Hard Sell

Hard Sell

"Hard Sell"

Our first trip together, weekend out of town, we'd stayed at a lodge with a lot of young travelers. We had breakfast, sweet half-burned pastries in the coffee shop following my first view of my cock in Akemi's mouth, bright in morning light, wet, each sinew seemingly illuminated with her saliva drawing on it as she pulled off and up to regard it and me, then back on. Who needed sugar that morning? Strong coffee was the thing. We'd slept little and didn't want to slow down, miss a moment of the day ahead or the next. We played with the pastries on our plates, cinnamon sewn between thick spirals of dough. Akemi licked her fingers and blushed- or maybe it was I who did. 

A month earlier, I hadn't even dreamt about that. Well, actually I had, come to think of it. 

Intense dreams. Akemi and I had broken up, at least separated. I was back with Andrea. We were out for a night, had gone as far as Chinatown, strolling at leisure on pavements crowded with sightseers. I saw Akemi passing in the crowd moving fast-paced perpendicular to us, toward our left on a narrow sidewalk with limited space so that people had to walk in a line. Had she seen me and hurried to avoid being seen in turn?

Akemi looked tall, slim, dressed in yellow- amber, natural color, which the twilight lit up. It was early evening, summer. Darkness hadn't arrived yet. She wasn't alone. I paid no mind to the man with her. 

I approached. We greeted. She was shy, lovely, surprised, not closed to me. Up close we opened to each other as a matter of course. I reached through the summer air, from the street to the curb, and touched her hand. Too far away and too much activity in between for Andrea to see maybe. Anyway, I hardly cared.

My hand just brushed Akemi's as she paused, passing in file, others jostled but no one stressed. People were enjoying the night away from the normal- the scene was entertainment, at a remove from the practical. Nobody seemed to be especially hurrying. Fun not work this was to one and all. 

"I'll call you soon," I said. It wasn't the time or place to make contact, but I pledged- to myself as well as to Akemi- that I would. Having seen her, I knew I would. My feelings piqued, flooded. 

Akemi smiled. Young guy with her, behind (walking in back, taking up the rear). Of course she'd be seeing others. I understood. We weren't together then. He smiled, apparently saw me as an old friend of hers. Had he seen the hand touch?

Too young for her, I thought. Callow. Nice guy. Not a serious threat. 

He was tall but slight like Akemi, because it appeared, he hadn't quite filled out yet. In his early twenties. Bright happy face. Guy who hadn't seen much of life, trusted it to be fair. He smiled at me like he believed I meant him well. Older uncle or something. Far from the case. 

On the other hand, he was a man like me, would want Akemi, be horny, maybe try for her that night. I sensed they weren't together. This was a date. They were trying each other. I pictured his mouth on her, their kiss, recognized it would be a real one if it happened. Reality was reality, even in a dream. 

Dreams came as fragments, shards, penetrative. She'd returned from a trip. I heard her settling with taxi driver in the living room, paying him. She came in the bedroom, looked disappointed to see me there. Her eyes focused sharply, moving from happy anticipation of our meeting after her days away to something darker, less hopeful. Was I lazy? No, I had a cold. I was glad not to have to justify staying in bed before her. 

"How was your trip?" 

Akemi told me of a stop at a gas station, needed visit to a car mechanic on the road, wild happenings there, series of jostling events that took them and others beyond the realm of the controllable into that of risk, excitement. 

Akemi looked serious, as if my response- interest, enthusiasm- missed the point of her account, which in her view wasn't funny. 

"Sounds like an adventure, pornographic one," I said. 

It turned out not only the taxi driver had come. Two men were in my living room. 

"My husband can only stay an hour," she said. 

Akemi was married in the dream and not to me, had been for a while, but I still held out hopes for her, for a reunion. I felt the unreasoning confidence of a man who loves a woman, can't imagine really losing her. 

"I should get up," I said. Go greet the guest, her husband at least. 

Akemi shook her head: that wasn't necessary. "He has an appointment, to get a haircut." She said it a little disdainfully. 

So he would go and she would stay. Join me in bed? Nothing to stop that from happening once we were alone. 

When I woke, Akemi hadn't yet, so I didn't tell her the dream. Lying in bed, I remembered another time when we were apart, before we got involved. 

