeling him ejaculate there—I couldn’t stop masturbating at the thoughts which crowded and clashed in my head, and I couldn’t stop coming.
“He didn’t bugger me that often. My mouth and face gladly took his offerings, but I often found myself half-hoping he would pull me onto all fours and inflict that exquisite torment on my arse.
“And then he died.”
She studied my face a moment as she took another sip of her tisane.
“It was the Easter holidays and I couldn’t get away that much. My body throbbed for his filthy embrace. Easter Monday I managed to slip away for a while. I walked down the road thinking of what he would do to me. I was wet with anticipation. At the gate was a large black van, a couple of men leaning against the back of it smoking. I slowed down, suddenly afraid. An older man came out of the house. One of the van men offered him a smoke. They all seemed unconcerned, enjoying the Spring sunshine, enjoying their Gitanes.
“I couldn’t hear much of what the older man said. ‘... a pigsty....no, alone....heart attack probably.’ They were grinding their cigarettes out and opening the van. I slipped through a gate into the field and took the long way home. I cried all the way.”
She drank her tisane in silence for a while, sunk in her memory. I felt I had to show I had been listening, that I cared—and not just about the solid erection which had been paining me throughout her story.
“I’m sorry, that must have been awful for you. What did you do then?”
She gave me a look that chilled me.
“What do you think I did? Go into mourning for my dead lover? Tch! I threw myself into my studies, talked to teachers about Universities, tried to keep my thoughts away from what we had done in that studio and my hands out of my privates. I passed my Bac. My family were pleased with me. And then....
“One of the last days of school, a lovely Summer evening, I walked past the closed-up house without looking, as usual. I heard a creak behind me and a voice calling, ‘Mademoiselle’. My heart was pounding as I turned. There was a very well-dressed middle-aged man standing in the open doorway, gesturing for me to come closer. He looked very dapper, very out of place in the countryside. ‘I knew I would recognise you’, he said as he held the door open for me. ‘Please come in. I have something for you.’
“The studio looked no different. A bit more dust on the dust I’d breathed every day. I stood in the middle of the room as the man made space for his briefcase on one of the cluttered tables. He was very....business-like. ‘My name is Marcel Gijon and I was poor Henri’s agent and am now his executor’. Did I know his name was Henri? Had he ever said his name to me, or I to him? I couldn’t remember. ‘Henri rang me several times before he died, raving about the young model he had found locally—a model who was so free and open with her body that it had given his painting a new lease of life. Artists often say things like that—they do like to exaggerate! So I had no great hopes when I came down here to make an inventory.
“‘Imagine my surprise when I saw his work—saw your work!’ ‘Why do you think it was me, Monsieur? It could have been any of the local girls.’ He grinned at me and turned to pull a sheaf of drawings from a folder, handing them to me one by one. Oh, it was me all right. Me, naked, in all manner of obscene poses: my breasts, my vagina, my anus all drawn with marvellous energy. The last drawing was of my face. It was a very good likeness, right down to the thick gouts of sperm which adorned me.
“I shivered as I looked at that picture. I felt shame that this man had seen how defiled I had been, how sluttish. And yet I was also proud of how I looked, and newly aroused by the memories of those evenings. Henri had never shown me anything of the drawings he had made of me. Looking at them for the first time I understood that there had also been something special going on amidst the dirt and squalor and lust. We had created something.
“‘They are very beautiful, these sketches, and very arousing. Don’t you agree, Mademoiselle? ‘Yes, they are.’ ‘And you must see some of the paintings he made from them. He must have finished this one just before he died.’
“Marcel crossed to the easel where a large canvas was shrouded with a dust sheet. I followed as he pulled it away and there I was, on my knees and elbows, my back arched, the really beautifully caught sheen of sweat on my widespread buttocks and the dizzyingly erotic trickle of semen from my slightly dilated anus. ‘So wonderful. Henri was truly a gifted artist. And he’s left all of these gems to you.’
“I turned to look at Marcel. He could read my disbelief. ‘Oh yes, he updated his will not long ago. And I am a loyal executor of that will and I am here to see that you get what is now yours.’ He gave me a moment to take this in. ‘But, Mademoiselle, I am also his loyal agent and if I may I would like to make you a proposition.’ And I heard the sound of the zip on his trousers being unfastened. He asked a question with his eyes to which he already knew the answer. Demurely, I knelt before him and accepted his penis in my mouth. He talked as I sucked. I was happy with his proposition and his cum tasted sweet after my long drought.
“So I didn’t go to University. I came here to Paris with Marcel, as principal model and muse to the group of artists of which Henri had once been a part. You won’t find the work of the group in galleries: we make erotic art to private commission. There are other models, of course, but I have always been their favourite since the day I arrived fresh-faced from the countryside. I work with them individually, but sometimes they get together for some particular project, and that can be quite tiring. A woman has only so many orifices.”
I must have blushed as the meaning of this sank in. She laughed throatily.
“I enjoy my work, Monsieur. I’ve enjoyed it ever since that day Henri hauled me off the dusty road and had me strip in his studio. It took me a while to accept my enjoyment, that is all. Come here.”
She stood and moved to one of the covered piles that I had noticed when we had arrived. I understood now what they were.
“I’ve kept most of Henri’s work, for....sentimental reasons. I am well-paid by the group, but if I need a little extra, Marcel sells one for me. They fetch good prices. And I have had some outrageous offers for this one.”
She pulled the sacking back, and there was the painting she had described: a beautiful young girl exhibiting her anal defloration. It was truly breathtaking, and my tumescent penis leapt anew at it. But what does an aroused man understand about anything? I bent to look closer at the painting.
“And the other model....Dora? Did she ever work with you, or was she.....?”
“I think you should leave now, Monsieur.”
“I’m sorry, I....”
“Please leave now. It is late and I have work to do later.”
I gathered my warm clothes in the sudden chill of the apartment. She was silent until I stepped out onto the landing.
“Her name is Dina, not Dora, and I told you that she was and is a good woman. The first time we met she saw straight through me. I blushed as if she could see me on my knees sucking men’s cocks. But then she smiled at me, and that unjudgemental smile bit deep. We were both models, yes, but everything I have posed for is hidden and out of sight as if it were shameful, and she adorns the Tuileries like a modern goddess.
“Was what you have seen and heard shameful, Monsieur?”
I had no idea what to say. Her lips gave a little twitch. It might have been half a smile.
As the door closed the timer on the landing light went out and I realised that there was a faint glimmer from the window above. Outside, dawn was breaking. In the hours I had listened to the story, Paris had woken up and gotten on with life—snow notwithstanding. As I walked along the river towards my room, buses and lorries were churning up the streets. People were everywhere, walking carefully amidst the slush.
Paris was the same again, just whiter and dirtier.