New Work

By Monica Meneghetti

I poured a glass of Chardonnay, then took off my clothes. I polished the fingerprints from my cello’s gloss, parted my legs to cradle her gleaming, wooden curves. And then I disappeared into the long, slow draw of my bow across her bridge and the resonance of her voice.

I love my cello for the way she makes me breathe. The pattern of inhalations and exhalations intoxicate me. I love her for the way she waits. Two hours or two weeks, she’ll wait in the dark of her case, and sing for me when I decide to play her. I make her come alive.

Because of the cello, and probably also the wine, I arrived at Moira’s writing studio late. The writing desk and computer dominated the room, and Moira’s life. Tonight, she would read a recently completed series of poems.

I took one of the few remaining chairs and watched other guests helping themselves to refreshments. Most of them had come for the cheese or, more likely, the wine. I was in the latter group. When I held my own open studios, I suspected only a few guests appreciated music in general, and still fewer, my music in particular. But I held them anyway, just so I could play for an audience.

I recognized only one of the guests. Pouring herself a second glass of wine was a woman whose name I’d forgotten but had once talked at me for at least an hour about her latest project. Something about using vintage vinyl record albums as canvas for painting. Some no-doubt brilliantly retro idea, anyway. Judging from the glazed look on her victim’s face, her natural tendency had been worsened by the wine. She was blathering non-stop, no doubt about a similar topic. I carefully avoided eye contact and decided to wait for a safer time to fill my own glass.

I wondered if Cara would show up. I had met her at my last open studio, when she’d asked questions about the composer of the piece I’d played. With her hair freshly washed and worn loose, the gloss and colour had been unusual, like the finish on a grand piano. The pants she’d worn were a shade of burgundy I’d never seen, in a subtly brocaded fabric. I remembered in particular the two particular curves revealed by these pants: slight lordosis of the lower spine above her buttocks, and the more rounded curve of her ass flowing into thigh. Curves I wanted to stroke and cup.

I dwelled on this memory for so long that when she finally came in the door, I was flustered. Convinced that if I looked at her just then, my eyes, like some kind of hi-tech film projector, would deliver my thoughts straight into her brain and my intentions would be exposed. And they were definitely not honourable. As she walked toward me, I pretended to be fascinated by one of the paintings on the studio wall.

“Hey. I was hoping you’d be here. Red or white?” she said.

“Red.” I smiled, handing her my empty glass. I watched her walk away from me. She was wearing those same pants. I noticed the remembered curves, a perfect, cursive “w,” slowing at the bottom of each stroke to accommodate the roundness.

The vintage vinyl artist was still beside the refreshment table, but the poor bloke she’d buttonholed had managed somehow to slip free. He’d joined the small crowd gathered around Moira, who was holding court near the wine bottles. Cara edged through them sideways, eyes downcast. The group shuffled only slightly to make space. She glanced up, smiled, tucked her black hair behind her ear, saying “excuse me,” then glanced down again as she continued to the table. Walking back toward me, she rolled her eyes.

“I don’t think they’re poetry fans,” Cara remarked, handing me a glass of Shiraz. Artfully poured, only three-quarters full. “They’re awfully focused on the wine.”

She leaned in to reach my raised hand, and her hair came untucked from behind her ear. It fell against the pale skin of her cheek, and hung past her jaw, resting against the exposed skin of her chest, its darkness echoing the shadow of her cleavage.

Seated as I was, with her standing in front of me, my gaze, if I hadn’t been tilting my head upwards, would rest at her navel. From there, only a quick glance downwards revealed the mysterious “v” which had inspired insomnia since I’d met her. I resisted the impulse to put my hands on the backs of her thighs and pull her nearer to me. She kneeled on the floor in front of me, as if preparing to meditate. Now I was forced to look slightly downwards at her, and avoid letting my eyes wander into the “v” at the top of her conservative blouse. She’d come straight from work, I guessed.

“Beautiful necklace,” I said. Tiny, irregular shaped beads the same colour as her pants seemed to cling to the skin of her throat, with nothing stringing them together. “Looks like little drops of blood,” I added.

“Yes, don’t they,” she agreed. “Amazing what you can do with a bit of glass and fishing line.”

