The first pages from Vangelis Raptopoulos‘ novel Loula
[Translated by Leo Kalovyrnas]
1. The Battering Ram
Loula Papahadji came from the town of Halkida, where she had graduated from Lyceum and where her parents and younger brother still lived. She had settled in Athens about two years prior to her disappearance ― in the autumn of 1994, just after her successful admission to University. Through a cousin of hers, she came into contact with a sophomore law student from Larissa, a girl called Evi Zaoussi, who lived in a cramped three-room flat in Eksarkia and who was looking for a flat-mate.
Unlike Loula, whose father provided her with enough money to live on, Evi’s father had died about four years ago from cancer, so she had to go almost daily to her aunt’s notary office somewhere on Harilaou Trikoupi Street. Work at the office was not terribly taxing (Evi typed contracts into the computer and answered calls) and oftentimes she skipped work on the pretext that there was some lecture at University she’d rather not miss. Even so, it was no fun working ― even when you were just pretending to be working ― and she’d much rather just loaf.
The two girls were different in more than just their work situation.
The main and most remarkable difference concerned their looks.
Loula was truly and honestly what one called a raving beauty, her only flaw being something that could be seen only if she undressed and stood before you in her birthday suit. Or rather if she simply revealed her breasts, for that was where her flaw was located. But even that was considered anything but a flaw by many people, particularly her lovers. Some of them, in fact, had in so many words stated that they found it most appealing and arousing on her («fucking hot» were the exact words of one of them).
She was tall, with long legs, a voluptuous rear, a slim waist and pert breasts ― a perfect body anyway you saw it. She had straight shoulder-length dark brown hair, parted in the middle. As for her face, sensuousness and elegance fought a hard battle over which predominated, but it was anavoidably the former that carried the day. Her mouth was most provocative, her lips full; she had prominent cheekbones and eyes that were big, dark and almond-shaped.
Loula’s beauty was so unaffectedly sensational that Evi, even if she had been simply pretty, would have stood no chance compared to her flat-mate’s dashing radiance. Adding insult to injury, Zaoussi had certain obvious flaws, although, on the whole, she was quite lovely. Her face was sweet, too sweet perhaps, but her breasts were huge and somewhat drooping, and her hips lower than they should (Evi herself often poked fun at herself, quipping, «Unfortunately, my buttocks seem to be chummy pals with the law of gravity – in-bloody-separable!»).
The paradox, however, lay elsewhere.
Despite her unquestionable merits, Loula was immensely insecure, and her love-life left an awful lot to be desired. Conversely, Evi possessed as much self-confidence as was lacking in her gorgeous flatmate, and men chased her like crazy. As a result, she treated them harshly, almost pitilessly; she cheated on them and eventually dumped them with a nonchalance that always amazed Loula. It was as if Evi cast a spell on them, or had something men found absolutely irresistible, and they wouldn’t let calling her and besieging her for weeks, months even, long after their expiration date.
Evi would smirk, the haughtiness of success obvious on her face, and insist that the key to her popularity was what she did to them in bed. Loula refused to accept this.
«That’s how it is, baby, better own up to it», Evi would tell her whenever they happened to broach this thorny subject. «In your case, God gave you everything on a silver platter, you never had to bother about the rest. Whereas in my case, my physical shortcomings have meant that I’ve had to get my act together and get real smart in what comes next, the main part. You dazzle everyone with your facade and you think that’s all there is to it. You obviously just sit around and expect them to do everything themselves. Whereas I toil and sweat from the very outset till the end, that’s why I’m so sought after.
»It is ― how should I put it? It’s as if one of them has a beautiful, huge cock but he doesn’t know what to do with it. While another, with a much smaller tool, puts it in you and makes all the right moves, uses it so sweetly and masterfully that you come and come till kingdom come.
»In other words, although you ’re the most fuckable cunt around, although you ’ve got a beautiful cunt, you don’t know how to use damn thing.
»Get my drift?»
Evi’s foul mouth ― well, that was another fundamental difference between them. Zaoussi absolutely reveled in bad language and jumped to each opportunity to use it, showing a particular predilection for expressions fraught with sexual connotations. Loula, with a certain hint of malice that made her feel ashamed of herself, had reached the conclusion that her flatmate actually got off on using those lewd words, perhaps even more so than when she actually got down to doing all those things that they stood for. She enunciated them, and her face took on this crazed expression, as if she couldn’t hide the ineffable bliss this act always filled her with. As for the words themselves, you got the impression that Evi tended to roll them over in her mouth a tad longer than most people, just like someone sucking on a sweet who doesn’t want to gulp it down or spit it out, although the sugary juices are already becoming somewhat nauseating.
