Piano Man

excerpt I paused a little in order to recall better the dark areas of my teenage years. I don't know why it is only about them that I feel like writing. But do I only have to write about them? Maybe the journal that I'm struggling every second not to finish the hell off and destroy would only result in fake, worthless stuff. Maybe this was me, Stefan, a balloon filled with obsessions. Maybe my life was what that guy used to call on TV. He said "human life is like the hair in his ass – short and full of shit." Besides I hate wasting time. As if I had any time left. Anyway, it's all useless now.I always found it hard to get close to women. My father was to blame for that. His erotic potential was far beyond normal. So there was nothing left for me. When he conceived me he let all qualities and faults loose, except for one, the talent of having a woman anytime. For me, women were a problem. I never managed to solve it. I only touched one in my second year of high school. Actually, it was she who came on to me, during a party. We were of the same age. We must have been schoolmates or something, I can't remember exactly. We were both a bit drunk, tired, aroused and, towards morning, alone; the others had left for the city, to see the sunrise from the highest block. We were left behind, side by side on a lounge, looking at each other in bewilderment, stiffened in a numbness that only masked the burning embers of our instincts. I only know that we kissed – we had no idea how but we finally both agreed that the best way to do it was with our tongues deeply stuck in each other's palate – we drooled on our chins and we must have been moaning. I put my hand under her turquoise shirt and touched her breasts. I ejaculated instantaneously, and the taste of saliva stopped having the same flavor. The same must have happened to her.In exchange I was masturbating frantically. The only thing I was ever qualified to do. I could have taught others. I mastered it completely. Like this, I could have the most beautiful women: schoolmates, actresses, our teacher of English and a cousin's wife. I imagined them all naked, tenderly caressing my forehead, my cheeks and making love to me so candidly that later on, when I learnt everything about sex, I had a real depression. I would do it twice, maybe thrice a day. In the toilet, under a blanket, in the bathroom, wherever I could enjoy a little privacy. I had completely eliminated the idea of real sex for a while, until one day, before I enrolled, when I had my first woman. She was from Maramuresh and she had come to look for a job. Eventually she took sex as a profession; she didn't make much money anyway, but she could make a living out of it. She approached me on the street, on my way home from the movies. I think it was The Last Waltz. She asked me to help her carry a few bags full of potatoes. I got in, left the bags on the hallway, she got on her knees and went down on me. Then she smeared the immature sperm all over her face. She did it with such satisfaction… I ran in disgust, just the way I was, sexed-up, moist and awestricken. I felt humiliated, broken, raped. I stopped behind a block and started crying. Ever since, I finished all of my encounters, whether happy or not, sobbing. I had accidentally discovered its therapeutic quality. Or maybe I just thought I had. I went on masturbating many years from then on. I think I always did that. My erotic encounters were scarce, actually they got fewer and fewer. Why bother? The idea of sleeping with a woman implied so many complications, so many games and strategies, so much sentimental fuss, and what for? For a sexpot you got in and out of a few times, in a period of time that was constantly too short. And then there was that nasty thing afterwards, when you felt like doing nothing, the doubt about the quality of the performance, the emptiness inside, the wrinkled underwear, sometimes even stained (I've always had a genuine complex of dirty underwear, either mine or others' – it is one of the few complexes I'll take to my grave – I just can't stand it!), all of that "after sex" crap. Instead, I was fully satisfied by masturbation. It was just me and myself then. My imagination, which I still consider pure, provided me with the most beautiful women and, at the same time, the purest, the most sensitive and maternal ones. Especially maternal. I cannot recall a thing, but there must have been something in my childhood, something major, permanent that made me want a mother so badly. Although I had one. Although I have one. I shall remember, for sure.And yet I got married. I took this bitch and I have to put up with her. Just like she has to put up with me. Back then, I fell in love with her. She was the first woman I loved. I threw myself into her arms as desperately as a drowning man would have done. She had this victimizing quality about her, as if she had been this princess on the