Copernicus before the Inquisition
“It is the character of lust to be impatient.”
– Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
Glowing suddenly, the television screen filled with pixelated light. Kyle relaxed heavily onto the sofa, half reclining, half sitting so that he resembled a Roman aristocrat perched on a couch preparing for dinner. Kyle reached for the beer and supped eagerly at the cold, wet aperture. He didn’t like the taste of beer, didn’t like the obvious expense of it, hated even more being forced to pay exorbitant mark-ups on it in the pubs and clubs. But society said beer was fun; that drinking beer with a takeaway curry or over a game of poker was the done thing. A while back, the BBC had produced a show called Men Behaving Badly,about two men who got as drunk as possible, as often as possible, one themeventuallyending up with his dream girl. The moral of the show seemed to Kyle that if you get as drunk as possible, as often as possible, then you end up as one of life’s winners. Kyle sucked on his beer thoughtfully, and slid his bruised fingers up and down the neck. He unbuttoned his trousers and patted his stomach affectionately.
On the television screen, a BBC news anchorwoman was narrating a story that condemned binge drinking among British youths. A spokesman for some charity came into view suggesting that the price of alcopops should be made exorbitantly high. Then a BBC pundit lamented Britain’s drinking culture and suggested a ban on alcohol in town centres. Kyle slid his hand down his pants and tugged the head of his cock up so that it was visible to him. He grazed his fingertips against the foreskin and worked it slowly back and forth. The anchorwoman was talking but Kyle wasn’t listening, only staring at her professionally caked face and the low cut of her jacket ebbing against the full press of her breasts.
Work could turn a wholesome man into a pervert. The 9-5 grind and the stench of the commuter queues could corrupt a saint. The whole process became so predictable and so soul-destroying that the 9-5 took on the dimension of a prison sentence. Wake up at 6.31 by alarm clock. Allowed ten minutes lying in bed, wishing you could stay there for another three hours and masturbate lazily. Shower. Shave. Pick clothes in a sleep-filled daze. Tube. Face stuck into the arm-pit of an anonymous overweight, bearded and bald male commuter for the duration between Shepherd’s Bush and Holborn. Kyle hadn’t been as intimate in the two years of his relationship with his last girlfriend as he had been with that overweight, bearded and bald male commuter in that space of thirty-seven minutes on the tube. Work corrupted absolutely.
It was work that led Kyle to relax there now, working the head of his cock and murmuring softly, eye-lids flickering open and closed, body bathed with the incandescent affection of his best friend in the world: the television. His aimless masturbating over the anchorwoman became rudely interrupted by the news segment on Helmand province. Vistas of arid plateaus being hit by aerial ordnance did little for Kyle’s sexual appetite. He sucked his beer and flicked the channels. On National Geographic, a physicist was explaining that the Earth orbited the Sun at a rate of approximately 66 000 miles per hour because of the principle of the conservation of angular momentum. Kyle stood up, painfully, like an aged man. He wandered past the Ikea table, where a DVD case entitled Lesbian Vampires Part II and the remains of a two day old Chinese takeaway were proud ornaments. He walked to the dirty window and stared through the misted pane. On the street below, drizzle melted against the pavement. In some unspecific way he found the slick tarmac arousing. Commuters huddled their clothes around their bodies and hurried through the grind. Everything seemed so slow and yet the world was moving at 66 000 miles per hour through space. Kyle looked down at the head of his cock, still stuck up against the elasticated band of his boxer shorts. It was slick with precum. This was what he had been looking forward to whilst in the office, sat in the office chair that knew him so well it had created its own moulded impression of his ass to assist him.
The world was moving at 66 000 miles per hour and Kyle was sitting in his room, jacking off to the anchorwoman on the BBC news. He washed his face in cold water from the bathroom basin and snatched up his coat. It was the most purposeful movement he had made since he had smashed his hand down on the top of his alarm clock at 6.31am this morning, bruising his fingers. His intent as he pressed down the stairs was amorphous, unknowing. But the image in his mind of his funeral procession and his decaying body, nails still growing, skin rotting in his casket as the world continued flying around the sun at 66 000 miles per hour made him sweat.
