Conceive me as a dream of stone:
my breast, where mortals come to grief,
is made to prompt all poets' love,
mute and noble as matter itself.
from Beauty, by Charles Baudelaire, translation by Richard Howard
Parisian-woman-mannequin stands in a shop window. Young, delicately featured, surrogate femme, provocatively attired in gray jacket with plunged neckline and no bra. A black, broad-brimmed, feathery hat perched on her head. Her unwavering gaze fixes me from the sharp edge of a deep shadow. She is mysterious and alluring. As I study her, she blossoms into fantasy, crooking a finger at my libido, teasing it up and into the open. I long for her to invite me into the depths of the shadow to be whatever I need to be with her.
She is new in town and has quickly become one of a number of surrogate femmes I routinely visit as I walk from one end of Main Street to the other. My "girlfriends,” I tell my wife when she sees the pictures I have made of them. I visit them to see how they have chosen to dress and what sort of come-hither attitude they have hopefully chosen to adopt this month. Spring and summer are my favorite times. My girls are reliably clad in playful sundresses that can, I fantasize, easily be lifted above the hips for quick lovemaking in elevators, closets or bathrooms. Or they are wearing something bare midriff or that hardly conceals crotch and breasts.
As I think about this I remember Sam's bare midriff a few days ago. It was a frigid winter day and I remember both the twinge of excitement and the involuntary shiver that passed through my body as I reveled in her belly button and thought about frigid air washing across it. I asked her how she could stand to be exposed in such cold weather. She told me it was very warm in the store and that she puts lots of layers on before she walks out the door.
I wonder about the longing and desire my surrogate femmes are able to provoke in me, how easily they coax my libido forward. Even the headless ones have their allure if they are posed and dressed in the right way. Surrogate femininity does not have to be very like the thing itself for the animal mind to embrace it as a promise of procreation. I wonder at what point libido would retreat, unable to conjure warm flesh and blood against the facts. Would it fade away the moment I reached out and touched her on the arm or brushed her cheek? Could it be prolonged to the moment of cupping a breast in my hand, discovering it to be lifeless, unyielding, cold? Could I possibly make it to the point of embracing her and rubbing myself against her, of ejaculation across her hard washable belly? At what point would libido falter?