CHAPTER 16 - LUCIANA
(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 16 - LUCIANA
He found Luciana sitting alone at a table in the Allied officers' night club, where the
drunken Anzac major who had brought her there had been stupid enough to desert
her for the ribald company of some singing comrades at the bar.
'All right, I'll dance with you,' she said, before Yossarian could even speak.
'But I won't let you sleep with me.'
'Who asked you?' Yossarian asked her.
'You don't want to sleep with me?' she exclaimed with surprise.
'I don't want to dance with you.'
She seized Yossarian's hand and pulled him out on the dance floor. She was a worse
dancer than even he was, but she threw herself about to the synthetic jitterbug
music with more uninhibited pleasure than he had ever observed until he felt his legs
falling asleep with boredom and yanked her off the dance floor toward the table at
which the girl he should have been screwing was still sitting tipsily with one hand
around Aarfy's neck, her orange satin blouse still hanging open slovenly below her full
white lacy brassiŠre as she made dirty sex talk ostentatiously with Huple, Orr, Kid
Sampson and Hungry Joe. Just as he reached them, Luciana gave him a forceful,
unexpected shove that carried them both well beyond the table, so that they were
still alone. She was a tall, earthy, exuberant girl with long hair and a pretty face, a
buxom, delightful, flirtatious girl.
'All right,' she said, 'I will let you buy me dinner. But I won't let you sleep with me.'
'Who asked you?' Yossarian asked with surprise.
'You don't want to sleep with me?'
'I don't want to buy you dinner.'
She pulled him out of the night club into the street and down a flight of steps into a
black-market restaurant filled with lively, chirping, attractive girls who all seemed to
know each other and with the self-conscious military officers from different
countries who had come there with them. The food was elegant and expensive, and
the aisles were overflowing with great streams of flushed and merry proprietors, all
stout and balding. The bustling interior radiated with enormous, engulfing waves of
fun and warmth.
Yossarian got a tremendous kick out of the rude gusto with which Luciana ignored him
completely while she shoveled away her whole meal with both hands. She ate like a
horse until the last plate was clean, and then she placed her silverware down with an
air of conclusion and settled back lazily in her chair with a dreamy and congested look
of sated gluttony. She drew a deep, smiling, contented breath and regarded him
amorously with a melting gaze.
'Okay, Joe,' she purred, her glowing dark eyes drowsy and grateful.
'Now I will let you sleep with me.'
'My name is Yossarian.'
'Okay, Yossarian,' she answered with a soft repentant laugh.
'Now I will let you sleep with me.'
'Who asked you?' said Yossarian.
Luciana was stunned. 'You don't want to sleep with me?'
Yossarian nodded emphatically, laughing, and shot his hand up under her dress. The
girl came to life with a horrified start. She jerked her legs away from him instantly,
whipping her bottom around. Blushing with alarm and embarrassment, she pushed her
skirt back down with a number of prim, sidelong glances about the restaurant.
'Now I will let you sleep with me,' she explained cautiously in a manner of
apprehensive indulgence. 'But not now.'
'I know. When we get back to my room.'
The girl shook her head, eyeing him mistrustfully and keeping her knees pressed
together. 'No, now I must go home to my mamma, because my mamma does not like
me to dance with soldiers or let them take me to dinner, and she will be very angry
with me if I do not come home now. But I will let you write down for me where you
live. And tomorrow morning I will come to your room for ficky-fick before I go to my
work at the French office. *Capisci?*'
'Bullshit!' Yossarian exclaimed with angry disappointment.
'*Cosa vuol dire* bullshit?' Luciana inquired with a blank look.
Yossarian broke into loud laughter. He answered her finally in a tone of sympathetic
good humor. 'It means that I want to escort you now to wherever the hell I have to
take you next so that I can rush back to that night club before Aarfy leaves with
that wonderful tomato he's got without giving me a chance to ask about an aunt or
friend she must have who's just like her.'
'*Subito, subito*,' he taunted her tenderly. 'Mamma is waiting. Remember?'
'*Si, si*. Mamma.'
