XY: Drop of champagne for your thoughts, XX?
XX: Well, I was just thinking … why is it that sometimes, lying here next to you, even after all we’ve done—why is it I still feel ravenous?
XY: I’ll try not to take it personally.
XX: Don’t be silly, darling. To be satisfied means to want more, the growl that softens to a purr and builds again. Do you remember when we read Anaïs Nin’s Henry and June at the same time—sent each other letters with passages from her diaries?
XX: ‘When I seem to be overflowing and calling for all the sensual pleasures obtainable, do I mean it?’ She questions whether she would pursue those longings, taste everything, be overcome. I adore that she does, because this is what I have tried to do, and you too, I think … no, I know so. It’s in the way your fingers move on my skin, your eyes drink in what I say, looking at my lips and eyes, beyond them, into me. As if to possess flesh and words is not enough. Sometimes I think you’re searching for the essence of me, the very meaning of desire, when your lips move down my body and into my warm depths. And when I taste what you taste, I imagine that we are Henry and Anaïs, so overwhelmed by each other that almost nothing else should need to exist.
XY: Funny you should bring that up: in fact I was reading (or re-reading, pace Nabokov) that very book before you arrived. I came across a passage—no unseemly puns, darling, please—which I love. Let me see if I can find it … ah yes, here it is:
‘I might be down in the dumps a hundred times, but each time I would clamber out again to good coffee on a lacquered tray beside an open fire. Each time I would clamber out to silk stockings and perfume. Luxury is not a necessity to me, but beautiful and good things are.’
It is Anaïs speaking, of course. Comfort and discomfort, the tension between them, the pendulum swing back and forth: neither too sickly sweet or sensuous on one hand, nor too rough or strange on the other. You could say that the success of all good erotic literature depends on this balance, this venturing out and returning.
XX: Your ability to dive right into a passage is incredibly arousing, XY. Like Anaïs’s attraction to Henry, I love a man who is passionate about words. Isn’t it funny how she adores luxury and artifice, but is so wild about Henry, who is the opposite? He is almost animal, raw and rough—but he brings it out in her, the desires that she knew she had but never acted on. Comfort and discomfort—Anaïs is torn by her hunger, is she not? Henry, not just the animal, but a fellow writer, which satisfies her creative side; June—his wife—whose fickle temperament means she can never be possessed; Hugo, her husband, who represents the sensuality of safety; Eduardo, her cousin and sexual confidante; and Allendy, her therapist, whom she feels she must seduce and conquer. They are not one mass of lust, but each a different aspect of it, showing the impossibility of wanting different parts of many people, the complexity of wondering if we can ever be happy with one. She’s so astute in that way—even if they are frustrating, to be able to understand one’s separate desires is the way towards fulfilling them completely.
XY: I quite agree. Now I’m thinking of the film version by Philip Kaufman—when I read about Anaïs and June, I can’t get the image of Uma Thurman and Maria de Medeiros (that Portuguese beauty from Pulp Fiction) out of my head. There is something so beautiful and tender about two women kissing … I think it will always leave the man who watches it feeling slightly coarse and foolish. It is just so different when a man is involved.
XX: The thrill I have when I read about Anaïs’ possessive feelings for June—I remember how I’ve felt about some of the women in my life. Loving a woman is different to me, the lust strangely more intimate, almost more consuming …
XY: … but not quite? Then there is hope! Seriously though, XX, you and I are completely in agreement about one thing: that the secret of life is most likely to be found in seeking and learning from such experiences.
XX: Yes—now enough, XY. What I need this instant is for you to quote me the passage where Henry lays Anaïs out on the table. Will you do that?
XY: Just let me find it, darling …
Image: Tomoé Hill