I was 44. She was 18. I was her professor. She was my undoing. She was a flirt. I was a letch. She was smart and sassy. I was pompous and sardonic. She loved to tease me with her sex appeal. I loved being teased, but felt like she brought me to my knees and knew it. She was unrelenting. I was unrepentant. She was the young spark that reignited the flame hidden deep beneath my gray ashes. It was a match made in hell and I yearned for the tongues of fire licking my loins. I had been in purgatory for so long that it was either commit to my sins or admit that I had copped out on life. I chose to sin bravely. But not just yet.
It would be another six years before my defenses melted. Six years of excruciating distance and proximity that would prove both a delight and debilitating distraction. She would write me suggestive, alluring, and blithely innocent emails. I would respond with allusions and innuendo.
Back when she was still my student, I was teaching Emily Dickinson and she wrote her final essay on the poem, “The Angle of a Landscape.” The poem reads:
The Angle of a Landscape —
That every time I wake —
Between my Curtain and the Wall
Upon an ample Crack —
Like a Venetian — waiting —
Accosts my open eye —
Is just a Bough of Apples —
Held slanting, in the Sky —
The Pattern of a Chimney —
The Forehead of a Hill —
Sometimes — a Vane’s Forefinger —
But that’s — Occasional —
The Seasons — shift — my Picture —
Upon my Emerald Bough,
I wake — to find no — Emeralds —
Then — Diamonds — which the Snow
From Polar Caskets — fetched me —
The Chimney — and the Hill —
And just the Steeple’s finger —
These — never stir at all —
Her entire essay focused on the latent sexual content of the work. Her exegesis was explicit. It read like wordporn. The “ample crack” was Dickinson’s pussy lusting for the “Vane’s Forefinger,” or the “Steeple’s finger.” The Bough of Apples recalled Eve’s biting into the apple, the first sin that aroused sexual desire. The chimney. . . well, you get the idea.
When I asked to speak with Ms. Down about it, she said very directly, “If Emily Dickinson had just gotten some action, the world would be bereft of some beautiful poetry, but she may have been much happier for it.”
“Are we speaking of Emily Dickinson, or were you, perhaps, projecting?” I suggested heavy-handed.
“I don’t need to write to achieve sexual satisfaction.”
“There you and I differ,” I said under my breath, adding, “It seems to me that this essay may have fulfilled a certain need of yours.” I was referring to her need to be noticed by me sexually.
“Yeah, getting an ‘A’ for the course,” she said bluntly. “It’s good and you know it. Freudian, Structuralist, with a dash of de Beauvoir. Did you request I come to your office in order to tell me how good it is, or to inquire about my sexual proclivities?”
I changed the subject, pointing out to her a typo. “Ms. Down, you misspelled the poet’s name.”
“No I didn’t,” she said belligerently. “I added a ‘g’ to it. It’s called poetic license. This essay is a ‘Dick In Song.’”
On yet another occasion, I had distributed a questionnaire to the class — a survey that the administration had created and instructed us professors to have our students answer. When I collected them all at the end, I noticed something different on only one of the anonymously written responses. The first three questions read: Age, Sex, Location. One of the students — and I could easily guess who — wrote: old enough, never enough, I’ll fuck anywhere.
After she graduated, we would occasionally meet and she instinctually knew all my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. She exploited them like a master chess player prolonging the ultimate denouement.
Once we met for a walk along the shore. She wore cutoff denim shorts, a button-down red and white gingham blouse that she tied up like a bikini top and had her dark hair in pig-tails. She was, without doubt, the spitting image of Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. This was too coordinated to be coincidence. It was not Halloween.
I remarked about the striking similarity and she said, “I like Mary Ann much more than Ginger, don’t you?”
“Doesn’t everybody?” I asked rhetorically.
“I mean, she’s more of a secret slut and that’s what makes her so appealing,” she added as if musing to herself.
“I can’t disagree with you there.”
“But I was always attracted to the Professor,” she said, biting her lip while just thinking about him. “I’d love to see him without that straight-laced Oxford blue shirt and khakis.”
It just so happened that I was wearing a similar shirt and khakis. What two stereotypes we made!
“You’ve thought about this a lot,” I remarked.
“I’m irrationally attracted to intelligence. I’m a deviant in disguise,” she said, “just like Mary Ann.”
“I bet you are.” Little did I know then just how deviant.
Another time she invited me over to see her new apartment. She was sharing a house with six people, all recently graduated from college. Her “bedroom,” if you can call it that, was meant to be a study or, perhaps a walk-in closet for the wealthy person who built the old Victorian home. As a result, it had no closet and it was the room through which the rest of the house had to traverse in order to get to the wrap-around porch.
