Just Listen/The Jane and Her Whore

Through eloquence the couple riding in the taxi’s darkened backseat elevates their smut into an elegance unusual to Las Vegas.

Most of what the driver Lewy hears during his night-into-day shift is worse than repetitive. It’s boring, demonstrating a lack of inventiveness as well as class.

Lewy considers himself doubly fortunate. Not only is the fare lengthy, but the pair seated behind him mark early morning miles with intricate rather than mundane or raunchy conversation. To put a cherry atop all this they also converse in Italian.

Before the ride commences, Lewy gauges his passengers. Under hotel valet lights he appraised them, then once they climbed inside from the rearview mirror. Somewhere in their 50s, he intuits that while together they aren’t an established couple. His workweeks consist of seeing many pairs who’ve used the “anything goes!” behind Las Vegas to temporarily sidestep propriety and fidelity.

Fortunately, he never put much stock in morality. Especially others’ morality.

Unlike prior fares he’s briefly noted then immediately dismissed, this pair has earned his attention. They carry themselves confidently, not arrogantly.

Given the circumstance Lewy thinks threads them together, he decides she projects intelligence rather than cunning; the man grudging sureness. If regret weighs them, neither tries lightening this burden with innocence of the indignant kind.

The woman, Virna, told Lewy an address. Unconsciously, though, she recited it in Italian. She never realizes he comprehends. So caught up in the subject and her companion Pier Paolo Virna misses the slip.

Had either of them asked, Lewy believes the explanation would’ve garnered their approval. Not of Italian heritage himself, he grew up among a great many third-generation Americans who could do better than trace their immigrant heritages. All they needed doing was point at either grandma or grandpa.

Whether from stubbornness or rustics’ attachment to Old Country continuity, such people spoke English sparingly in their homes. While English was fine for their children, “the Americans,” and beyond the home, the old tongue prevailed between their walls.

In a manner that coerced as well as educated, the eldest generation used Italian when conversing with its youngest. So unless replies were conjugated in the strange tongue grandpa might feign deafness; and grandma could be less likely to serve up any plates of hot steaming old village delicacies.

And Lewy, a frequent guest in these homes, loved and still loves Italian cuisine. His belly attests to his fondness. A long-time Northeasterner fairly recently arrived to Las Vegas, Lewy’s Italian has rusted. Initially he struggles to keep up with his passengers. But as the tale and miles unfold his comprehension increases and absorption improves.

Defying stereotypes neither passenger talks gregariously or flourishes his or her statements with florid gestures. Their mien is thoughtful and calm yet intense nevertheless.

He finds what Virna and Pier Paolo present nice perks. Of course since they skew older than evening passengers commonly hailing him their discourse should be elevated. By demeanor and attire he takes them to be educated, if not altogether refined. Much better them than the accustomed youthful revelers who’ve visit Vegas to sic their worst aspects and behavior upon an unsuspecting and undeserving public.

Lewy lets Pier Paolo and Virna prattle. The distant address and his moderate speed allow a vivid canvas to unfurl.

He gathers the subject consists of two women. A pair Virna and Pier Paolo spied hours earlier in the evening. One is a streetwalker, the other her pickup; the former black, the latter white. Or as Pier Paolo paints them: “The darkest of night entwined among the brightest of day.”

Virna asks which of the pair would be passive. “Is the prostitute in the role of being acted upon? Or does her Jane insist upon being ‘engaged’?”

Pier Paolo scoffs. “You saw them. The blondie, she was hesitant. She was unsure. She’s mush. The other, the melanzana, the whore, she led. She determined the pace. No doubt she would insist upon what occurred, the pace itself.”

Warming to his topic, he continues. “The whore. No mistaking her. She looked wary. Probably turns fierce in a moment. I find this admirable in whores.”

Naturally Virna wonders how he’d acquired such admiration. More pointedly she asks the number of prostitutes with whom he’s commingled. She does both impishly.

Inferring from Pier Paolo’s dismissive reaction, the answer can be “numerous” or “put that out of your mind.”

Virna sniffs and smirks at male prerogative.

“Wonder, though, if behind closed doors, their roles reverse?” she asks. “Say, the weak gains character. The Jane, she has a taste. She has a yearning. One that can’t be filled in any other way, nowhere else but here. Ah! She becomes assertive. As we know, the anonymity here, what doesn’t it make possible?”

These two pass complicit side-eye glances which confess plenty through silence.

Pier Paolo claims neither demands the other undress. They just disrobe then tumble into bed.

Virna disputes him. She rebukes him.

“A male view behind male intentions,” Virna scoffs. “For the Jane, and I insist she is the lead actress throughout, undresses in an excruciating manner while the prostitute does so matter-of-factly. Because for her it is routine. But maybe her Jane makes demands. She wants to lengthen the moment. Make it more than just sex.”