verge of falling from the tower of her prison… I think she was meant for me. She was very similar to the woman I fancied when I filled my hands with semen. She was perfect. If she ever reads all of this, maybe she'll forgive me; if not, it's her business. We loved each other like crazy, for two or three years, living in some kind of forced semi-clandestine relationship. Neither her parents, nor mine approved of our being together. Then, we got married.And from the very next day we started hating each other. Systematically. It is an ongoing situation. I haven't cheated on her many times, the only reason being that I simply dislike going to bed with a woman. When it happened, it was the outcome of situations I got entangled into – I sometimes fell in love. Just like it had been with her, I also experienced with the others the revelation of meeting the dream women from the every day longer, and more and more sophisticated, moments of masturbation. Because I continued doing it just as passionately after my marriage. I hid it from her carefully. It was not in order to protect her – that was none of my business; or at least I thought so – but in order to protect my own intimacy. In each moment dedicated to masturbation I disappeared as for good, my imagination took complete hold of me, the women I so badly yearned for, the exotic scenery, the maternal caresses, all of these were mine; how could I have brought an intruder into this world and maybe allow her to ruin it and ruin me at the same time?In exchange I informed her scrupulously about all of my affairs. I don't know if she ever really cared for that trifle; this makes me suspect that she must have guessed my vice. Maybe she's still waiting to throw it to my face, to tell me exactly when my torture becomes excruciating, that she knows everything about me, to tell me that I'm a notorious masturbator, a freak, a monster she only enjoyed being around to sneer at. To sneer at him and his shameful vice. Or maybe she was cheating on me, too. A situation in which I should congratulate her for the quality of her dissimulation. I never noticed anything that made me suspect her of infidelity. And, after I got sick, I never really cared anymore. Maybe just in my fits of anger, triggered by my own infirmity – among other things, I remained impotent from the first year of disease. I took it harder than I would have thought. I could no longer have a woman. It didn't matter anymore whether the sex was real or imaginary. All of my sexuality, deviant or not, had been simply radiated from my biological functions. I rather would have had the disease numb all of my organs and leave me blind, deaf and mute, I'd rather it had made me too ugly for myself to look in the mirror, or that it had made me shit on myself, anything for a however rare erection.It hurt me. And, as always, I exorcised my pain in the others' patience. In the hospital, the nurses were my victims. I don't think there was one who never got a finger up her cunt, or a deep bite in her thigh, especially when they had to give me shots or start an I.V. line. Some of them, the older ones, tolerated me. They giggled, they swore just to keep up face, but they didn't really mind – they understood. One of them, auntie Vali, I think, came one night, took my sex out slowly and started rubbing it. I told her she had no chance and she said she knew. Then she let me suck on her nipples. I sucked her like a desperate man. That was a stupid thing to say – I actually did suck her desperately. You cannot imagine how a desperate man, one to whom erotic feelings have become unavailable, can suck on a woman's nipples. I sucked like a lamb in February – the holy lamb. I did it desperately and she let me do it out of pity. I think I called her mother at a certain time, or at least this is what I like to remember. I put my finger in her vagina and fumbled about it. She was all wet and nonsensical. She told me she loved me, she said she could die for me, rubbish, of course; it was just the reaction triggered by a strange finger stuck deep in her cunt. A little later I felt happy for her orgasm. Which had obviously been missing for a long time from between that dried up woman's legs. After she left I started crying. Then I smelled my finger. It smelled disgusting. I don't know why, but ever since she kept avoiding me. I wonder if she really loved me.But most of them were outraged and I often got slapped in the face, or hit with some object that came in handy. It didn't hurt me. All of this insanity lasted a little more than a year – I was old enough to realize that what I was doing was deviant. Maybe my folks, or everybody else, had inoculated me with certain principles and values that made any action of mine undirected by them seem abnormal. Now it's too late to think about that. This is probably how my erotic initiation was meant to be. The first time I ejaculated in a bra. Without even thinking