"You don't," he said, "speak about the past."
"Oh the past. There's so much of it."
~ From "Darkness, I" by Tanith Lee


(Excerpts from Random Correspondence, __93 to the recent past)

The Comtesse de Nuit to the Dauphine Kallisti

Dearest Kallisti,

It was a decided pleasure to receive your letter the other day!

Ah yes, it is indeed true that the Marquise du Merlot and I have become altogether enamored with La Club du T___, as well as the multitude of dashing young lads wearing their gothic finery who seem to have emerged from clandestine environs unbeknownst to us. Ah my weary heart! There was one such lad in particular this Thursday past; soft pale hair like spun gold falling about his slender shoulders, an angelic face pulled taut with just enough youthful angst, snug black leather pants and a white cotton costume shirt of an undefined era. I remember is gazing in childlike awe, catching my breath and watching forlornly as the milling crowd absorbed his form like a whirlpool. Sigh. This too shall pass....

Until our next adventure, whether written or shared, I remain your bemused and sexually alert compadre,

     Comtesse Melusine

Dauphine Kallisti to Comtesse Melusine

Mon dieu I say! The events of the past few days have done wonders for my constitution and other mental abilities. How would I have found the wherewithal to continue this dreary existence without having experienced the amusements of the previous evening and the subsequent day after of leisure and exploration with my dearest Melusine? What fate has been conspiring along with our noble intrigues, to render an evening so alive, the air electric from our nerves tingling upon our fingertips, to vision us so short of breath, grasping for composure? And to have lost none of it!

Ah, what connoisseurs we are at navigating the webs of our own schemes! This Friday past! To have Mlle. R___ mysteriously appear just as we are waving about condemning material that could have very well have cost us our kingdom! Under her very nose, my dear, her very nose. What a superb delight. Do not think that we will not be tested again in such a manner, and no doubt under dire circumstances. The Fates will not allow us to become altogether too smug in our complacent superiority.

Ah, I almost forgot. I have decided to accept yours and the Marquise's long standing invitation to attend the Club du T___ this coming Thursday. After the thrills of this past week, I feel as if it is time that I reexamine the rightness of my hermitage. Please do ring me Thursday morning at the studio, as I do not think I ever did have of you the number of your place of employ. This is assuming that you receive this letter on Wednesday of course. I feel blessed to have attained the companionship of a Lady such as yourself.

          La Dauphine

Comtesse de Nuit to Dauphine Kallisti

Dearest beguiling Dauphine,

A correspondence from you today! What a lovely finish to an otherwise mediocre day. Uncanny! Tis another word to describe the events of last Friday! So too is my breath quickened at the memory of our "narrow escape" from certain unpleasant scandal! We must have angels on our shoulders conspiring with the demons of mischief to bring us so close to a social disadvantage and then subtly smooth the tide in the blink of an eye! Mon dieu!

I had a conversation with the Comtesse Nyquolytt last evening. She informed me (quite breathlessly) that there were numerous letters awaiting perusal upon her return, including one from the re-emerged Mlle. R___! I wonder how the Mlle. arrived at the idea to pen a letter to the Comtesse, or had she already accomplished this feat before the impromptu tete a tete on Friday? The web weaves tighter, my fabulous Kallisti, and more intricate than ever! What next?

The Poetry Event is this arriving Sunday, not Saturday as I had originally believed. All the better for me, since I am usually tired on Saturdays from our weekly Salon du N___ bacchanal. If you are still inclined to go, I will discuss the finer details with you this Friday.

I implore you again to bedeck our presence with your attendance at La Club du T___. I seem to recollect that the Duke of W___ mentioned he may attend this particular night. And of course the Comtesse Nyquolytt and Mlle. R___ should both be in attendance as well. This could prove a scintillating or dreadful adventure! Ah the sheer uncertainty of THINGS, sweetie! Mayhaps she and the Comtesse wish to further their prospects for intrigue as well? Well, shall work together to provide each other with social entertainment, such as polite society should do.