“So she comes to Las Vegas like many do in order to find and indulge or resume the sort of investigations her own home can’t or won’t provide,” Pier Paolo says. “And if it’s available there the selection is so limited the partners become repetitive. And routine dulls.”

“Or like drugs,” Virna says. “After a while only a higher dosages maintain the same highs.”

“Tolerance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be sometimes,” he remarks.

The blonde watches her prostitute undress. Maybe to her the process recalls countless repetitions watched surreptiously in locker rooms. There should be more. A voice. Hers. It commands, no, it instructs on how garments should be shed.

Perhaps this insistence surprises the streetwalker. Hey, maybe it also surprises the woman giving the commands. Had the hooker misjudged her “date”? Based on first impressions, had she entered that room thinking the client nervous, an inexperienced novice? One whose previous likely small town experiences sufficed to whet her appetites yet failed delivering satiety. Had her plans to simply satisfy the other as quickly as possible been unexpectedly sidetracked?

Pier Paolo and Virna hoped so as did Lewy. His passengers tell a story. They weave details in an interchangeable manner common to long-time or merely intimate couples. One speaker doesn’t so much interrupt the other but elides his or her same verbal thread.

Was this a moment where the hired girl recalibrates her task? If so, did she grin? Had they both grinned from understanding their new balance? Wouldn’t the hooker have then followed instructions? In fact mightn’t she have made a show of it? And wouldn’t the Jane have looked past her condescending nature because such was the sort of control she’s always sought and imagined?

Just another way to satisfy the Jane.

The ebony ramrod stands naked before the blonde. The client’s gaze might be mistaken for close inspection. Blissfully close inspection. Hers becomes the visual equivalent for devouring.

The proud stock-still ebony figure swallowing her attention compels their eyes to level. Neither flinches but the blonde achieves an ease at removing her own clothing. A new experience because all her previous ones, few as they are, involved exorcising certain measures of shame as each item of clothing rested upon some handy surface or piled at her feet.

Tonight nothing hinders gravity or blunt exposure.

Expectant regarding the money to be earned, the streetwalker becomes coolly anxious; the white one hungry, no, desirous. Before her is flesh she may wantonly explore, meld with, exult within. Given such deliverance, the white woman may actually sigh deepest held secrets to a stranger whose anonymity guarantees those confessions remain unrevealed.

They’d have fallen into bed. They’d entwine. Only the Jane’s embrace would be heartfelt; that of her consort constricts from a mercantile nature. Hers an initially held distance that gradually reciprocates the blonde’s ache – or so those listening and relating hoped as the imagined coupling developed.

Virna and Pier Paolo debate the actresses’ contrasting flesh. Do pale arms slash across the black woman’s lean back? Given her longer legs, do the prostitute’s own swirl around the client’s thick lower limbs in some kind of phantasmagoric sexual clutch? How does the black woman respond to her patroness’ romantic veering entreaties? It’s not business to the customer but release. Therefore, wouldn’t she cross the carnal commerce threshold and attempt introducing emotions into the proceedings?

The Jane and her whore find then extract delights from another. Knowing which manipulations deliver pleasure serve to reply in kind. Familiar curves instead of male masses further favor the senses. Rather than any man’s hirsute bulk, smooth supple skin welcomes one another.

Upon pillows and sheets the two women quietly begin to rage. The linen which they stain becomes a continuously shifting landscape. A terrain that absorbs sweat increasingly tinged by musk. Whether moved by compulsion or seeking restraint because forfeiture of such erases her profession’s necessary barrier, the whore strives to resist any meaningful component the Jane attempts inducing.

Neither woman simply yields.

“The Jane doesn’t understand,” Virna says. “While her prostitute understands very well. Their congress is physical and no more. Its purpose is discharge into exhaustion, not intimate fulfillment. She seeks deep-rooted gratification when the sole reward at hand is momentary satisfaction. That poor woman.”

Both Pier Paolo and Virna agree. The Jane will let the moment run away. Her small, warm lips will seek the whore’s cool wide pair. The black woman’s mouth wouldn’t be pliant at first. In fact wouldn’t it be unreceptive, herself resentful of the other’s impertinence? Knotted as they are, one evasive the other insistent, each struggles.
Their exchange becomes a match of imposition versus resistance.

Certainly there is more, though not for Lewy’s ears. They reach the address. The ride finishes in a cul-de-sac. Weak streetlamps barely outline the residences. Reverting to English, his passengers effusively thank Lewy for his services. They also apologize for filling his ear with Italian babble and tip nicely for their “inconsideration.”

“Business,” Pier Paolo explains.

Virna’s accompanying smile is brittle one on the way to sad. She confirms Pier Paolo’s lie. “Yes, business.”

The last Lewy sees of Pier Paolo and Virna they resemble underworld shades. Scant luminesce hardly distinguishes them from night.

Perched on a flight of steps leading into the front door, she sits sideways atop his lap. Her legs dangle off his thighs. Both heads bow towards another in a universal sign recognized for earnest discourse. Distance now rewards their ears alone.

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