José quit school to get on with his life. He took a job at a music store during the day and played guitar in a rock band at night. But soon he missed the intellectual stimulation of the university so he decided to sneak into a graduate level film studies class featuring the work of the Spanish director Luis Buñuel. The first session included two silent shorts made in collaboration with Salvador Dali, Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or. Self-conscious about not being a student, he tip toed into the auditorium after the lights went out. That's when he met Emmanuelle. “Watch where you’re going buddy”, she guided him over to an empty seat. Afterwards she accepted his apology and an invitation to discuss the movie down the street at Dagwood's Bar and Grill. "Just call me Emmy for short." José admitted that he was just crashing the class. Emmy disapproved of his freeloading but she let José buy the first beer.
“I’m in the last year of my master’s program and soon I’ll be able to teach,” Emmy explained. “I’ve got to write an essay for each movie.” They talked about their favorite scenes.
"Razor blade splitting open the eye while a cloud crosses the Moon,” José described the opening of An Andalusian Dog. “Obviously a metaphor about cinema, moving pictures opening up a new visual world."
“Mind if I steal that idea?” Emmy got a piece of paper out of her purse and scribbled a note.
“Buñuel was an iconoclast who wanted to insult and shock the bourgeoisie,” José continued. “But for his friend Dali, film was just another canvas, a kinetic painting.”
After a few beers they went back to Emmy’s place where she introduced José to her roommates, Roberta and a German Shepard schnauzer half breed named Brisket. As José entered the kitchen, the dog crawled underneath the table with his legs shaking and fur on end. A shiver marched down the animal’s spine as Brisket urinated and then fell onto the kitchen floor in a submissive pose, expecting a beating.
"Poor boy,” Roberta explained. “Just rescued from the pound. He's been having problems ever since I brought him home. Probably abused as a puppy." She held Brisket’s head between her hands and addressed José. “But, you must have an evil eye. I mean he has a problem with strangers but you’re the first to make him piss."
"I didn't make Biscuit do anything."
“It’s Brisket,” Roberta corrected him. “Like a cut of meat, not a piece of bread. He’s a living being, with feelings.”
“Sorry I hurt his feelings.”
“José is going to help me with my paper,” Emmy interrupted as she took José by the arm and led him to her small apartment in the back of the house, which was filled with art supplies and works in progress. After composing an outline for the paper, Emmy leaned forward to kiss José and before they knew it they were all over each other. As Emmy started to take her shirt off José pulled his wallet out of his pants and announced that he had a condom.
“Thanks for thinking of me,” Emmy responded as she took off her bra. José melted as she exposed her beauty. Emmy strapped the condom on, but before they were able to start, José moaned, “Oh, no, I can’t keep it in me.” Emmy felt a series of pulses go through José’s body as the condom expanded and filled with cum.
“Wow,” Emmy exclaimed as she removed the condom, tied it off and placed it in a waste basket. “That’s the end of that. Got another?”
“Just the one,” José admitted.
“Maybe we need to wait until next time,” she suggested. “I’m all about birth control.”
“That’s fine,” José agreed, pleased to learn there would be a next time. “We’ve still got our lips.”
“And our tongues,” Emmy added.
After they finished rolling around in bed José asked, “How about getting together again tomorrow night? You could come to see the Smithereens over at the Peanut Barrel.”
“Music starts too late. How about the next night? You could come to my life drawing class. We’re always looking for a new model. My classmates are hungry for some fresh meat. They’d love to see you in the buff.”
“That doesn’t sound like fun,” José groaned. “Besides, we’re practicing over at Smitty’s.”
“So we’ve both a lot going on. How about a date for the next Buñuel class?”
“Sure, I’ll be more prepared and bring two rubbers.” Emmy fell asleep in José‘s arms.
Just before dawn José woke up and needed to find the toilet. After negotiating the hazards of Emmy's studio he got into the hallway and immediately fell over a dark object which turned out to be Brisket. It was as if José had interrupted the worst possible nightmare, soliciting the startle reflex, fight or flight, caught between gears, making Brisket's previous performance pale by comparison, eliciting a spasmodic convulsion. José tiptoed around the liquid waste and then went to the kitchen, returning with some paper towels. “Doesn’t smell too bad,” he thought as he washed his hands. Brisket crawled off into a corner, whimpering, tears in his eyes. Emmy slept through the whole incident.
