The first time I had sex was on a bus. It was when streets were narrower in Tehran but summers just as hot. City buses were imported second-hand from Germany and Hungary. Their interiors were refurbished to last a little longer, but new seats, made of metal frames and foam cushions covered with cheap, artificial leather, were not strong enough to tolerate vandalism. The seats could be red or blue or green, but the colour didn’t make a huge difference in giving passengers a pleasant experience. They were so worn you could feel the frames underneath. The covers were either jammed with so much foam, so hard that it felt you sat on a millstone, or the cushions seemed so thin that their existence didn’t make much difference; they were ripped and you could see the insides.
Captain Idries Bates sprayed a little top-up of libido suppressant under his tongue before going in to meet the Quing. All of the Earthmen he had brought here were obliged to dose themselves morning and night but he thought he wouldn’t be facing this meeting if they had obeyed. “The majesty will see you now,” said an attendant offering to escort him to the door. The creature was unremarkable, about seven foot tall with four breasts and a tail. A parthenogenetic species had no need for distinctive appearance. But the Quing was different from the uniform masses. It was about four times the size of other Zy Ren. Apart from that, the breasts were shaped much like humanoid breasts all over the universe. Captain Bates had entered a career in space travel expecting to find diversity and now realised that conscious life everywhere expressed itself in predictable manifestations. The vertical biped was one of the most common. The Quing hummed alluringly. All Zy Ren hummed alluringly; that was a big part of the problem. “You have a problem?” The Quing stroked its inner thigh as if heightened sensual self pleasuring was as instinctive as was basic grooming to an Earthling. “We both have a problem,” said Bates, “as I see it.” “Explain,” it said, edging closer to him.
Jorge, a young Spanish jogger, paced himself to the song. 'Lady P, Lady P, Lady P, Lady P…' he hummed in his mind, listening to McCartney’s song on his iPod. He had learnt that it was in fact 'Let it be' since his English had improved, but he rather preferred his own version with a mysterious Lady P, so still mouthed it as he had when he had first heard the song, some years ago. The park was dark and he enjoyed the solitary act every evening. It was a ritual of his, a cleansing of his soul after a hard day’s trading in the financial markets. All things considered, he was happy to have a job in a cushy office with high pay in a country that was stable politically and had a low unemployment rate. His salary supported not only him, but also his parents back in Spain and his sister who was still studying. He had every reason to be pleased. He had for the first time met his new neighbor, a strikingly beautiful Russian girl, Ivanka, who had just moved into the flat opposite his own.
It came between cunnilingus and orgasm. Does it matter if he tastes a little wee? Does my partner have to scream? And I just threw up the fader on music - REM, Everybody Hurts - and sagged in a heap in my swivel chair. Was there any chance they’d give me the books programme? The dork who was doing that must be bored by now too. ‘Well, does she have to scream?’ I put the question to our resident sexpert, that is to myself. ‘Well, I am sure we all remember the teenage days of furtive sex, when it was a matter of survival that you wouldn’t be heard. And surely, if anything, it was even more exciting. So, no; she doesn’t have to scream. But why does it bother you? Perhaps that’s the question we should be asking.’ I knew exactly where to take this, on a meandering course through cheap psychology past every embarrassing consideration.
Celia Sling has always had problems with the coincidences in Thomas Hardy, not especially because they are an affront to one’s experiences of reality and the everyday but because they are devices, a more disagreeable species of what Conrad called accidents, those twists and turns of narrative that sacrifice psychological or some other insight for the saleable convolutions of plot and manners. She always chuckles at Conrad’s mild upbraiding of H.G.Wells – "But what is all this about Jane Austen? What, my dear Wells, is it all about?"
Had we but world enough and time,
She’s still at work even though it’s past seven. She just showered in the cubicle in the ladies’ toilets and now she’s sipping a glass of white wine at her desk, away from the party. She snuck up there before anyone else and poured herself a big one while the other P.A’s were still at their desks. He’s there now, doing whatever it is he has to do. She’d rather leave him to it. He can miss her.
I hadn’t known back then that pretty young women with autism can have an advantage in bars. I was supposed to be young and not know anything, so I should have said something honest like “I can’t be a journalist because I don’t know how to talk to people” and a man would interpret that as being coy. Then he would explain to me how to get information out of people and tell me how easy it should be for me to do that anyway because I am cute, charming, etc.
Being with Leonard was liberating. I loved him so much, and he took in all my kisses, all the pettings and the little songs, and he loved me back and recited me spontaneous poetry and performed naked dances. It was delicious. I started the relationship in my usual disparaging way – I thought he was a little wet behind the ears, but quite lovely, so I lay in bed with him for days, stroking his hair and feeding him. I thought – how can someone so much older than me possibly accept all my peacocky drivel. I thought – when it stops being fun, when he gets clingy, I’ll end it. I thought – he’s too kind to not secretly be a psychopath.
Come live with me and be my Love, And we will all the pleasures prove That hills and valleys, dale and field, And all the craggy mountains yield.