by Susan Tepper
I’ll meet you up at the pool, he tells me. Giving my forehead a brush with his lips he leaves the room. I picture him jogging to the elevator. I still have to shave my legs and use depilatory cream. In the bathroom mirror last night I noticed a shadow across my top lip.
He has covered the bathroom floor with all the big white used towels. The floor is immaculate white marble. He does this anyway. The maid takes all the towels when she cleans the room in the morning and then for night service. After we come back for the night he puts down more. It’s a ritual.
When I finish my toilette I step into my black swim suit. It’s strapless and shirred across the front and cut high up the leg. Every day a man at the pool stares when we walk past his chaise. He stares at me in an obvious way with his mouth dropped open. I act haughty and pretend not to notice. An attractive guy, around forty, with a mop of prematurely graying hair.
This man looks from me to him to me as if to say: what are you doing with this hippie looking guy? I feel like saying this hippie looking guy controls a large segment of the rock music world. Of course I say nothing. His long beard gets the gawkers every time. We have a good laugh over it. You’re classic and I’m weird looking, he says. That’s what makes us perfect together, he says. Special.
Today at the rooftop pool there’s trouble. A few young women have stripped down to bare. This is causing some older men to have staring fits. Their wives noticed and now are throwing their fits. But not at the stupid old husbands. The over-the-hill wives are angry at the naked beauties.
I would pay money for this entertainment, he tells me. We watch the goings on. He mentions one of the wives saying she was once very hot. That now she’s shot but once she was a stunning thing. I look at her sagging stomach over her bikini bottom and her cellulite legs and think otherwise.
I order another Perrier from the pool boy and pretend to be having fun. The noise and commotion increases. Two of the wives get out of their chairs and approach the naked beauties. Demanding they cover up. The French girls just arch their backs laughing.
Finally I stand up, too, moving toward the railing. A long way down is the sparkling Mediterranean. Monte’s hilly streets in the opposite direction.
I’m wishing the crazy wives would shut up. This sort of thing upsets me. Or, maybe something else. I don’t know. Being here with him is fabulous and terrible at once. I think about diving off the rail. That might stop all this racket. Woman buttresses off hotel roof the newspapers would say.
Here, no matter which way you look, is paradise.
Susan Tepper is the author of 3 published books. Her most current is “What May Have Been” (with Gary Percesepe) published by Cervena Barva Press. She has received 6 Pushcart Nominations and writes MONDAY CHAT on the Fictionaut blog, as well as “Madame Tishka Advises on Love & Other Storms” at Thunderclap Press. Visit her at www.susantepper.com
Lovely, heartbreaking and beautifully rendered. I can see and hear every detail of this version of Paradise.
“You’re classic and I’m weird looking, he says.” — i love the dense network of relationships across countries, ages, places, mind sets, in this piece. wonderfully described and brought to a close without shutting up all those voices.
Kim, thanks for telling me how the story struck you, I really apprciate that. Susan
Marcus, I’m very appreciative of what you saw in the story and that you let me know, as this one is part of a collection coming out next year.
I appreciate any and all feedback.
As a person sagging into this age–yet with stunningly brown hair–I love the irony of the ending.
Christopher, you will never sag into old age! Thanks so much for what you wrote about this story!
I can see clearly your paradise. Wonderful story
Estelle, and a paradise it is… of sorts… Thank you!
I loved this story, Susan! The young woman checking out the sagging older women who are checking out the french nudes. And the ending! Beautiful descriptions of everyone. I could see it all like a film! Excellent!
Meg, that is an astutue observation! So glad it was filmic and so glad you enjoyed reading it!
This is such a complex piece for its word count. Details perfectly chosen, perfectly placed (from the hint of mustache to the observation of cellulite, the unspoken dread of that becoming). The towel fetish prepares me for this level of detail and serves to hook me into the piece, but it’s the close unemotional observation of suppressed emotion that keeps me there, if that makes sense. Wonderful work.
Stephen, I’m extremely grateful to hear these indepth comments on the
story. They are very helpful to me, thank you!
A great piece of work Susan. Congratulations!
Gloria, a million thanks, dear heart..
I think this is the second piece I’ve read with these characters? I’m intrigued as much by what must go on in between the lines as I am with what is overtly stated. The imagery is evocative and somehow atmospheric and I can’t help from slipping into daydreams about Henri Matisse in the south of France – an altogether different time – but another complex confluence of conflicted personalities in “paradise”.
Michael,yes, there are a few stories floating around with these characters in this Monte setting. I like what you said here, thank you. Matisse is one of my favorite painters.
[…] Paradise (A-Minor Magazine, November 7, 2011) […]
Thank you Gessy Alvarez for keeping my story “Paradise” alive through your new Community Page. And thank you, Niclolette Wong, for nominating this story for a Pushcart!
Well done. Vivid imagery from beginning to end.