She was on her side, gazing with concern at him. She was wearing a peasant blouse, whose neckline had already fallen beneath one shoulder. He hesitantly turned to face Marta and she smiled, saying, “You are comfortable now.” It was a statement, not a question.
Imperceptibly, Marta’s upper body curved, like a bow, closer to Billy. He first felt her thick hair weeping across his shoulders, then her mouth damply came to rest against his ear. “Now I too am comfortable,” she whispered.
The wedge of light from the door shone on the couple like disturbed moonlight. He inhaled her unique female fragrance as his eyes moved across the supplicating arc of her body. The entire room seemed wet and enveloping in his dark fatigue, encased by this aroma he’d never experienced.
Marta took pleasure in the meticulous curiosity of his eyes as he scanned her body. She could only think of all the time wasted and how this was what he needed now. This was surely what he wanted from her … it was in the measure of his stare. She straddled his body. Her green eyes pressed down rapaciously on Billy and she flicked her tongue with total abandon along her lips and into the air. Her hands were on his nipples, squeezing tightly, then her thumb receded and her forefinger circled them at varying speeds. Billy was nailed in place. He didn’t know if it was the day, the exhausted vulnerability, or the exquisiteness of her tongue unfettered to the air. This was what D. H. Lawrence was referring to when he wrote the phrase “going to the dark gods.”
Marta slipped off her blouse and shorts. Then, before he could protest, she unsnapped his pants and withdrew his cock. It was no different than Billy, half bewildered, half aroused. Wet, and hissing through clenched teeth, Marta straddled him again, and in one deft move, squeezed her fingernails into its base while insistently shoving the engorged head of his miraculous hard-on inside her. Billy had no idea what had happened, but suddenly felt a staggering contraction, as her inhalations grew louder.
Marta squeezed his cock harder, then moved in slow, steady gyrations, intermingling her lips and tongue with his, caressing his testicles with supple fingers. She let out two unrestrained moans, her legs quivering with preternatural speed. Billy felt the same snake moving up his spine as the day in his bathroom so many years before. There were no interruptions this time, however, and Billy lost all passivity to the moment and his masculine instincts. Grabbing Marta’s classically rounded hips, he slammed her up and down on his perfect erection until he began to shudder in orgasm. Billy released with such force, he feared it would hurt her. Marta finally collapsed off his body, her hand remaining beneath his shirt, digging the razor-sharp nails into his chest one last time. From a painfully deep place, Billy let out an extended groan, purging his body of all the exhaustion, anger, and exasperation from that distressing day. The sound was like a long, random fusion of feline sighs, fluctuating from the satisfied purr of a house cat to a mountain lion’s ominous growl. In time, Billy’s eerie, uncontrollable exhalations ceased their frightening vacillations, and morphed into the equally odd, yet soothing cooing of a dove. This sound continued as Marta, who was facing his back, thrust her breasts with such force against each side of his spine that he could feel the pressure of her taut nipples. She then wrapped one arm around his waist and playfully lowered her hand down to Billy’s testicles, clutching them gently and securely until they both had fallen asleep.
He woke very early the next morning in a bizarre collision of desire and trepidation. Mostly there was regret. He had wasted so much time overcoming the curse uttered in his mother’s doctrinal ignorance. Now he had fulfilled what he’d assumed was unattainable. He had validated his masculinity and awoken a part of his humanity he had thought dormant. He was a man. He had been with a woman. He could intuit the resonance of its mystery and command … the dominance and submission, the tender, indelible wonder of her female scent.
He had made an enormous trade-off. He felt hollowed out. Yesterday he was disorientated and perplexed about not being able to paint, but it seemed something ephemeral, a phase essential to his growth. He had not lost his hope. Now he had bargained that away, and it seemed a drastic mistake.
He still defined himself by his art. It was all he knew.
She had slit his tendon, he thought. The sensations of her female gifts — the warmth, the motion, the moistness, and the mystery — had kept him blindfolded as his locks were being indifferently shorn away.
He watched the steady breathing of her body beside him; the rhythmic rise and fall of her breasts. He lingered on the sharp arc beneath her ass, the abrupt curve of her richly colored flesh returning to her thigh. He was tripped by ambivalence, and felt his puzzled bitterness vacillate into rage.
Everything had changed and it was all too quick to filter. His instinct had nothing to offer.
He looked down and saw his penis, now stealthily, defiantly erect. He marveled as it twitched rowdily by its own volition, making its own unprecedented demands. With this uncomfortable hunger, he knew the dark gods had returned. He was now overcome with another, baser aspect of his revivified masculinity.
Marta woke and smiled at him, eyes glowing and her lips moist with satisfaction, desire, and a complete ignorance to it all. Sleepily, she began to reach up at him with her hand. Without a word, he seized her wrist and pinned both hands against the green sheets. Her skin was so smooth, her arms thin as a sapling’s branches against a green sky.
“You’ve been sleeping with Denny, haven’t you?” Billy stared down accusingly. “Tell the truth.”
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “The Petting Zoo” by Jim Carroll. Copyright 2010 Raven Publishing, LLC.
Jim Carroll was the author of, among other many works, “The Basketball Diaries” and “The Downtown Diaries.” “The Petting Zoo” was his last novel.