Kyle walked along the pavement towards Holland Park, feeling the cool breeze as the earth swam in the eternal silence of space. He felt as if he were moving, meaningfully so, for the first time in a long while. He would not fall into his casket without impacting upon this environment; he would not go gently into that good night, pain anaesthetized by hits of beer he didn’t like, heart crushed beneath office emails and departmental production targets. Eschewing pubs, with their giggly cacophony of binge-drinking sociopaths already unknowingly ostracised by the BBC, he found a coffee-shop and ordered a large mocha.
“You want cream?” asked the barista apathetically, staring down at the bright white mug, addressing it in no uncertain terms.
Back behind the counter, Kyle answered for the mug. “Plenty of it. I want you to murder me with cream.”
The barista, a pretty brunette, sporting an East European accent, tired eyes and an unimpressible countenance, paused. The earth is flying through space at 66 000 miles per hour, Kyle thought, holding his hands out to steady himself against the counter. The barista reached tentatively for the giant spray-can that housed the cream.
“Drown it,” Kyle emphasized.
He left the counter with an oversized mug and a huge amount of cream piled up on top of the drink. It had already begun to slide down the sides of the ceramic and onto his fingers. Kyle looked around, seeing a tall, svelte raven-haired twenty-something girl clutching an espresso, sat down, engrossed in a book. Kyle walked over. He gauged his pace at about four miles an hour. He was catching up. Slowly but surely. The book she held was Shakespeare’s Othello, a pretty little hardback edition.
“Who reads Shakespeare for fun?” blurted Kyle. He assumed this was some American on her junior year abroad, desperate to interact with her new environment and probably soon to be eager to impress this dashing, confident Englishman who had ridden so boldly to her rescue.
The beauty looked up. “Fuck off,” she whispered, as politely as possible. True, there was an American accent, but it was not orientated in the manner that he would have liked.
“Othello,” continued Kyle, faking the manner of someone oblivious to the return. “You must be majoring in English Lit.”
“You’re cute,” said the American, not looking up from her tome, “so you don’t need to go to coffee shops late at night and try pathetically to make American girls with shit-up chat lines.”
Kyle raised a brow. The cream was sliding down his mug at about one mile per hour. Droplets were falling miserably to the floor and staining the carpet with their suicide. The American looked up to watch them, unimpressed. Kyle felt the earth flying through space and sat down in the opposite seat at the table, thankfully placing the mug against a coaster. Cream collected in pools against the faux-mahogany.
“I like cream?” Kyle said.
“I don’t think you’re an English Lit major, I think maybe you just read Shakespeare because you get off on it.”
“I do like it. I don’t get off on it. It’s not that hot.”
And in that moment Kyle felt the girl’s mood soften; felt her attraction to his looks pull her out of the torrent of abuse she would most likely have given him; felt her ease into an informal position and relax against the seat. “You’ve been to see him yet?”
“Shakespeare is dead,” the girl replied, suddenly deflated. “Sadly. Which sucks as I wanted a signed first edition.” She held the book up fleetingly.
“I mean at the theatre. His works in deathless prose.”
The girl shook her head. She ran her gaze up and down Kyle, with a hint of interest. “What was the last book you read?”
“Thea Von Harbou’s Metropolis.”
“The book of the film?”
“The book of the film.”
The world was flying through space at 66 000 miles per hour. Kyle was catching up. He reached down and flicked his tongue against the mountain of cream. The girl helplessly stared at the theatre, raising her brows momentarily. “You must be a lot of fun at parties,” she murmured.
“This isn’t one of my party tricks,” Kyle replied, sliding the tip of his tongue against his lower lip to catch the last of the cream.
“I’m not majoring in English Lit, I’m studying Business and Accounting. I have a boyfriend – an All-American Hero who hates me being in Europe and calls me every day. He can’t believe your fridge-freezers over here are less than three feet high. I have a thing for English Lit. professors. Have done ever since fifth grade.”
“Girls always mature faster than boys.”
“Are you an English Lit. professor?”
Kyle shook his head. He wanted to say truthfully office clerk and paralegal but the world was moving so fast that it made him dizzy and instead he said simply, “I’m a magician.”
“Show me some magic.”
“You don’t think appearing in front of you was impressive enough?”
“I’ve seen better tricks.”
“Nothing that was free of charge, I’d wager.”
“Don’t assume anything and never bet against me.”