I'd gone with my then-girlfriend Andrea to a free concert conducted by an idiot. The guy imagined himself an amusing character. It was a dress rehearsal I guess he felt free to mess around since we hadn't paid for our seats. Yes, I was there with Andrea but Akemi was already in the picture. She'd just Akemi come onto my radar. I knew of her but we weren't even friends yet, though I already wanted us to- badly. I got hard just thinking of her. It wasn't only a physical reaction, mind you. The configuration of my emotions took a jolt. New ones surfaced. 

"This is going to annoy you," the tuxedoed man said from the podium, gleefully imposing on us his version of entertainment. He'd ended the concert, we thought, but the finale remained. We had to readjust, understood it wasn't time to get ready to leave after all. We settled back down. 

The conductor- and our guide for the event- looked amused by our response, which he'd anticipated. A good natured host, he displayed genuine interest in showing us a good time while also gently mocking, poking fun now and then, that was just short of malicious. 

"The performance is free, after all," the conductor/M.C. said with a laugh. "You take what you get." 

He enjoyed his job of edifying an audience- or maybe he hated it and that was what the mockery was about. Maybe he resented his bosses hooking him into the job. He'd rather have just led the orchestra, left us to our own devices. 

His job continued when the music finally did end. A screen lowered, video, video came on. He provided more wise-guy commentary. 

The short film went into the history of the venue, showed in sped-up-motion the construction of the place (not so long ago), included an interview with the architect and some of the backers as well as the director of the performance art foundation of which that theater was just a part. We learned about that flourishing cultural asset in the city, and the man at the microphone in front of us, silhouetted by the lights on the screen, augmented the moving pictures with his own impromptu commentary. He remarked to humorous effect on scenes of a concert evening at the theatre, shots of the crowds arriving, taking their seats, listening, applauding, grinning in appreciation, then leaving satisfied, delighted with their night of cultural enrichment, enlightened. The throng poured through the exits in back of the auditorium like so many ants. 

"This is the interesting view you get," the M.C. said and pointed to a young woman going with the crowd, most of whom wore light colors; a lot were in white- it looked like spring. The camera followed, trained on them from behind, down the white marble stairs leading to the lobby and glass walls and proscenium outdoors. We saw what the director was referring to, found funny. Her jeans pulled down, revealing the crack of her ass. Two women same effect. One was Japanese. The American view was deep. That was the style in those days. Low rise. You saw she was wearing pantyhose, making a deep net over the orbs of her hips. 

Maybe she was European, come to think of it. Europeans like classical music, don't they? Europeans of all ages. Here only old farts do. 

I was more intent on the Japanese woman, of whom less showed. She wasn't Akemi, of course- though I didn't see her face, just her back- but I was already interested in Akemi then and closely eyed the nimble music lover energized by the concert, watched for each nuance of her gait, as if to learn something of Akemi's nuanced moves on top of me now. In that short film from the past, I could see the future, at least hoped so. 

Sten was European. Akemi liked that.

We did separate for a while early on. Trying to decide what we would be to each other, whether we'd live together, whether we could or should. The love was never in doubt. 

I went on my own to an amusement park. It was empty like a ghost town, as it would be later during the pandemic. I'd come on a weekday afternoon off from work to mull over my circumstances, measure the emptiness I felt against the world. Strange, maybe overly dramatic as that may sound. 

Between winding lanes deep in the park, near the fence that bordered it from the outside world, restricted entry to paying customers, I happened, along one of the edges, upon a slightly downtrodden section that looked to me like a red-light area. The exteriors, painted faded facades leading to indoor diversions, rides and other entertainments brought to mind sex shops. I was horny, missed Akemi. The entrance to one establishment had a sign posted in front, white letters on a muted sky blue placard made of wood, big, resembling a sandwich board. The come-on read, "You can go hang out with your college friends instead of visiting us, but you'll be really missing out." Words to that effect, I don't remember exactly.

From another place I passed, strolling, a woman called to me. "Come in. Don't be shy." She was anything but. When I walked on she yelled after me, "Get your ass in here." A hard sell because customers were so few at that time. I thought I'd better get away fast before she came in pursuit. I was far from the entrance of the sprawling park but found a back exit, a turnstile that operated in only one direction, preventing people from entering without a ticket. It led through greenery. Trees and shrubs were in the park on one side of the wrought iron fence and out of it on the other. The same trees and shrubs, nice greenery. 