Yossarian let the girl drag him through the lovely Roman spring night for almost a
mile until they reached a chaotic bus depot honking with horns, blazing with red and
yellow lights and echoing with the snarling vituperations of unshaven bus drivers
pouring loathsome, hair-raising curses out at each other, at their passengers and at
the strolling, unconcerned knots of pedestrians clogging their paths, who ignored
them until they were bumped by the buses and began shouting curses back. Luciana
vanished aboard one of the diminutive green vehicles, and Yossarian hurried as fast
as he could all the way back to the cabaret and the bleary-eyed bleached blonde in
the open orange satin blouse. She seemed infatuated with Aarfy, but he prayed
intensely for her luscious aunt as he ran, or for a luscious girl friend, sister, cousin,
or mother who was just as libidinous and depraved. She would have been perfect for
Yossarian, a debauched, coarse, vulgar, amoral, appetizing slattern whom he had
longed for and idolized for months. She was a real find. She paid for her own drinks,
and she had an automobile, an apartment and a salmon-colored cameo ring that drove
Hungry Joe clean out of his senses with its exquisitely carved figures of a naked boy
and girl on a rock. Hungry Joe snorted and pranced and pawed at the floor in
salivating lust and groveling need, but the girl would not sell him the ring, even though
he offered her all the money in all their pockets and his complicated black camera
thrown in. She was not interested in money or cameras.
She was interested in fornication.
She was gone when Yossarian got there. They were all gone, and he walked right out
and moved in wistful dejection through the dark, emptying streets. Yossarian was not
often lonely when he was by himself, but he was lonely now in his keen envy of Aarfy,
who he knew was in bed that very moment with the girl who was just right for
Yossarian, and who could also make out any time he wanted to, *if* he ever wanted
to, with either or both of the two slender, stunning, aristocratic women who lived in
the apartment upstairs and fructified Yossarian's sex fantasies whenever he had sex
fantasies, the beautiful rich black-haired countess with the red, wet, nervous lips
and her beautiful rich black-haired daughter-in-law.
Yossarian was madly in love with all of them as he made his way back to the officers'
apartment, in love with Luciana, with the prurient intoxicated girl in the unbuttoned
satin blouse, and with the beautiful rich countess and her beautiful rich daughter-inlaw, both of whom would never let him touch them or even flirt with them. They
doted kittenishly on Nately and deferred passively to Aarfy, but they thought
Yossarian was crazy and recoiled from him with distasteful contempt each time he
made an indecent proposal or tried to fondle them when they passed on the stairs.
They were both superb creatures with pulpy, bright, pointed tongues and mouths like
round warm plums, a little sweet and sticky, a little rotten.
They had class; Yossarian was not sure what class was, but he knew that they had it
and he did not, and that they knew it, too. He could picture, as he walked, the kind of
underclothing they wore against their svelte feminine parts, filmy, smooth, clinging
garments of deepest black or of opalescent pastel radiance with flowering lace
borders fragrant with the tantalizing fumes of pampered flesh and scented bath
salts rising in a germinating cloud from their blue-white breasts. He wished again
that he was where Aarfy was, making obscene, brutal, cheerful love with a juicy
drunken tart who didn't give a tinker's dam about him and would never
think of him again.
But Aarfy was already back in the apartment when Yossarian arrived, and Yossarian
gaped at him with that same sense of persecuted astonishment he had suffered that
same morning over Bologna at his malign and cabalistic and irremovable presence in
the nose of the plane.
'What are you doing here?' he asked.
'That's right, ask him!' Hungry Joe exclaimed in a rage.
'Make him tell you what he's doing here!'
With a long, theatrical moan, Kid Sampson made a pistol of his thumb and forefinger
and blew his own brains out. Huple, chewing away on a bulging wad of bubble gum,
drank everything in with a callow, vacant expression on his fifteen-year old face.
Aarfy was tapping the bowl of his pipe against his palm leisurely as he paced back and
forth in corpulent self-approval, obviously delighted by the stir he was causing.
'Didn't you go home with that girl?' Yossarian demanded.
'Oh, sure, I went home with her,' Aarfy replied. 'You didn't think I was going to let
her try to find her way home alone, did you?'
'Wouldn't she let you stay with her?'
'Oh, she wanted me to stay with her, all right.' Aarfy chuckled. 'Don't you worry
about good old Aarfy. But I wasn't going to take advantage of a sweet kid like that
just because she'd had a little too much to drink.