“So, where do you sell your jewelry?”

“What? Oh, I didn’t make this,” she said, her fingers nudging a bead. It rolled slightly against her neck, revealing that it was not liquid. “A friend of mine did.”

“So, what do you do with your time here on Earth?” I asked.

“Work.” She laughed. “Not much time for anything else, the way you students keep me going around here! Besides, I’m just not creative.”

“Everyone is creative. It’s part of being human. You just haven’t found your thing yet. Or you found it, but someone screwed it up for you.”

“Maybe. Hey, how’s the new piece coming?”

I had time for a brief answer as Moira, fortified by fermented grapes, climbed up onto a wooden chair.

“Welcome to my studio! Thanks for coming. I’ll read some poems and then we can all head down to the bar and do some dancin’!” She did a mock twist, waving the sheaf of paper in her hands from side to side.

Moira was unquestionably an accomplished poet, with a sophisticated style. But as I’d suspected, the suite of poems was about “nature,” a topic that had worn very thin.

“The lurkers have cleared,” I said to Cara once the quiet applause had subsided. “Let’s get some more wine. Your legs must be asleep.”

“It’s okay, I’m used to it.” She got up slowly, her legs clearly stiff from kneeling on the hardwood.

She reached for a newly opened bottle, I extended my empty glass. As she began to pour, I pulled the glass back. Wine splashed onto the studio floor by my feet. She immediately crouched down and wiped it up with some cocktail napkins.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said, “It was my fault. I suddenly realized I shouldn’t have any more red. I’m getting all splotchy.”

But by the time I had protested, she had already mopped up most of the mess. She dropped the red-stained napkins into a garbage can by the computer. “There’s no more white,” she said. “Let’s go to the pub.”

A half-litre of Chardonnay later, I was beginning to let my lust show. I demanded she show me her tongue. She refused, but weakly.

I leaned toward her, elbows on the table. “Show me your tongue.”

Coyly, she poked the tip of it out from between her full lips. Like a little girl taunting me in the school yard.

“Not like that. Mick Jagger–style.”

She protested, looking over one shoulder, then the other, at the crowd of people surrounding us.

“They were pissed before they even got here! Everyone’s smashed on free booze. C’mon. Rolling Stones me!”

Mouth open, wet tongue-tip reaching down beneath her bottom lip. Full, flat tongue, taste buds glistening. Dark red in the dim bar. The colour of blood, the colour of wine. She closed her mouth.

I knew there would be a moist spot in the dip above her chin, where her tongue had come to rest. I reached over and wiped that spot with my index finger. Quickly, before it had time to dry.

In that moment of contact, the bar noise had receded from my awareness. Now, as I waited for her reaction, noise seemed all that existed. Laughter, music, the click of an old-fashioned lighter snapping shut.

“It’s late. Better go home and sober up. 6 a.m. comes early,” she said.

My cello leans against me, her right shoulder against my right nipple, her neck brushes past my left ear, my fingers rest on her fingerboard. I pull the first note from her with my bow, gently stroking until her body begins to quiver with sound. I encourage her vibration by trembling my fingertips on the strings. A light buzz begins along the inside of my knees. With the first crescendo, her vibration caresses the buzz further along my legs, up the inside of my thighs. My mouth waters. I know soon her sound will reach its focal point at my core. I must focus on the music, the notes I am meant to coax from her. I fight distraction, I fight the urge to change tempo in anticipation. This piece has no prestissimo, I must wait for a slow building of tension, a gently drawn-out release. Sound greets wetness; her vibration fills me, sound pulses through my knees, up my legs, along the soft inner thigh. As the notes rise in pitch, I feel my cheeks hot, my nipples hard, her body inches away from me yet linked to me by an umbilical of sound. My eyes flutter in reflex to pleasure. I force my lids open, force my pupils to focus on the score, another movement to come, I must not float away in this bliss. It has always been like this. I steal a few notes from the composer as I accept my cello’s thanks.

The studio door opened.

“I’ve been listening,” said Cara, closing the door behind her. “It’s late, but I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind…”

I leaned the cello up against the wall, turned away from it to face her.

“You’re leaving soon. I can sleep later,” she said.

