The Don Quixote Piece
Jacob pounded the keys.
"These words are to shield me; to diffuse what I want to do; to prevent me from carrying out what I crave to do; what I will not do; what I refuse; what I resist, insist I will not carry out. I will not surrender. I am bigger than this, than this that wells in my heart and my groin, than this that overruns my thoughts and imaginations and spills from me as sweat and desire and now these words so that I will not consummate them, cannot consummate them, so that the fantasies, the needs will remain disembodied and spectral and far-off and unrealized."
Jacob hovered over the typewriter. The typewriter tickered on the wooden table. The wooden table squatted on the raised wooden platform situated within the bay window. Jacob pounded the keys of the typewriter. At the phrase "far-off and unrealized" Jacob stopped pounding the keys of the typewriter. He glanced up unseeingly to the bay windows. He turned away from the bay windows then to the room in which he worked. A dining area of wooden floors lie three steps down from his platform. A living area of wooden floors lie three steps down from the dining area. To the right of the living area opened an entrance Jacob could not see. To the left gaped the bathroom doorway, another step downward. Gazing into the room now, into that bathroom doorway, into that living area with its wooden floors, into that dining area with its wooden floors, Jacob grasped it all suddenly as a theater. A theater.
And Lucia the French girl.
Lucia would be its performer.
He pounded the keys:
"Lucia will come in through the entrance where I cannot see her. Lucia will drape her coat over the sofa. Lucia will be fatigued and perspiring from rehearsal and Lucia will glide into the bathroom to shower and through the mirror I will watch Lucia trip on the light and then pivot to open the shower valve and then face the mirror to peel away her leotard. Yes, this is what will happen. This is how I will describe it so that it will not happen."
Came then a real and true shuffling from the entranceway. Jacob stopped the pounding of the typewriter. He breathed deliberately. He felt his groin flushed with a heat and a tightness. He listened for the shuffling to resume.
The grinding of a door key then.
Lock tumblers tumbling.
The door he could not see swung open.
The door he could not see closed.
And she glided then into the living area, onto the stage of Jacob's theater. She was perspiring, Jacob saw--from rehearsal. She dropped her bag onto the sofa. She draped her coat over the sofa. She limped. Wait! She was limping! Good. So she limped across the living area, across the stage, down the step to the bathroom doorway and through the bathroom doorway. She stooped to open the shower valve. Jacob watched this through the mirror. Then she pivoted back to the mirror and faced it. She faced herself in the mirror.
Jacob left his typewriter. He left it on the wooden table within the bay windows. He descended from the platform. He descended to the dining area. He descended to the living area. He descended finally a last step to the bathroom doorway. Jacob leaned there against the doorframe. He smiled at Beth in the mirror.
Jacob said nothing.
The air in the bathroom was beginning to haze with the steam from the heated water.
"My love," Jacob said to Beth.
Still staring into the mirror Beth pealed away her leotard, exposing to Jacob, to the mirror, to the room, her small perfect breasts.
Jacob moved behind her and folded his arms about her waist. He embraced her.
"My love," he said again. Jacob lifted his arms to cup Beth's bared breasts in his hands. He examined them in the mirror. It was then that he saw that Beth had been crying, that her countenance was stern and cold-blooded the way it got after she had wept. He squinted at Beth's eyes. He glanced at Beth's breasts. He smoothed his hands to Beth's hips. Beth had not wept at the studio. He knew this. Beth would never cry at the studio. Beth had wept in the car on the way home.
"My love," Jacob cooed to her. "You're home early."
Beth would not meet his gaze.
"Tell me what happened."
Beth shook her head. But then the tears started to thread over her flushed cheeks. Not a sound escaped. Her jaw softened. And in one fluid sudden movement Jacob felt and then saw her right foot rising from the floor. The movement was unbroken, effortless: Her hip, her thigh, her knee extended to his right, then her knee bent, then her knee turned out and hooked her foot in front of them both. A perfect dévelope to attitude devant, Jacob thought, his hands still on her hips. Jacob surveyed the foot that now hung unwaveringly between him and Beth and the mirror.
"Oh," Jacob said.
There before them hung the more prosaic black toes and calluses and cuts and bandages, yes; but now, too, an instep purpleblack, blue and swollen. He had seen this before. This had happened once long ago, at Ohio Ballet.
"I'm so sorry," he understated.
And he searched Beth's face to find it had steeled itself again. She left the injured foot there hovering in front of them, as if it were some incontrovertible evidence to some unconscionable crime. Jacob grimaced at it. But at Ohio this had not happened so late, so near performance.
"I bet their kicking themselves now for not understudying you."
And then Jacob regretted this remark. This was not the right thing to say. But he never knew what to say about an injury. There was nothing to say, nothing comforting. Just as fluidly then, unwaveringly, the foot followed the knee back to Beth's side, and then eased slowly to the floor.
Beth had looked away from Jacob when he spoke.
Beth's gaze fell from the mirror. The steeliness edged into a bitter resignation. She muttered through her teeth, through the steam now choking the room, "I'll call Lucia." And she finished peeling from herself her leotard. And she tip-toed then nakedly and very gingerly into the scalding shower.
Back at his typewriter, back at the wooden table in front of the large bay windows, back up those long ascending steps from the bathroom doorway, Jacob sat grating his teeth. He sat shaking his head in disbelief, disbelief that such a test could be revisited upon him so soon, that the serpents he had been wrestling with theoretically could again coil about him so immediately and acutely and physically--and with little warning. Jacob tried to stay the grating of his teeth, the swelling of his groin. Jacob peered down over the descent from his desk to the bathroom doorway, to the steam rising out of it, the steam rising toward him.
Jacob pounded at the keys.