Continued from When In Rome Par I.
Downstairs a canvas covered in the scribbles of visitors awaited us, plus an invitation.
‘You can add something yourself,’ suggested another curator, this time a tall American woman, Elizabeth, with waist length streaked hair, an angular face with green knowing eyes, wearing a black velvet dress with straps that crossed over her full breasts. I felt my heart momentarily stop. She was breath-taking.
‘I can’t draw at all,’ laughed Hermione, sketching a small round bumble bee, one of Charlie’s favourite things.
Feigning interest in the other exhibition, just to overcome my embarrassment at her beauty, I asked a question and Elizabeth explained to me what was occurring in the pictures.
‘Time is battling with space. The artist uses computers to draw the lines and colours them in using a machine, and tries to show how interiors have a sense of consciousness.’
Really? Sixteen canvasses covered the walls and each was either an empty interior or empty landscape, and each was going for fifteen thousand Euros. She continued along these lines, her eloquence profound. Hermione sat down with an espresso, nursing her sore feet, while I tried to control my excitement.
‘If you like the man’s paintings, why not come to a party he’s holding tonight at Castel di Sant’Angelo, it will be quite exceptional, I can assure you.’
‘I would love to, love to,’ I stuttered, mopping my brow with an old bandanna I had taken to wearing whilst playing squash, spying Hermione flirting with the waiter, who was now trying to read her palm, gently touching her finger tips.
‘You have such delicate fine hands, the hands of nobility,’ crooned the Latin lover.
The image of Elizabeth, a postdoc at Princeton, stayed with me for the rest of the day, her powerful grace, her vibrant inner beauty and her phenomenal outer exquisiteness.
The Castel was originally structured by Hadrian as a mausoleum, but today the view from here of the sunset over the Vatican made any doubt in the divine mere stupidity. We arrived at the party with the heat of the day still pressing. Many had removed their garments and stood by tables covered in dishes of fruit, pretending to be still fully clothed. Hermione removed her dress, bra and panties as soon as she saw the etiquette. I decided against this, knowing it would be impossible to hide my excitement if I came across the American girl.
‘Hi Rupert, Christ, you’ve still got your clothes on, get them off, come on dude, don’t be a square, we’re not in boring old England now,’ shouted Elizabeth, approaching me with her large breasts bounding now free of their constraints.
‘If you insist,’ I muttered, still embarrassed by the naked bodies around me and the spicy smell of charged flesh.
Three couples had begun to place ice cubes in interesting places in each other’s bodies. As I slipped out of my boxer shorts, and placed my clothes on a stately looking chair, I failed at first to notice that the cubes were not melting.
‘What’s with the ice cubes, are they fake?’ I asked Elizabeth, but she turned to mutter to Hermione, holding her elbow as if to steady my wife, pulling her towards a painting by the same man who had the exhibition, Giuseppe Radolphi. I stood there stark naked and wondered what to do next, desperate to scratch my crotch, realising that this was not entirely appropriate. If only I hadn’t given up smoking, the last dregs of my glass of wine splashing down my bare chest. A waiter shot by and I managed to grab another glass, and then heaved a sigh of relief as I knocked the warm fruity liquid back.
Seventy or so people filled the room, with only two now clothed. Short fat men with large bellies that fell over their appendages, young delicate girls with breasts that pointed to the stars, and strong angular faced Italian women with hair as black as night, all mingled and chatted, discussing art, architecture and love. I peered about the room, aware that I was possibly the only non-Italian speaker there, and felt a desire to run.
Towards the back of the stately room, I could just make out a smaller area, dimly lit, shut off from the main room by luxuriously thick ruby curtains slightly ajar, where people appeared engaged in carnal activities. The more I tried to not think about this, the more I found my feet shuffling to this zone, just to take a look, just to be sure I wasn’t imagining it.
‘I think I’ll join you,’ said Elizabeth, taking hold of my semi-engorged cock in her left hand, gently pressing her nails into me.
