It feels nice to look up a word in a dictionary when you already know its meaning. The pleasures of editing also come from the same place, the reaffirmation that you know something. Let us turn to a thesaurus. Landscape: countryside, panorama, picture, vista…

Landscape fits well.

In one of those landscapes, lengthwise down the entire vista, a black Volga[1] descended a mountain, carrying a woman of indefinite age and a boy-man. It would have sufficed to say a man and a woman. They were searching for a cozy spot, a comfortable, well-hidden corner, to which they could retreat, away from curious eyes. They’ve been searching for a while now, up and down the rock-studded hills, to the right and the left of the road bends. It was the peak of the farming season, and farmhands kept popping up in the empty fields, walking along with their faces to the ground, or the brightness of a kerchief would flash among the low branches of the brush.

The woman who, as I already mentioned, was of indefinite age, either feels tired or isn’t in love with the man. By now, she’s regretting that she agreed to come, calm down, she says to herself, calm down. The man is young, and loves the woman in his own, peculiar way. Love is always peculiar; he’s used to this woman.

“I couldn’t sleep all night, thinking of you,” he says. “How are things?”

She emits a sigh, a vocalization. There she goes again, in low spirits, as usual.

“Ok,” says the man, “let’s see if we can do something to cheer you up.”

The woman gives him a tentative smile, but the man is undeterred by this—this is simply her way.

They make another left turn and come upon a rocky trail. The car’s forging ahead with effort. A banging noise comes for under the car—it has struck something. Not much can be done about that.

They find a thicket of oleaster bushes, with a stream gliding down the slope, and some structures up ahead, very-very far from where they are, probably summer houses. There are cows grazing in the meadows.

“Here we are,” says the man with no conviction in his voice.

From now on, he’ll always lack confidence, and his affairs will soon start going downhill.

The sky’s overcast, with low-hanging clouds. The sun’s about to turn. There’s an apricot orchard nearby, with a few apple and mulberry trees mixed in. Armies of weeds are blooming along the stream: saint john’s wart, milfoil, yellow field violets, and even a few tulips. The woman wants to gather a bouquet, but it’s not the time for that. The scent of the oleaster has filled the car, it’s humid outside. The man has joined her on the back seat, and she can no longer escape touching his sweaty body. The man used to be a wrestler. Some time ago, the woman fell for him. She desired him the moment she laid her eyes on him. She saw him from behind, and the sight of his back sent her heart fluttering. She approached him slowly, and, as she passed him, they both turned to look simultaneously, their eyes met, and the man desired her as well; there was an instant spark. But when was that, how many ages ago?

The man still looked like a movie star, handsome and broad-shouldered, but who knows what women fall in love with? Even if we don’t call it love—we’ll have a chance to talk about love later, when and what does a woman desire in a man? Nobody knows. Only one thing is certain, that she desires a man only when he refuses to satisfy her. The woman threw her head back and turned her face away. “Why doesn’t he shower, or have I just become too sensitive?” All the while, as the man kissed her passionately, she desperately wished for someone to chance upon them and interrupt the tryst. The backseat of the car was customarily uncomfortable: the headrest was too low, and the rug on the seat had bunched up in an unfortunate spot. How much longer would this have to continue, dear lord? The woman thought back to another man and another situation. “I wish your house burned down,” she’d cursed him back then. What was it, her bad luck or weak will that made it impossible for her to reject any man who lusted after her.

“This is going to take forever again,” she thought.

“It’s wrong to desire too strongly,” the man finally gave up and pulled back, “all the waiting, all the trouble….”

“Why doesn’t he just say it’s because of my indifference, it’s all your fault?” thought the woman.

The man looked out into the landscape, slowly got out of the car and buttoned up. He stood there, forlorn, and then lifted the hood of the car, just in case if they needed to cheat the invisible eyes observing them. The woman felt like getting out of the car as well, but instead remained inside, prone on the seat. “God  created love as a condition for desire, to straighten things out, he saw that we weren’t like animals, that we always wanted and found ways to do it, so he created love, morality, religion, but we somehow managed to find our way around all those things. That energy of ours, its surplus, always circulating through out bodies, needs to be used somehow. Having sex works because it taps both into positive and negative energy, and offers us relief. That’s why the act is often called ‘relaxing’ or ‘unwinding.’ To rid one’s body of the surplus energy.”

“I love you,” said the man, who’d approached here again, with an immobile, pale face. “I love your breasts, your scent, your skin. You drive me wild. Help me out, so that I, too….”

“Uh-uh,” the woman shook her head. She’d already gotten hers. Those thoughts always visited her after the act. She could ‘relax’ simply by touching, but rubbing up against something. If most women were never satisfies, she was lucky, fortunate, blessed, as the thesaurus would insist. She was like this in all aspects of her life: her hunger, her lust, and her disappointment were all spontaneous. But as far back as she could remember, there was always an element of disappointment and disgust added to those minutes. It turned out that body and mind were, after all, each other’s antagonists, ruining everything. But even that wouldn’t change who she was.

“I wish you helped me out here…”

“I can’t,” said the woman.

The man knew not to expect anything else from her. His own words egged him on, and he continued to list all the parts of her body that he loved, what he wanted to do with them, what he was doing, and so on. The landscape remained completely unchanged. No, to the other side of the grazing cows, a small group of people was making a fire, in an open spot so as not to set any trees ablaze. The firewood was already arranged, and somebody was squatting over it, blowing at the flames. The group was preparing for a barbeque. One of them stood to the side, watching the couple through the binoculars.

“They’re done,” said the observer, and passed the binoculars to the person standing next to him, who also looked but chose not to comment.

A few minutes later, the car emitted a distant roar, took off in a hurry, dipped into the ravine, reemerged on its other side and left, disappearing behind the hills.


 [1] A Russian-made large sedan.

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