Last time I met John van Dorn, he told me the following love story:
After two months of grueling boot camp, I was on two weeks’ leave at my grandmother’s house. Late in the morning, still suffering from yesterday’s long drill march, I was sound asleep in my attic room, my coverlet pushed aside.
Vaguely I heard knocking on my door. It opened before I had a chance to call out that I was still in bed. Only half awake, I lay with a firm morning erection appearing through my pajamas. Tisja, the beautiful young help in the house, just about my age, who’d been with us for a few years, innocently stepped in to clean up my room. She broke into laughter when she saw my fierce masculine weapon pointing in her direction.
I felt awkward. I’d always been told to be gallant to the help in the house while keeping my distance. Tisja was sort of family and a good friend, but I’d never thought of approaching her sexually because getting close to a servant was “not done” according to the family code. But the rules in the book didn’t prescribe what to do when an attractive servant catches you with your physical pride protruding upfront.
I smiled back at her clumsily, pulling up my bed sheet. Suddenly, her sparkling eyes turned dark and took on a velvety glossy look.
“Johnny,” she hushed, “if you want, why not come to my room one night?”
She darted away, perhaps shocked by her own words, and left me in confusion, which grew into a thick ball of desire.
It took a day before I found the courage to act on her suggestion. My body wanted it and at eighteen, fresh from boarding school, after my sad farewell from Lucy, I was still a virgin. Her room was next to mine; we were the only ones sleeping in the attic. But would my matriarchal management not hear the wooden floors squeaking when I sneaked to her room in the middle of the night? Wouldn’t they hear the thumping of the bed?
I found her alone in the kitchen and helped her with the dishwashing, standing close to her.
“I think it would be better on a Sunday morning when everyone’s gone to church,” I whispered to her. ”I’ll pretend I’m sick. What do you think? Will you be here this weekend? It’s still my furlough.”
“Yes, good idea,” she said, smiling. “This weekend I’ve duty. Jane’s off. And they don’t have breakfast before church so I can sleep in.”
When Sunday morning came, I acted as if I had belated stomach pains from the army food, and my mother allowed me to stay in bed. Matriarchal management went to church. As soon as I heard the taxi drive away, I scooted to Tisja’s room, opened her door and peeped in.
She was lying in bed, a sheet simulating the enticing sculpture of her body. “Hi,” she said, smiling. “Come in.”
I entered her room on my toes, still scared someone might hear me. The windows were open and looked out, like mine, on the majestic oak tree, slowly waving in the warm late summer breeze, blowing in scents of jasmine and lavender. The doves were cooing. I stood beside her bed, not sure what to do.
“Come, lie with me,” she said, calmly sliding the sheet from her body. Boy… she was almost completely naked. “Take off your pajamas.”
She looked like the mermaid statue I’d seen in the Efteling Theme Park, so delightful and pure. I dropped my pajamas and joined her, timid. But when her slender body touched mine, everything changed in my life.
I gazed at her lively eyes, soft dark hair and nice round shoulders, touched her breasts, nipples, drawing in whiffs of her peachy perfume. I wanted to make love to her, but wasn’t sure how. To help me on the way, Tisja caressed my sex, which got stiff as a broom.
“Is this your first time?” she asked, stroking my hair.
“Yes,” I admitted, feeling silly.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said.” I have something in me to stop babies.”
She kissed me, fondled me, held me, and made me gently enter her. It was such a warm feeling. She begged me to get deeper and deeper, shifted my hand from her shoulder to her breast, made me rub her nipple and I felt it hardening. I kept pushing, urged by the instincts of nature and the increasing delight of the warm fluids that surrounded my sex while she was arching up to me. After some time, she yelped, sighed and I felt her heart pounding. As I hadn’t come yet, she fondled me, and I erupted in her with a flush of splashing sparks shooting right to the top of my brain, leaving me breathless.
“How did you like it?” she whispered in my ear.
I didn’t know what to say. “Nice feeling,” I said, “and you?”
She laughed but didn’t answer. We chatted a while about me and her boyfriend Tommy as we were both drafted in the army.
“When are you going to marry him?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’m not ready yet to make that decision, but my parents want me to. There are so many things I can do with my life before getting babies. It’s nice at grandma’s house, but I’d like to do something more. Go to a school for secretaries as your mother said.”
“I’m sure my mother will help you and talk to your parents. She knows them so well.”