Chenille touch of skin. Sudden dip of waist. The smallness of her face. I kiss her mouth, but not first. I begin with her arm, my tongue. I slide it down the complete length of her. Her skin tastes like polished, oiled wood, smooth and gleaming. I pause above the white triangle of her panties. I begin to stroke this triangle with the lightest of fingertip touches. Her back arches, her voice oozes from her open throat. I trace circles over the triangle, increase the pressure, massaging more sound from her. We are both warm and aching now. Panties off, the white triangle becomes dark brown. I part her matted curls, not giving the satisfaction of touch to the most sensitive parts. I place my lips upon her in the transverse kiss. Beneath my lips, I feel voracious mouths, one nestled inside the other. I lick the corners of the first. Her voice responds in mezzo piano. I cannot resist the pull inward. My lips greet the kiss of the next. Each mouth becomes harsher, slicker, more insistent the deeper I explore. When I reach the innermost mouth, I slip my tongue into the throat of her. This throat leads to another mouth, one I cannot reach. I am wild with moisture and pulsation, wishing for a serpent’s tongue so I can smell and taste her both at once. Her voice is a crescendo to forte, the more I kiss the more offers itself to my tongue. Only when I try to sing my own praises to pleasure do I realize I cannot breathe. I am drawn into her, she is swallowing me, gulping me in with her many mouths. I pull my lips from her, cry for breath like a newborn sucking first air. I rest my cheek on the hardwood between her knees, remembering I cannot breathe liquid, do not remember how to breathe liquid.

Our warmth seeped into each other as we lay on the hardwood floor, smoothing each other’s hair, tracing each other’s curves. I looked into her blue eyes, first one, then the other and wondered aloud about the dark fleck in the lower part of her left eye.

“An iridologist once told me what it meant.”

“Do you remember?”

“Something about a love triangle.”

“Crazy witch.”

Since meeting Cara, I’d done the usual imagining. I had expected being with her to be a bliss of transgression. But I was surprised to discover it was more like returning home, like the world set right. I wasn’t surprised by her passion, I was surprised that she had come to me. Because she had a man at home. But I could hardly take the moral high ground, given my feelings for my cello.

When it was time to put our clothes back on, she wanted me to wear her dress on stage. I slipped the clingy fabric over my head and found that the dress fit me. The warm fabric released a mixture of her tea rose perfume and sweat. I sighed. I laughed and tossed her the dress I had worn for the previous recital. She pulled it over her head.

“Now, let’s see if you can still play, virtuoso,” she said, approaching the door of my studio. She would find a seat in the concert hall, slightly out of my line of sight, as requested.

I grasped the cello’s neck to lay her in her case. Electric shock snapped into me. I jerked my hand back, shook the charge from my fingertips.

“The cello’s jealous,” Cara laughed, and then stopped laughing. I guess she saw the look on my face.

My final recital. Applause poured out into the wings as I walked into the concert hall. There’s always a hush inside me, a lull as I enter, and I tend to look down. I don’t want anyone to notice, to suspect the physical pleasure I am anticipating. I know what I am going to feel while the notes vibrate within my cello’s gleaming body. This time, I wondered if Cara could see it. Would she be jealous?

My cello and I have always known. Once my studies were over, I’d be going home. Cara was beginning to understand this, too.

“Next week is your last concert.” She stared past me at her wool suit jacket, which she had carefully draped over my practice chair.

“I know.”

“You could stay.”

I glanced at my cello.

“Don’t you want to be together?”

“There’s email. Phone. We can take turns visiting each other.”

“I mean together.

I knew what she meant. Her together included morning breath, and sharing bathtub-scrubbing duties. “What do you want me to say?”

“You’re the sensitive artist, you figure it out.”

She actually left without her suit jacket.

It fit around the shoulders of my cello just fine, I discovered.

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Monica Meneghetti

Monica Meneghetti is a multilingual language professional and writer with a penchant for cross-disciplinary collaboration. Her work appears in print and online as well as in musical scores and on stage. Her work has appeared in Prairie Journal, Prairie Fire, Filling Station and Canadian Alpine Journal. Her memoir What the Mouth Wants was published by Dagger Editions, an imprint of Caitlin Press, in March 2017.