Authors: Rikki Ducornet
COPYRIGHT © 2011 by Rikki Ducornet
COVER AND BOOK DESIGN by Linda Koutsky
COVER PHOTOGRAPH © Michael Eastman
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CIP INFORMATION
Ducornet, Rikki, 1943—
Netsuke : a novel / by Rikki Ducornet.
ISBN 978-1-56689-253-7 (alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-56689-271-1 (ebook)
I am my own hiding place.
Although it is still very early, the wealth of the day is upon him.
He is running. He is listening to Monteverde and he is running. He is very muscled and lean. He lopes along hungry as a wolf. There is something regal about the canopy of leaves above him. The sun has only just lifted over the rim of the world.
His days are made up of what he calls “real time” and “the interstices.” Real time provides an identity, a footing. The interstices, however, provide him with a life. The sun begins to spill onto the path. He runs dappled with light. Hooked to Monteverde, he doesn’t hear the birds rioting in the trees. He runs like a creature of the woods before the world truly began. Long before the first great cities of the world had ever been conceived. He is aware of his sex when he runs.
There is a pretty woman, surely half his age, running toward him. As they are about to pass one another, his eyes leap into hers. She slows down and turning, runs backwards, looking at him. When he glances over his shoulder, she bursts into laughter.
gentle breeze lifts. The day shimmers with the music of Monteverde. Still laughing, she turns away and runs into the trees. It is like a movie, maybe an animated cartoon: he playing the centaur to her nymph. Yes, that’s it: a centaur.
In an instant the world compresses into one point of heat and light. Off the path now, deep in the trees, they begin to devour one another’s tongue and teeth, panting each time they surface for air. He pushes her up against a tree and takes her. She burns at the center of his life. He will never weary of fucking her. She rides him, he rides her; she drowns, he swims into her depths; she cries out; she trembles; she says wow and laughs again, but very quietly; he emerges from her, and with a graceful, almost imperceptible gesture, rearranges his cock; he hesitates a moment; he tenderly brushes her cheek with the back of his hand and says:
“Sorry, Sweetheart. I’ve got to go to work.”
“Yeah.” She nods, and beams down at him as he fumbles with the lace of his sneaker. She sighs; she, too, pulls herself together. “So what’s work?” she asks, lightly. Not wanting to appear overly curious. Needful.
“Psychoanalysis,” he says, eager now to get on his way. He thinks she looks like a kid, her straw-colored hair barely holding in a rubber band. A sweet-looking kid. A daisy, among many of the field.
“Bye, Sweetheart,” he says, and off he goes, turning once to smile at her and wave, the gesture charming, attentive, and yet …
“Hey!” she calls out after him. He is vanishing down the path. “Hey!”
Theirs is a big city.
Back home he showers and works up a lather. He’s Neptune in a sea of foam. He is a god leaping from the interstices back to the real world. He recalls that for the gods, the real world was, in fact, the interstices: a playground, a mirror of the heavens, a theater. Each morning after his run is like this: he, in a lather, reflecting, pummeled by water. He will stay in the shower for an hour, making himself over, making himself new. The process, he thinks, is alchemical. Today he is feeling especially philosophical. He considers the nature of women. The daisies of the field, so fuckable, so breakable. The ones who call out Hey! and stamp their feet in irritation, like mares. The ones who blossom early, only to succumb to nerves. Those who startle easily and sour in an instant; love with them is like sucking lemons. The lazy, careless women in need of pedicures, who, when darkness falls, can be seen lolling about, unkempt, in tapas bars. The aging actresses, their sweet vulnerabilities on parade. Incandescent alcoholics as troublesome as fever dreams, fantastic in the early hours of the evening, but only then. The chameleons. The gorgeous exotics prone to outbursts of temper. The luscious North Africans, their balaclava pussies. The antelope who cannot settle down—a good fuck on an airplane, taxicab, the train. The new mistress one fucks before sitting down to dinner with one’s wife. The women who give courage (these are rare). The wild ones with magenta manes who wear boots in all seasons. The whore who brought down Enkidu,
who showed him the things a woman knows how to do.
The tribal types who like sex in clusters. The women who, at Christmas, consider suicide. The frisky ones. The ones who talk too much. The ones who kill with silence. The risk takers. The ones with Big Ideas. The death cunts who kill with a look. The tender ones, the Feyaways, like islands, who love in cautious isolation, who rub one’s feet; they have juicers. One abandons them judiciously, all the while cooing like a dove. The clients whom one fucks in the name of a Unique Experiment. The wives whom one betrays, extravagantly. The current wife: Akiko. The one for whom the interstices were superseded, if only briefly, by the Real. Akiko. Whose beauty no longer troubles his sleep. (His world is mazed with cunts and he has not yearned for hers in centuries.)
