Boire sans soif et faire l'amour en tout temps, madame; il n'y a que ça qui nous distingue des autres bêtes.
Drinking when we're not thirsty and making love all year round, ma'am; nothing else distinguishes us from other animals.
Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais, Le Mariage de Figaro, 1785
"Honey," asked Sebastian even before Annie was settled, "Are we having fun yet?"
He was sitting with his back to the window, so the indirect north light framed his features and drove his expression back into the darkness of his skin. Annie had to squint as she looked at him, and that was conveniently bad for her skin, so she looked off to the infinite distance over his shoulder.
"That takes coffee," she parried. "It hasn't kicked in yet."
"I can think of other things," he murmured suggestively.
"How is your sex life, anyway?" she asked, partly out of genuine interest, well, curiosity, well, nosiness; to some extent as her share of a balanced conversation between friends; and more than anything because she wanted to avoid discussing what she had asked him to meet her to talk about, namely herself. One's most fascinating topic, of course, is always oneself, but at certain times one only wants to discuss oneself superficially. The trouble with friends is they may not let you get away with it. You can't always get what you want ... but you know sometimes you just might find ... you get what you need [cue the London Bach choir with Charlie, Bill and Keef shooing them along].
In the past ten days, Annie had been to work six times; had been to sleep eleven times if you count a nap on one of her days off; had eaten ten lunch-time yogurts, eight hot dinners, one hurried avocado-and-everything sandwich, and one huge bowl of popcorn-and-wheatgerm, not to mention miscellaneous beverages filled with carbohydrates simple, complex and (in the case of one can from a machine) downright confused; had been jogging four times and for one long walk; had seen a mediocre movie and decided (wrongly but orthodoxy insists that she was entitled to her opinion) that the Dead had forgotten how to sing; had passively attended another political meeting and actively avoided discussing the details of it with Brendan; had lost two pounds and found them again; and finally had gotten smart enough to call up Sebastian for a session of his estimable kaffeeklatsch therapy.
"Remember that hunk we saw here last time?" he began.
"Honey, you better believe it."
"Willie's twenty-one and not at all innocent." He paused to let the beginning of a smirk roll slowly across his upper lip. "He just looks that way."
"You picked him up here?"
"Right after you left. I have to admit, he helped. I don't think he had to let his pencil roll off the table just as I was heading to the bathroom. Of course, a girl doesn't ask."
Annie laughed. She was as close to expressing a direct emotion as she had let herself be in days. Felt good.
"And you took him straight home?" she asked, incredulous. Sebastian always boasted of being a hedonist but somehow she had never been completely clear on the details. Completely anonymous instant bathhouse fucking was something she had learned about from him, occasionally in scabrous and sometimes hilarious detail, and they had shared tales of Chablis-and-roses romancing, which they both enjoyed, but the direct yet individual approach was something in between. How was it done? she wondered. "Did you ask his name first?"
"Of course," he cooed, giggling gently. "He's sweet. Actually, if you really want to know..."
"... he had a study group to go to so we arranged to meet for a drink later on. Three or four, in fact. Brandy Alexanders..."
"Yuck, milkshakes, how tacky," she complained. "Like a date at DQ with a cheerleader. Did he have a big letter on his sweatshirt?"
"... and then we went home," he continued over her. "Oh, be quiet."
"So you did seduce him."
"I did not," he insisted. "It was more like foreplay. He asked me if I was doing anything later." He paused for reflection and added judiciously, " 'Course I asked him what he was doing for dinner, and that's where the study group deal came up. What's it to you anyway, you never picked up a guy?"
"Never," she insisted.
"Darling, your nose just grew another inch."
"Well, it's been awhile," she grinned. "And I always knew their names."
"Oooh, touché, I hope."
"Almost always, anyway." She drifted away. "There was a guy ... but that was in Goa, which doesn't count. What was his name anyway? I can't remember."
"See? Does it matter? Maybe you never knew."
"Oh, of course I did. I always believed in relationships, it's just that, well, they turned over faster back then."
"Oh, right," he scoffed. "We will serve no fuck before its time."
"No, really," she persevered. "I bet there was more anonymous screwing on Saturday night after the bars closed in Merced than there was in the Haight."
"Yeah, all those cowboys and cowgirls getting loaded and getting laid, they didn't know who they were, let alone who they were out in the pickup with."
"With the rifle in the back window."
"Absolutely. Phallic, you bet."
"Darling," laughed Sebastian, "I didn't know guns turned you on."
"Nuh-uh," she chortled, "Not me. No way. I always figured it was some kind of transference. You know, big gun, little prick."
"You white folks maybe. Us black studs got big barrels, baby."
"Oh, donnez-moi un break."
"You don't like me as a Panther, darling?"
"Small pee maybe. Oh, God. Don't make me laugh."
He giggled in turn and playfully bounced the conversation back to her.
"You ever do it in a pick-up?"
"I never even turned it down in a truck. I wasn't too popular in high school, specially with the kind of guys who had pick-ups."
"Yeah. College was better though."
"Oh, college is always better."
"Speaking of which, are you going to see your student again?"
"Eight o'clock, honey."
"Oh, my. Are we having fun yet?"
"Sho' nuff, sugar babe."
"Mm-mm, cut out the Superspade shtick, it doesn't work."
"Not for you, honey."
She laughed again. Damn, but he was good for her.