vulva, of summoning between her lips with my middle finger the dampness so crucial to coaxing out her retractive organ—my great ally in that labyrinth of folds. If Helen let me—her attitude wasn’t like other girls’, with whose modesty I had to negotiate every elastic band—I was pretty sure the trick would work. It was a physical reflex, like closing your eyes when someone threatens to throw something in your face. Though I must say, if I thought about it much, natural lubrication still provoked discomfort, admiration, and a bit of apprehension in me. When I opened the taxi door for Helen, she managed to step onto the curb wrapped in an aura of innocence, as if that night we’d do no more than embrace.
The moon looked like a newly crystallized liquid. Helen was lively from the wine and the dancing and the fresh air, and she didn’t stay still for a second while I was checking in. Under the elevator’s light I had the thought that the cross formed by her septum and cheekbones was the skeleton of an unformed soul. Within Helen flowed all sorts of contradictory, intense emotions. Her turbulence didn’t repel me in the least, I didn’t kid myself about that. From her very first kiss (avid, ferocious, American) I knew I preferred her to a fully formed woman with clear and fixed ideas. It’s good when you find a simpler person, one whose entire story you can contain in a telling, and experience, for once, the power of the storyteller.
Helen didn’t complain about the dim bathroom or the paint peeling from the ceiling. If the smell of disinfectant bothered her, she kept it to herself. Like those little animals that focus the spotlight of their vision on a shiny object, she was fascinated by the rectangular shape of the bed, as if the sheets were emanating an inviting air. But she was so confident inside that body straining against the fabric of her jeans (who knows where that dress went?), there was really no confusing her with some little wallaby or wildcat—she was no shy creature.
She dropped backward onto the mattress, and the creak of the springs made the muscles in my back tense up. She laughed, she was laughing and her marvelous laughter filled that hovel to the brim, and she let me undress her and we fell upon each other, fascinated by the provocative design of our flesh, the indentations so wisely placed, the warm openings. It was like spreading out enormous wings that swept away the habits of everyday thought, all the coldness and distrust. I don’t remember the sequence of events or any details, but I know that at some point I summoned up my courage and it was as if my glans were searching for something in Helen’s mouth; she pushed me away with open palms and we fell laughing onto the sheets. The pupils of the girl who would be my first wife were moving under a watery film. I embraced her, trembling at the intuition that we were on the brink of something, only we didn’t know what. The path lay hidden by a whimsical orography, and we laughed because we felt complicit enough to travel it together.
I must have done something right for Helen to start building her new life project around our satisfied bodies. She never objected when I wanted to see her, sometimes with less than an hour’s notice and on the other side of Madrid. My business was getting going, meetings were multiplying, but Helen would take the metro, buses, or taxis (that I would pay for) and she’d wait for me with a patent-leather handbag and her arms pressed close to her sides. I allowed myself the pleasure of letting her enter the rooms before me, of watching the surprise on her face as she calculated the square footage while she undid the swan of folded towels. She loved the lace curtains and bathtubs, the TVs and remote controls that she always grabbed first. One of the good things about that period was that I still hadn’t learned the vast set of expressions Helen’s features could make. It was exciting not to know what face