By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 16 Nov 2022



Postscript to an aging courtesan

The harmonic rephrasing of reality.


I gave her the name ‘Claire’, defined her character, charted its evolution, its powers to control minds and save humanity in the near future.

That strange backward glance, as she went inside with Gomez, leaving me alone in the still of night, spoke volumes to me, not right then but in the days to come. It posted itself on my brain, a picture, a facial expression I could never forget or explain the thoughts behind it. So I spent many nights spinning out endless possibilities, which expanded into an alternative world, and a novel.

This was after he returned that morning. He’d walked her into town and spent his last ten dollars buying breakfast. He wanted to spend every minute he could with her. As soon as they came to the one, small American breakfast spot, a counter that seated only six, she made a phone call and had a ride coming in half an hour. I asked if he found out anything more about her. He was very savvy in a few areas and one of those was women. He said you never ask a woman about her personal affairs or income, especially her residences, that’s indiscreet. He figured she had numerous connections and boyfriends and addresses but spent all her dollars on coke.

In the dim light the night before it was hard to guess her age. But he said that in bed with her and this morning he realized that she was much older than he first thought, forty-five or even fifty. She had wrinkles in places and maybe only a few more years in the trade. As he said this it struck me that she did seem uniquely intelligent and mature in her conversation the night before, something I didn’t realize till now.

She was straight to the point in her words, clear and concise, flowing, not at all like your typical, young, muddled, coke-head of twenty or thirty years. She talked with us on our level, as equals. He gave her my number and she told him she really liked the both of us as descent guys and might drop by again when in town, just to chat, as she rarely had that pleasure of good conversation and enjoyed the night before a great deal.

Since I hadn’t seen her in the unforgiving sunlight, I chose to preserve the vision I had of her the night before, a twenty five year old with smooth, alabaster skin, an hour-glass shaped Venus and a pretty face in the moonlight, an intelligent interview with perfection in the flesh, sitting a breath away, her perfume caressing my face as we talked.

I’m sure all my readers must think that I exaggerate or live a life of dream women in lieu of real affairs. But in this case and others where I wax eloquent, I don’t embellish. I’ve been extremely fortunate in meeting rare beauties and having conversations with them in the oddest of places and circumstances, almost always facilitated and accompanied by my unique, male friends. These encounters were often brief but entered my dreams and expanded into fictions.

It’s a far step below the sharp and soft experiences of real life. But they aren’t that far below in the pleasures a strong imagination can devise, of the novels it wraps around them, sometimes not far below in vividness, in a class all their own, an alternate reality, just not tangible.

My novel ‘Roland House’ came out of such a fantasy, played a hundred times in my head before a single word was written on paper. And all the small variations of detail I gave it were the gift of the writer’s craft, always trying to improve each scene in details and bring it to life, testing what to leave in or exclude, revising over and over for the grandest impression.

The strength of a powerful imagination, aided by reading many other artist’s creations can almost make up for the barren patches in life. Some people have their worst fears from nightmares, more than anything in real life.

Others, like me, who cultivate the positive, have their nearest approaches to nirvana in these hours of free-roaming visions, in the quiet time before sleep, and sometimes during it, in the dreams they engender. Even better than this is writing itself, the art of composing a story, plying your wits and verbal skills to describe the vision, because you end up with a product, a book, a real thing that can be shared, an enhancement of the real world.

Perhaps that night with her at our kitchen table and for a while afterwards, I enjoyed her more than Gomez did. She was such rich food for thought, a feast for the eyes, and filled my mind each night for weeks, keeping me awake, thinking about her, not just her physical charms, but all the possible angles of her strange and rich life imagined in the glittery scenes of San Juan and the various stages of her career, from an innocent young girl led by the hand, by the promises and lies of charming men, slowly graduating into a veteran courtesan, knowing all the tricks and now leading the men by the hand, through casinos and restaurants to suites.

Her youthful beauty must have whisked her into all sorts of scenes of luxury and gifts. It’s hard to imagine what doors wouldn’t have immediately opened for her at twenty. Some must have led her to the more decadent parties of the rich and her first delightful tastes of drugs, soon to become habits and the path to lower and lower self-abasement.

But her intelligence showed that she limited that fall. She never descended to needles or crack. She wasn’t in the gutter. From what I could guess and see she moved from bedroom to bedroom, a high class hooker, ate fairly well, kept her health and went where she wanted. Her stay with Dan, (not the richest of her clientele) was at least adequate in comfort, hidden, his company and conversation intelligent. His habits were regular. He was a predictable, safe haven.

I guessed she stayed with him for that length of time just for a break from a wilder life, moving from place to place every few nights and another personality to deal with, another mask to put on. What made this even more plausible was that I’m sure she had a phone book of numbers and could have left at any moment with a call. She needed a rest and took one. The only thing she didn’t repair was her coke habit.

But Dan abetted that and she didn’t have to. And that too might come soon as she had the need to roll it back or quit, and I’m sure she knew to slow down as her looks faded. She was indulging herself on the credit card of her body. Every year that credit line decreased, like the money in her purse, and she knew it. If she kept to this ‘high’ standard the only thing to diminish with time would be her looks and health, her price tag.

I could see her gliding into a sober and stable relationship in a few years with someone her age, or maybe older. She had the intelligence, the social grace. He’d be happy to escort such a suave woman into his luxurious circles. Though her pristine beauty might be faded, her other charms would be more potent, her wit more polished, her poise and confidence alluring, with a huge repertoire of stories and memories to relate at any soirée, flocked by guests, finely apparelled and draped in jewelry under the sparkling light of chandeliers, charming the group, and her breasts as mesmerizing as ever.

Gomez probably dropped all thought of her in a few days, or hours. So who in the end gained the most pleasure? I did, because I treasured memories, expanded them and finally wrote them down. I don’t think any one of the people I mention in this memoir had the disposition or the inclination to do so. Though I know Bill and John and Martin from my Berkeley years easily had the talent to do so.

Many people try to forget large portions of their pasts and for good reason, they’re predominantly unpleasant. They reflect upon the sunny spots at times. But this precludes any narrative or history because they’re so ‘spotty’, so interrupted. There has to be a stream of continuous episodes mostly pleasant, to alleviate the few that aren’t. And those, we have to make them rich in lessons.

I was extremely fortunate to have a purely happy and charmed life through my nineteenth year, the first year of university. Then, when a very bad case of acne struck for three years, I had already developed such a deep love of great literature, my solitary, hermit life seemed like a hermitage, just as pleasant, now quiet as the page I was reading, equally fulfilling and perfectly accommodating scholastic excellence.

I read everything my teachers asked, and twice more. I had an excellent memory because I focused so completely. I aced tests and was their wonder student. But when my face cleared I had a natural desire to make up for lost time, quit that promising career, much to their disappointment, and backpacked with two girls into a world of non-stop parties and artists and drugs, always relegating a large slice of each day to libraries and my authors, my best friends of all.

What a strange life I’ve lived. The second night I slept with Low River, a beautiful hippy, my first sexual partner, dragged from a wild party by her to her single bed, (me being shy) and absolutely having to turn on the light to check a reference in a book I brought with me, plaguing me, on her nightstand.

I knew it would wake her up and make her mad, minutes after sweet sex. Who does that, over a typo in a footnote to Milton?

I did. That’s why I recount my story. It’s rare.


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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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