AUGUST 3, Amsterdam:

Suzanna Schlemm

Last night, I read you the introduction to ‘Against the Grain’.

We laughed at the protagonist, des Esseintes, who wished to flee the banality of daily existence. I paced back and forth in the cabin.

I raised my voice in mock indignation at his recognition that “the world is, to a large extent, filled with rascals and imbeciles.”


Long before sunrise, I woke and sensed your heat next to me.

My hand found your chest and descended to your groin. I gently stroked you and caressed your testicles, and you rose in reply.

I’m not sure if you were awake, and I didn’t open my eyes or speak. I just turned my back and guided you into me.


You wanted to show me the car, but in this city of bikes, boats and trams, I just couldn’t get excited about gasoline propulsion.

I wanted to move at a human speed.

We got up and walked past the impossibly slender houses of the Prinsenracht then right on the Spiegelgracht to the Van Gogh Museum.

Inside, we lingered in front of ‘The Courtesan’.

This woman, framed in gold with a backdrop of bamboo and water lilies, wrapped in 7 layers of kimono, was a confection.

We pointed at the little things: the grouchy frog below her, the whirlwinds of color on her kimono, the way it draped.

“More than anything,” you said, “I love her bare feet.”

She glanced back at us both like some inscrutable Marilyn Monroe from another era, another world.


Later, we wandered in the Vondal Park and talked about the future, meaning tomorrow and the day after.

I told you I had a place to stay in Paris.

You asked, “How about I give you a ride?”


Hunger drove us into a dark restaurant where we shared a dish of maatjesharing and potatoes.

You had never eaten herring, and since you fed me yesterday, I insisted that I serve you the first bite…with your eyes closed.

You closed your eyes and grunted as the cool, salty tenderness of the fish mixed with the earthy heat of the potatoes.

“You look like you’re about to come,” I teased. But your face reminded me of my first sexual memory.

I told you about how, when I was 9 or 10, my parents brought me to an exposition of Japanese wood block prints from the 19th century.

The show included a series of erotic images–Shunga–fully clothed couples in carnal embrace.

Women with eyes closed, brows pinched, toes curled, mouths clenched in rictuses of ecstasy.

All the genitalia was of impossible proportions—men’s penises, stout like tree limbs; women’s vulva’s, cavernous pelted grottos.

Excitement and fear boiled in my stomach for what I would become.

You asked, “So have you ever seen a penis that large in real life?”

And me, smiling, “No, but with you, I find my sexual appetite is super-sized.”

Men appreciate compliments.


After, we headed back to the barge for a jet lag nap. Say that five times fast.

On the way, you ordered, “wait here” and slipped into a pharmacy.

I sat on a bench and watched you through the shop window pantomiming a request. A few minutes later, you reemerged with a bag.

We descended into the barge’s cabin, and you closed the blinds, leaving us in a half-light.

You pulled me toward you and kissed me hard. “I bought a make-up mirror,” you whispered. “It magnifies.”

Then it was a fury of unwrapping.

Kicking out of boots, struggling out of pants, ripping the mirror out of its packaging, bits of cardboard and plastic littering the floor.

You pulled me on top of you and guided my head next to yours so that we were cheek-to-cheek.

You brought my leg up so it revealed the mirror perfectly trained on our sexes, touching, caressing.

“Pay attention,” you murmured, “I’m about to make your toes curl.”

Then we watched.

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