The next week they saw a film from Buñuel's Mexican period, Los Olvidados, translated into English as The Young and the Damned. They stopped again at Dagwood’s for a beer. “Hey, got a four point on my paper. Thanks for the help.” Emmy then invited José back to her place, under the pretext of helping with the next assignment.
"The way she poured milk on her thighs,” José looked over her shoulder as Emmy took notes. “And rubbed her back with the belly of a dove, it was a wet dream on celluloid.”
“I loved the mangy dog licking his chops while the mother holds up a gigantic steak flapping like a curtain blown by the wind.”
“Just like Brisket. The real man of the house."
It wasn't long before they started caressing each other and José proudly pulled two condoms out of his wallet. “I’ve got both a Spartan and a Trojan,” José noted. “In case we feel like a second round.”
“Maybe we could use them both,” Emmy proposed.
“At the same time?”
“Yeah, one on top of the other. Two is always better than one. Make sure none of those little spermies break through.”
“OK,” José winced. “But only if I can still feel our friction,”.
“Well, I sure wouldn’t want to decrease our friction,” Emmy put down her note pad and pulled José over to the bed. She helped him secure one rubber on top of the other and soon they were making love. Although this time they were able to get it on, similar to their previous love making, José quickly found himself overly excited and unable to refrain from ejaculating. He looked at Emmy with a mournful smile. “I understand,” she assured him. “At least you got inside me.”
“I know I’ll get hard again,” José offered. “Just stick with me and the second time I’ll last longer.”
“Well you can’t use those rubbers a second time,” she pointed out.
“What’s wrong with the outer one,” he proposed.
“It’s not like it hasn’t been used already.”
“But we can just throw away the inside one. It’s got all the fluid.”
“I’m afraid it might crack the second time around,” she confessed. “You know, split a seam.”
“Alright,” José sighed. “Sorry I let you down.”
“You didn’t let me down, you just finished before I did.”
José stayed inside Emmy as they lay in each other’s arms for just a minute before she meekly asked, “Maybe we should limit our afterglow, you know, something might be dripping out.”
“It’s like dwell time on the train, the time they pause in the station.”
“Train in the station?”
“I mean, technically it’s called intromission. After it’s all over but you’re still inside of me.”
“Oh, that,” José nodded, disengaging. “I get it. Intromission, sounds like intermission, like at the movies when you can head out to the lobby to get more popcorn.”
“Maybe you might let me do a quick charcoal of you with that hard on, I’m always looking to improve my sketching ability, you know mixing curves and straight lines.”
“It might not last that long without proper stimulation.”
“I’ll see what I can do to keep the soldier at attention.”
Later, as they lay awake, tangled in the sheets, Brisket scratched at the door. “See what he wants. Maybe he’s warning us that there’s an intruder.” Emmy pushed José out of bed. The dog had its nose to the floor, sampling the odors that were escaping the room. José put out his palm and Brisket tasted it with his cold tongue. It was only then that he recognized José, shook his head with a shudder and began to urinate on the hallway floor. "Oh my God, what a mess." Emmy was standing right behind José. "I'll get you the bucket and mop."
The following week continued with The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. They tossed around ideas for Emmy’s essay at Dagwood’s while draining pints.
“And how about Friday in drag?” José thought out loud as Emmy scribbled down some notes. “Crusoe thought he missed the company of men but he really missed women.”
“Friday was pretty cute in that dress and Crusoe used that same dress for his scarecrow.”
When José pulled out his wallet to pay for the beer, Emmy noticed that it was overloaded. “Yeah, not just one Trojan but two,” he admitted. “And not just a back-up Spartan, but another one. Just in case.” She nodded in approval. Later that night José suffered from a relatively premature ejaculation, but then strapped on another duo and continued, certain that he was satisfying Emmy, but still disappointed that he couldn’t contain himself. They didn’t talk about it directly but Emmy started to tease him with a pair pet names: “frisky fella” and “Johnny-on-the-spot”.
