Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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I call her “Juliet.” I don’t remember her name, and it is possible that I never knew it. Her image came to me at six o’clock every evening for years. I went to the upper floor of my house, entered any room, and turned off the light. I got to my knees and looked through the blinds out of a window, any window in any direction. I always saw her in the opposite window, preparing for her evening date. Juliet was seventeen and beautiful. She had many boyfriends and went out with one of them every night. If I waited in front of my house, I saw the boys drive up and take her with them. Whenever I met her on the street, she chatted with me and smiled.
From the window I watched the same routine every evening. She was lovely. Juliet took off her blouse or sweater and her skirt or jeans, and she stood in front of the mirror. She wore no bra. She ran her hands over her breasts once, and then began brushing her hair. She seemed to be taking pride in her body as she looked in the mirror. She brushed her hair for a long time, ten or twelve minutes, and her large, high breasts moved gently with the motion of her arms. I imagined how she might offer herself to those young men who drove away with her.
After she brushed her hair, Juliet climbed up onto her dressing table, wearing only her panties. She sat with her legs crossed and her face very close to the mirror. She put makeup on her lashes and around her eyes, got off the table, put her clothes back on, and brushed her hair once or twice where it had been disturbed by her sweater or blouse. She went to the window, appeared to look directly into my eyes, lowered the shades, turned off the lights, and left. I believe that she could not see me, for I could see nothing in her window when her lights were out except the reflection of my house. But I am not sure, and she did stare out toward me every night. Whether she could see me or not, I think she knew I was watching at the window. She always pulled down the shade after she was finished at the mirror, never before. She never made it impossible for me to watch her.
Juliet once teased me about coming over to visit me when my wife was away. Now I see that she was serious, though I was too frightened at the time to respond, too intimidated by the beauty of her body.
I call her “Juliet.” Of course I don’t know her name, and I never will. Juliet is walking arm in arm with an older woman, her aunt or grandmother. Let us assume that it is her grandmother. They are attentive to each other; neither of them looks up as I pass.
Juliet is wearing a plain white dress, and Grandmother is in black. The black dress is stylish. It is tailored and ornamented, but with restrained lines. The older woman is handsome. Juliet is radiant and seems absolutely without self-consciousness. Her dress is simply a dress. It has no style, virtually no shape; it merely covers her. The slightest hints of her body mold the dress from within, and if any more of Juliet were revealed or even implied, I would look away, embarrassed to be touching her image with my eyes, embarrassed by the feelings that the mere sight of her stimulates in me. Juliet’s skin is dark with suntan, her hair quite black. I see that the sharp contrast of her dark hair and skin with the whiteness of her dress is visible at some distance, for it has been a while since I passed the two of them, and I turn to look at them. Juliet’s black hair floats down her back over the white dress. The dark skin of her arms is an intermediate shade between her hair and dress. The grandmother is wide. Juliet is thin, but her hips are wide too. The two women are exactly the same height.
I turn and follow, walking faster and gaining on them. I am just behind them as we enter the theater. I strain to hear what they are saying, but they speak too softly. They give up their tickets and go off to the right. The ticket-taker directs me to the left. I take my seat and look for them. The theater is divided by a center aisle. My seat is symmetrical with Juliet’s. I count: we are both twelve rows from the stage, seven seats from the center aisle.
Juliet looks at me and smiles across the theater. The seats between us are all occupied except for one near the aisle. The theater is almost full.
I close my eyes, open them, and the theater is empty except for Juliet, her grandmother, and me. I close my eyes again, and open them after the lights have dimmed. The play is beginning.
The Juliet on stage is not as pretty as the Juliet in the audience whom I now love. But she can act very well. One sees that Shakespeare’s Juliet is young, flighty, and rather frantic, but she is not foolish. Shakespeare knows that young love may grow into something else, but of course it may not. This is the tension at the beginning of the play, the uncertain destiny of new love, its volatile quality. I wonder about my Juliet. Is she impatiently sitting through the play with the old lady, waiting to get back to her lover? Perhaps she meets him every night after Grandmother has gone to sleep. Is she calm at this moment, or is she full of desire?
