Just because I’m on the run from the American police for having killed many men, and am therefore forced to live underground in a basement of a demolished house in Texas, on the outskirts of a city I cannot for my own safety disclose, doesn’t mean I don’t still read books and watch films.
And, while reading, I’m not worrying about being caught by the police, being tried for murder, found guilty, then killed through lethal injection, because, whilst reading, I’m concentrating solely on the words on the page or computer screen (reading off a computer is as valid a form of reading as from the printed page). Thus I worry less than if I don’t read. Thanks to the internet, as well as to my circumstances, I read more than ever. So I’m ingesting more information than ever. Despite my 113 years, and being born in the nineteenth century, I’m a twenty-first century man, with my fingers pressed firmly on the Zeitgeist.
This is a perfect lead-in to the latest film I’ve seen, “The Reader”. The beginning of the story is set in West Germany in 1958. A fifteen year-old boy, Michael, becomes ill on the street, and begins vomiting. A thirty five year-old woman, Hannah, sees him, and takes him to her flat where she bathes him, then sends him home. Michael’s mother is grateful to Hannah for helping her boy, and she sends him back to Hannah with flowers as a thank-you gift.
Had Michael’s mother been clairvoyant she might not have sent Michael back, because, when again at Hannah’s, he gazed at her with desire, and she him. Thus they embarked on a love affair. But it wasn’t your normal love-affair because with normal love-affairs, you, if the man, don’t have to read aloud from books for many hours to your woman before making love. Reading to her is what Hannah made Michael do, for she hungered after knowledge, since she was, for all intents and purposes, uneducated.
So Michael read book after book – Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, The Magic Mountain, you name it – to Hannah while with her in the bath and lying in bed. Sitting in the bath together is what Michael and Hannah seemed to do lots of. Watching these bath scenes, I felt strong pangs of desire coursing through my body, because having a bath with a beloved is, for me, extremely erotic. In “The Reader”, the woman in the bath, Hannah, was in reality Kate Winslet, and what red-blooded man wouldn’t want to bath with Kate Winslet?
In the second half of my life, I’ve tried to make bathing with the beloved an integral part of my lovemaking. I like particularly the candle-lit bath. If only my wife, Gladys, had liked taking candle-lit baths with me, our love-making would have been other than a dreaded conjugal obligation. I was at least partly responsible, since, for the first forty years of our marriage, my approach to love-making with Gladys had been utilitarian, mechanical, obligatory.
It was only in the 1960s that I began to change my approach to love-making, when I imagined myself as a woman submitting to the sexual demands of men like me.
I went through this mental exercise not because of altruism, but because women were wanting nothing further to do with me after only one night of love. I had sufficient humility to see that the fault was mainly mine, that I hadn’t paid attention to the spirit of the 1960s, particularly the new feminism, when women were no longer content to be men’s doormats. Thus I had to change, or I would be ever after sexless – well, apart from sex with Gladys, my wife.
So, in my lovemaking with women other than Gladys, I became more sensitive to what they wanted, and this included erotic candle-lit baths. As a newly sensitive man I asked Gladys to take candle-lit baths with me too, on those occasions when we made love. But Gladys, who I knew had abhorred my decades of conjugal demands on her, just wasn’t enthusiastic. She continued to want me to complete quickly the love-making, while she lay back, and, no doubt, thought of England.
I feel suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue. I hope it isn’t my heart. I’m unable to write more today. If still alive, I’ll continue talking about “The Reader” next time.