I'm touring the Louvre.

I have a three day lay-over in Paris, and since it's raining, I thought I would walk through the ground floor of the Louvre, in the rooms devoted to the Middle Ages. Statues of the saints mixed with thoughts of knights and ladies and heavy swords. I had a fascination for this at a young age, and I still have it. I find it restful to lose my soul in the imagined customs of a thousand years ago.

In a room in the Pavillon des etats, I see a tall woman standing before a cathedral sculpture of a martyr, the saint protected by a red velvet rope. Don't touch, the rope says. She's quite tall, this woman, thin, elegant looking, maybe fifty years old. She's dressed in black, with a small white pearl in each earlobe, a three-stranded pearl necklace; a long black ensemble, black shoes, very thin ankles sheathed in sheer black stockings.

We are alone in the room, no one else, not even a guard.

When she hears my footsteps, she turns and looks at me. What begins as a glance becomes a long look, maybe a hint of surprise in her eyes. Does she think I'm a boy? No, darling, I'm a girl, although I'd like to stick my tongue up your cunt -- as far as possible -- and see how far it will reach. I could reach your liver, if I'm in a decent mood. And when I'm drunk, I can most certainly reach your heart.

Of course nothing happens. I linger in the room, pretending to study another statue, but sneaking an occasional glance at her. At those fine ankles. I wonder which are the ghosts, the stone saints or the two of us, the woman and myself, from the present century. Ghosts looking at ghosts. All these statues with vacant eyes.

She glances at me twice more, each time a second more than necessary, and I'm tempted to think it's with interest. But I've played this game too many times to believe there's anything here to be developed. She looks rich, maybe American. She has straw- colored blonde hair coiffed in a chignon, tied in back with a black ribbon. So elegant looking. I ought to be put away in an asylum for thinking obscene thoughts about a woman like this. Her interest in the Middle Ages must derive from an interest in the Church, which is a passion more than an interest -- look at the black she wears -- a woman passionate in her religion, recently a grandmother, a rich husband with a yacht, two fine sons who will someday improve the family fortune. I imagine she's in Paris to buy clothes and to visit an old school friend who married the French equivalent of her husband.

She leaves the room, and I remain alone with the martyrs.

* * *

The rain has stopped when I come outside, and now I don't know what to do. Should I go to my little hotel and read? Should I pass the afternoon on the bourgeois Right Bank or the neurotic Left Bank? Or I should go to the Pont de Neuf and throw myself into the river to end my indecision. I climb into a taxi and tell the driver to take me to St. Germain. To the Flore. When it rains the Flore is always crowded inside, and one can at least watch the human race at its maneuverings, the eye games, the mouth games, philosophers eyeing the girls in tight jeans who walk by to show the philosophers their tight little asses.

When I enter the Flore, the tobacco smoke is so thick I feel I'm in a fog bank. I see an empty little table, and I'm just about to walk to it, when there, in another direction, at another little table, is the woman from the Louvre.

When our eyes meet, she tilts her head. Recognition, surprise, a faint smile. I walk to her table and say in English:

"The Louvre was more peaceful."

She seems surprised. "You speak English well."

"I practice whenever I can."

She smiles. "Why don't you sit down?"

* * *

She's American, from New York, stopping in Paris a few days after a trip to London to visit her sister. With Americans, you can immediately establish everything important about them in a few minutes. A French woman would amuse herself constructing a mystery. This woman's name is Helene. Do I live in Paris? Yes, I say, but I'm not here often. When she asks about my work and I tell her I'm an airline stewardess, she seems delighted. What an adventurous life! If she only knew how boring it is, how it's not much better than working as a waiter, how the hotels in Cairo have cockroaches, how Bombay smells of rotting garbage, how often I get monstrous headaches on a long flight.

I order a Pernod from the waiter and Helene and I talk about the Louvre. At the moment I don't have any interest in the Louvre or what it contains, only in Helene. The most obscene thoughts whirl in my brain, and now I'm worried that maybe I should consult a psychiatrist and purge myself of these pornographic images. What would Helene say if she knew the images that are passing through my mind. She talks about the Louvre, and all the while I'm thinking about what she has under her dress, my mind imagining, designing, constructing, as if knowing the color of her underwear is absolutely necessary for the continued existence of the cosmos. Does she understand this? There is no hint of anything in her perfect face, a perfect plastic Anglo-Saxon American face, a bit gaunt, but that only adds to the charm. Yes, she must be at least fifty, but I am already infatuated with every square gently aging centimeter of her body. Her breasts appear small, almost nonexistent, but I'm certain the nipples are exquisitely sensitive. I derange myself with my feverish imaginings. I must know more. I ask about her husband. Is he here in Paris?

"Oh, no, I'm travelling alone. My husband is in New York."

"The freedom must be refreshing."

"Yes, it is."

"Sometimes men are in the way."

She exhibits a faint smile. "Do you think so?"

"I'm lesbian."

So there it is. She says nothing. Of course she has known it from the beginning, from the Louvre, and we both know she has known it from the Louvre. I don't work on my appearance for nothing. When I'm in the uniform of a stewardess I suppose it's ambiguous, but now there is no ambiguity, not for anyone with eyes and a smattering of sophistication. Either I look like a lesbian or someone who wants to be taken for a lesbian. Either way, it's enough to provoke the interest -- if the interest is there at all.

We sit for a long time saying nothing to each other, two American women in the Flore, the tobacco smoke hovering. Finally, I say:

"I have a flat, but it's small and uncomfortable."

