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This story is an excerpt from Richard Brautigan’s last unpublished novel, An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey. It first appeared on Hooksexup in 2000. 

I am always fascinated by the physical transformation of two complete strangers into the intimacy of lovers, lying naked beside each other silently afterwards, each with the privacy of their own thoughts, and how random and accidental this journey together is, almost like flipping a coin.

. . . Heads

. . . Tails

. . . And so we were lovers for the spring, sorting through the typical pleasures, misunderstandings, joys and arguments or just sitting around for hours in the morning drinking coffee and talking about the many things there are to talk about.

She was very intelligent and so our minds could roam far and wide. Also, I find intelligence in women to be an aphrodisiac. I think I read this someplace else, but anyway, a woman’s intelligence sexually excites me.

She was one of those women who have a very good tight body but choose just to make life simpler by camouflaging it with loose-fitting clothes that lead one away from it. She didn’t want to be hassled by men. She just wanted to go where she wanted to go without being an active part of a man’s fantasy.

So it was very exciting to have a long conversation with her and then watch her take her clothes off. Looking back on it now, it’s sort of interesting that she almost always took her own clothes off.

I think that’s because she was very small, five-two, weighing between 97 and 103 pounds, and maybe I like to take the clothes off women who are taller, but like to watch smaller women take their own clothes off.

I’ve never really thought much about this before and it probably would not hold up to the searchlight glare of logic because I have not been to bed recently, say in years, with a tall woman five-seven to six feet, so it’s hard for me to recall accurately.

I’m six-four and that perhaps has something to do with it, if anything does. I may be all wrong, but it seems to me that it’s easier to take the clothes off a tall woman, the somewhat equal closeness of her eyes watching my eyes, but with a short woman it’s so far down to her eyes and looking up she has to strain her head or maybe it causes an awkwardness to occur in me taking her clothes off.

Maybe the bending over does it.

I don’t know. I’ll have to bed with a tall woman one of these days to see if this hypothesis has any verity, but this book I’m afraid will be over before anything is proved one way or another.

I did have a chance to go to bed with a tall woman last week.

We talked for a couple of hours and, running out of things to say, at one point I asked her how tall she was.

“Five-ten” was the reply.

I wonder if I would have taken her clothes off, if things had ever gotten that far. She did have interesting-looking breasts and a small waist. The blouse she was wearing would have come off quite easily and I would have been looking into her eyes and it would have not been any effort for her to have looked into my eyes.

I wonder . . .

There’s also something else that I just remembered that plays a part in my love life. Often I like to take my clothes off and get into bed first and lie there and watch the woman take her clothes off, and how she does it.

Sometimes they do it very quickly and as fast as they take off a garment they just drop it on the floor and then almost jump into bed when they are finished.

Other women take their clothes off very slowly and carefully, then fold them neatly on a chair or whatever is about before gliding like a swan into bed.

I might add that whatever way a woman chooses to take her clothes off does not have anything to do with the quality of her lovemaking.

. . . And there is of course something else.

Perhaps this resembles an erotic spice and a spying glass into my mind and its sensuality. Sometimes I like to spend an entire night staying up talking with a woman in the front room, drinking whiskey and talking until dawn or almost, and sometimes during those nights I’ll suddenly ask, interrupting whatever is being talked about, either a movie or the precarious fate of the American novel or perhaps a story about a boring mutual friend who’s so boring that we have to talk about him or her for at least an hour, and then I’ll suddenly ask the woman to take her clothes off.

I usually word it this way: “Please take your clothes off,” and usually the woman does it without saying a word about it and we continue talking about the boring friend while she takes her clothes off.

After she has them off, we continue talking as if she still had her clothes on, and I make no romantic overtures toward her. I just want to see her with her clothes off because I enjoy the sight of her body. It adds to the whiskey and the conversation. The women never seem to mind and act perfectly natural. They curl up on a couch and the night moves on. If I see they are getting cold, I find a blanket for them and turn up the heat.

Sometimes after they are warm and cozy under the blanket and the room is hot enough, I interrupt whatever we are talking about. We have of course finished with the boring friend and are on to something else. Maybe we are talking about the morality of suicide.

I interrupt by saying, “Let me see your breasts,” and the woman exposes her breasts without a break in the conversation, acting as if it is the most natural thing in the world for me to want to see her breasts while we are talking about suicide.

There has probably been a question that you have wanted to ask almost from the beginning of this little revelation of mine.

I have trouble with the word “kinky” because frankly I have difficulty understanding that word. There once was an English woman who lived in the nineteenth century who said the best thing I’ve ever heard about one’s sexual preference or activity.

She said something like “I don’t care what anyone does, just as long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”

I know that is not the exact quote but it is close enough for my purpose. Maybe in this time we could substitute motorcycles for horses.

Yes, back to the real question that you have wanted to ask me.

“Do you take your clothes off?”


“Why not?”

“Because it’s not the effect that I want to produce. I enjoy the sight of a woman’s body at play in the fields of intelligence.

“What if things were reversed and the woman asked you to take your clothes off while she left hers on, would you do it?”

“Of course.”

This story is an excerpt from Richard Brautigan’s last unpublished novel, An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey. It is published here with the generous permission of Ianthe Brautigan.
©1999 Richard Brautigan and, Inc.