I can hardly believe I haven’t touched this book since October, though it’s been many times that I’ve needed it. This is about as close to success as I’ve ever been, and yet I still feel profoundly sad–the answer, of course, being to just say fuck it and ignore it. I do this by trying to work as much as possible. I avoid thoughtful conversation if at all possible. I had a great longing to sit all day in a coffee shop and read today–the weather reminded me of being a student, the last weeks of classes before exams. So I locate the book that I hope will bring me a smile before bed…Boccaccio.
Short stories of the O. Henry era relied on twists in their endings. The only other short stories I know, Gogol? Hawthorne? even at that early time relied on twists just the same. They’re now seen as somewhat juvenile. The same goes for the use of coincidence in all those novels like Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice. Twists and coincidences are seen as phony. But I don’t mind them. Because literature is phony. And I suppose I always reach that aesthetic viewpoint in this blog–that I care about what’s beautiful, and very little else.
So it goes in this story, a series of twists and coincidences tightly bundled. Such reflects the Catholic sense of fate due to saintly intervention, indiscernible from that older belief of Italy’s pagans. In this story, a merchant is traveling and ends up with some highwaymen who pretend to be nice guys and later rob him of his money, clothes, and horse. Earlier in the day they’d been discussing what prayers they say, and the merchant declared that every morning he says a prayer asking for safe lodging for the coming night. This night, however, he finds himself hungry and nearly naked in the snow, teeth chattering beside a door in the wall.
Well, it just so happens that on the other side of the door is a beautiful widow taking a bath, and the door he’s at is the one her secret lover uses to sneak in and fuck her. Unfortunately, her secret lover can’t make it that night, on account of some urgent business that’s come up. So she decides to take the bath she’d prepared for him herself.
Now, here’s where I began taking note of a series of events that seemed to me remarkable, being the repossession and sharing of things.
She’s taking the bath she’d prepared for her lover; when she asks her maid to bring in the merchant, she gets out and lets the merchant take the bath; after he finishes, she goes on and takes it.
Second, her husband has only recently died. She still has all his clothes. The merchant puts on the dead husband’s clothes. And they fit perfectly. This is the glass slipper sort of thing that I love in a story–when by external means a spiritual match is discovered.
Third, she “[makes] him sit familiarly with her by the fire.”
And then, as they talk she “found him much to her liking, and her desires being already aroused for the Marquis, who was to have come to lie with her, she had taken a mind to him,” later explaining to him, “you are in your own house.”
She decides she definitely wants to fuck him, and since the Marquis isn’t coming that night, her maid encourages her to try hooking up with the merchant. Her pick-up line is, essentially, “you remind me of my dead husband, and all night long I’ve just wanted to make-out with you.” The merchant has no problem with this…and then comes the best description of sex I’ve ever read:
The lady, who was all afire with amorous longings, straightaway threw herself into his arms and after she had strained him desirefully to her bosom and bussed him a thousand times and had of him been kissed as often, they went off to her chamber and there without delay betaking themselves to bed, they fully and many a time, before the day should come, satisfied their desires of the other.
And somehow he still gets up in the morning and goes on his way. Oh, and the bad guys get caught and he gets all his stuff back.
Hilarious. And rewarding. I feel a lot better now!