Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
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June 01
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JULY 16, 2010 7:41AM

Fiction Friday: Italy first seen

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Michelangelo - David 

Poets make lousy lovers. That’s what Linda told me over cappuccinos one afternoon after language lab, “and Italian poets are the lousiest of all.” All fancy words and fast orgasms, she said, but not a single honest feeling to back them up. “I should know,” she added.

 

One half of my brain believed her. The other half – just like the rest of my body – wasn’t buying it. Damn it, I wanted those words and orgasms, every one of them. The rest could wait, or so I thought in the days before I learned that “waiting” is a loser’s game.

 

Tony blew in and out of my life on a rainy night in the Village. Italian, I could tell at a glance, second-generation, not more than third. But if he wasn’t as tall as David, or pack the same set of muscles, a desperate little voice from somewhere behind my left eye wanted me to believe that somewhere beneath his tweeds and chinos he was cut from the same block of marble and shaped by the same maestro’s chisel. In fact, the man who presented himself to me as a hybrid of Michelangelo and Dante Alighieri was all tobacco smoke and scratchy whiskers and big ideas. All bigger than me, I learned soon after, when I realized I would never be more than a twinkle in this promising poet’s eager eye.

 

I was on my fourth glass of wine, belying my schoolgirl looks, and by the time Tony’s shaggy locks swung into the flat and the great man himself started declaiming his verses on Linda’s sagging sofa, with the birthday cake frosting still clinging to the plates and the hash crumbs progressively grinding into her Berber rug, I wasn’t exactly in schoolgirl mode. Although I thought I might just be in the mood to learn a new lesson from this teacher. And learn it I would before the sun put in its next appearance above the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

The moment he opened his mouth and told us then and there that a guy really has to be fucked up to break his own heart, and how he had proceeded to break it, and break it again, he had my attention. And the moment he pulled the door shut on Linda’s spare bedroom, he had the rest of me too.

 

I won’t say he sent me to heaven, but over the next four hours he at least dispatched me to Florence, and as he diligently applied those whisker burns to my cheeks and thighs, I was amazed at how hot David could be to the touch when you finally had him skin on skin. So much so that I found the “real” David to be somewhat of a letdown when I finally made it to Florence later that year. Such is the power of first impressions.

 

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