[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 011-013
Chapter 5: The Doctor
I was booked with Hoacman for two at La Ville, just a few blocks north of The Griffin Group. In spite of the oppressive heat already radiating off the sidewalk and street pavement I decided to walk. There was a cozy little restaurant that did a tasty brunch-like thing on Saturdays and Sundays, and I decided to refuel there.
It was just before the lunch hour, and the restaurant wasn’t crowded yet. They know me there, and the kid who seats you gave me a table for two with a view out over the sidewalk and the Saturday shoppers who by now had come out fully armed with credit cards and desire. I pulled out my Tacitus and began reading while waiting for my Eggs Benedict. I moved my coffee spoon back and forth in a lazy semi-circle across the damask table cloth as I became more and more engrossed in the escalating madness of Tiberius. He was a classic case of somebody who did what daddy – all right, step-daddy in his case – wanted and not what he himself had in mind. Tacitus almost made him sympathetic. So much talent, so much waste.
Hoacman was an odd fellow. He saw me probably three or four times a month but never touched me. He was always scrupulously polite, solicitous even, and the way he got off struck me as an oddly expensive one. But he could afford it.
He was one of some twenty partners with two brothers, a sister and his father in the busiest obstetrics-gynecological practices in the city. In fact, his sister, Dr. Isabella Landon, was the one I regularly saw. And I knew, in general, from things he had said over the years, that half the wives of the legal, financial and political power players in the city, county and state spread their legs at the Hoacman Clinics – as indeed did half the distaff sides in any way related to those elite cliques.
I wondered idly if Len’s daughter Amelia might be going there for her pregnancy.
Given the nature of Hoacman’s dalliances with me I found his choice of medical specialty not uninteresting, and his visits somehow supererogatory. But who knows what drives a man? He had never been married, and he must have been around fifty at this point. That in itself seemed peculiar. He was a very handsome man, in an almost effeminate way. I had once asked him if he was bi but he assured me he was not. “Solidly hetero!” he had declared in his mellifluous baritone.
Takes all kinds, as they say.
The first thing you noticed about him was his limpid brown eyes framed by the longest lashes I’d ever seen on a man. His lips were full and curvy, like the ones you see on those epicene models for men’s cologne in GQ and that whole genre. A thick shock of hair undulated across his forehead, and he was forever tossing it backwards like some lazing lion. It was no mystery to me why he personally had more patients than he could handle.
He usually seemed tense and preoccupied when we met, and his hours with me obviously brought him a relaxation and release he could, apparently, find nowhere else. He also happened to be one of the more well-read of my clients. Since he had no family of his own he spent most of his free time listening to music and reading. Like me, he was also a little more than fond of crosswords. One might say he was a hungering reader, not, again, unlike myself. And he did not limit himself to medical literature, though he made it plain on several occasions that he was pretty good at keeping up. Apparently the practice held ‘journal hours’ Sunday mornings: the score of them would get together and report on and discuss their assigned readings. I admired this reflection of professional responsibility. As for leisure reading, he was very much into modern literature and displayed an impressive erudition especially about continental European novels. He was inordinately fond of a Swedish mystery writer named Henning Mankell, and on his recommendation I had myself ended up reading all of his novels with great pleasure. He gave the impression of being ashamed that he could not read six different languages but had to do with translations. And he admitted that he had a great weakness for expensive art books of the type Abrams so lushly publishes.
Since the good doctor was at first somewhat bashful and socially uncomfortable when alone with me, we usually would crack the ice by just taking it slow. He’d tune in one of the jazz stations that overpopulated the local radio spectrum to low, and then we would chat desultorily as he sipped a dry sherry and I had orange juice. He sometimes talked anonymously about what he called ‘interesting’ patients and he enjoyed hearing my accounts — likewise anonymous – of the men I had professional dealings with. I think he was genuinely interested in people and their motivations, but on more than one occasion he had finished up a given ‘set’ by announcing that, “people, and what they do and why, are a true mystery to me.” It was a take I in general found it hard to argue against. He himself was surely a case in point, although I don’t think he would have seen it quite that way.
Hello, Mazarine,” he said and smiled at me. He held the door to his suite on the twentieth floor open and invited me in. “Come on in.”
The music was playing and room service had already been here.
