Maintaining sexual favours from Natasha "Sex-Pot" Sorensen implied not disagreeing with her. Her husband, Harvey, never argued. Like all intelligent people, he didn't believe in anything: he knew or he didn't, metaphysical unknowns not affecting him. He only felt strongly about Natasha. Appeasing her vast ego excited him. He would place a hand upon those ovular flesh balls beneath her smooth back and say things like: "You put that jerk right in his place. You put us all right in our places."
That happened in Paris. She had said in a restaurant that night: "The family should make the decision in terminal illness cases."
"Are you kidding?" a man said. "My family'd pull the plugs to get my money the first chance they got."
"In your case that'd be humane and understandable," she had said.
The man didn't want to ruin his holiday because of silly arguments, so he kept quiet. Natasha interpreted silence as defeat, "Harvey's hands of reaffirmation" reinforcing "victory."
Tall Natasha, with long, honey-coloured hair, resembled a human viola. Her symetrical lips curved like musical clefts.
In their hotel room that night Harvey's "paliating palm" pressed a perfect posterior. He stood at right angles to her, saying: "You're so strong," his erection pressed between his naked stomach and the circular projection of her right hip.
"I'd do anything for you," he said, with slow, great conviction. "Anything," he whispered, like a wind of loyalty to a superior force.
"That's my Harvey," she said, smiling.
The viola clutched his instrument.
"You're mine," she said.
"Absolutely," he replied.
"I'm going to screw you slowly and dominantly and then tomorrow morning you're coming with me to the Louvre."
Natasha had only ever been treated with the utmost delicacy by men. The restaurant incident had been the only time Harvey could recall a man disagreeing with her; and look what happened to him.
Beauty raised such furious hopes that few men wanted to upset Natasha just in case a miracle of mutual attraction occurred; and they avoided damaging accusations of being prickly and small-minded. There was more chance of men being accused of immaturity so they preferred peace before her bulldozing righteousness, this giving Natasha the ultimate word on all themes. Lack of opposition gave her the false perception that she had thought things through. If she heard something she disagreed with, or she couldn't understand, either because of its imaginative flair or because of its intellectual content, she would say: "He's crazy."
Easy labels covered mental poverty. And because hardly any man would question her assessments, her facile pronouncements gained the iron forging of veracity. The convenient idea that lack of opposition implied accuracy was the catalyst that fused beauty with attention to inflate her already inflated ego—that sizzling vat of self-adoration.
Harvey was the principle catalyst and he was delighted. Being unconditionally adoring gave him what he wanted. No man, he thought, could have got so much with so little effort doing what comes so naturally.
What else was there to get excited about if he could have her? Just by agreeing with her and telling her how wonderful she was, she gave him infinite pleasure. He marveled at her appreciative face every time he said "You can dominate me anytime you feel like it. And neither of us should have any doubts about that."
His flattery rocketed them both into sensual ecstasy.
Harvey and Natasha entered the Louvre. The only art gallery that Natasha had ever been to before had been the National Gallery in London where she had been horrified by "all that religious stuff." She preferred "realistic" art.
Harvey was amazed by Delacroix's The Battle of Taillebourg that seemed to make a wild clamour of noise. He imagined shouting and the clashing of arms and yelping and wincing. Men scaling a steep riverbank were clashing with a defending force, two forces in a mass of indistinguishable factions, white, brown, red and white equally distributed throughout the combatants' clothes, emphasizing that blending of forces, horses facing death, men in constant movement, figures blurred to emphasize frenetic displacement, a sword, lying by itself in the only part of the foreground that was free of people, reiterating that someone had died, death's solitary nature represented by that stiff, stationary, inflexible metal, silent metal surrounded by battling men beside a stone, Romanesque bridge from which men and horses were tumbling amid savage drama at the Charente River in 1242.
A man stood beside Natasha as she told Harvey: "I prefer paintings where the images are clear. I don't like that blurred effect."
Natasha, concerned by surfaces, believed her first impressions were kernels of precision. The intensity of the imperious implacability of those impressions could confuse her into believing that she had encountered truth. All her beautiful dresses, jewelry, and handbags reflected aesthetics without depth. She studied things whose surfaces offered no substance, her "love of beautiful things" leading to little time being spent in museums and galleries. She admired things that magnified her ego, not things that magnified deeper perception.
"That blurred effect," the man beside her said, "captures the chaos and confusion of close-quarter combat. Under those conditions, everyone is equal as this painting shows."
"Yes," Harvey said, impressed, nodding in spontaneous recognition of a sublime perception.
He couldn't remember ever having been so struck by an unexpected revelation. Genius forces us to face the truth.
"Well, that's just your opinion," Natasha snapped, her intransigent certainty suggesting that it never occurred to her to contemplate who that man beside her might have been; he might have been an acclaimed authority on Delacroix for all she knew. But freedom from humility doesn't permit such lateral considerations.
"I suspect," the man replied, "that it's also the opinion of this gallery's trustees and no doubt was the opinion of the painter himself. His other works reflect his capability to create clear images. He had a purpose here."
Electrified displeasure flooded into Natasha's eyes as the man returned to the Mona Lisa, that figure of thoughtful grace and consideration.
"Crazy bastard," Natasha said, her standard defense.
The "crazy bastard" had spoken because he didn't like how Natasha had dismissed the experience of those fighting figures that Delacroix had brilliantly created, dismissed because it was an experience she had clearly never had. She unconsciously suggested that no experience had value unless she had had it.
The man who had appeared beside her, like an omen of insidious reality, had been in Vukovar when Milosevic's tanks got stuck in Croatia's November mud. That man had seen civilized youth, frightened into uncontrollable shaking, dragged out of cosy Belgrade cafés, trembling before a courageous defense of a once gorgeous city. House by house. Street by street. Inch by inch, the noise so loud that individual explosions in the constant rocket and artillery bombardments were often soundless. Those figures were blurred all right, caught in sharp focussing amid the swirly edges caused by pumping adrenalin.
Natasha wasn't happy with Harvey. Stumped into speechlessness by a rare experience of profundity, Harvey hadn't rushed to her defense, undeniable that the man had had a point; but so what? Everyone has their aesthetic sensibilities. It wasn't only the incomparable sensual pleasure that Natasha offered that stimulated Harvey's lust for submissiveness; they also made each other laugh hysterically. Sitting in cafés and commenting on passers-by was one of the devices they used to entertain each other. Together like that they fitted perfectly.
In the hotel, he caressed impeccable roundness, saying: "Sorry, darling. I should have backed you immediately by pointing out that everyone has a right to their own reactions."
"Thank you, sweetheart," she replied.
"It won't happen again," Harvey said. "It was a stupid mistake."
He adored confessing, stimulating her "forgiveness," exhibiting his worshipping need for her thrilling, lascivious domination. Objective veracity was puerile in comparison to satisfying his wishes, Natasha like a religious figure above truth.
"Your forgiveness," he said, astonishment hushing his whispering voice, "is unlimited."
Glowing, as if she had been polished by the hand of reaffirmation, she gave him a long, smooth, tingling kiss and all was well.
Kim Farleigh has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq and Palestine. He takes risks to get the experience required for writing. He likes fine wine, art, photography and bullfighting, which probably explains why this Australian lives in Madrid. 111 of his stories have been accepted by 73 different magazines.