The Wedding Book

excerpt  A few violent knocks on the door startled him. Vera hid under the blanket again, and Jim pushed the door ajar. It was the maid, who wanted to know if they were still there, puzzled by the fact that they hadn't come out of the house till noon.They hurried to put on the clothes spread all over the room. Jim looked at Vera and helped her dress, thrilled by each new physical detail that he discovered of her. Vera's underwear was thin and small, so that the shirt as a transparent foam barely covered her hips. Thus hidden in the silk thin as smoke, which showed her bare shoulders tied with two ribbons and her long sleek legs uncovered, Vera attracted Jim again and she was taken in his arms, hugged and stifled with kisses. Then they both looked under the bed for Vera's stockings. When they found them, Jim took pleasure in pulling them up her legs himself, which was smooth and a little brownish, and had a delicate dimple like a snap dragon at each garter. Reaching above the knees with the stockings' margin, Jim liked the soft down and the naïve way in which they stuck together, which made Vera bend over him and kiss him on the opposite ear. Vera's young body smelled so nicely of wild flower, without scent, of wilderness! A process common to all men was happening to Jim, even though it couldn't be analyzed. Vera was his, as a completion of his own body, and he wanted, if not to dress her himself, at least to assist to her dressing up, to contemplate her and find the most suitable clothes for her limbs. From now on he didn't consider it indiscretion to put his hands along Vera's body, to pull up her stockings, to fit her dresses. The gestures which for others, looking from outside, might have been interpreted as lascivious, concupiscent, womanizing were for him much simpler and more innocent. Vera's body was his body as well and both of them had a collective shyness in front of the others. Vera was so physiologically necessary to him, that, in her absence, her blouses, her dresses held her place with their scent, or the pillow on which she had slept caressed him as a real cheek. Vera was very taken by her dependency and in the voluptuousness of the new sensations of wedded life, she undressed herself, and offered herself unashamed to his stare, telling Jim:"Now that we are married, you said it yourself that it isn't shameful!" But in front of the others Vera was just as shy as before, which showed in her gestures and in her words.When Jim and Vera, after another series of kisses, headed for the door at last, the old maid smiled to them protectively and told them:"My, you're young!"Anyway, everybody else was protecting them and looked after them smiling. Either the rapid holding of the hands and the kisses even on the road, in that permissive provincial town, betrayed them as lovers; or the people intuitively knew, because of their age, the truth, everywhere they received a lot of attentions. At the restaurant they were the main attraction and noticed that the owner looked straight at them, smiling affectionately, almost asking them with her eyes who they were. At last she could no longer refrain her curiosity and drawing near their table she asked:"Forgive me for asking, are you sister and brother or are you married?" Learning the truth she clasped her hands surprised:"Married! My, you're young! Such a young and beautiful lady!Vera was soon convinced that the interest for her went up to insinuations which proved that people knew how she was spending her nights. This embarrassed her a little, she was nevertheless happy that she was a woman, and thus she bore the indiscretion without grunting. Jim found in the town friends from school, which were married as well, and arranged to meet one night in a café. There, the two young women took Vera aside and started questioning her:"My, you're young! How did he find you?""Tell us, is he sentimental, does he hug you a lot?"Vera, intimidated, answered with what she knew for sure:"He loves me!""What are you ladies talking about over there?" Jim asked, intrigued by seeing Vera pulled away from him."Mind your own business!" the women answered daringly. "It's girl talk… No men allowed!"Vera noticed that these women were less shy than she could ever be. They told her how their men made love to them, the way they kissed and embraced them, the way they had sex with them and what they whispered to them, what they felt the whole time."Oh," one whispered, "Paul is to sensitive! He undresses me himself and kisses me along my thighs until he drives me crazy! He's like a baby… my breasts hurt even now!" (Vera found out bedazzled that Paul, becoming a suckling, did things the babes were allowed to do.) "I have to tickle him in his ear with the tip of my tongue all the time."Vera, her soul's innocence spoilt, and a little pale, tried to break free from the women's circle and to put herself under Jim's protection; unfortunately, he was absorbed in a much more innocent discussion with the others: about "pure poetry". She noticed intuitively that men's thoughts were purer and felt more and more embarrassed."Do you scream?" the other young woman asked very seriously.Vera looked at them dumbfounded."Do I scream?""Don't you scream, don't you say anything when…you know?""Why should I scream?" Vera added bewildered, and she felt sweat on her forehead."Oh," said the young lady, "my Ticu is brutal, he throws me and catches me unexpectedly… Then I struggle, I bite, I scream, I ramble… I couldn't even sleep with a man who doesn't know how to handle me roughly."The women asked her if Jim was uncouth, if his erotic initiative lasted long, if he was jealous and the like, things to which Vera, since it was about Jim, answered proudly:"He is handsome!"Her new friends felt compelled to educate Vera from a sexual point of view. They blamed her passivity and they recommended resistance, turning her mouth away from a kiss, keeping her thighs together during the conjugal embrace, teasing the man by covering the body and then by partly uncovering it methodically. Then they also recommended the renewal and the refinement of the erotic style; the sophisticated