One lost Saturday night, around the last rays of the summer that never was, Yoshimi and William-James, one of the finer couples in their little town of exiles, invited Morrison to one of their celebrated dinners. Morrison was elated because he had secretly coveted an invitation. Yo and Dub-Jay, as they were commonly known, were renowned for their provocative sense of the transcendent-erotic, and the ways that they were able to incite it. Sometimes the soirees were complex and choreographed. Others were more direct. Tonight they had organized the Sensualist version of spin-the-bottle, where sensuality was favored over all else. Morrison had received a Tarot card as invitation. It was the symbol for ripeness.
Morrison pulled up in front of a comfortably secluded redwood house just before seven, a good hour before sunset. The house was nestled in the woods but was open to the west and from the deck lay stunning views of the rolling hills in the valley below. The deck was shaded by an arbor of Cabernets grapes. Dub-Jay greeted Morrison at the door and first thing, took his cell phone away. “Any other electronics? You won’t need them and you won’t want them,” he said. Morrison, smiling, shook his head. Anyone with any sense would confiscate their guests’ electronics at the door, he thought.
On the deck, perhaps a dozen people were moving to the beat of Hooker’s driving, sensual blues – but no one was talking. People smiled in greeting as Morrison approached but that was all. Tonight’s theme was “silence and what we find there,” so speech was not allowed from the minute one arrived. They would be left to communicate with their eyes, with their expressions, with their other senses. So Morrison wouldn’t be able to identify the other guests except by their direct presence. Status, occupation, history, opinions, remained unknown and unsolicited. Instead they enjoyed dancing, some fine cannabis, some casual massage, followed by a short, focused meditation.
As the sun set, Dub-Jay lit a series of candles. Yo rang her gong. It was time for dinner. Everyone remained silent, focusing on the breath and the body’s rising energy. Tonight Yoshimi primed them with oysters, lobster, crab, and sashimi, washed down with some delicious Cabernets and dry sakes. Yo concluded the meal with three beats of the gong. Dub-Jay passed among them and they drew cards. Morrison held the Jack of Hearts, the high card. Yo nodded towards a door at the end of the corridor.
Morrison went into the bedroom. The heavy drapes were closed. When he shut the oak door it was pitch black in the room and lines of reddish orange flashed on his retina. H took off his clothes and lay back on the bed and breathed deeply. He felt his body relax. He looked forward with growing excitement and curiosity to the person who would come through that door and meet him by touch in this darkened room.
The thought made Morrison’s breathing shallow and he tried to let go of any kind of preference as to whom that person might be. He had some hopes, he had to admit, because his hosts were excellent at pairing up strangers, and recently they’d been inciting him with talk of a young friend of theirs, an artist from the Old Continent, whom he believed to be in attendance. But Morrison let go of those kinds of thoughts before they unbalanced him into desire and disappointment. Instead he thought about the whacked out discussions they’d had these past months on how to flow with desire so as not to drown in it, “the zen of it all,” Yoshimi liked to say. Those discussions were coming in handy now as Morrison was able to slide away from mind and into the sensuality of feeling.
A couple of minutes of this meditation and his body began to buzz, and that buzz was erotic. That’s when the door opened and someone came in. They shut the door and just stood there for a minute, both of them in the pitch dark. Then Morrison heard them inhale and he realized they were sniffing for his scent. He grinned in the dark, got off the bed, and moved slowly towards the breathing. He didn’t know if he’d find skin like cool marble, soft kinky hair like plumage, lips like – for that matter he didn’t yet know what gender he would encounter. The uncertainty was excruciatingly pleasurable. Morrison was on a hair-trigger, and sure that the slightest touch would set him off.
When Morrison felt her soft curves and smelled her hair and her hands ran down his back, a spark jumped between their foreheads and suddenly he had a crystal clear image of her sleekness burned into his head. It stayed there bright as ever as she shoved a fig into his mouth and then the fig stuck a tongue down his throat and he was blinded by all the stars flashing in his head in that dark room like Lucy in the sky with fucking diamonds and some people were moaning with pleasure and things were falling off of shelves and they were tangled up in some fabric on the floor and someone was weeping ecstatically and it might have been Morrison because next thing he knew he was laughing so hysterically he couldn’t breathe and she was laughing too and when he got control of himself her laughter would set him off again. Eventually everything settled down to a slow rhythm, like a sheet floating onto a bed, and he lay there listening to her heart beating and to her increasingly deep, smooth, breath of sleep. They slept for a night and a day and then back into night.
When Morrison woke up he was alone. On the pillow was a note.
Gone up in smoke.
Where do our ashes go
when blown by chance?
See you there.
The curtains were open. Morrison gazed out the window. He’d dreamed her name and her mythology, her form and her absence. In the night sky he set out to trace her constellation back to where they’d started, to where she might be, to the place where she’d taken his breath away.
Michael Grotsky currently lives in Montreal where he is completing his first collection of short stories, Spinning the Sensualist, which will appear in 2020. He has written fiction and non-fiction for various literary reviews, including the Berkeley Fiction Review and the Berkeley Poetry Review.