Mascara. It's not the first time he's used it, dipped the bristled wand into the long sleek tube stamped with silver letters. It's not the first time he's raised it to his eyes, the curved brush clogged thick with black, to tease out the length of his lashes. Being on stage requires make-up, unflattering and unsubtle. They can all scrawl the outlines of their eyes, but it takes a certain delicate touch to stroke on mascara.
Schneider does it expertly, deftly. This is not just make-up for a video shoot: this is a statement. Warpaint, whore-paint: the difference is so subtle as to be ignored by all but a pedant.
Till is many things, a pedant amongst them, but he is willing to overlook boundaries for the sake of Frau Schneider. Indeed, he craves the transgression of boundaries, looks to the push of limits and the smash of the weary cycle of need he usually treads.
Schneider is neat, obsessively so, as befits a bourgeois. His wig is perfect, the ends curled into nonchalant disarray, but not so much that one could accuse him of being improper. The buttons of his blouse and suit are fastened correctly. The heels of his shoes are polished. An obsessive, yes: he likes to see his reflection in the gloss of his shoes, even though his reflection shows him to be not a man but a woman, stern and handsome and frustrated by propriety.
Reflections often show the truth, harsh though it may be.
Schneider has looked into enough mirrors to know that they do not lie. Unlike people, the glass has nothing to gain by falsehoods. A photograph, a video – these can be retouched, edited, cut. A reflection freezes reality, throws it back. What captivated Narcissus makes a fool out of him, for he wants it to be perfect: for beneath these clothes, beneath the make-up, he is still only himself, will only ever be just himself. A woman can hold more secrets than a man, and he longs for this: to be a repository, not a depositor.
Till adores an image. He always has. Reality is so cruel, makes him a failure despite external protestations to the contrary. The one true measure of his success lies in the grave, quiet and still. Till misses him more each day, and so replaces him with compensatory emotions. Sex is the easiest. It requires almost no forethought, and always, afterwards, he feels like shit. Just like walking into one of his father's barbs: but now it is Schneider who catches him, hangs him out to dry on coiled and trammelled spiked wire.
His weakness has always been impropriety, and what could be more improper than a man, a beautiful man, dressed as a Junoesque woman? Till always thought that Christoph was a sport of nature, anyway: such a delicate face, such blue eyes, such luscious blue-black hair – all seemed wasted on a drummer. Only his voice let him down, a husky dark mix of smoke and sleep, it wasn't strong enough to carry a tune, to growl a song along its length. Otherwise, how different it could have been!
He sits on the floor of the studio, looking up, adoring. He cannot hide it. Almost everyone has fallen at the feet of Frau Schneider. He doesn't want to think too much about why this should be; he just accepts it as fact, as faith. His desire can be sacrificed, abandoned, should (s)he wish it. Until Frau Schneider says the word, he will sit at her (his) feet and be silent, dumbstruck, worshipful.
Schneider sits tight in the chair, knees pressed together (oh, that they should see between his thighs, how shocked they would be!) and ankles crossed. The studio is deserted, the sound system silent and the all-seeing Cyclopean eye of the camera blind for once: I am Nobody, and I have fooled you. My name is not your business until I escape from you, and then I cry that I am loved and damned by the gods… And then you will know me, and weep for what you have let slip through your fingers.
He knows he is adored. Why should he not be? Nearly as lovely as a woman when he was a man, it makes sense that he should be a handsome woman. Schneider knows he is Other, two alterities embodied in one. He has been something for everyone, but not yet something for himself. The director thought it would be provocative for him to lie on the floor – the same floor where Till now rests – to lie in repose both languid and urgent, and to touch himself. But Schneider knows that he can never hope to capture the movement of a woman in heat, no matter how clever his fingers. His hunger demands a fierce grasp, not the infernal stroke-tickle of female masturbation. His need is impatient, and although he has known demanding women, they have never been as impatient as male lust.
Till is almost too worshipful. He does not want to break the spell by touching the creature before him. No Pygmalion he, although it was his text, his vision, that brought them to this pass, brought Frau Schneider from the shadows.
