By Guido Mina di Sospiro (July 2019)

Man with Cigar, Sergei Bongart, 1961


In his studio, among movie posters, scripts and computers, he shows me some pictures. “My girlfriend,” he elaborates, an up-and-coming model and would-be actress. “I love her to death,” he adds. “Isn’t she gorgeous?”


She is, I say.


“She has the most beautiful ass in the world, doesn’t she?”


“I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen them all.”


He insists, “It is the most beautiful ass in the world, no doubt about that,” and he stares at me with glassy and slippery eyes.


I give in, how could I repeat that I don’t know?


Later on, while having dinner at a trendy restaurant, he looks like a Jack-in-the-box: he keeps jumping up and down as if he were operated by a spring. Why? The many stars and starlets he waves to with great enthusiasm. Unwittingly, I think, this man is hilarious. But he is treating us and, sooner or later, he may speak also about my novel.


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The club is cavernous, with very high ceilings. Half way between the floor and the ceiling there is a net along which some half-naked women keep on crawling, or slithering. Techno music, rather loud, discourages attempts at conversation. The place is full of colorful people and the women, as far as their outfits are concerned, do not look too dissimilar from those above our heads.


We sit at the only reserved table. Jack orders vodka and caviar (after dinner?). The caviar, he makes me notice with pride by shouting into my ear, “can no longer be imported into the US.”  


“So, how can you get it?” I ask him sensing that he expects just that question.


“I know people . . . ” His eyes seem ever glassier and more slippery.  


He gets up and signals me to follow him. A few steps after that he stops, pivots, and asks: “Do you like black women?”



It must be the right answer. He looks at me with his most slippery eyes yet, and smiles. “Follow me.”


Soon after that we find ourselves in a small “private room,” he explains with piratical winks. A man joins us. They say hello to each other and start muttering so that I can’t hear them. “Let’s see where this is going to go,” I think.


“Listen, my friend,” Jack tells me, “you can ask for anything, here.”


“What do you mean?”


“Anything, even the most forbidden thing, and you’ll get it. And then we’ll leave you alone with it. What do you say? Ask and it will be given to you!”


The other fellow is also staring at me. I think about it for a while and then say: “Well, it’s since we left the restaurant that I’ve been wanting to . . . ” Their slippery eyes prompt me to continue. “Since you are asking, I do have a request.”


“Tell us, go ahead.”


“I’d love to smoke a cigar.”


They look at each other, taken aback. Finally, Jack says, “I don’t know if I’ve made myself clear: we can get you anything you want, and you can enjoy it right here, undisturbed . . . ”


The other fellow puts in, with a stentorian voice: “Sorry, man, but you can’t smoke in here,” and he points to a No Smoking sign.


“Yes,” I reply, “I saw the sign, but I thought—”


“Sorry,” says the fellow, “but No Smoking is No Smoking, and that’s the law. Okay?




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