“Let’s just get comfortable first,” he said. “There’s plenty of time.” He had booked me for two hours. Unlike most of my clients he gave me his private envelope up front. I accepted it and tucked it into my bag. His little lagniappe was always more than substantial. And, besides, I genuinely liked this cultured man.
I sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the little table which held drinks, crackers and crudités on ice. We raised our glasses to each other. For a minute or so there was an awkward silence. He cleared his throat and shifted in his seat.
It was clear we would be pursuing his typical gambit of first exercising our minds and then, in his austere fashion, the flesh.
“I’ve been meaning to get your learned opinion on something,” he began.
“My learned opinion?”
“Yes. Have you seen the exhibition at the museum?”
“You mean the Spanish still lifes.”
To the accompaniment of much hoopla and public appearances by the university community and the city’s intellectual wannabes a magnificent show of sixteenth and seventeenth Spanish still lifes and genre paintings on loan from various European museums had opened about two weeks ago. I had been once already, and it was a truly stunning collection. You wouldn’t see anything like it outside the Prado, Louvre and Rijksmuseum combined. I was planning to go back several times.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I have.”
“Well, it’s all rather breath-taking, to say the least.”
“That was certainly my impression, too. I went last weekend.”
“Crowded, I’d imagine. I went the first Wednesday afternoon.” It had opened two weekends ago.
“Yes. But it’s hard for me to get away during the week. I wish I could. One wants to be looking at these pieces in solitary silence.” I couldn’t argue with his opinions.
“And what did you think?”
He looked briefly out the window over the park that spread out below. “I … I was quite overwhelmed,” he said in a hushed voice. “Do you remember the pieces by Cotán?”
“How could I not? Where have you ever seen vegetables like that? Still crisp and fresh, so to speak, going on well over four hundred years? And the royal sweets of Hamen y León?”
“Yes, yes. That’s exactly what I mean.” He seemed pleased that we both had a similar reaction to these exemplars of high artistic opulence. “Did you have any favorites?”
That was easy.
“Yes, I did. I do.”
He sat forward in his chair.
“Do you know El Aguador by Velázquez?” I asked.
“Of course.” He got up and got himself a glass of water. “It stays with you. Can you articulate what it is about it that gets to you?”
It was getting on to the end of the first hour, but he had me for two, and I knew that once he got going on his real purposes for engaging me it would all be over in ten minutes or so. And the truth is that Velázquez’ painting had long intrigued me in reproductions, pale instars of the real thing that I had seen just last week for the first time. It was one of the pieces I wanted to study more closely on my return visit.
“Well,” I began cautiously, “it’s because it’s about me. And it’s about you, and everybody else, too. And it is done with compelling authority.”
He nodded slowly, encouraging me to go on.
I had given the piece a lot of thought.
“I know it’s not generally considered among his greatest works, but it’s probably my favorite. It moves me deeply. As does that majestic portrait of Juan de Pareja – I always wonder what Velázquez was thinking while was doing him. Or what Juan was thinking. And all those sad court dwarfs he seemed so fond of painting.
“Do you know any of these paintings?”
“Yes. In reproductions, of course. Please, go on.”
“Fine, El Aguador. First, of course, is the superb technique, a truly classic example of a realist’s realism, from the water-beaded urn in the foreground to the two main characters in the middle distance. The composition is, again, classic, a doubled structure: large water urn in front to the right, medium water urn in the next plane to the left, and between the two of them in the more distant plane the glass of water; the old man in front to the left, the young boy to the right in the next plane, and the murky drinker between the two others and in the background. The triadic compositions of humans and water “talk” to each other.
“Am I making any sense to you?”
“More than you know. Why didn’t I meet you twenty-five years ago?” he sighed, only half self-mockingly.
I laughed lightly. But I was getting turned on by talking about something dear to me. I never took an art course and I certainly don’t have the art historian’s sere intellectualism to conduct me. But I feel that I know what I am talking about.
Hoacman was on the edge of his seat, and I continued.
“There is the striking juxtaposition of old man and youth, of old age and young life, and you can’t help imagining what they are saying to each other. Is the old man – the worldly wise old water carrier — handing a full glass of water to the boy, or is the boy handing an empty glass to the old man and requesting water? If you take the symbolism of water as aqua vitae, or agua de vida, ‘the water of life’, either the man is passing it on to the boy or the boy is asking for it from the old guy. In any event, I do see the water symbolically, and therefore the exchange, in whatever direction, strikes me as a profound one — between the generations, a passing on of things, a human sharing between them. Something like, what you are, I was; what I am, you will be.