With genuine dismay Loula was beginning to realise that of late her flatmate’s ribaldry had begun to infect her too. More and more often, she caught herself in the act of uttering dirty words, much to her consternation. She suddenly felt as if it was Evi who spoke through her mouth and not her. How could Mr Papahadji’s daughter have stooped so low?
From her father, whom she adored, Loula had inherited his almost pathological aversion to foul language and all manner of profanities. She remembered distinctly how, during the first months of her cohabitation with Evi, she had returned to Halkida for the weekend and had talked to her parents about her flatmate from Larissa painting a wonderful picture of her. «She’s only got one drawback», she added in the end, blushing slightly before even finishing her sentence. «Her language is a sewage pit-pardon me.»
And now, after about a year and a half of keeping bad company, this is what she’d got herself into. Why on earth did she have to get influenced by Evi on this tack of all things? to resemble her in this particular aspect? Instead, couldn’t some of Evi’s self-confidence have rubbed off on her? Some of her precious success with men? This was her great longing, and each time her mind wandered in that direction, she became inconsolable. This was because in true fact, Loula’s love lif was anything but rosy. To top it all, she found it impossible to talk about her sexual problems, even to Evi. Especially about one of them, the most important one. She was horrifically ashemed of it, her one big secret.
No, no. She couldn’t bring herself to avow it to anyone.
Not even to herself, almost!
So far Loula had got involved with five men in all – the fifth one being Stelios Teloglou. Stelios was the only one whom you would have a hard time calling a «man», as he was only twenty-five years old, whereas all the previous ones had been much older than her, almost middle-aged.
The first four she had met in Halkida, during the last two grades of Lyceum, and the majority of them were married. Their ages ranged from thirty-nine to forty-six, and in all cases without exception Loula had given herself over almost immediately as soon as they had made a pass at her. Despite what one might have expected, her flawless beauty dissuaded most men from approaching her, although nearly everyone ogled her. Few were the ones who dared approach her and finally make some proposition.
Another common denominator between them was that all four had began courting her in smooth and ostentatiously chivalrous manners, only to turn into very pigs as time went by (as a matter of fact, the third one, the mathematician, had even raised his hand at her and hit her a couple of times). In the end, all of them had dumped her of their own accord and with little explaining, leaving her to wallow in tears and misery. And so the story went until Loula managed to get into the School of Philosophy and came to settle in Athens.
The first six months of her stay in the capital were the hardest. A lonely stranger amongst strangers, Loula behaved like a tortoise that is frightened by the slightest din and promptly retreats into its shell to hide. She still remained rather reserved and wary of Evi, looking forward to spending weekends at her parents’ in Halkida the same way a wayfarer wandering in the desert longs for an oasis. Until one fine evening, end of March 1995 it was, at a party her flatmate had dragged her to, she met Stelios.
The young man was a graduate from some private computer school and was now working in a phototypeset studio not too far from where the girls lived, in Eksarkia. Although Loula had often heard him explain what exactly it was he did, and had actually even gone by to pick him up once or twice, where she’d seen him sitting in front of a large computer with a colour screen, the only thing that had stuck with her was the word «insterts». What exactly that was supposed to mean Loula never really understood. Probably Stelios inserted photos into each other in all those magazines and prospectuses that were produced at the studio. Or something of the sort.
His parents lived in Halandri and himself somewhere in Pangrati, behind Caravel Hotel, in a rooftop room that belonged to some uncle of his who rented it out to him. Stelios’s hobby was playing the guitar; he had got together with a couple of friends and had formed an amateur jazz band. However, they only played for their own pleasure as, from what he told her, he hated the public but most especially he abhorred all the networks you had to approach in order to succeed in building a career. That was why their band had never been given a proper name, and Stelios always simply called it our «group» ― «The Group», end of story.
(Evi, who straight from the outset had never really taken to him nor to his friends, told Loula that their band had actually got a name, but its members just kept quiet about it. They’d been listening to a tape with some of the band’s music on, given to Loula by Stelios, when Evi snorted: «It’s dead obvious, there’s no way these sods can possibly have any name other than Wankers! ‘The Wankers’, that’s what they’re bloody called!»)