The next morning as he walked into the kitchen Roberta was at the table eating cereal while Brisket lay at her feet. As José started to peel an orange the dog jumped up, slammed his head against the bottom of the table and then ran against the wall, falling to the floor in a heap.
"Oh my poor baby," Roberta almost dropped her coffee mug as Brisket howled in pain and then proceeded to leak a line of piss across the floor. After cleaning up the mess, José caught the bus downtown, arriving to work at the music store with a song on his lips thinking about Emmy. He was certain he could solve his problem in bed but didn’t know what to do about Brisket.
Next they saw Diary of a Chambermaid. Jeanne Moreau’s genius was lost on Emmy. "All that violence was so fake and gratuitous.”
“You mean grandpa shooting the butterfly with a rifle?”
“And then all that kinky sex, a closet full of women’s shoes.”
“Buñuel makes sexual fetishes seem as contagious as the common cold.”
When they got back to her room Emmy produced a can labelled Vaginal Vintage. “It’s a spermicidal foam,” she insisted on using in addition to the two rubbers. "Just in case." José didn't care and despite the extra preparation, he still came a little early, or at least too early as far as he was concerned. The next morning he woke up to the twin prongs of a recurring disappointing reality. This time Roberta heard José coming down the hallway and tried to shield Brisket from his obviously provocative presence. Before she could say a word the dog emptied his bladder and tried to hide the mess he had made by lying in it.
"Oh my God," Emmy whispered.
“I can’t believe you,” Roberta turned to José in disgust.
“Me? For God’s sake, it’s Brisket that has the problem. I piss in the toilet, not on the floor.” José knew he misspoke and hurriedly retrieved the mop.
“Now he needs a bath,” Roberta announced. “And he hates shampoo.” She got a bottle of Buddy Bath from under the sink and handed it to José. “Why don’t you give it a try. Maybe the two of you can bond in the bathtub.” She then dragged Brisket into the bathroom and, with a wink from Emmy, José obediently followed. The foamy consistency of the Buddy Bath reminded José of the Vaginal Vintage. José held the collar firmly, twisting it to keep the dog in the tub. Brisket barely tolerated the lathering but vigorously resisted having the soap washed off, shaking himself free of moisture at every turn. After ten minutes José and Brisket had had it with each other and emerged from the bathroom a wet mess.
“Why don’t you take him outside and throw the Frisbee?” Roberta suggested. “Give you both a chance to dry off.” She handed José a well worn Frisbee that was cratered with teeth marks. He took Brisket out into the street and threw the disc which the dog caught with aerodynamic grace. He returned the disc to José covered with saliva. After a series of throws Brisket seemed to have dried off but with each return the dog presented the disc with an increasing amount of spittle. José called it quits as he needed to wash his hands. He got to work late that morning, determined to solve both problems, with Emmy and with Brisket.
That night, after band practice, José stuck around Smitty’s garage and had a beer with the drummer. Smitty could tell that José wanted to talk about something and eventually asked him how things were going with Emmy. After saying that everything was fine José admitted that he wanted to provide a better performance.
Smitty laughed out loud. “Aw, come on mate, that’s not a problem, you’re in love and having the time of your life.”
“You know, I’d just like to be able to play a longer guitar solo.”
“But of course, there are other ways of handling it,” Smitty dribbled some beer down his shirt as he spoke. “Like maybe beatin’ off earlier in the day. Maybe even in the bathroom just before you get it on. Works for me.”
“Well,” José admitted, “I’ve heard of that kind of thing, but I want it to be natural and real and beautiful. Just let it happen.”
“Good luck with that,” Smitty laughed again. “Same as playing music. You can’t just play, you’ve gotta practice. Sure that’s the only problem?”
“Now that you mention it,” José thought out loud. “I’ve got this trouble with her roommate’s mutt. It urinates every time it sees me. It’s like he’s Pavlov’s dog and I’m the bell.”Smitty laughed again this time spitting his beer out in a spray across the garage floor. “That is a problem.” As José described the incidents, Smitty interrupted him. “I’ve heard enough my brother, and I think I’ve got a solution for you.”