On an additional note, Comtesse Nyquolytt's next Dark Salon is Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Mayhaps you will find your schedule unhindered and your curiosity piqued to attend this Salon. Until the, I raise my glass of Mimosa to you, sweet Sovereign in Exile, and remain your adoring and loyal sylph of the shadows,

          La Comtesse

Marquise Mordantia de Merlot to Dauphine Kallisti

What fever possesses me to write this missive when, alas, I have no gossip to share? I fear I have succumbed to a charming addiction to this correspondence, and I yearn desperately for a mere morsel of sardonic or thoughtful prose. I can tell you nothing for I have lived the life of a true monk these past few days, doing nothing but toiling, sleeping, and praying. To whom I pray and for what, I hesitate to say, however I assure you it is salacious and sublime.

But I am still mired in the dilemma of having nothing to gossip about. Pshaw! It will only be a temporary malady. Tomorrow is another day, another intrigue! I happily await it and bid you adieu and sweet intrigues of your own.

          Marquise Mordantia

Dauphine Kallisti to Marquise de Merlot

You will have discovered by the time you actually read this letter that I have decided to accompany both the Comtesse de Nuit and yourself to the Club du T___, Gothic Soiree de rigueur. I am looking forward to the excursion as on who has finally discovered an aptitude for enjoyment and self indulgence. Neither of which are true, only that it seems an eternity, up until this past weekend, that I have been capable of discovering any delight in this world. As if waking from an eternal sleep I long for the outer world with such a passion I frightens myself.

          La Dauphine

Dauphine Kallisti to the Comtesse de Nuit

I will not shilly-shally. There is no other point to this note than to elaborate upon the occurrences of this past evening. The Club du T___ my dear, was everything you had promised, and a good deal more. What an exhilarating evening. It is not so much that I have learned the particulars of the intrigue, but rather the manifestations of such. The covert glances, the words spoken without explanation, and the sentences un-spoken all served to pique my interests to a most alarming degree. I tell you when all this began I had not a clue what to expect. This, as is my most oft spoken sentence of the week, is very interesting.

Later in the evening, as we basked in the light of the moon, I beckoned to the Mlle. R___. As you had noticed earlier too, she pranced right past me (you see how important it is to her not to make the first overture), so, when I managed to catch her eye later, I called her to me to sit by my side and be my companion for awhile. We conversed upon things of little import. Her comments on the Salon were less than appreciative as it seems her sordid past haunts her there. Whereas I, who has no sordid past, experienced only the joys of reunion with those I have gone years without seeing. She is able to find only fault, as past acquaintances remind her of her own.

A short time passed as we were conversing animatedly, when suddenly that old fire I am so familiar with came to her eyes. Looking in the direction of Mlle. R___'s gaze, I glimpsed a figure leaving the scene hurriedly. Mlle. R. exclaimed quietly, "Mon Dieu!", and then rather loudly, "That Whore!" And off she went in a flurry of emotion, after the fast retreating anonymous figure.

She returned not more than a minute later with, I was soon to learn, Monsieur M., her most recent dalliance, pensively in tow. No doubt she chastised the "whore" for some impropriety unknown to myself. I was astounded by all this of course, and thinking of you my Melusine, I made a timid inquiry as to the cause of this outburst. Alas, she would not say. I made the formal introduction of Mssr. M., and for a moment the situation became quite awkward as it seems there was something unpleasant between these two. In either case I dispelled the moment with more idle chat until the Comtesse Nyquolytt arrived at our little group. In retrospect it has occurred to me that the Comtesse was not altogether glad to make my acquaintance.

It proceeded thusly: Mlle. R___ and I are engaged in intimate conversation, when the Comtesse Nyquolytt arrived like a rustling, haughty spectre. Neither a word or glance does she give to Mlle. R__. or myself, who were seated, though she is but a mere twelve inches from either of us.