The band aside, Stelios was as thin as a model, with long straight black hair, parted in the middle ― just the way Loula wore hers. He sometimes tied his in a ponytail, when he wanted to be «extra cool», as he said. His left ear was pierced, sporting a minute silver ring, but not always. All in all, Stelios was fairly handsome, yet nothing outstanding, certainly nowhere near Loula’s radiant beauty.
At the end of the day, his greatest asset was his huge cock.
Loula was scared of his cock when they first began seeing each other and considered it a drawback, since he almost always hurt her and literally split her open each time he entered her. Gradually however, through a complex emotional process, she’d finally come to terms with it and had even started thinking of it an asset (hoping that that was what Evi had in mind when she revered the huge proportions of the male member).
Loula had come up with a metaphor for Stelios’s immense prick, one that perfectly expressed what she felt each time he penetrated her, if that was the word for it. From her History classes at school she remembered a war machine used in antiquity. This machine consisted of the trunk of a huge tree which was carried horizontally by dozens of men; its front was decorated with a ram’s horns, or was fashioned to resemble the head of a ram ― Loula didn’t quite remember which was the case. What mattered was that the soldiers would gather speed and run towards the besieged city walls or the castle gates and use this battering ram to knock them down and tear through them.
Such a battering ram was Stelios’s cock, a ram used by her lover to tear through her lower gate, causing pain and havoc initially, and pleasure somewhat later, when Loula had began to get used to it and think of it as good thing.
Needless to say, this pleasure was far from perfect yet and not quite so complete; there was something missing, something very important, something that made Loula feel horribly ashamed and lacking to an inordinate degree. Nevertheless, she believed that she was on the right path to getting this sorted out and thus awaited patiently for the day to come when her Problem would finally get solved. Yes, Loula truly believed that sooner or later there would come the long-awaited time, and she had put all her faith and hope in the battering ram born by Stelios, his unquestionably huge asset.
The emotional process through which the young woman had come to think of Stelios’s huge member as a good thing was indeed most complex. It was closely linked to Loula’s personality, but also to the way their relationship had started, the way the young man had approached her in the first place. For, although Stelios had besieged her the moment he laid eyes on her and she had immediately accepted his overtures, just like with every other lover she had ever had, there definitely were certain differences.
For one thing, Teloglou hadn’t used any chivalrous manners, had in fact been rather curt with her straight from the outset. He had a nonchalant, supercilious air, as if to say, «If you want to make out that’s fine, if you don’t give it a shit». Or something along those lines, anyway. This haughtiness had remained unaltered all through their time together. His behaviour could be best described as indifferent, to put it in a nutshell, for that was what his whole attitude towards her connoted. Stelios called it a «cool attitude», but that was just something of a synonym, or rather a glib way of speaking without really saying anything.
Despite this down side of his attitude, he at least had not in due course of time turned nasty and vulgar towards her like his predecessors, who may have started all smooth and chivalrous but sooner or later had changed into monsters. No, Teloglou was straightforward and clear with her from the outset, something Loula valued infinitely. Stelios liked to have peace and quiet, liked being cool (a key word in his life) and if you didn’t cause him any grief he didn’t cause you any either. How could anyone blame such an attitude? Besides, if you didn’t like his stance you could always break up with him ― he never forced you to stay.
Barring the first month or so of their acquaintance, when Stelios was as forceful in bed as a horny bull, from then onwards his desire to make love had sunk to rather average or ordinary levels. During that first period, Loula had been terrified beyond reason of the pain his giant cock caused her, so Teloglou tried all sorts of positions with her, sliding it in discreetly and as gently as possible, as if sensing her terror. Gradually, however, as his desire for sex began to wane, his attitude changed too and became completely indifferent, almost humiliating ― «cool» is what he would call it again, but Loula definitely thought of it as «humiliating» ― for he hurt her and made her suffer all the more.
There were now mainly two ways he liked to make love, and his insistence on them bordered on obsession. What was humiliating in those acts had less to do with the positions as such and more with the way he asked for them, rather imposed them on her. For instance, after hurriedly removing her clothes he would push her slightly, telling her in his usual, indifferent and always rather bored manner, «Turn around, will you?», so Loula would turn her back to him and then he would cleave on her like a leech, cramming his sizeable tool between her thighs.
Only once, in the beginning of their affair, had he told her, rather demandingly too, «Let’s do it from behind, in the arse», but Loula had refused with such unrestrained candour, such vivid terror, disgust and shame that he never dared ask again. So now, each time she turned her back to him, his formidable humongous cock did not mount her from the back passage, but from the front, in spite of the position they assumed.