“Sure, I got these pills I take for my epilepsy, Phenobarbital, I call ‘em my goof balls, real strong stuff.” Smitty went over to his drum case and pulled out a bottle. “You can have some of these. Grind ‘em up and put ‘em in his bowl. That’ll calm him down.”
“Don’t you need ‘em?”
“I got more than I need,” Smitty admitted. “Besides I don’t take the stuff so regular anyway, affects my drumming, losing the beat. Anyway I enjoy the auras, the visual hallucinations you get right before the seizure comes on. Reminds me of those acid trips I used to do.”
During afternoon before the next movie class José came home from work and prepared himself for the evening, thinking of Emmy, while quickly pleasuring himself. That night they saw Simon of the Desert, about a Syrian saint who takes a vow never to leave the top of a pillar. Again they retired to Dagwood’s. “Only got a three point on that last paper. Said I needed to better think through my feminist critique.”
“The professor’s got a lot of nerve.”
“No kidding. I criticized Buñuel for his cheap portrayal of sexuality not his attitude toward women. God knows, he loves women, maybe too much.” She got out her note pad to record the gist of their discussion.
“Simon was a middle man for God and his poker buddy the Devil.”
“And how about that Satan riding around in a casket like it was taxi?”
“Simon needed an even larger column to properly express his pillar envy.”
“Nice joke,” Emmy finished taking notes. “But if I’m going to get a better grade maybe I need to stay away from that one."
José made his way into the kitchen and emptied the powder from one of Smitty’s goof balls into Brisket’s dinner bowl. He poured a little beer into the dog food and mixed it around hoping for the best. That night José lasted a little longer than usual but thought about Scotty’s advice and imagined that next time he needed to masturbate in the bathroom, just before getting into bed.
Emmy woke before dawn and suggested, "Maybe you could get out of here early without seeing Roberta or Brisket?" She led José through the living room where they both stopped in front of the rocking chair which was swaying back and forth as though a ghost had just left the room. Behind the chair they found Brisket collapsed in a heap, nervously wagging his tail but this time without a yellow pool on the linoleum floor. "Huh?" Emmy thought out loud. "Looks like your evil eye is on the blink today.”
Belle de Jour was next and Emmy was repulsed by Catherine Deneuve's character. "Buñuel's sexual stereotyping is getting predictable. This surrealism is starting to smell like chauvinism." Despite such foreboding sentiments, they didn’t even finish their beers at Dagwood's before Emmy suggested they head over to her place. That night he doubled the dog’s dose and then proceeded to the bathroom where he quickly beat off.
“What took you so long?” Emmy asked.
“Just talking to Brisket, trying to make some progress on our relationship. I bought him a new Frisbee, a disc without teeth marks. We’ll try it out in the morning.”
“Hope you don’t mind,” Emmy continued, “I’ve decided that maybe we should also use this vaginal shield, it’s called a VV Visor.” José didn’t offer an objection and fell into her arms with two rubbers, the foam and the barrier. That night he was able to last longer and it seemed like they both had an orgasm at the same time. Emmy rolled over and expressed her approval with a sigh, “Not bad.”
The next morning he went into the kitchen and found Brisket on the floor snoring. José woke the dog and presented the new Frisbee. They went outside and tried it out. José noticed that Brisket seemed a little slowed down from his deep sleep, having problems snagging the disc, but he returned it without a trace of saliva.
“Looks like you’ve made a friend of my pooch,” Roberta nodded approvingly. “Even got him a new toy. Thanks so much.”
After seeing The Milky Way they retired to Dagwood’s spilling beer on each other arguing about the director's motives and methods.
"He makes a holy faith out of sacrilege," Emmy emphatically stated.
"Buñuel was just stringing a series of ironic jokes together,” José tried to make sense of absurdity, “Satire is the best anecdote for toxic religiosity."
“Yeah, sure, a laugh for each station of the cross? Where does that get you?”
“Jesus shaving, firing squad for the pope, debates the meaning of the Eucharist with an escapee from a mental institution.”
“Yeah, just like rotting fish, in a few days blasphemy stinks up the whole house.”