“The use of color here is important. The white collar of the boy speaks to the white shirt covering the old man’s forearm, yet his clothing lacks all detail, and it contrasts strikingly with the refined rendering of the old man’s torn and shabby attire. The color bridge, as it were, between the two areas of brightness is, appropriately, the white highlights that circle the foot and rim of the glass and its sides, and the physical bridge is the sense that the hands holding the glass almost touch. Or do they? The particular color antithesis is paralleled by the boy’s pale smooth face and the old man’s darker, wrinkled visage, one with no facial hair and the other with beard. The whites of the clothing and the highlights of the urns and glass aside, the general tone is somber, dominated by ochres and earth-tones, creating a muted encounter of the type you could well imagine happening daily on any street corner or inn of Sevilla in the early seventeenth century. This quotidian detail is elevated into great art.”
Hoacman was entranced. “And the character in the middle?”
“If I’m on target as seeing this paining as a version of the age-old theme of the ages of man and the contrast between youth and age, then you’re on point. You have to be intrigued by the murkily limned character in the background between the boy and old man: his face is undefined! He’s drinking water, too, and I have often pondered if perhaps Velázquez intentionally left him ‘unfinished’ or simply did not get around to doing him fully. There are five planes in this painting: large urn, small urn and old man, glass and hands, young boy, and the fuzzy character. Only the last one is not cripsly rendered, and certainly Velázquez could have employed a ‘spatial perspective’ while at the same time detailing the man’s face. Think of a spatially much more complex painting like Las Meninas where the most distant plane — the man in the doorway who is probably the artist — is meticulously rendered. Perhaps the middle character represents adulthood, and was de-emphasized since Velázquez was interested only in the connection between old and young. Who knows?”
“And that’s why it’s about you and me?”
“Sort of. We are both the old man and the youth. But, relatively speaking, I am young and you are old.” He made a wry moue. “All right, older, let’s say.”
“That’s certainly an interesting view of the painting. I’m going to have to go back and check it out more carefully. I know I have a good reproduction of it at home, and I also bought the postcard at the museum.” He put a thoughtful mien. “And the water? What are you and I exchanging?”
I shrugged. “It could be anything. Look at our drinks!” He nodded again, but not with much conviction. “Or do you want to make it your version and mine of the agua de vida, our life forces, our wetnesses? Is that what you want to get at?”
“That’s certainly a possibility, isn’t it? Interpretations like to be protean. Don’t you think?”
“I don’t know. I suppose.
“I’ve looked at this painting for many years, and it continues to intrigue me. As with a great work of literature, no matter how often I come back to it, I see something fresh each time and get some new notion of what is going on. It has a timeless silence that, oddly speaks to me forever. If it were on the market and I were immeasurably rich …”
“Yes,” he agreed. “One can always dream.”
He got up and started to undress, motioning to me to do the same. He is hard and huge.
At heart, Hoacman is what in the trade is known as a mind-fucker. He wants to get off, yes, but distantly. It all takes place more immediately in his head, in his fantasies, than below the navel. Although he has all the physical equipment and it certainly seems to be in superb working order, for him it takes intellectual stimulation to get cranked up.
By now I know his routine better than he does.
I lie naked on the bed and he sits at the foot of it. I spread my legs, open up wide. He stares with great intensity. But never touches me. And fondles himself, slowly at first, then fast and vigorously, and with a groan deep in his throat gushes onto the thick layers of towel in front of him on the bed.
“Spectacular,” he rasps, panting hard.
For a guy who spends his working hours looking at the insides of naked women, I just don’t get it. But he pays well, he’s definitely not an uninteresting guy, and we all have our demons circling around inside.
We shower together in the large stall, but he never touches me.
“I’ll make an appointment,” he says before I exit the room.
He smiles boyishly at me. “You’re really something, Mazarine, you know that?”
I pucker my mouth and blow him a kiss as I close the door.
He usually likes to sit alone for about fifteen minutes before taking the elevator down.
God only knows what he thinks about. His next pelvic exam?
TO BE CONTINUED