To begin with, the title is pronounced “Being Two”, though it’s not so much a sequel to Being as a companion piece. Really the only connection between the two stories is that they’re both based on the same statue - L’improvisateur by Félix Maurice Charpentier (1858-1924); in this case, the bronze version that stands facing the sea front in the French resort of Bandol (not actually named in the story because the narrator has no way of knowing that, unless he happens to overhear someone say it).
The statue was indeed sculpted in 1887, as stated in the story, but I don’t know when it was actually installed at its present location, so I made up a date. Of course I also made up the “local tradition” that proves so fortunate for the protagonist.
PS If anyone reading this knows anyone living in the vicinity of Bandol or has an opportunity to visit, I would really appreciate a set of good quality 360° views of the statue. Anyone??
“They say it’s lucky if you touch it,” she tells him.
“That’s crazy,” he says. “Where did you hear that?”
“It’s right here in the guidebook. See? And look, you can see where it’s gone shiny from people touching it.”
It’s a pleasant night for a stroll. The moon is almost full, casting a silver lane across the water of the harbour.
With a sly grin she leans toward him and says, “You do want us to be fertile, don’t you? Go on. I dare you.”
“Oh, no,” he replies, laughing in embarrassment. “There’s no way I’m gonna put my hand on some guy’s dick!”
That sets her laughing too. “Oh, come on,” she says. “It’s not ‘some guy,’ it’s only a statue.”
If only they knew. If only there was some way I could tell them...
“I’m still not doing it,” he says. “It’d just feel... weird, you know?”
“Look, if it helps, I won’t tell anyone, all right? There’s nobody about right now. Nobody will see. Why don’t we do it together?”
“Uh... I don’t know... it’d still be weird, like... I dunno...”
“What... like you’re gay or something?” She laughs as his face turns scarlet under the garish street light. “Hey, don’t worry about that. I think you pretty much convinced me that you’re not gay last night... and this morning... and this afternoon... and this evening... and twenty minutes ago...” And she leans in to kiss him.
I suspect that if they weren’t in such a public place she’d be persuading him to convince her again right here and now. I certainly wouldn’t mind watching.
As it is, they spend a few minutes engaged in some very heavy petting, and I do enjoy watching them. I take a certain voyeuristic pleasure in it. I can see them, but they can’t see that I’m seeing them.
I do confess to a pang or two of envy, though. They have so much freedom, so much vitality, so much potential, so much sex... And what do I have? Nothing but my thoughts and my senses. Not that they don’t provide some compensation.
“Now,” says the girl as they sway gently together, “are you sure you don’t want to change your mind?”
“Well... no,” he says, “it still wouldn’t feel right. Yeah, I know it’s not a real dick, but you know what they say... if it looks like a dick and quacks like a dick...”
She chuckles at that. I appreciate the pun too, although I’m not even sure what language they’re speaking. Somehow that doesn’t matter. I can always understand.
“All right, then,” she says. “I won’t force you to do it. But that’s not going to stop me.”
So saying, she steps forward, reaching out her hand.
If I had a heartbeat, it would be pounding with feverish anticipation right now. Time seems to slow down, stretching the moment to eternity...
I don’t remember how long I’ve been like this. Not since 1887, I’m certain, and probably not even as recently as 1954, yet every day locked in this bronze shell can seem like an eternity. I’m not able to move. I’m not able to speak. I’m not able to sleep. I’m not able to tell anyone that I’m alive.
I’m even embarrassed about being naked in public and not being able to cover myself up, even though I know people think I’m only a statue.
What’s more, I know - somehow I know with absolute certainty and conviction - that this is it for me. This is forever. I will never again move. I will never again be free. I will never again be anything but a naked bronze statue.
I have tried to tell myself that this is impossible, that flesh cannot turn to bronze, or even if it could, that bronze cannot think and see and feel. I tell myself that I must be hallucinating, that it cannot be real, and soon I will wake up and discover that it has all been nothing but a fever-dream. Yet if it is only a dream it refuses to fade, and I remain as solid and immobile as ever.
How did I become a statue in the first place? I can’t remember, no matter how I try. I can only entertain wild speculations, none of which seem plausible. Maybe I somehow offended a witch, or begged a djinn for immortality and was granted it in this helpless fashion. Or perhaps I’m the victim of a scientific experiment gone bizarrely wrong. Or maybe, in an infinite universe in which anything can happen, it just happened, and I am the result of some random quantum fluctuation.
And then again, maybe I was never alive at all. I certainly can’t remember anything about my past life. Maybe I am really just a statue that has somehow become conscious and longs to be able to move.
Who knows? Maybe all statues are alive inside, yearning like me for the freedom they will never attain.
Still, however I came to be a statue, there are consolations, as I mentioned. My sense of touch is intensely heightened. The slightest breath of wind is like a lover’s caress, the warmth of the sun on my body fills me with euphoria, and a single raindrop sets my entire body tingling.
As for the touch of a hand...
Yes, I think. Yes. Time, don’t stop. Let her touch me. Please.
Time resumes. The girl’s fingers gently stroke my bronze penis and balls, unleashing a flood of ecstasy. Pleasure builds and builds and builds, slowly and inexorably leading to a climax far beyond any flesh and blood orgasm (and how could I know that unless I had been flesh and blood once?).
The climax disperses in a series of euphoric pulses that ripple outward from my genitalia to the rest of my body. But it’s not over yet, far from it. The cycle begins again, ecstasy waxing to an even more powerful climax than the last one. If I could move I would be moaning with ecstasy, fiercely caressing the girl and planting bronze kisses upon her lips and elsewhere. What could her boyfriend do to stop me? He couldn’t hurt a bronze man.
But I can’t move. I can only stand here and take it as more and more orgasmic cycles wash over me.
I silently bless the author of that guidebook and pray that it will never be censored.
How many times does that one touch bring me to climax? Ten? Twenty? A hundred? I can’t tell. Maybe the climaxes are also just fever dreams, but if so then I never want to wake up. It’s such an amazing, intense, indescribably beautiful sensation. It makes life worth living - even this strange, lifeless life of mine.
After what seems like hours the final climax slowly fades away, leaving me calm, fulfilled and happy.
The girl takes her hand away.
Thank you, I think. Oh, if only you knew what you just did for me. Thank you! Thank you!
In real time perhaps three seconds have passed.
“Great,” says her boyfriend. “Now I’m jealous of a statue.”
The girl laughs. “Don’t be,” she says, kissing him. “He doesn’t come close to measuring up to you.”
The girl happens to glance down at my feet. “Hey, look at that,” she says, reaching down and picking something up.
“What is it?” asks her boyfriend.
“It’s a twenty Euro note,” she replies. “It must have got wedged between the statue’s toes somehow. See? Told you it was lucky. Come on. The drinks are on me.”
They turn to walk away. Just before he leaves the boyfriend looks me in the eye momentarily, almost as if he can tell I’m alive. With a furtive glance to make sure his girlfriend isn’t watching, he mutters, “This still doesn’t mean I’m gay, all right?”
Then his fingers surreptitiously caress my bronze genitalia, and for the second time tonight I’m truly glad to be alive.