Back at Emmy’s place José excused himself from the bedroom as she applied the foam and inserted the device. He quickly gave Brisket his doggy dose and found the powder sticking to his fingers which he licked off. “Really strong stuff,” he thought to himself as he could feel the medication being absorbed by his tongue. He quickly did his thing in the bathroom and then got into bed, strapped on the Trojan and the Spartan, got going slowly and lasted a good five minutes. They both climaxed in unison, and afterwards Emmy purred like a cat.
With the movie Tristana it became apparent that Buñuel was beginning to torture Emmy. "It was just another Belle de Jour but more perverse. The man is a misogynist. For God's sake he cut off her leg! The most beautiful woman in the world has to play out her role in a wheelchair?" That night they skipped Dagwood's, went straight back to Emmy's place where Brisket greeted him at the door, wagging his tail, Frisbee in his mouth.
“I guess he’s been waiting for you,” Roberta remarked. José and Brisket went out front and played with the disc under the street light. Encouraged by the change in the animal, José continued to augment the dog’s chow. José also made his quick trip to the bathroom while Emmy clinically applied the attendant chemicals and VV Visor. As José got out his collection of rubbers Emmy announced that she was on the pill.
“All right, now we can get rid of all this other stuff.”
“Not so fast Romeo,” Emmy set him straight. "We started at fifty percent, got up over three quarters and now were in the nineties. Birth control is always a goal, never a sure thing.” José imagined that next she would suggest he get a vasectomy, but that thought was soon forgotten and again their love making proceeded to the satisfaction of both partners.
Next was The Phantom of Liberty, a surreal collage of vignettes. Emmy spit on the ground as they walked back to her place. “He's just a slick pornographer," she denounced the director with a tone that made José feel like he was somehow responsible for the content of the movie.
José took offense and said, "He remained true to himself throughout this career. Just trying to rub shit in the nose of the middle class. How about that scene at the dinner party where everyone sat around a banquet table perched on toilets doing their number two thing while enjoying dinner conversation and then one at a time excusing themselves to a bathroom stall where they wolfed down their meal?”
“I’ve had enough of Buñuel. Besides the last two papers I handed in only got a two point. The professor’s an asshole. I’m gonna drop the class, take an incomplete.”
“But you’re so close to the end of the term.”
“If you like these movies so much, why don’t you write my paper?”
“You got it,” José accepted the challenge, just to calm her down. That night he gave Brisket one goofball and took the other himself. As the drug kicked in he didn’t feel the need to beat off in the bathroom. That night their sex was mechanical and without passion. A few days later he left a typed essay in the mailbox without ringing the doorbell.
The class ended with the final movie of Buñuel’s career That Obscure Object of Desire and Emmy walked out in the middle of it. Afterwards José first went to Dagwood’s and then over to her house.
"You call that a movie?"
“It was the perfect mix of the personal and political,” José rationalized.
“He’s a lecherous bastard.”
“You didn’t give the movie a chance.”
“Yeah with two women playing one character, so every time they jump in bed it’s a ménage à trois. And it’s that damn Fernando Rey again, screwing women half his age.”
“But don’t you get it?” José argued. “Just like the red army collaborating with the fascists. Who knows what’s really going on in this crazy world?”
“I need one of those straight jacket corsets,” Emmy bit back.
“You mean the one that Mathieu couldn’t untie?” Jose was incredulous.
“That’s what I’m talking about.”
"Maybe I should go throw a few more with the Brisketmeister," José ducked outside. “We both could use the exercise.”
"Yeah go ahead," she replied, "You got that dog fooled but not me."
Out on the street Brisket and José established a good rhythm with the very first throw. Catch and release. Throw and retrieve. Back and forth. Dog and man. It was natural and pure. But there was some kind of anger inside of José that he needed to express and soon he started throwing the Frisbee further and further down the street towards the corner, leading Brisket closer and closer to traffic. At one point the dog had to dodge a car while catching the disc. It was at that point José realized what he was doing and called the animal back to the house.
