A Boner in Bercy

There was never much to do in Bercy. That was no secret. Yet still they would go from time to time, attempting to “make a day out of it,” as couples would lamely say–as though there was a responsibility to lending the relationship the illusion of more purpose than it actually had. Certainly far more than simply being on one’s own. Wandering the earth alone in the unshakeable shroud of an unlikeable fool, an untouchable of an 80s-era AIDS victim variety.

Félicité was the one who usually urged that she and Jean-Michel make the attempt to do something different, starting with the haul toward the twelfth arrondissement, where they would climb the stairs of the Viaduc des Arts, the 1.5 kilometer former train line that once crossed from Paris-Bastille to Vincennes–a “marvel” disused after just 110 years. That was the nature of progress. Here today, gone tomorrow. All that bullshit people say to justify ridding themselves of what is now arbitrarily deemed obsolete. It was for this reason that Jean-Michel was averse to walking along the reconverted aqueduct, keeping his thoughts to himself about how life was a lie and that nothing meant anything (except maybe sex), least of all defunct train lines once applauded. He knew this kind of talk would upset Félicité, who wanted to do her best to believe that existence was meaningful. When they first met, Jean-Michel semi-tried to believe that as well. But something changed within him once he started working a more grueling and mentally demanding job–of the sort of mental demands that made one stamp out most original thought altogether.

When they began their relationship, two years ago, they were both holding fast to calling themselves visual artists. They were still young enough to. At the time, it also seemed to Jean-Michel that Félicité was much more of a nympho. She recalled it differently when he would bring it up from time to time, usually when she rebuffed his caresses in bed, now seemingly repugnant to her. He couldn’t place what had changed between them and, truth be told, neither could she. But sex was the furthest thing from her mind while, to Jean-Michel, it was a constant obsession–one that plagued him at the most inopportune of times, including at work, when concentration on his banal computer-oriented tasks was most difficult. He would secret away to the bathroom at least six times a day to rub one out, never having the courage to tell Félicité about his plight, for fear that she might leave him. Though he couldn’t say why that would be a source of anxiety for him considering how miserable he was in the relationship. Yet there was something comforting about that misery, something familiar. If Félicité left him, he would have to start all over again with a fresh form of emotional dolor. The one he was wearing suited him fine enough.

As for Félicité, well, she was secure in her near total detachment from Jean-Michel at this point as anything other than a semi-worthwhile accessory to be flanked with while walking down the street so as not to be deemed in that previously mentioned category of unlikeable fool or untouchable of an 80s-era AIDS victim variety. Her oblivion to his sexual frustration was at its most complete now, almost as though she had deliberately put on blinders to his predicament. Because seeing it would mean having to address it.

Jean-Michel tried, at certain moments, to make his physical agony evident to her, going so far as to walk in front of her as she was reading in bed with his bare erection. She would look up, roll her eyes and continue reading. Why was it her problem? Her duty to allay his issue. And, speaking of “issues,” shouldn’t men be a little less sex-crazed when considering they could never manage to be present enough when the time came to fulfill a paternal role? No, they didn’t deserve sex, were not responsible enough to handle its pure biological outcome. This was, in part, what Félicité told herself as a means to justify her hardened cold shoulder toward Jean-Michel. It wasn’t that she no longer cared for him, but she could not be bothered to bear his burdens in addition to her own any longer. Maybe this was the definition of love in the twentieth century, when women were peddled hooey like “stand by your man,” but she had her own emotional avalanches to contend with–chiefly, pretending that everything was okay and that the walls of her psychosis were not going to crash down upon her at any minute.

It was with this mindset that she suggested their walk to Bercy, where they might either get a drink or take in a screening at the Cinémathèque, though it never seemed to be playing anything all that interesting to her anymore. How many Joan Crawford retrospectives did there need to be, after all? For Jean-Michel, the thought of going to a movie was torturous anyway, for it was a prime time to end up with an inconvenient boner (though he reckoned he likely wouldn’t if they went to see something with Crawford in it). Yet to express this to Félicité would result in little sympathy, and he didn’t want to start an argument with her when she had given him the slight encouragement earlier of actually reaching out to hold his hand as they walked the promenade of the aqueduct. It felt like a positive sign, like maybe he might even be able to get to touch her tit later in bed that evening. He didn’t want to rock the boat with any naysaying about plans for a movie.

Unfortunately, instead of a Crawford vehicle, it turned out to be Stelvio Massi’s Arabella l’angelo nero. A hyper-erotic giallo from the last year of the 80s that quickly gave Jean-Michel a boner that rose in a manner tantamount to a volcanic eruption, or maybe bankruptcy: gradually, then completely out of control. He felt he couldn’t even stand up to get to the bathroom without the light of the screen overtly silhouetting his mutant erection. He was frozen, paralyzed by the absurd size of this boner, one that appeared only to be expanding rather than diminishing as Arabella went at it with her husband and an additional man (her husband is a writer who likes to write about these encounters, in typical men stealing women’s narratives fashion). Before he could figure out what he ought to do–bolt for the bathroom or pray for a scene of gore to calm it down (because that would be weird if it didn’t at the sight of murder, right?)–he felt an excruciating moment of pain followed by the most explosive and pleasurable orgasm of his life. Along with a bloodbath of semen spattered onto the giant screen, he could see the pieces of skin that once made up his phallus among the fold as well. And when he looked down, his boner–and penis–were entirely gone. Félicité turned to him and shrugged, as the other patrons assumed this was some sort of “interactive” part of the screening, clapping as they ooh’d and ahh’d at the “effect” of Jean-Michel’s explosion. This certainly solved his former problem, or, more accurately, Félicité’s. For she would never have to worry about his attempts at sexual pursuit again.

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