What kind of a guy do you think I am?'
'Who said anything about taking advantage of her?' Yossarian railed at him in
amazement. 'All she wanted to do was get into bed with someone.
That's the only thing she kept talking about all night long.'
'That's because she was a little mixed up,' Aarfy explained.
'But I gave her a little talking to and really put some sense into her.'
'You bastard!' Yossarian exclaimed, and sank down tiredly on the divan beside Kid
Sampson. 'Why the hell didn't you give her to one of us if you didn't want her?'
'You see?' Hungry Joe asked. 'There's something wrong with him.'
Yossarian nodded and looked at Aarfy curiously. 'Aarfy, tell me something.
Don't you ever screw any of them?'
Aarfy chuckled again with conceited amusement. 'Oh sure, I prod them. Don't you
worry about me. But never any nice girls. I know what kind of girls to prod and what
kind of girls not to prod, and I never prod any nice girls. This one was a sweet kid.
You could see her family had money. Why, I even got her to throw that ring of hers
away right out the car window.'
Hungry Joe flew into the air with a screech of intolerable pain. 'You did *what?*' he
screamed. 'You did * what*?' He began whaling away at Aarfy's shoulders and arms
with both fists, almost in tears. 'I ought to *kill* you for what you did, you lousy
bastard. He's *sinful*, that's what he is. He's got a dirty mind, ain't he?
Ain't he got a dirty mind?'
'The dirtiest,' Yossarian agreed.
'What are you fellows talking about?' Aarfy asked with genuine puzzlement, tucking
his face away protectively inside the cushioning insulation of his oval shoulders. 'Aw,
come on, Joe,' he pleaded with a smile of mild discomfort.
'Quit punching me, will you?'
But Hungry Joe would not quit punching until Yossarian picked him up and pushed him
away toward his bedroom. Yossarian moved listlessly into his own room, undressed
and went to sleep. A second later it was morning, and someone was shaking him.
'What are you waking me up for?' he whimpered.
It was Michaela, the skinny maid with the merry disposition and homely sallow face,
and she was waking him up because he had a visitor waiting just outside the door.
*Luciana!* He could hardly believe it. And she was alone in the room with him after
Michaela had departed, lovely, hale and statuesque, steaming and rippling with an
irrepressible affectionate vitality even as she remained in one place and frowned at
him irately. She stood like a youthful female colossus with her magnificent columnar
legs apart on high white shoes with wedged heels, wearing a pretty green dress and
swinging a large, flat white leather pocketbook, with which she cracked him hard
across the face when he leaped out of bed to grab her. Yossarian staggered
backward out of range in a daze, clutching his stinging cheek with bewilderment.
'Pig!' She spat out at him viciously, her nostrils flaring in a look of savage disdain.
'*Vive com' un animale!*'
With a fierce, guttural, scornful, disgusted oath, she strode across the room and
threw open the three tall casement windows, letting inside an effulgent flood of
sunlight and crisp fresh air that washed through the stuffy room like an invigorating
tonic. She placed her pocketbook on a chair and began tidying the room, picking his
things up from the floor and off the tops of the furniture, throwing his socks,
handkerchief and underwear into an empty drawer of the dresser and hanging his
shirt and trousers up in the closet.
Yossarian ran out of the bedroom into the bathroom and brushed his teeth. He
washed his hands and face and combed his hair. When he ran back, the room was in
order and Luciana was almost undressed. Her expression was relaxed. She left her
earrings on the dresser and padded barefoot to the bed wearing just a pink rayon
chemise that came down to her hips. She glanced about the room prudently to make
certain there was nothing she had overlooked in the way of neatness and then drew
back the coverlet and stretched herself out luxuriously with an expression of feline
expectation. She beckoned to him longingly, with a husky laugh.
'Now,' she announced in a whisper, holding both arms out to him eagerly.
'Now I will let you sleep with me.'
She told him some lies about a single weekend in bed with a slaughtered fianc‚ in the
Italian Army, and they all turned out to be true, for she cried, '*finito!*' almost as
soon as he started and wondered why he didn't stop, until he had *finitoed* too and
explained to her.