I kissed her on her lips and stroked her hair. I hoped that the dogs outside would bark to warn us that the church goers were back.
“Want to do it again?” she asked.
“Yes, why not, I’m sure you can.”
She fondled me and we kissed. More confident, I stroked her breasts, her tummy, and inner legs, and we made love again. It took a bit longer, but Tisja wanted it badly. She moved her pelvis up and down, holding me tight by my buttocks and I moved with her rhythm. She came again before me and then again, till it was finally my turn.
She puffed, mumbling she was dead, and so was I. We slept for a few minutes in each other’s arms. I woke up worried about the time, but counted on the dogs barking when the churchgoers got home.
I pushed the sheet away and looked at her body. She had a nice flat tummy with a silky patch of black pubic hair.
“You’re so beautiful,” I said.
“You too,” she said, her hand cupping my penis that had shrunk to a harmless little tube. “I looked at you walking naked to the bathroom and when you were sunbathing on the balcony below with your pants off, naughty boy. I wanted you all the time.”
Footsteps on the stairs. Blast!
What was happening? The dogs hadn’t barked. Who could that be? My mother coming to see how her sick sonny was doing? I jumped out of Tisja’s bed and hid in her closet amidst her dresses, closing the door behind me, holding it tight. Then I realized that I’d left my pajamas on the floor. I heard knocking. Oh hell….
“Tisja, good morning, it’s Jane. Can I come in?”
Damn Jane, you were supposed to be off!
“Sure,” Tisja answered, making the sound of a yawn.
I heard Jane coming in.
“You’re still in bed?” Jane sounded surprised. “Tommy called he wanted to see you this afternoon.”
Geez, Tommy, her boyfriend. If he knew…
“I said okay,” she continued. “I’ll cover for you. Whose pajamas are those?”
“Yes, those pajamas.”
“Oh, Johnny’s, he threw them out of his room to wash, you know, the slob, and I picked them up this morning on my way back from the bathroom.”
Good excuse, I mumbled, keeping the closet door tight, though I felt hurt about the “slob” part.
“But I heard he was sick,” Jane said
“Is he still in bed?” Jane kept asking.
“Would I know? We don’t do cleaning on Sundays.”
“Tisja, you’d better get up and get the coffee ready. The ladies will soon be home. I’ll do the service. Go and see Tommy.”
“Thank you, Jane, very nice of you.”
I heard Jane leaving, but didn’t hear her going down the stairs. She was probably taking a peep in my bedroom. I heard her coming back, knocking on the door again. I kept holding on to Tisja’s closet door for life, fearing the worst.
“I’m not ready yet, Jane,” Tisja answered, splashing at the sink.
“You know where Johnny is?”
“Not a clue, why would I know what that silly lad’s doing?”
Don’t overdo it now, Tisja….
“He’s not in his bed.”
“Maybe he’s in the toilet doing you know what or he went to play tennis.”
“If he’s sick?”
“I don’t follow his footsteps, Jane. I’ll be right down, just a minute.”
I heard Jane going downstairs and shortly after that Tisja rapped on the closet.
“Jane’s gone,” she whispered, and left her room.
I waited a minute to be sure no one was in the attic anymore and slid out of Tisja’s closet, but didn’t see my pajamas. Of course, Tisja must’ve taken them down as proof she’d picked them up to be washed.
My heart stopped when there was more stumbling on the stairs. Stark naked, I could only cover myself with Tisja’s bed sheet. Better than nothing. Wrapping it quickly around my waist, I skedaddled like a bat out of hell to my bedroom. The attic door opened just as I dove into my bed. I pushed Tisja’s sheet underneath mine and tried to keep a suffering face. But I knew I was playing a losing game.
My dear mother came in.
“Johnny, why did you come flying out of Tisja’s room?”
“Out of Tisja’s room? I didn’t, I knocked to see if she had aspirin, but she wasn’t in.”
“Jane said she was there just a minute ago.”
“Really? Not when I knocked on her door.”
“And she’d seen your pajamas on the floor in her room. What’s been going on? I want to talk to you downstairs. Get dressed. You aren’t sick at all.”
“But I am!”
She left, slamming the door, clearly suspicious about my alternative use of Sunday church time.
I shaved, bathed and got dressed, put Tisja’s sheet back on her bed and drooped down the stairs, aware I’d have to face the music. But I was determined to stick to my story.