When he went to Emmy’s room he found her working on the sketch she had begun a few weeks ago of José sitting crossed legged on the floor. Previously he had been nude but now was wearing a pair of shorts. When they got in bed she turned off the light, rolled over on her side and pushed him away. She drifted off into sleep immediately but José found himself tossing and turning for most of the night.
The next morning at breakfast they didn’t talk about the fact that the Buñuel class was over and made no plans to see each other again. He left the house kissing Emmy on the forehead rather than on the lips. Brisket rubbed his muzzle up against José’s leg. At the bus stop José realized for the first time that he had never told Emmy his last name, where he lived or even given her his phone number. She only knew the name of the music store where he worked. He hoped that she would come to the store to see him but that didn’t happen.
After a few months he went over to the apartment where Roberta reported, “She’s moved out. Needed her space.”
José was despondent, looked down at his feet and wondered where Brisket was but didn’t ask. “Tell her I stopped by.”
It was a full year later until they saw each other again. José had joined a film collective that was sponsoring a series of movies by Ingmar Bergman. He was working as an usher at the showing of Persona when he saw Emmy in the audience. His heart started pounding and he came up behind her on the way out. She turned around and immediately hugged him. "I've been thinking about you," she admitted. At Dagwood’s, over beer, they tried to catch up. “How’s the band?”
“Smitty, the drummer, had a seizure on stage. It was horrible, grand mal. We’re taking a break while he tries out a new medication.” José asked Emmy, “What about you?”
“Got my first job. Just part time but it’s paying the rent. This first semester is more difficult than I imagined. Students are demanding and everything’s new. Got to get home and write up my lesson plan for tomorrow.”
"So, what do you hear from Roberta and Brisket?"
"Glad you asked," Emmy leaned over the table. "Roberta ended up giving him back to the pound. He just went downhill as soon as you quit coming around. And then there was this incident." José took another sip of beer and raised his eyebrows requesting more details. "Well, Brisket had gone back to his same weird self. Roberta remembered how good you were with him and started taking him down to the park to play Frisbee but he was still spooked. And then there was this time when she wasn't looking, Brisket cornered some little elementary kid, up against a tree, and started humping him. The kid was screaming. His parents were there. The father almost beat her dog to death. That was it. Roberta admitted that she couldn’t handle Brisket and took him back.” José bit his tongue and decided not to tell his side of the story.
It was then that Emmy grabbed José’s forearm and drew him close to her. "And I had something else I needed to tell you," she whispered. "I had to have an abortion,"
"Even with all that protection?" José was flabbergasted. "Are you all right?”
"No big deal. I'd had had an abortion a few years ago. That's why I was such a fanatic about contraception."
"Guess we should have stayed in touch."
“No worries. When it gets right down to it, women are always on their own.”
“That’s not true,” José objected.
"Besides,” she cut him off. “I never want to go through that again so I've had my tubes tied. And that’s one hundred percent birth control.” Emmy winked and continued, “Hey, let’s meet again. I don’t want to miss these movies with Liv Ullmann. She’s Bergman’s muse. He’s a great feminist director.”
“Sounds good to me,” José replied, dumbfounded, realizing Emmy was not aware that the Swedish maestro’s relationship with women was certainly as problematic as Buñuel’s.
“And maybe next week after the movie you could come over to see my new place. Like before but with no paper to write.” José smiled remembering the pleasures they had shared. “Perhaps I could finish that sketch I made of you.”
“OK, it’s a date.” José hoped that his new found interest in yoga might help him stay in the saddle longer. He inhaled deeply, exhaling slowly through his nose.
“And only one furry roommate,” Emmy added. “My spoiled brat Tango. He's such a sweet little hound and really good at Frisbee."
“Oh, yeah?” José took another swig of beer, hesitated to respond, looked into Emmy’s eyes and then acquiesced, hoping for the best. “I’d love to meet Tango.”
Casey Bush is a Portland poet whose eighth collection Student of Hippocampus was published in 2018 by Last Word Press (Olympia, WA). His essay “Sisters Around the Cauldron: Mary Barnard and Her Sappho” was recently posted on the Berlin based website The Decadent Review. Casey is the poetic voice of Notes & Motes: The Vlatkovich Trio Plus One. He recommends Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center.