When, at last, she graced my person with a glance, I took her hand and introduced myself. (I will not be ignored you know. I really am losing patience with these people trying to ignore me, I will not let them get away with it, if only because I know how superfluous their motives are. Gads!) In any case she smiled stiffly as Mlle. R___. said something to the Comtesse Nyquolytt that I did not catch, assumedly something by way of introduction. Well, the Comtesse Nyquolytt turned towards Mlle. R___. and, not even looking her in the eye, but rather the kneecap, spat venomously, "We know each other, thank you." And in a moment she was gone.

The entire exchange must have taken less than a minute and was over with so quickly that I could only remain a little stunned and very much perplexed. I would probably have dismissed the situation if Mlle. R___ had not hurriedly made an excuse for the strange exchange post haste, saying that these society events put the Comtesse in an evil humor.

Now of course this told me that the Comtesse WAS in an evil humor, but I think not from the environments. My only deducements, and I am sure you will be able to enlighten me in this regard, was that the Comtesse Nyquolytt. had actually had indulged herself in an episode of jealous pique regarding matters of which I am as yet uninformed. Mlle. R___ quite stoically detoured any alluding inquiries by me instead along a topic of conversation that centered around her own fabulousness! Mon dieu!

I find it endlessly amusing that they seem to take themselves altogether seriously.

          La Dauphine Kallisti

Marquise Mordantia Merlot to the Comtesse Melusine

What a charming weekend! Yet it worries me that we have this new concern, considering the safety of our letters. I fear we may inhibit our exquisite prose if we worry about the safety of their eventual consumption by others. I propose then that we forget that silly notion of keeping them safe and clean, and run amok as we please.

We still can continue the vanity of making them into a book, but at a later date, when we wish to share them with our yet-to-be adoring public, we can each take a pen to the manuscript and strike out any damning prose or change the names to protect the vapid. I will repeat this proposal to the Dauphine as well. Whilst it is true that certain intrigues should never be published as a matter of courtesy to those involved, I see no harm in talking about them amongst ourselves and later deleting passages. It is also a vagary of human nature that certain people whom we may now excoriate in our letters, we may later find a certain fond enthusiasm for (and vice versa), and we may want to disguise any vile words we may have for someone who later becomes cherished.

My weekend has been most peculiar. As you were in attendance at Club du T___ you are, of course, aware of what transpired. I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of a few of the newer faces, some of which I found myself to be flirting with. There may be intrigue later. One of the gentleman - let's call him Lord S___ - was especially noteworthy. I had briefly made his acquaintance on the street once day some weeks ago when he was in the company of a certain lady I know. I am not, incidentally, smitten with this gentleman, so please do not mistake my singling him out as noteworthy from those I met at the soiree as an indication of such. I think there is the potential for smittenness, but this is such a new and sudden acquaintance, I must keep my enthusiasms in check until I know more.

Ah, the word -smitten' does so remind me, at the moment, of your own sudden smittenness of which we talked at length of at the Cane D'Or, and which I will only delicately and obliquely make mention of here. The word also reminds me of what seems to be a myriad of boys I find myself to be on the verge of being smitten with. There seems to be a plethora of potential! I am nearly overwhelmed by the sudden cornucopia of attractive and interesting males I have recently made the acquaintance of. Time, in its own inevitable fashion, will tell which, if any of these small sparks of potential will flame into some sort of passion. Maybe none of them will. Maybe all of them will. I am hoping, for the sake of moderation, that the outcome lies somewhere in between those two poles.

So, thus far, I have covered my weekend up until Sunday, and so the rest you know. I quite thoroughly enjoyed myself on Sunday, and look forward to further pleasures and intrigue amongst this milieu. As you will remember in recent weeks, we felt a near supernatural force that we were convinced would make this an amazing spring and summer, and I think it has begun As you remarked in your last letter, delirious debauchery is indeed imminent. On this uncharacteristically optimistic note, I shall close. I remain,

          Marquise Mordantia

The Marquise de Merlot to the Dauphine D'Isles Des Femmes

Whilst lounging in a bath of soothing Epsom salts, I took up the book, Les Liaisons Dangereuse, for a second time, and cannot express my glee. I partially took it up to glean from it what endearments and salutations were in vogue in those days, and was dismayed to see that the actual salutations and closings have been stricken from all the letters! But my dismay did not last long as I delved into the incomparable prose contained within.