He lit cigarettes for both of them
. She was enchanted by the deep suntan covering
his whole body. He wondered about the pink chemise that she would not remove. It
was cut like a man's undershirt, with narrow shoulder straps, and concealed the
invisible scar on her back that she refused to let him see after he had made her tell
him it was there. She grew tense as fine steel when he traced the mutilated contours
with his fingertip from a pit in her shoulder blade almost to the base of her spine. He
winced at the many tortured nights she had spent in the hospital, drugged or in pain,
with the ubiquitous, ineradicable odors of ether, fecal matter and disinfectant, of
human flesh mortified and decaying amid the white uniforms, the rubbersoled shoes,
and the eerie night lights glowing dimly until dawn in the corridors. She had been
wounded in an air raid.
'*Dove?*' he asked, and he held his breath in suspense.
His heart cracked, and he fell in love. He wondered if she would marry him.
'*Tu sei pazzo*,' she told him with a pleasant laugh.
'Why am I crazy?' he asked.
'*PerchŠ non posso sposare*.'
'Why can't you get married?'
'Because I am not a virgin,' she answered.
'What has that got to do with it?'
'Who will marry me? No one wants a girl who is not a virgin.'
'I will. I'll marry you.'
'*Ma non posso sposarti*.'
'Why can't you marry me?'
'*PerchŠ sei pazzo*.'
'Why am I crazy?'
'*PerchŠ vuoi sposarmi*.'
Yossarian wrinkled his forehead with quizzical amusement. 'You won't marry me
because I'm crazy, and you say I'm crazy because I want to marry you?
Is that right?'
'*Tu sei pazz'!*' he told her loudly.
'*PerchŠ?*' she shouted back at him indignantly, her unavoidable round breasts
rising and falling in a saucy huff beneath the pink chemise as she sat up in bed
indignantly. 'Why am I crazy?'
'Because you won't marry me.'
'*Stupido!*' she shouted back at him, and smacked him loudly and flamboyantly on
the chest with the back of her hand. '*Non posso sposarti! *Non capisci?
Non posso sposarti*.'
'Oh, sure, I understand. And why can't you marry me?'
'*PerchŠ sei pazzo!*'
'And why am I crazy?'
'*PerchŠ vuoi sposarmi*.'
'Because I want to marry you. *Carina, ti amo*,' he explained, and he drew her gently
back down to the pillow. '*Ti amo molto*.'
'*Tu sei pazzo*,' she murmured in reply, flattered.
'Because you say you love me. How can you love a girl who is not a virgin?'
'Because I can't marry you.'
She bolted right up again in a threatening rage. 'Why can't you marry me?' she
demanded, ready to clout him again if he gave an uncomplimentary reply.
'Just because I am not a virgin?'
'No, no, darling. Because you're crazy.'
She stared at him in blank resentment for a moment and then tossed her head back
and roared appreciatively with hearty laughter. She gazed at him with new approval
when she stopped, the lush, responsive tissues of her dark face turning darker still
and blooming somnolently with a swelling and beautifying infusion of blood. Her eyes
grew dim. He crushed out both their cigarettes, and they turned into each other
wordlessly in an engrossing kiss just as Hungry Joe came meandering into the room
without knocking to ask if Yossarian wanted to go out with him to look for girls.
Hungry Joe stopped on a dime when he saw them and shot out of the room. Yossarian
shot out of bed even faster and began shouting at Luciana to get dressed. The girl
was dumbfounded. He pulled her roughly out of bed by her arm and flung her away
toward her clothing, then raced for the door in time to slam it shut as Hungry Joe
was running back in with his camera. Hungry Joe had his leg wedged in the door and
would not pull it out.
'Let me in!' he begged urgently, wriggling and squirming maniacally. 'Let me in!' He
stopped struggling for a moment to gaze up into Yossarian's face through the crack
in the door with what he must have supposed was a beguiling smile. 'Me no Hungry
Joe,' he explained earnestly. 'Me heap big photographer from *Life* magazine. Heap
big picture on heap big cover. I make you big Hollywood star, Yossarian. Multi
*dinero*. Multi divorces. Multi ficky-fic all day long. *Si, si, si!*'
Yossarian slammed the door shut when Hungry Joe stepped back a bit to try to shoot
a picture of Luciana dressing. Hungry Joe attacked the stout wooden barrier
fanatically, fell back to reorganize his energies and hurled himself forward
fanatically again. Yossarian slithered into his own clothes between assaults. Luciana
had her green-and-white summer dress on and was holding the skirt bunched up
above her waist. A wave of misery broke over him as he saw her about to vanish
inside her panties forever. He reached out to grasp her and drew her to him by the
raised calf of her leg. She hopped forward and molded herself against him. Yossarian
kissed her ears and her closed eyes romantically and rubbed the backs of her thighs.