delay of acts, the tactile ceremonies and some other special "technical" methods, which made Vera blush to the tip of her ears. She would have long ago struggled away from the gossip of these impudent women if one word they said hadn't drawn her attention."He loves you now because you are young, and you were a virgin, and innocent… All the men are alike… They want naivety… But then he'll leave you and chase more refined women!"Although they seemed obnoxious, the lessons of the two cynical women had an unconscious effect on Vera. That very night Jim noticed surprised, but with a pleasant irritation, that his young wife used some subtle coquetries he wouldn't have believed her capable of. So, for instance, instead of just undressing herself in disorder, as she used to, thinking of hiding as quickly as possible in bed, she lingered for a few moments in front of the mirror, looking at herself, doing her hair. Then, suddenly, as if a garter was starting to loosen, she raised her dress until above the right thigh, unveiling a page's leg, all the way up. Although Jim was familiar with her entire body, the vision of the shiny column and of the strip of white flesh between the hem of the stocking and the pink margin of the panties, gave him an unknown feeling. A unique leg, only half naked, against the background of the dress linen and leaving in a theoretical perfection the rest to imagination, was much more sensual than total nudity. He stretched his arm to touch it but Vera let her dress go immediately, laughing and with her hands on a shoulder she started to unbutton her blouse. When she was dressed only in a shirt and stockings, as if in a luxurious outfit, Jim felt much more attracted to the shoulders, the neck and the warm cheeks framed by the straight fringe and the embroidery of the shirt. Jim pulled her violently by the waist and wanted to kiss her, she turned her head away, so that Jim's head slipped between the shoulder and the neck, in the scented shadow of the hair. Vera, tickled, drew back her chest and Jim, in order to have her close to him took her in his arms, quickly slipping his hand beneath her thighs. In his arms, Vera, keeping her legs together, tensed, and hanging on Jim's neck, kept cunningly at an irritating distance, which prevented him to fully press his mouth on hers. Jim then threw her on the bed and fought with the athletic opposition of the hands and legs that strained, twisted, covering the kissable parts. This struggling and ironic resistance made Jim so determined that he was forced to turn her face his way by grabbing her by the hair, putting brutally his strong hand between her thighs. Then Vera became livid, relaxed her whole body, lifted a knee and whispered for the first time three terrible, feminine, charmingly expressive words:"Hey, you… I want you…"When, later, Jim wanted to separate himself from their embrace, Vera stopped him, grabbing his hand. She kept her eyes closed. She whispered words of unavoidable grammatical incorrectness, compared to the precision of feeling:"I want a baby from within you!""Why do you always want a baby when I hold you?""I don't know, I just feel like it… then you will be closer to me and will love me more!""Nonsense! I love you anyway."Vera thought a little then said simply:"Jim, but then why do we love each other? It's in the nature of things… Without this, what we're doing is shameful…""Indeed," Jim thought, "Vera's instinct is right! All our restlessness has but one purpose: childbirth, and sexual fulfillment is not complete unless we attain the aim of sexuality. For me, the act became fornication, libido dissociated from its aim. That's why I was so troubled and I wanted a pure woman, my own. My instinct made me look for a pure womb, in which I should place my creative fluids. That's what love is, after all, and in this lies its purity!"Jim took away the shirt from Vera's lean, even womb and put his warm ear on it."Life's whole mystery," he continued to think, "is here, in this womb. There, under the black astrakhan fur of the pubic hair, in the loins, is a small hot goblet, barbarously named uterus, and which is the cradle of mankind, just as the solar nucleus is the cradle of the celestial worlds. There I stood myself, curled, when the world was being made for me, and that's where billions of future generations will come from, like petals from a bloom. I think with childish vanity that I'm satisfying my physiological needs, that I'm proving my ensnaring power over a woman. In fact, the mystery of life pushes both me and this cheeky young lady to make the semen-avid uterus bear fruit. If there weren't but us on this Earth, its fruit would be nevertheless miraculous. Ten bodies would come out of us, from those ten another hundred, from those hundred, a thousand and so on, in a few thousands of years the Earth would be again swarming with people, all coming from the two of us. Each man is, thus, an Adam, and each woman, an Eve, and the greatest pain is that of fornicating barrenly, which is called prostitution, and the greatest voluptuousness is that of thinking of childbirth in the act of making love.""You're right, my Vera!" Jim said, kissing her belly-button and caressing her womb. "I also want that a child move in your little uterus!""Come here!" Vera whispered, stretching her hand towards him with daring innocence.And, like a wild animal, thrilled by the exciting rustling of the herbs, Jim held Vera again and did what, from countless millennia on, a man and a woman do in order to bear children. As he confessed in his own History of Romanian Literature, George Călinescu (1899-1965) regarded The Wedding Book (published in 1933) as a recreational intro to a later, major narrative work; other critics took it seriously and wrote: "The evocation of sexual intercourse in its generative element does not lack in mystical accents and amplitude," (E. Lovinescu), or, underlining an essentially lyrical contrast, "On the one side, the asexual old women from the 'moth house', on the other, symmetrically, Jim, Vera and Bobby, youths with a Pan-like joy of living." (P. Constantinescu)

by George Călinescu (1899-1965)