-'Have you forgotten that love, like medicine, is simply the art of aiding nature?' (The Marquise de Merteuil to the Vicomte de Valmont)

Delicious, delicious lines. I know there are simply hundreds more of the same, so I will only allow myself that one quote in this letter, lest I lose all sense of reason and send you a missive full of only quotes. We have far too much intrigue of our own to quote others'!

Mon dieu! I cannot believe my week is entirely taken up by social obligations! It has been a while since that was the case, but witness: Wednesday is the Comtesse Nyquolytt's Salon, Thursday is the Club du T___ and Friday is the Salon du N___. So many Salons, and not a hairdresser in sight. Oh, mon dieu, forgive that bad pun!

I shall close this missive now. I anticipate the adventure we have all embarked upon is only just beginning, and with such fine companions as yourself and Melusine, I fancy this adventure will be as glorious as it is amusing.

          Marquise Merlot

Marquise Merlot to Comtesse Melusine

Melusine, your Marquise has been busy if not positively vying for her trollop badge. I was obliged to placate the two gentlemen I inconvenienced on the night of my birthday. I am beginning to see the wisdom of being inconsistent as behaving inconsistently seems to present an obstacle they so do enjoy overcoming. Although I would never act truly unethically nor manipulatively, I am beginning to get over that ideal of the naiveté of my youth of always being nice. Nice does not inflame the psyche.

And in matters of the heart, inflammation is the key. I, however, am not yet adept at this method of behavior, and I must tread lightly, lest it is I who gets burned.

I smile amusedly to myself as it has been a long time, a very long time, since I have been shameless enough (or is it blessed enough?) to initiate such delights with two different men within such a short time frame. I think hardly twenty hours had passed before I succumbed once again.

And, may I tell you, your Marquise is exhausted.

I do not wish to graze my way through these men, consume them, and throw them aside. I want to keep them, at least partially. I have to find a way to do this in a manner that can keep all happy. I am experimenting with a dangerous philosophy, a philosophy I have taken up and attempted many times in my life, and failed. Will I fail again? Success and failure in this endeavor is hard to measure.

My mind turns to the Mssr V, though, as he was the unsuspected trump card in this endeavor. I do so want to pursue a small liaison with him, but I do not think he would return this ideal. See? See? It is obstacles that most inflame the psyche! I have willing victims, and the one who piques my curiosity the most is the one who I think will not have me. How human is this response! I do not understand, knowing the intense vagaries of human thought, how they could have thrived and perpetuated their species so long. One would think their inconsistencies to be decidedly a factor in their extinction.

But I digress.

The Mssr V is also different than the others. He is my age, for one. Well, he is younger, but only by a year. And he is dangerous and exciting in his mystery. But I must not think of that nor what pleasure I felt in my brief exploration of him. Mon Dieu.

If I am addicted to anything, it is poignancy.

          Marquise Mordantia

Comtesse Melusine to Dauphine Kallisti

Such is the passing of time! The evening at Salon du N___ was quite amusing. The Mssr. S___ arrived around 5:30 to join the table consisting of the Marquise and myself. Apparently he was engaged to meet the Comtesse Nyquolytt around this same time. However, two hours ticked by and as others arrived, there was no sign of the Comtesse.

Mssr. S___ eventually declared that he was famished and was wont to place an order with the chef. Yet in consternation he decided against such a move since he was supposed to wait for the Comtesse before dining. I playfully suggested he might send out a valet to ascertain what the delay could be, mentioning that he was hungry. I then quickly realized that the Comtesse's temperament was such that if her young beau were to express urgency to see her merely because of his need for dinner, she would be extremely peeved. I thus instructed him to say that he was hungry...but for her presence. This was met with quite raucous amusement on Mssr. S___'s part who was charming in his chortling. I then wondered aloud if perhaps she were having carriage problems to which the Mssr. S___ impulsively muttered "It is probably a problem with clothing that detains her."