She began to hum sensually a moment before Hungry Joe hurled his frail body
against the door in still one more desperate attack and almost knocked them both
down. Yossarian pushed her away.
'*Vite! Vite!*' he scolded her. 'Get your things on!'
'What the hell are you talking about?' she wanted to know.
'Fast! Fast! Can't you understand English? Get your clothes on fast!'
'*Stupido!*' she snarled back at him. '*Vite* is French, not Italian. *Subito, *subito!*
That's what you mean. *Subito!*'
'*Si, si*. That's what I mean. *Subito, subito!*'
'*Si, si*,' she responded co-operatively, and ran for her shoes and earrings.
Hungry Joe had paused in his attack to shoot pictures through the closed door.
Yossarian could hear the camera shutter clicking. When both he and Luciana were
ready, Yossarian waited for Hungry Joe's next charge and yanked the door open on
him unexpectedly. Hungry Joe spilled forward into the room like a floundering frog.
Yossarian skipped nimbly around him, guiding Luciana along behind him through the
apartment and out into the hallway. They bounced down the stairs with a great
roistering clatter, laughing out loud breathlessly and knocking their hilarious heads
together each time they paused to rest. Near the bottom they met Nately coming up
and stopped laughing. Nately was drawn, dirty and unhappy. His tie was twisted and
his shirt was rumpled, and he walked with his hands in his pockets. He wore a
hangdog, hopeless look.
'What's the matter, kid?' Yossarian inquired compassionately.
'I'm flat broke again,' Nately replied with a lame and distracted smile.
'What am I going to do?'
Yossarian didn't know. Nately had spent the last thirty-two hours at twenty dollars
an hour with the apathetic whore he adored, and he had nothing left of his pay or of
the lucrative allowance he received every month from his wealthy and generous
father. That meant he could not spend time with her any more. She would not allow
him to walk beside her as she strolled the pavements soliciting other servicemen, and
she was infuriated when she spied him trailing her from a distance. He was free to
hang around her apartment if he cared to, but there was no certainty that she would
be there. And she would give him nothing unless he could pay. She found sex
uninteresting. Nately wanted the assurance that she was not going to bed with
anyone unsavory or with someone he knew. Captain Black always made it a point to buy
her each time he came to Rome, just so he could torment Nately with the news that
he had thrown his sweetheart another hump and watch Nately eat his liver as he
related the atrocious indignities to which he had forced her to submit.
Luciana was touched by Nately's forlorn air, but broke loudly into robust laughter
again the moment she stepped outside into the sunny street with Yossarian and heard
Hungry Joe beseeching them from the window to come back and take their clothes
off, because he really was a photographer from *Life* magazine. Luciana fled
mirthfully along the sidewalk in her high white wedgies, pulling Yossarian along in tow
with the same lusty and ingenuous zeal she had displayed in the dance hall the night
before and at every moment since. Yossarian caught up and walked with his arm
around her waist until they came to the corner and she stepped away from him. She
straightened her hair in a mirror from her pocketbook and put lipstick on.
'Why don't you ask me to let you write my name and address on a piece of paper so
that you will be able to find me again when you come to Rome?' she suggested.
'Why don't you let me write your name and address down on a piece of paper?'
'Why?' she demanded belligerently, her mouth curling suddenly into a vehement
sneer and her eyes flashing with anger. 'So you can tear it up into little pieces as
soon as I leave?'
'Who's going to tear it up?' Yossarian protested in confusion.
'What the hell are you talking about?'
'You will,' she insisted. 'You'll tear it up into little pieces the minute I'm gone and go
walking away like a big shot because a tall, young, beautiful girl like me, Luciana, let
you sleep with her and did not ask you for money.'