In those days passed, in that era of going nowhere, dead to Kyle now, he would have paused here. He might have summoned up the courage to ask for her number, of numbly invited her to some nondescript party at the weekend, mumbling something about cool and magical. But the world was different to him now. He saw the Sun and he saw the Earth plunging headlong through the void, saw too his funeral and that eternal sleep, never again to move of his own volition.
“Let’s go watch Shakespeare at the theatre.”
The svelte American student looked at her watch. “It’s nine thirty.”
“London opens late.”
“Not that late.”
“I’ve got Shakespeare DVDs at my house.”
The svelte American student rolled her eyes. “I pray that line never works on anyone, no matter how deranged, desperate or drunk they may be.”
“It wasn’t an invite, just an observation.” Kyle licked the cream again and looked up at the American, who was staring down at him firmly, obviously.
“Well Kyle, let’s pretend that there’s a theatre in the bathroom. I’m going to walk to the theatre…the…bathroom. Give me a couple of minutes to freshen up and then follow me inside. This is an…invitation.”
Kyle stared at the American, her black hair framing a beguiling face and perfect, almost hypnotic features. He saw too the Sun, a burning star of seemingly infinite mass and our tiny world forging its path through the darkness at incomprehensible speeds. He saw the faceless people clothed in black, stood around his coffin as it was lowered into the earth. He watched her stand, felt himself twitch as he stared at the sway of her hips and her confident step towards the bathroom, knowing it would soon be offered to him.
The Englishman reached for Othello and perused its pages, reading odd lines arbitrarily. He didn’t care for Shakespeare. The bard was dead, his time had come and gone and though they performed his works and eulogised his words, the man no longer traipsed the earth at 66 000 miles per hour, but lay in the soil, immobile for all of future time. Kyle tried to pan out the minutes until he could walk to the bathroom, toyed with the book, licked at his cream, patted his crotch, then stood after what had been mere seconds, striding to the anointed meeting place at what seemed like a thousand miles per hour.
He thought of knocking, but eschewed such a display of fear, instead confidently moving inside the ladies’. The lighting was low, and two mirrors hung dully over dirty basins. Beyond the sinks stood the toilet cubicle, half ajar, inviting him. From behind the door emerged a finger, beckoning Kyle inside. The girl was so salacious that his cock twitched eagerly again and hardened in his pants. His mouth grew dry, heart pounding, causing the lights to swim a little in his vision.
She chuckled as she pulled him, reaching behind him and locking the door in a single motion. She had already stripped to her pale purple bra and panties, but had kept her white stiletto heeled boots on for obvious effect.
“Matching underwear,” Kyle noted, impressed.
“Anything for you baby,” she returned, moving her arms around his neck and kissing him hard.
She caressed his neck with her fingernails, grazing them against his flesh so that he let his head drop and moaned. She leaned in, trailing her tongue against his collarbone and reaching down to stroke his cock. He exhaled sharply with pleasure, the earth flying through space, unhooking her bra and hungrily sucking at her breasts, tasting the perfume on the skin, swallowing it eagerly. She pulled open his belt and slid his trousers down, suddenly holding his hair and pushing him down onto the toilet seat. It felt cold to him but not inimical.
“Sit,” she ordered, sliding her panties quickly down over her boots, licking the palm of her hand and sinking to her knees, rubbing the base of his hard shaft with her fingers and sucking needfully on his cock. She murmured gratefully, and Kyle felt her tongue flicking against his shaft as she looked up at him. His head fell back, hands reaching for her hair as she lifted his cock high and playfully licked his balls, softly grazing her teeth against them. Saliva fell from her lower lip. She did nothing to prevent it.
As she mounted him, fingers reaching for the opposite walls of the cubicle, Kyle leaned forward and rubbed his mouth against her breasts. The exorbitant fragrance of her skin and the perspiration aroused him. She slid down his cock and rocked back and forth, holding his head firmly into her breasts, panting with the exertion.
“I’m a sucker for that fucking accent,” she murmured to herself, her pussy contracting around his twitching cock, perspiration slick against her body as Kyle spilled his load into her.
“Pure fucking theatre,” whispered Kyle, staring up at the American beauty riding his cock in the cubicle of the women’s bathroom in the coffee shop.
“The whole world,” intoned the American thoughtfully, as she rocked hard against him, “is a stage, my boy.”
Illustration by Tom Sargent.