(Methinks the bloom is off the rose, do you not concur?)

Alas, just when I began to believe the Comtesse a no-show, who should come fluttering around the corner but the Mlle. R___, with a rather agitated and petulant looking Comtesse following close behind. With an alarming amount of haughty fanfare (the Comtesse) and coquettish greeting (the Mlle. R.) they joined our table.

After much pensive fussing about with clothing and hair, and ritualistic accessory adjustment, the Comtesse finally addressed the rest of us at the table (the Mssr. S___ having been on the immediate receiving end of her passionate attention).

Soon the Marquise Merlot took her leave and that left the Baron and I to entertain (or be entertained by) the other three. The Comtesse managed another of her mind-numbingly banal nostalgic excursions with the Baron whilst I drank my way through 4 Brandy Alexander's and conversed idly with the Mlle. R___. The Mssr. S___ read a book and alternately jumped at being groped by the Comtesse.

I do hope I have entertained you somewhat with my tale and I must say that I am positively delighted to be able to impart to you the incident via letter, although your presence at this uncanny event would have no doubt been quite an additional pleasure. As always I remain your devoted and sleep-charmed friend,

          Comtesse Melusine de Nuit

The Comtesse de Nuit to the Marquise de Merlot

Ah my wanton Marquise,

Ennui, ennui, ennui. What more am I to say? MUST we abide in limbo until social mischief, either fostered by various individuals or as a gift from Providence, again evolves from our diverse liaisons?

I shall attempt to infuse this letter with at least a morsel of intrigue, extending a frivolous three hour event into a literary chronicle of alarming descriptiveness.

The Mlle. R___ had her birthday soiree at Salon du N___ this past Monday evening. It was commanded that each invitee appear in formal attire, and, the birthday gathering at du N___ looked quite lovely - velvet, satin and lace abounded. The Duke of W___ made his usual dapper appearance. The Dauphine Kallisti and I ordered a Brandy Alexander each, to stifle the yawns that hovered at the edges of our attention spans, and added nonchalant comments to the swirling fragments of conversation.

Comtesse Nyquolytt and her jaunty young escort, the Mssr. S___, arrived a good hour and a half post-reservation time. (The Mlle. R___ had explained earlier that the Comtesse was still feeling indisposed, and thus would need a longer amount of time with her toilette.) Predictably the Comtesse was decked quite elaborately -- this costume a theatrical 30s ensemble: fan, gloves, bracelets dangling and a large, ostentatious brooch clasped at the bosom of her wine velvet gown, ending with her hair cemented into some sort of bob. Of course we have seen this particular facade before at du N___ - Greta Garbo meets Camille meets Zelda Fitzgerald. Mon dieu.

The dashing Mssr. S___ sent a second Brandy Alexander to my end of the table. As I leaned down the table to thank him and perhaps engage in a bit of benign flirtation, the Comtesse embraced him and gazed torpidly at me remarking breathlessly "Is he not wonderful?" I felt this to be rather a competitive and possessive move, especially since the Mssr. was innocently acting the gentleman.

The second libation was welcome since unsightly yawns were escaping in spite of my valiant efforts to look pert and entertained.

Not surprising, the Comtesse's autocratic social nature soon prevailed over her fragile health and she became languidly animated (in that Greta/Camille/Zelda manner of hers).

She mentioned that she was hot and feverish. To which my current amour (and her former scandalous amour of distant past), the Baron V___, remarked in jest, "That is pretty unusual for someone so cold."

There was laughter. The Comtesse was a statue of contrived indifference. The Baron, realizing his delightful jest would be construed by the Comtesse as an insulting faux-pas, then complicated matters further by adding, "I meant unusual for one who is cold-blooded."

More laughter. A contemptuous stare from the Comtesse. The Baron finally finished by laughing, "I meant unusual for a vampire." The Comtesse rose in a wine-velvet huff and disappeared to the other end of the table, snapping her fan and giving the Baron the "you are so vulgar" glance of doom.