I leave the play after the first scene. I fear the killings that will come; I believe that I will die if I watch them. I know that Juliet is waiting for me in the garden.
The garden behind the theater is a formal maze of large bushes; they grow to unusual size because of the tropical climate. They are trimmed with immaculate precision, ten feet high. Juliet is waiting at the center, and I walk toward her slowly, with no apprehension. As I walk along I get smaller. I see that my head is lower and lower with respect to the top of the bushes, and as I approach the center of the maze I have become shorter than five feet. Juliet is waiting there, naked and large. I am so happy to see her. She is now twelve feet tall, her shoulders and head and long hair reaching high above the bushes. I have never seen anything so beautiful as this large woman.
Juliet smiles and welcomes me. Her breasts are large, and her nipples are erect. Her stomach is slightly round and protruding. She has no pubic hair. She sees me looking at her nakedness, and she spins around quickly to show me her body, grinning, her arms fully extended, her hair flying out into space above the tall bushes. Out of simple exuberance, she jumps high into the air. Her smile is bright, sparkling. Her skin is smooth and her body reflects the moonlight like tan marble. When she stops turning, she is facing me and smiling. It is a sweet chaste smile. I get smaller. I am three feet tall.
Juliet sits in front of me on the grass, her legs crossed. Sitting, she is still much taller than I. I am now two feet tall. She holds her hands out to me, as one does to a child who is just learning to walk. I walk to her hands; she slides them under my arms. She lifts me up and lays me down on my back in her lap. My head is resting on her upper arm. She bends at the waist, looks into my eyes, and lowers her nipple into my mouth. It fills me; she tastes slightly sweet. Every muscle in my body falls limp. I am totally relaxed; all yearning is satisfied. I fall asleep.
I wake up months later. Juliet and I are our normal sizes. I am about eight inches taller than she is. She has pubic hair. We are standing together in the garden. It is daytime. We are covered with the foam of shampoo and soap, and a warm rain is rinsing us off.
I take Juliet in my arms and kiss her. She responds to me. Our soapy bodies press against each other. I am momentarily aroused, but my erection fades away in a few seconds.
“Were those your tricks or mine?” she asks.
I don’t know what to say.
“I hope your grandmother is well.”
“I expect she is,” Juliet assures me. “Grandmother likes the theater, and she has no wish to be unkind to me. She is, in fact, very kind.”
“I’m glad,” I say. “I know that I must never see you or touch you again. When one of us dies, I would like for the other to know. I will probably die first. Do you think you will know?”
“No,” Juliet says. “But I don’t think that is important. Perhaps you won’t always believe that it is. Goodbye, dear.”
I call her “Juliet.” Of course I don’t know her name, and I never will.
Juliet is the smallest woman I know. She is also the most beautiful. We walk toward the door of my office. She is aggressive. She puts her arm around my waist. Her arm does not even reach all the way around me because I am so much bigger than she. She looks up at me and smiles.
“I got drunk so I would be brave enough to do this,” Juliet says, and she tightens her arm around me. We get to the door and I get the key from my pocket. Juliet puts her hand under my shirt and rubs my chest.
Juliet is a hippie. She wears denim bib overalls over black leotards. I unlock the door, take her in, close the door. Juliet is now very scared. I undress her. She is unashamed. She seems at home in her body. Whenever I touch her, my hands cover a surprisingly large portion of her body. She is so tiny. I wonder whether sex will be difficult. I begin to make love to her. Our bodies fit together perfectly. Juliet has a certain dignity, a great, impressive dignity.
Juliet makes love in the oddest way. She seems at once to be remarkably experienced, knowledgeable about sex, and to be totally innocent. She does wonderfully erotic things to me, and she does them with assurance. But she also gives the impression that she is doing them for the first time. Juliet does not smile much, but when she does, her smile is terribly loving.