The matriarchal management had grouped on the veranda for coffee, as usual after Sunday church, enjoying the late summer weather and the view of grandmother’s colorful roses. Jane brought out the coffee, dispensing its addictive aroma. I avoided her eyes. Tisja’d gone off to her Tommy.
“Jane, what’s been going on with Tisja this morning?” my grandmother blurted out.
“I don’t know, madam,” Jane stammered.
“Jane?” she pressed.
“Well, she wasn’t up yet when I went to her room.”
“When was that?”
Grandmother squinted at me. “Johnny, were you still in bed at that time?”
“Yes,” I said, which was true, although it was not mine but Tisja’s bed.
“What’s this story about Johnny’s pajamas, Jane?” Oma was about to uncover my white lie.
“Tisja said she’d picked them up outside his bedroom, where he’d left them to be washed,” she said, embarrassed.
“That’s true, Oma,” I butted in. “I’d sweated all night from the stomach flu. I was soaking wet, so I dropped them outside my bedroom, as I always do with my laundry. I don’t understand why you all are making such a big fuss about my pajamas.”
“We wouldn’t if I hadn’t seen you spurting from Tisja’s room naked with a sheet around your bottom,” my mother said coolly.
“What would I do naked in Tisja’s room? I told you, I wanted aspirin and because I’d thrown out my pajamas, I had nothing else but my bed sheet for cover….”
“It all sounds like a twisted story, soldier,” grandmother intoned like my commander-in-chief. “All right, Jane, you can go now, thanks for filling in for Tisja.”
“You sleep down in the guest room from now on,” my mother ordained, puncturing any hopes of a repeat. “We don’t want people talking in the village.”
“But what about, Mother?”
They had no solid proof, just vague unsubstantiated hunches. I knew Tisja was smart enough to talk herself out of trouble. Grinning, I got up, went to the grand piano, lifted the flap, sat down and imitated Errol Garner’s jazz tune Avalon.
Read more of this in “Some Women I Have Known.”
and about Frank in “A Naughty Romance.”
Our Beechcraft stood at Executive Airfield near Charleston in the glistering afternoon sun. Friends dropped us off after a weekend fishing off the South Carolina coast. We loaded our bags in the hull and walked back to the flight desk for weather information. Tom, my muscled friend from college and a Boeing 737 captain, and I drew up our flight plan. We had been flying the Beechcraft for several years now and enjoyed the fruits of our investments, going out each weekend if we could. I had been flying small planes since I was twenty-five. As I did well in my career as an investment banker, I could afford purchasing the aircraft. Tom pitched in as well.
“Fueling done?” asked Tom
“All fine. Here’s your invoice,” the attendant said. “Weather report OK, but you may hit some thunderstorms near your destination. Nothing to worry about.”
It was my turn to take the Beech back to Manassas in Northern Virginia, our hub. I started the engines, let them roar a few times, and taxied to the run way. Patrick Allen of Dreamstime.com took our picture. A few moments later we were airborne. Soon we would be home to tell the funny boat stories and show off our tanned bodies. Sunita, my wife, would be waiting anxiously. She would never come along. Andy, my son, and daughter Sonia, sometimes flew with us, but they were busy with parties this weekend. Besides, Sunita did not like them coming along. Tom was engaged to his umpteenth beauty, a smart girl from Manilla, but she felt terrified in small planes.
We were flying under visual flight rules in clear skies at an altitude of 9,500 feet, enjoying the scenery of fluffy clouds, the patches of forests and fields gliding by below us, the sonorous hum of the engines. As the weatherman had predicted, after about an hour and a half we began to experience some turbulence but the bright cumulus turned dark much faster than we heard.
Tom radioed Flight Watch for an update and they reported that conditions ahead were changing rapidly. I contacted Flight Service and activated our instrument flight plan, as visibility deteriorated fast. We contacted Air Traffic Control, and the Washington Center controller reported significant storms developing along our planned route. Tom and I discussed if we should return or reroute. But from the cockpit, the sky to the west looked darker and even more menacing. The controller suggested we proceed in northeastern direction to avoid the worst of the storms. Knowing they might have a better radar overview than we, we accepted the new course. It didn’t look much better, but at least it seemed less threatening.