'How much money are you asking me for?' he asked her.
'*Stupido!*' she shouted with emotion. 'I am not asking you for any money!' She
stamped her foot and raised her arm in a turbulent gesture that made Yossarian fear
she was going to crack him in the face again with her great pocketbook. Instead, she
scribbled her name and address on a slip of paper and. thrust it at him. 'Here,' she
taunted him sardonically, biting on her lip to still a delicate tremor. 'Don't forget.
Don't forget to tear it into tiny pieces as soon as I am gone.'
Then she smiled at him serenely, squeezed his hand and, with a whispered regretful
*'Addio,'* pressed herself against him for a moment and then straightened and
walked away with unconscious dignity and grace.
The minute she was gone, Yossarian tore the slip of paper up and walked away in the
other direction, feeling very much like a big shot because a beautiful young girl like
Luciana had slept with him and did not ask for money.
He was pretty pleased with himself until he looked up in the dining room of the Red
Cross building and found himself eating breakfast with dozens and dozens of other
servicemen in all kinds of fantastic uniforms, and then all at once he was surrounded
by images of Luciana getting out of her clothes and into her clothes and caressing
and haranguing him tempestuously in the pink rayon chemise she wore in bed with him
and would not take off. Yossarian choked on his toast and eggs at the enormity of his
error in tearing her long, lithe, nude, young vibrant limbs into any pieces of paper so
impudently and dumping her down so smugly into the gutter from the curb. He missed
her terribly already.
There were so many strident faceless people in uniform in the dining room with him.
He felt an urgent desire to be alone with her again soon and sprang up impetuously
from his table and went running outside and back down the street toward the
apartment in search of the tiny bits of paper in the gutter, but they had all been
flushed away by a street cleaner's hose.
He couldn't find her again in the Allied officers' night club that evening or in the
sweltering, burnished, hedonistic bedlam of the black-market restaurant with its
vast bobbing wooden trays of elegant food and its chirping flock of bright and lovely
girls. He couldn't even find the restaurant. When he went to bed alone, he dodged
flak over Bologna again in a dream, with Aarfy hanging over his shoulder abominably in
the plane with a bloated sordid leer. In the morning he ran looking for Luciana in all
the French offices he could find, but nobody knew what he was talking about, and
then he ran in terror, so jumpy, distraught and disorganized that he just had to keep
running in terror somewhere, to the enlisted men's apartment for the squat maid in
the lime-colored panties, whom he found dusting in Snowden's room on the fifth floor
in her drab brown sweater and heavy dark skirt. Snowden was still alive then, and
Yossarian could tell it was Snowden's room from the name stenciled in white on the
blue duffel bag he tripped over as he plunged through the doorway at her in a frenzy
of creative desperation.
The woman caught him by the wrists before he could fall as he came stumbling
toward her in need and pulled him along down on top of her as she flopped over
backward onto the bed and enveloped him hospitably in her flaccid and consoling
embrace, her dust mop aloft in her hand like a banner as her broad, brutish congenial
face gazed up at him fondly with a smile of unperjured friendship. There was a sharp
elastic snap as she rolled the lime-colored panties off beneath them both without
He stuffed money into her hand when they were finished. She hugged him in
gratitude. He hugged her. She hugged him back and then pulled him down on top of
her on the bed again.
He stuffed more money into her hand when they were finished this time and ran out
of the room before she could begin hugging him in gratitude again. Back at his own
apartment, he threw his things together as fast as he could, left for Nately what
money he had, and ran back to Pianosa on a supply plane to apologize to Hungry Joe
for shutting him out of the bedroom. The apology was unnecessary, for Hungry Joe
was in high spirits when Yossarian found him. Hungry Joe was grinning from ear to
ear, and Yossarian turned sick at the sight of him, for he understood instantly what
the high spirits meant.
'Forty missions,' Hungry Joe announced readily in a voice lyrical with relief and
elation. 'The colonel raised them again.'
Yossarian was stunned. 'But I've got thirty-two, goddammit! Three more and I would
have been through.'
Hungry Joe shrugged indifferently. 'The colonel wants forty missions,' he repeated.
Yossarian shoved him out of the way and ran right into the hospital.