His second favourite style of making love was oral sex, which Stelios unashamedly called a «blowjob». He usually began by undressing her again, caressing her head, twining his fingers in her thick hair and suddenly, when he was wild with lust and with a barely perceptible request in his voice, a tone which appeared only in this situation, he would beckon her, «Come now, blow me!»
Pain was present even during oral sex. Not a few minutes went by before Loula’s jaws began to go numb from being forced so wide open, and she soon lost sensation in her cheeks from the consecutive cramps. But Stelios wouldn’t let her stop. His hands clasped her head tightly and pushed it back and forth, to the rhythm that best pleased him. With each new thrust forward, his battering ram filled her mouth completely, almost asphyxiating her as it blocked the entrance to her wind pipe and deprived her of breath. Filled to the hilt with that piece of hot throbbing flesh, her head spinning with dizziness and her stomach already churning in anticipation of what was to come, the girl exerted agonising efforts not to throw up, and waited in resignation for the sorry moment when her mouth would brim with sperm. That was what disgusted her more than anything ― it made her sick to her stomach and she hated herself afterwards. Nevertheless, she dared not desist.
Indeed, Stelios’s attitude towards her was not just humiliating, it was absolutely mortifying in every way. Be that as it may, the part of Loula that felt indignation and suffered greatly each time they made love (but naturally kept it to herself), turned out to be rather superficial and all too weak. Another part of herself, a part that was much deeper, more meaningful and certainly more dominant, felt quite at ease with what could at best be characterised as inexcusable behaviour on Stelios’s part; that part of herself accepted his debasing attitude as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Sadly, that was the bitter truth. Deep inside she liked Stelios’s demeaning behaviour towards her, and even considered it right and proper.
For some reason which seemed inexplicable to Loula, sex for her had always been ― ever since she remembered herself awakening sexually ― closely woven with humiliation. Although she yearned intensely for tenderness and all forms of foreplay, although in reality the act itself rarely gratified her, and her true desire was not to make love but only to be caressed and nothing more… in spite of all that, she believed that her yearning was simply a kind of base and selfish repressed desire of hers, a sick secret fantasy that would never come true, not for any other reason but for the fact that it was base and sick.
All her lovers sooner or later ended up treating her high-handedly and overbearingly in bed, so Loula had come to believe that it was inconceivable that men should have any other attitude in sex. It would be no surprise if, when should she ever meet anyone who treated her tenderly, with no hint of demeaning behaviour towards her in his lovemaking, that she would think of him as strange and perverted, a fag even. She would definitely jump to the conclusion that there was something wrong with him, and that what they were doing was not really sex but something else, something defective and incomplete, something quite aberrant.
During a chat with Evi, when, fearing Evi’s critical remarks, Loula barely spoke about her attitude in sex and only listened attentively to her flat-mate’s bragging, it crossed her mind that the demeaning behaviour of males towards her was some kind of divine justice visited upon her, a sort of punishment, the price she had to pay in exchange for her unparalleled beauty ― something like a necessary evil. Besides, she hardly ever took any interest in men’s flattering remarks about her perfect body, and as a rule she completely and utterly ignored them, even looked down on the men who lavished flattery on her. What magnetised her, what excited her and sent erotic tingles down her spine was her need to sense, to somehow intuit that, even when during the courting period she was treated with gentle and chivalrous manners, the man in question would prove to be tough and violent deep inside, a «man» in every sense of the word, a man the way her father’s generation defined manhood, a certain someone that was good and able ― even potentially ― to humiliate her in bed.
So, as time went by Loula gradually began to look upon Stelios’s «third leg» (as he often endearignly referred to his willy, mentioning that pet-name somewhere or other but could not remember exactly where) as the embodiment, the personification even ― if one could use such a word in reference to that part of the human body in particular ― of sexually humiliating behaviour. She tried to convince herself that this was how things were supposed to be, that she ought to enjoy the pain Stelios’s battering ram inflicted on her. Such was her autosuggestion that there were times when hardly had he penetrated her with his oversized sexual organ that she was overwhelmed by an overpowering sense of pleasure, and with defenceless abandonment resigned herself to her lover’s merciless pounding.
Only her pleasure was far from complete, and no matter how much Loula immersed herself in pleasure’s deep waters she never quite managed to drown in them, to utterly lose herself in them. That was her Problem ― always assuming a capital P in her imagination. And as to the unbearable pain that Teloglou’s third leg caused her, her striving to endure it was not solely due to her idealisation of his cock as a supreme symbol of humiliation.
There was something else.
TO BE CONTINUED