As I entered this segment of the room, everyone stopped moving, moaning, heaving, licking, kissing, touching. This was a moment that felt to me like a brief glimmer of eternity.
‘Lie down here,’ ordered Elizabeth, pushing me forward as I sat down and moving her perfect form on top of me, her body hair shaven but her long mane brushing over my face as she lowered her neck forward, gently tickling me with the strands across my chest.
‘Rupert, you need to relax more, honestly relax man. I’ve spoken to Hermione, everything’s totally cool.’
I jokingly squeezed her rubber like buttocks with both hands, and felt the slight bump at the bottom of her spine, a magnificent coccyx. My hands slipped further inside her. I felt compelled to glance over at Hermione, who was in the corner of the room with the waiter from the gallery.
She was moaning louder than anyone else, as if she was on stage, trying to project her voice into the street for those who had no ticket for the performance. For a brief moment, to hold my climax, I mulled the paintings we had observed, the empty rooms, the people free landscapes, and wondered what would inspire such lack of inspiration in the artist. Before I took a job in the City I myself had aspirations to go to art-college, a dream of joining the Royal Academy, but my father had just laughed in my spotty face.
‘Don’t be such a damn pansy Rupert,’ he had said when I was eighteen, waving his index finger at me, ‘it must be your mother’s fault for giving you such a wet name. Christ, you didn’t get it from me, that’s for sure.’
A loud screech rammed into my eardrum, like a car alarm gone berserk, skewering my momentarily slipped brain. The creature on top of me went into spasms, jerking like a washing machine out of control, then morphed into the inner mechanisms of a machine, an exposed circuit board.
The smell of whirring metal filled my nostrils and lungs. Something had short-circuited and skeletons of machines lay all around me, the bodies now absent, while Hermione’s moaning became louder, honking like the sound of migrating Canada geese.
‘Don’t stop, don’t stop,’ I heard her cry in both English and Italian.
Glancing over I could see a metal object thrusting itself into her, a blur of metal out of control.
I tried hard to free myself from the machine, but the weight of the object was too much, pressing me down powerfully into the frozen marble floor. Small crackles of circuit boards filled the room with pungent smoke. Green eyes had shrivelled to silicone and there was absolutely nothing I could do. The shutters in the room began to ease back automatically and St Peter’s appeared, the sun slipping behind the dome.
For a brief moment orange and blue and black coalesced. There seemed to be a face on the giant half egg mounted with a golden ball and cross, a leering smile that looked like a cross between my work colleague James and the man I had once called uncle, the person who originally got me my job in the City. The sky was a pure sheet of steel.
I could feel my hips now being crushed by the dense machine on top of me, the incessant screeching like a strangled bird, and something gnawing at the end of my penis like the teeth of a demented rat.
‘Bring me some more Chianti,’ I felt like yelling, but my mouth felt tied, my jaws clamped. I wanted to blank it all out, but the more I tried, the more I felt the intense pain in my groin.
‘Science needs rules Rupert my boy,’ came a fatherly voice from the window, ‘but art is free flowing, hence so dangerous.’
These were the final words I heard, as I managed to free myself from the machine, sliding out across the floor, stumbling, and making it to the window.
There was a wide ledge that I needed to avoid, so I jumped, springing as if from a diving board, my arms outreached, expecting to be taken up on the heavy currents of the late evening air.
I was now an angel, but I could not fly. The only place I could go was down. The machines were left inside rumbling mechanically, holding onto my tethered wings, pumping faster, and faster.
As I fell to the stone pavement I remembered the day my father, a biologist, told me about the birds and bees, the way in which we are programmed to find the nectar.
‘Whatever the cost, we must gain the honey,’ he used to mutter, from behind a large book, never allowing us to read the content of his eyes, the colour of his irises matching that of his thoughts.
‘Don’t stop, please, please don’t stop, please, please, don’t stop, please don’t stop ever,’ yelled Hermione, her accent now like a Speak and Spell machine.
I did not stop, plummeting through the ancient, cracked stone, tumbling into the regions we pray do not exist, for all eternity.