Then flying conditions got suddenly pretty rough. We could not see anything anymore because of the harsh rain and thick clouds. I asked Tom, who had more experience, to take over the controls. We were about twenty minutes from Manassas. The hazardous weather and fierce lightning was now all around us. Turbulence shook the aircraft pretty badly and the instruments beeped several warnings. Tom struggled to keep the aircraft level. The controller informed us of severe thunderstorm activity near Manassas. Tom sneered that it couldn’t be worse than what we were having already.
The controller said landing was still possible and instructed to descend to 4000 feet, but there the clouds were even darker. Lightning kept slicing through them.
Hail began to clatter and the turbulence became increasingly violent. Then the aircraft experienced a sudden loss of 2000 feet. “Damn! Microburst!” yelled Tom to the tower. “Loosing speed going down!” We were far too low, still half a mile from the runway and facing tough headwinds. I led the landing gear down at about 100 knots. Tom applied full throttle to gain height but the aircraft continued to be pushed down. We saw the ground approaching fast. Tom tried to pull up again and level but the Beech veered abruptly to the left in strong gale winds and the nose pitched downward. We hit the ground, skidded and spiraled several times with tremendous shocks, and came to a very rough halt. My seat broke loose or cracked, I didn’t know what happened, but I felt a terrible pain in my back. Luckily no fire broke out and the canopy was still intact, but rain, hail, lightning and thunder continued unabated. Tom leaned forward over his stick, his shoulder hugged in a forward position. I couldn’t move.
“Tom!” I screamed. “The hell wake up man! I feel like I’m dying.”
I noticed a slight shrug in his shoulders, thank God he was alive.
“Tom!” I yelled again.
He came through slowly. His hair was bloodied and his lips were cut. “Come on, John, don’t panic! The tower knows. The meds are coming. Hold on!”
We tried to loosen our seatbelts but everything was twisted. My vision blurred and my senses numbed. The last thing I heard were the ambulance sirens. Thank God! I just hoped they would be in time to get us out before the plane blew up.
* * *
We woke up in a bright white hospital room. Sunita stood near my bed, with the kids, tears in her eyes, but so glad I was alive. Tom’s fiancée, with her typical Philippine name, Mahalina, stood at Tom’s bed, holding his hand. He looked like a Sikh and a surgeon with his head in a ball of white bandage.
“You guys are very lucky,” Sunita said. She wore her black hat as if she had been preparing for my funeral. “Better leave that flying to the birds.”
I laughed, Tom grinned painfully. He couldn’t move his face.
“Yes,” he mumbled through his bandage. “Flying is for the birds.”
Peace of mind is a dire good. It can disappear as quickly as it comes. One day your finance is great, the next day it may be ruined. One night your romance is indelible, the next morning it may be in smithereens. Why can peace of mind not last? I am sure you remember when you enjoyed peace of mind and it suddenly collapsed into a nervous breakdown.
I remember whenever it did. It’s not just the occasional ups and downs. They cancel out when you have basic peace of mind. It’s the complete and often unexpected blow that shatters it to pieces. The loss of a dear friend, a parent, the pink slip in your job, a sudden incurable illness, the break-up of a marriage, an engagement, a love affair that offered hopes…so many things that harshly interfere with life.
I remember each time when it hit. In my case, it was mostly broken love affairs. That could really bother me for a long time. Occasionally, job tensions as well. Some people are horrible to work with and you still have to get along, watching each moment you won’t get stabbed in the back. Technical problems can always be solved, but humans!
How to get it back? I have tried everything, from praying to Prozac to Lorazepam, to swallowing tumblers full of scotch, to jumping in a cold lake. But that last idea would not work out so well. I was too good a swimmer.
Once you acquire enough money and a stable marriage later in life, you seem to have reached that wonderful peace of mind. It takes a long time and a little bit of luck. Some never reach it and become desperate. If you do, seek some help wherever you can. And when you are asked to help, give it with both hands. A helping hand can do wonders. I have seen it several times: a wrecked life can be turned around.
In my last blog, I mused about how the writer’s point of view is molded by a world of seven billion different people. I don’t think a writer can write without peace of mind, at least I can’t. It is an individual’s asset, to be closely guarded. If you have it, you are very rich. Money can make things easier, but without peace of mind, its value is pretty hollow. Peace of mind you cannot buy, or sell. Much of it depends on early decisions in life and the stamina you are gifted with to withstand obstruction, conflict or bad luck. Eventually, light shines at the end of the tunnel. I know it’s easy to say for me when you are in the dump, but it’s true: keep that in mind in your journey to reach peace of mind: it is there!