An old Prince of Darkness—this is what he has become. His teeth worn to the gums, his tongue swollen with overuse, his cock, like his heart, close to breaking.
A SMALL PRIVATE PARK that Akiko has transformed into a scene from
The Tale of Genji
extends beyond the house; it has a broad path that leads to the public trails, thickets, a wetland, a lake.
I run from our house into the public land in the mornings, often alone, in the early light. I can run for over an hour without hearing the hum of city traffic. This early in the day, there is something more than royal about this domain: it is mythical. I run toward the past—not my own past, mind you, but a distant, primal past. A past in which my own infancy, or the current lousy state of affairs, or even the great city beyond the bluff—is unimaginable.
Today when I return to the house, I see the lights are on in Akiko’s studio. This means I will find a thermos of fresh green tea waiting for me on the kitchen counter. A sweet gesture, considering how evasive I am with her. Akiko has come to confuse my evasiveness with a retiring nature. In her words, I am “the silent type.” My silence conceals a wealth of worlds best left undisclosed.
We have been together ten years. Long enough for my idiosyncrasies to have faded into invisibility. Akiko, too, has faded. She is the white noise I have come to depend upon and possibly cannot live without. Akiko is witchy, clairvoyant. Her astonishing dreams are astute, surgical. They keep me on my toes. This marriage of ours puts us both at risk. She is in danger because I lie incessantly and the habit of these lies has blunted her gift and confused her. Love has caused her to distrust her own intuitions. Yet I am in danger also, because I cannot help but offer her clues. It is inevitable that sooner or later I will falter, offer one clue too many and in this way bring us both down. When I fall, she will fall with me. Perhaps this is a comfort of a kind.
MY PRACTICE BELONGS to a shelf in the Devil’s Kitchen. Insulated, above suspicion, I take my pleasure and am sustained by the sorrow of others. Their carnality. The ceaseless ebb and tide of human inconstancy, negligence, cowardice.
In the world I know, everyone is betrayed sooner or later.
The Practice is not of my own making. I mean: it is an inheritance of a kind. I have wandered its maze since infancy. I do not know another way to live. I often wish I did. The Practice is the inevitable extension of my own private dilemma. It is lethal, and yet without it I would perish. Assiduously, I portion out its poisons. Assiduously, I orchestrate the days. Like a game of chess, the Practice proposes an infinite set of circumstances. Or, rather, not exactly infinite. For I begin to—and this admission is terrifying—to see how redundant, how
the games are.
My clients are thwarted, famished, and lonely. Inevitably, sooner or later, I seize upon and penetrate the one who has wanted this from me from the first instant. Or has taken time but has come around to wanting it. For a client, fucking the doctor is always perceived as a triumph. Although I am always curious from the start. In this way I am made. If the client is attractive I cannot help but wonder: is she/he fuckable? An outrageous determination. And yet: fucking is the one determinism. The one inevitability. In this way it is exactly like death. You know you’ll fuck, be fucked; you know you’ll die and maybe be murdered. And maybe murder.
I’ve known transcendent sex, but its promise frightens me. The risks of delight are immense. The infant feeding at the madwoman’s breast, slipping deliciously in and out of slumber, is fiercely smacked. Smacked when he sups, he is quickly weaned. In no time he has learned to suck up, bite, and wean. Always watchful for the hook, he travels deep into the world of men with his deft set of sharpened tools. He will become a hoodlum, a maniac, a soldier; he will become a priest, a prison guard, a cop. A dogmatist, a patriarch—decidedly a public danger. He will become a psychoanalyst. He will have a Practice.
He will learn to dissemble. He will laugh like a wolf. He will cut through the city streets like a blade through water. His realm will be the streets, their secret stores of pleasure, their secret doors (I have a drawer full of keys!) opening to wondrous rooms, unfamiliar rooms, shabby rooms. He is attracted to, appalled by, shabby rooms. The street boy’s spare depot, the shopgirl’s cluttered cheese box, the saturated confusion of the drag queen’s aviary, her floor slick with hairspray and powder. (He must take care to shed these scents, to kick the dust up behind him before returning home.)
Unlike a female client, a man in a wig, a boy smelling of malnutrition, are not likely to hire a lawyer.
In recent years I have pretty much neglected Akiko. These days we live in something of a parallel universe. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of her strolling the garden in her dreamy way. Sometimes she vanishes for a week or more. My wife displays her work in distant cities where it is apparently much appreciated. As it should be.
There are times when I admire her imagination. The autonomy it assures her (and I so needful of company!). Day after day she paces her studio with her scissors, the glue pot, those images she has culled from all times and places. She’s like a creature from a fairy tale, my Akiko: beautiful, ethereal, living much of her life alone with her scissors and, in silence, piecing scraps of paper together.
Always she returns from her journeys with stories and presents for me. Rare netsuke, for example, although I have so little interest in aesthetic devices.