of what was happening to me – it was impossible, for once I had entered the bathroom, I lost almost any contact with reality – after sniffing the intimate object for a long time I pulled my pants down and started rubbing my sex with it. I ejaculated almost instantaneously. And it was also instantaneously that I started crying. I was frightened. I thought I was sick or something, my body had been shaking as it had never done before, my eyes had closed on a command that was not mine, my sex was pulsating frantically and there was this almost transparent liquid coming out of it, actually it was being thrown out. I calmed down sooner than I had expected. I realized that it couldn't be serious since, after I had come to my senses, I had clearly identified what had happened to me in terms of pleasure. I had enjoyed doing that. For a while I kept avoiding the bathroom, but I couldn't get it out of my mind. I was almost pushed there by an inner something that kept lashing me like a slave, but, on the other hand there were the fear, the doubt that what was happening with me could be good, the intuition that this was a one way ticket train that I was probably not supposed to take. Obviously, I surrendered. And, again, I reached a moment when the satisfaction offered by touching women's underwear started fading. I had to wake up one night, actually be woken by noises coming from my parents' room, in order to take the following step.There were arrhythmic groans, followed by the screeching of their bed. There was some swearing, too. I thought they were fighting. They had been doing that a lot, lately. I got up, went by their door and peeped through the keyhole. I'm still wondering what made me that curious. There was something calling me there. Something new, that I had but recently experienced, something that had bulged into my soul and that had defiled it for good. In the bed there was that woman, my mother, in a curious position, on her stomach, but with her ass lifted up and my father, behind her, penetrating her almost hatefully. The fallen blanket and the light they had forgotten on unveiled a scene that hit me like thunder. If until then there had been a holiness about me – my childhood – that something vanished. My childhood had ended. Many years later I was to become a teenager and then, an adult. But what had I become that instant?Should I have screamed? Should I have shivered with horror? Should I have quietly returned to my bed only to ask them the next morning about that thing the other night? Should I have simply overlooked it? I don't know. I just know that while looking with no trace of pity through the keyhole I started masturbating myself. Suddenly I became part of what was happening in the next room, I was the partner of that couple, I had the same rights. I ejaculated on the door. Then I surrendered in exhaustion and, while looking at the sperm leaking down I started crying. I cried quietly, so as not to be heard, although there was a fat chance of someone actually paying attention. My mother and father were still fucking in their healthy and selfish fashion. A fashion I could never forget. The next day, they got up as if nothing had happened. My mother tried to kiss me, but I slapped her. She was speechless. She did scold me at the table but I didn't feel like listening to her. Actually I didn't answer back and we didn't speak at all for a few days. Suddenly I started loathing her filthy underwear (I think it was then that I got my filthy underwear complex), her bras, yellowish from the fat of her breasts, the holes in her stockings. It was a period of my life that had to be lived. I burnt it out.My father was informed of my sudden transformation, but he didn't do anything. He didn't really care. He said things happened like that with some children and they needed to be left alone. The bastard! He was right.It was by loathing that woman who was my mother that I started hating them all. As I hated them, I felt that they must have been hating me as well. I was never really cured of that feeling. In exchange, I had found that I could love and be loved by imaginary women, the type my soul would have wanted to meet. Masturbation was my only friend. The only one who never left me. Ştefan Caraman (b. 1967) "writes with his antennae pointed at the behavioral horizon of the human being; the poisonous colloquial language and the characters' peevish reactions are the main narrative stuff of his prose, which in its moments of excess does not shrink from blistering exhibitionism. His stories are not frescoes of reality, despite their realistic physiognomy, but burlesque-cynical or grotesque farces that shed light on the perversity of existence." (Radu G. Ţeposu) Some passages in Piano Man (Paralela 45, 2000) may remind of a Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint in the negative, with the humorous tone sucked in by tragic bitterness.

by Ştefan Caraman