Schneider uncrosses his legs. Like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, he gives more than a glimpse of thigh. Till sits up and pays attention. Schneider finds it too easy to control men this way, and this saddens him. It also excites him: knowledge is power, and knowing that they all desire women, that they all desire him, is the greatest aphrodisiac he's ever encountered.
But even this can lose its edge, and he has become a jade. He's saved Till for last, not out of deference for their wordsmith but simply from curiosity. Surely the author of such dark design can surprise him, can drag him from this ennui that settles about him as comfortably as a net curtain at a suburban window.
Till has feathers in his hair. An angel's feathers: shredded and puffed like goose-down; white, virginal: and he is neither of these things, not anymore, perhaps not ever. Schneider is aware that Till twists everything presented to him, so that love becomes hate and hate becomes indifference, and indifference is the worst pain of all. Perhaps that is why Till adores Frau Schneider so, because (s)he is oblivious to what he wants, and in oblivion (s)he is selfish, and seeks only her (his) pleasure.
To emphasise this, Schneider stands up. Tall anyway, he is taller now with the added height of the heels. The shoes pinch his toes, grind against the arch of his feet. The pain is insignificant, worth it. Beauty always comes at a price.
Till pushes his face into Schneider's lap. Through the fabric of the skirt, the beige linen and its silken under-slip, there comes the scent of arousal. Not one he's used to, this: not the moist, slippery oyster-scent of cunt, but the sharper, more pungent note of male need. He inhales it, expands his lungs with it, and gets high.
Schneider watches, impassive, as Till pushes up Frau Schneider's skirt. Up, up, over long muscled thighs sculpted not from the treadmill but from years of working the drums. In tan tights the illusion can be maintained; up close, barelegged, it cannot, no matter how close the shave, how fine the wax. Till does not care: puts his mouth to the flesh of thigh, uses his lips to tug at the fine dark hairs, and then lays the flat of his tongue against the soft inner skin.
Frau Schneider's skirt crumples. The cloth shirrs. It bunches up, held first at mid-thigh and then higher. Schneider holds it in his fists, exposing himself in front but still aware that, at the back, the hemline hangs straight, covers his arse properly. It is important that he can at least pretend to be decent, even when Till's tongue reaches the juncture of thigh and torso and delves into the glossy spring of pubic hair. If Schneider were a real woman, he would depilate, would remove it all to the tiniest strip, just enough to tease against the starkness of innocent pink flesh.
But he is not a woman, and Till does not seem to mind the darkening, thickening curls and the hot, hard cock that stands proud. A cunt may gape and glisten, demanding to be fed, but a cock rivets attention and is comical, beautiful. And Schneider does not know which he is as Till takes him in and feeds on him, greedy and grasping. He, Schneider, is comical – a man in drag. Frau Schneider is beautiful, stunning in her need and in the revelation of her secret: for she, Frau Schneider, has a cock, and it is as hungry as a cunt.
For a single twisted moment he wonders where the truth lies. If he looks down he can see his fingers twined in Till's hair, tearing at the streaks of grey and pulling at the feathers. Is that real? His reflection would tell him. His body can lie. His body screams for pleasure, heedless of consequence or cost. Frau Schneider would lie on her back and stare at the cracks in the ceiling. He stands in an empty studio and fucks the mouth of one of his closest friends.
Reality tears away. It takes his skin with it. He ejaculates like a man but comes in fractured silence, the way that Frau Schneider would. He wishes that he could ride orgasm like a woman, rather than feel this long drawn-out pulse of seed. It makes him feel hot and bothered. The blouse congeals against his skin beneath the suit-jacket; the scarf around his neck is a noose.
"You define me," Till says into the afterwards-silence.
Frau Schneider straightens her (his) skirt and places one foot on Till's chest, pushing him back, pushing him down. "No," (s)he says. "You use me to define yourself. And what have you learned?"
"That even in denying you, you are victorious."
(S)he smiles. "Of course, for I am Legion."
Frau Schneider steps over him and walks away, hips swaying like a woman, rump tucked in like a man: the perfect, most fatal ouroboros.
You are what you eat: you are what you see.
And sometimes, that is a tragedy.