I walked into her room with great trepidation and I saw strewn around the closetless space her panties, bras, and dildos of various sizes on some bookshelves, next to which were some of the classics of literature and a true classic Underwood typewriter.
“Ms. Down, you fancy yourself a writer?” I asked looking at the magnificent machine.
“Oh no,” she said, displaying some rare humility. “I just like old things. A bit of nostalgia.”
Quick to correct, I said, “You can’t have nostalgia for an era in which you did not live.”
“I have an old soul,” she said, followed by, “encased in a young body.”
“Our bodies are insufficient containers of our desires,” I said, quoting something I read once, “but yours seems to contain all my desires.” Did I say that, or just think it?! I wasn’t sure anymore. I grumbled and made a banal comment. “You must get absolutely no privacy in here!”
“It’s true,” she said, “people walk through here all the time to get to the porch. Luckily, I’m a bit of an exhibitionist, so I don’t mind, especially when I’m having sex with my boyfriend or someone else or sex just with myself.”
I pretended not to hear her comment.
We walked onto the deck and I just wanted to hold her tightly in my arms, but instead I blurted out, “It’s big. Really big, and wide!”
“Yeah, I always liked a big deck,” she said, looking to see if I heard what she thought I’d hear.
“Yes, er, well,” I stumbled and took a seat overlooking the street below.
I can only surmise that she found my awkward mix of desire and discomfort to be adorable. Why the hell else would she pursue me for so long?
She sat across from me. Not for the first time that day, I noticed her sexy strappy heels, her short skirt, and the smooth lines and curves from her ankles to her thighs. But now, as I sat across from her, I had a much better view of these nether parts. I tried to focus my attention on her pretty smile and seductive eyes, but perhaps out of embarrassment and feeling like she was penetrating my dirty thoughts, my gaze continually fell to her legs, feet, and toes.
“Oh, wait!” she suddenly exclaimed, startling me out of my salacious dreaming about those parts of her I was soaking in with my eyes. She suddenly got up and dashed into her room. She dove on her bed and was going through a pile books next to it. In that position I could easily see right up her skirt as she searched her stack. “Got it!” she said as she returned triumphant.
It was the book I had published years ago on art.
“What, Ms. Down, are you doing with that?”
“I was hoping you’d sign it,” she said, knowing exactly how to unlock my heart, through feeding my ego.
She was sitting on the edge of her seat, oblivious to the fact that her skirt was now riding up by her hips.
“Do you have a pen?” I asked.
“Oh, right,” she said, as she got up again to rummage through the clutter on her small desk.
She returned and gave it to me. “What would you like me to say?” I asked.
“You’re the man of letters. Say something sweet. . . and smart. . . and sexy,” she said as her tongue ran across her sparkly white teeth.
I wrote: “Dear Ms. Down, This book is all about beauty, but as Emerson observed, no museum replica can compare to the sweet, smart, and sexy wit, charm, and loveliness of an evening with you in the flesh.”
I signed it and returned it to her to read.
She batted her eyelashes and looked up at me. I swear I saw stars in her eyes as she looked upon me adoringly. “Do you really think so?” she asked.
“That no museum piece compares to you? Yes. I do.”
“I’ve always wanted to model naked for an artist, but. . .”
“In my humble opinion as an expert on art and beauty,” I said pompously, “any drawing or painting of you would be merely one dimensional because there is no way an artist could capture the sparkle of your personality.”
“Do you think you could capture me?”
“Um, you mean. . .”
“As in a novel?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“I think that the only way to come close would be to have words accompanying the images. But it would take a very talented writer to do that.”
“I think you’re talented enough to come close,” she said very suggestively.
“I would like to try. . . someday,” I responded. She was mere inches away from me. She had indeed come very close to me. I could almost feel her breathy words as she spoke. “But I am an academic,” I added, “not a novelist. I doubt that I would be able to do you justice.”
“You never know,” she said, “I might just inspire you to do me. . . justice.”
Just at that moment about four or five people came bursting out through the door of her bedroom onto the porch, carrying beer and a bottle of booze and a joint. Lo and I immediately pulled away from the intimate position we were in and the spell was broken.
Later that night, when I was back at home, I received a text from Lo. It read, “I heard once that sex is energy between people. What do you think?”
I said, “Before tonight, I would have laughed at that as New Age crap. But now I know what they’re talking about. Was it good for you?”
“What?” she wrote back.
“Never mind.” I felt embarrassed. Was she playing me for a fool? Was this her way of flirting? Did she want me to be more explicit? I don’t know, but I let it drop, though I played and replayed in my mind the “sex scene” we had shared many times since that night.
[From the blog: mysexlifewithlola.com]