And after a moment, without changing her expression, she replies: "All right, let's go to my hotel."

* * *

She has a room at the George V, pink draperies and pink furniture, and while I look out the window in the direction of the Champs-Elysees, she orders champagne. I remove my leather jacket and drape it over the back of a Louis XIV imitation chair. All this pink, it makes my eyes water. Who could invent a more suitable place for a lesbian fuck than a pink room? And yet it's a bit nauseating, like a dose of too much sugar that gets into the stomach and makes you swear you will never eat anything sweet again. But I'm not swearing, not just yet.

After the champagne arrives, we drink a toast.

"To the Louvre," I say.

She smiles. "Yes, to the Louvre."

I feel the obligation to make the first move. I put my glass down, make her put her glass down, and I take her in my arms and kiss her lips. What does she want? She wants a girl who looks like a boy, and so I kiss her like a boy. We're exactly the same height and the kissing is easy. Her scent makes my head swim, my heart pound, my blood heat up as though it were being boiled. The pressure of her slender body against my own brings me to the edge of fainting with arousal. My brain feels awash in a hot desire, a limitless wanting, wanting. I want her. I want to ask her what she likes in bed, but I can't imagine a woman like this one talking about such things. She's one of those women who do not talk. She feels, cries, laughs, trembles, but she doesn't talk. To make a woman like this one talk you need sodium pentothal. And I'm not certain even that would work -- maybe she would merely mumble in a private language.

I touch her. I put my hand on her breast, lightly caressing her. She has small soft breasts. As I kiss the side of her neck, I drop my hand down to her belly and I rub it slowly, carefully. She remains passive, not moving. Then I press my fingers further down and feel the mound through her clothes. She moves her legs apart, just barely, but it's a sign of acceptance, and now I cup her mound, feeling its warmth, while I drop the other hand along her back and down to her buttocks. Her firm little elegant ass. Everything here is elegant. I have the impression that if I make a sudden movement she will shatter into a thousand elegant fragments and disappear.

Silently, I urge her to the bed. She moves, dropping to the bed, almost a collapse, lying partly on her side and not looking at me. Maybe she's never done this before -- for the first time, the thought suddenly occurs to me that maybe she has never before been with a woman. Maybe she's one of those women who travel to foreign countries to do things they find impossible to do at home. At this point I don't care, all I want is to fuck her.

"Is this your first time?"


That's that. So I get on with it. Should I remove her clothes or merely uncover the essentials? My instinct tells me to uncover the essentials first, if she wants to be undressed it can happen later. As she lies on the bed with her legs dangling over the edge, I bend over her and tug at her dress to uncover her thighs. All black. Black dress, black pantyhose, black shoes. Even uncovering the essentials requires a military campaign, strategy, logistics, tactics. The shoes, the tights, the delicate nylon panties (black, of course).

She has good legs and thighs for a woman her age, firm and shapely, smooth white skin that never sees the sun, not a wrinkle anywhere. Her sex is as elegant as the rest of her, sparse dark blonde hairs around the lips, hardly a forest above that, more like a thin patch on the triangle between her bony hips. She lies with her black dress pulled back on her belly and her legs still dangling, and without any further delay I kneel at the side of the bed and open her legs and start kissing the insides of her thighs.

She sighs and she moves her thighs further apart. She wants it. I can smell her now. My sensitive nose is aware of the delicate scent of her cunt. The lips have parted a bit, and the glint of wetness between them is a good omen. She may lie there like a silent martyrized virgin, but her cunt is talking, making long speeches. I lean forward and nuzzle it, touch it with my nose, the first touch, a greeting, like one dog greeting another. I'm a dog, a sniffing mongrel bitch exploring this little world of soft folds and hair and wetness. I find her clitoris with my nose and rub the tip of my nose across it from side to side. This brings an immediate response from her, another sigh, something that sounds like a moan, at least a vague sound in her throat, and she lifts her knees and opens them, spreads them in a rather obscene way as if to tell me to do more, do everything, take her cunt completely.

I lick everywhere around her clitoris, but never touching it, teasing her, deliberately attempting to drive her crazy. I slide a hand upward, along her body to find a breast, a nipple, my fingers rubbing the nipple through her clothes. Suddenly I become voracious, my tongue, my mouth devouring her flesh, all the wetness sucked inside, my lips now rubbing directly over her clitoris, first my lips and then my nose, faster and faster, as she moans, as she rocks her knees from side to side. When she comes, she heaves her buttocks off the bed to slap her cunt against my face. I suck hard, my face buried between her thighs, in the boiling surf. She comes down. I keep at it. I push her up to a second orgasm, and this time when she cries out it's a deep groan, a groan from the depths of her soul, her eyes rolled back like the eyes of a medieval nun in a religious ecstasy.

It's finished. I pull away. I know she expects me to fuck her now, get my fingers in her and make her have another orgasm, but I've suddenly had enough.

When I come out of the bathroom, my face is dry, my hair brushed, my equilibrium restored. She lies on the bed like a vanquished virgin, as if she hasn't moved, except that her dress has been pulled down to her knees to restore her modesty.

"I'm leaving," I say.

She opens her eyes. She says nothing. She just looks at me, a long steady look. She talks with her eyes, the way a few minutes ago she talked with her cunt.

"Take my card," she says at last. "There's one on the dressing table."

I find the card. Mrs. Helene Huntington, an address on East 67th Street in Manhattan. "Have a good flight home," I say, and I walk out.

In the corridor in the George V, outside the elevator, I fold the card and stuff it into the ashtray used for cigarettes and cigars.


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