The next day I tell Juliet that making love to her was wonderful. I am light-hearted and I joke with her. She is nervous and isn’t quite sure when I am joking and when I’m serious. She says that she was too drunk, that our sex went by too fast. She hardly remembers anything. I feel bad, because I remember everything, and am infatuated with her and with my memories. We do not make love again. Juliet leaves. As I walk home, I see her sitting on the sidewalk with her boyfriend. He is weeping.
Juliet’s boyfriend is crying because she has told him that I made love to her and because he knows that she has just become pregnant. I love her very much but she will never return to me. There was a moment, that first and only time we were together, when I saw her face in profile. She was serene, majestic, superior. Can anyone be as lovely and as good as Juliet?
In the years that follow I write stories about Juliet and wait for a letter from her. It never comes. Like the Juliet in the garden, she will not know when I die. I try to dream about her every Wednesday night, and I am usually successful. They are lovely dreams. I write a letter to her every Thursday. I tell her about myself, and I say that I know that she loves me and will return to me. This is a lie; I know that she will not. I put the letters in a drawer. I don’t know where to send them. There are more than six hundred.
Twenty years of Juliet’s silence has taught me that my desires are inconsequential in the world.
Juliet is really the only woman with whom I have had sex without any affection at all. She taunted and teased me, tried to seduce me, for years. She wanted to equalize the power between us, and she thought that sex would do it. Juliet also thought of herself as reckless, daring. When I first saw her looking at me as I looked at her, I thought that I would probably become one of her “adventures.” She had inflated expectations of me and of herself.
Juliet was not truly adventurous at all, even if she had sex with quite a few men and women. An hour or two in bed with me would prove nothing, and it would not be much of an adventure, for underneath her bravado she was terrified. I knew that I would use her sexually in return for her use of me, but I also knew that in the end I would be the loser because I would want her more than she wanted me.
She sat down next to me on the floor and pressed her hip and leg against mine.
“Juliet. Why do you do this? I know you don’t like me. I certainly don’t like you, though you know I find you sexually attractive.”
“You are so holy and conceited,” she said. “I know you want to fuck me. I can tell that you are aroused. You always pretend not to be. What about the bulge in your pants? It’s almost always there. If you will go to bed with me, I won’t admire you. I will see that you are quite foolish. There is nothing so foolish as a man with a stiff prick. You have one right this minute, don’t you? My leg feels good pressing against you, doesn’t it? You are particularly foolish, because you try to maintain your dignity, and that is impossible. I won’t fall in love with you. I won’t ever think of you again. It will be a good deal for both of us.”
“But I am gay, Juliet.”
“Big deal. So am I. Let’s fuck for gay liberation. Anyway, I know you’re lying. But I really am bisexual. Got you there, sweetheart.”
“Juliet, have you ever had long black hair and a white dress? Is your grandmother a handsome woman who is waiting patiently for you? Isn’t there a lot to be said for being twelve feet tall?”
Juliet left. We did not really have to have sex, for I granted her all the victories over me that she desired. Yet we did go to bed several times. She was much prettier when she was naked than I could ever have imagined. She looked like a medieval painting of Eve in the Garden — tall, with stringy hair and a big tummy. I did end up wanting her much more than she wanted me. She was more interested in adventure than I thought she was, and I liked going to bed with her.
I walked her home from a concert in a stadium in New York City. The crowds in the street saw that we were falling in love, and they gave us room on the sidewalk so that we would have some privacy.
Juliet’s brother, she told me, lived on a kibbutz in Israel. Her parents were both professors. She showed me that her cat would get a ribbon wherever you put it in their apartment, climbing to the tops of bookcases or reaching behind furniture that was against the wall.
I was too shy to ask her name or arrange to see Juliet again. I passed by her apartment building many times, but never saw her and never had the nerve to ring her doorbell. She would be about forty-five years old now.