Akemi and I met tentatively. The love was still there. It had never been in doubt. Longing reunited us.We talked of where we might live. She spoke of "somewhere more southern than here." Warmer weather would be the appeal. I wondered how we would support our life, felt confident we could with relative ease. Of course, the move would bring me away from Andrea and everything I was used to. 

I asked what she'd been doing. She said playing soccer, just casually, for fun, and that she'd found the trick was learning to pass to yourself; that was how you advanced up field on your own with the ball. I wondered if she also meant the art of living alone while we were separated. You needed distraction like soccer, workouts. Exercise, preferably outdoors and fairly vigorous, helped emotionally, against the loneliness, and physically, against the frustration. What I'd have given on those days on my own to watch her run with a ball across a field. 

We got together that first day back in each other's company at my parents' apartment, in the bedroom where I'd slept growing up. We lay with with our heads on opposite ends of the bed. I kissed Akemi's vagina and kissed and kissed. It felt so good doing that again. Sent my hand up past her rib cage to her breasts, which lay flat as she reclined on her back. My fingers went to her nipples. Her velvety fine skin, familiar and badly missed felt so good. She hadn't changed. We hadn't. Her tan surface like a pelt, exquisite the only word for that. Her fine character, feelings for me, ours for each other. Reunion! Never in doubt, not really, but life can pull people apart, sometimes against all reason, violently or otherwise. Life is no game. You'd best take it seriously. Love too. Love especially. I- we- saw that then. 

I wondered if she'd orgasm, hoped so. Before she did, though, she moved to reciprocate, kissed down my chest to take my cock in her mouth. I know she liked doing that and had missed it. Before she began, she put her lips over just the tip, the end of the head of my erection standing up to her and she held it that way a while, gently vibrating, her lips covering like a gentle flange, suction cup. She was not in a hurry. We were enjoying ourselves. Eventually she would slide her whole mouth down and over my cock as she had in the past. It felt so good in the meantime, though I worried some again whether I'd have an orgasm and she wouldn't. 

We were like that when a knock came on the door. It was my mother coming to ask me something. She walked right in. I pulled the covers over Akemi so Mom wouldn't see what we were doing, that she was there naked with me. I didn't feel good hiding Akemi. It felt wrong. I wasn't ashamed of her, after all. On the other hand, I knew she would appreciate my concern for her modesty. My mother stayed talking and talking much too long. She was just asking if everything was fine, I had all I needed; we were having a meal later. Would I like such and such with it? Was the bed comfortable, the blanket enough- trying to be helpful, acting like a mother, that is- but she stayed too long. Would she never leave?

I taught as ever during that period, and the job felt better than ever after the tentative reunion with Akemi. The students liked me. I played them a recording of a conversation and asked questions after (first had to hand out to some students papers with the transcript of the audio; I thought I'd given them to everybody, but some- one guy at least- said they hadn't hadn't gotten one). 

How to open discussion of the recording? I began with a simple question. "Were they talking in a loud or quiet voice." Start with the simple, even if seemingly almost mindless, and move to the complex, rather than vice versa. 

"Quiet," several students answered. The group looked pleased at how I was guiding things. In charge. Enthusiastic. Calm. 

"And which do you think is better for communication?" I asked. "Take teaching, for example, education. Do you think an effective teacher speaks in a loud or quiet voice?"

"Loud and clear," someone said. 

I let that answer resonate a bit before continuing.

"I understand how you might reach that conclusion, but I disagree. A really good teacher will speak quietly because the students are interested, listening. He doesn't have to raise his voice. A teacher who does- goes blah blah blah!- well, that's just stupid. Or maybe not always. I myself do it from time to time." I realized as I spoke that it sounded like I was bragging. I was in such a good mood from seeing Akemi, re-affirming our alliance! The future beckoned- except that Akemi remained unsure when and if she'd be ready for us to start seeing each other again, take up where we'd left off. She was still- understandably- upset, angry about about my continued involvement with Andrea- because I'd hidden it from her wouldn't accept my assurances that I cared about my former girlfriend only as a friend, no longer as a lover; we'd been together so long of course I had feelings for her, but the romance had ended. Akemi no longer accepted on faith that I'd stop seeing the other woman- and I couldn't easily either, but if I didn't she'd start seeing other men, naturally. Getting serious with someone isn't easy, no matter how much you want her. It means leaving others behind, making a change in your life. That isn't easy, not for the weak at heart, but I was determined to seize this chance, become a new person if necessary. "You have to reform yourself," Akemi said.