The yawns were triumphant. A bitter defeat for girl drinks. The Dauphine, the dapper Duke, the Baron and I bid our respective farewells and departed for home.

What next, my exceptional friend? We shall see. Alas, another pesky interruption. I must put my pen and ink away and concentrate on the mordant realities confronting me.

Until I see thee in the shadows of our Thursday refuge,

I remain your devoted friend and languorous spectre of momentary ennui,

          Comtesse Melusine

And at last but most decidedly not least, the written appearance in our social whirl of glamorous dervishes -- the Marquis Deja Du!

The Marquis D»jż Dö to the Marquise de Merlot

Ma Chňre Marquise:

A thought: A happy thought, indeed. As I read treatments of other people's livesůpeople whom I love dearly because of their lifestyles, because of their accomplishments, because they're deadůpeople like George Sands, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Andy Warhol, etc., I find a certain upsurge of jealousy throbbing in my chest. A jealousy of "Why can it not be me, who is invited to the Byron's island? Why was not I a gloomy classmate of Sylvia Plath? Why was not I at the Algonquin, or the Factory, or the Round Table?"

All these great personages, these great dead personages, these icons of their timesůall of them are so wonderful÷in the stories, at least÷so constantly witty and entertaining and creatively nurturing, yadda, yadda, yadda. Rather tiresome that we would be stuck in such a neutral, taciturn era such as the late 20th century, non?

Then, a thought occurs to me. I have spent years reading about lifestyles that I would like to live. Lifestyles described and lived properly by those great artists in the past who created their world to suit them instead of kowtowing to the norms. People who were so devious and mischievous, they tinkered so playfully with all relevant systems for their own amusement, for a large part of the reason. I have spent time and conscious thought over these lucky people, and believe me, my precious Marquise, not just a little envy and bitterness for being born too late and in the wrong circles has seeped through my onion skin.

The thought is this: Chňre Merlot, we are the Algonquin of the Late 20th Century. We are the parlourgoers and Warhol's Factory and all these things. The circle, arbitrarily but meticulously chosen, represents the cream of our generation and the fact that each and every person hails from another point of view, another lifestyle, yet all depraved and gnarled and yummy only helps define the originality of the times.

When I am a hundred and eight, I will look back on these years and sigh with sad fondness, "Yes, I remember the Close of the 20th Century," and will pontificate and reminisce freely over anecdotes and champagne. And I feel secure in the knowledge that when we are dead, others will read about that strange foreign time and place and those strange, awful, lovely people who lived it. Makers of corsets, writers of novels, piercers of body parts, dressers of drag, those schooled in the art of classical piano and those schooled in the art of sublime pleasure via sexual pain. Members of future generations will be jealous as I have been and some will create new utopias. (If "utopia" is for everyone, "atopia" is, by definition, "not-for-all".) Some will seethe and rot. Both instances amuse me immensely.

Question: Does it negate a lifestyle to tag and label it whilst it happens?

Je ne croix pas.

Are the events and people I so look forward to interacting with not as real because I slot them, myself, this time period, and label it and call it "Algonqin II"? Did Oscar know his devilish tongue would be read hundreds of years later, and quoted? Ah, bad example. Of course he knew. He was pompous.

But when Byron threw a little dinner party, did he guess it would make history and inspire a movie later with Laura Dern? I doubt he could have known this.

The same, doubtful, iffy, wonderful fate I see for our own memories.

Ah, look, I am writing memoirs and epitaphs whilst the players are still on stage. How morbid.

You should be loving this.

So my current insignificant thought goes thus: I shall sneak out of this fresh hell early to-day. (Mon patron est disparu et je suis tout seul!) I shall stop the scribbling of this epistle, shut down this machinetta and sally away to the aforementioned booth of a thousand dreams. See you in a few.

        Marquis DeJa Du

NOTE: "Drinking With Thine Enemies" is an exercise in reliving the ancient art of letter writing. The style takes its inspiration from heady classics such as "les Liaisons Dangereuses", "Clarissa", and "Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure", though the content and events described therein are wholly modern.

Any resemblance to persons living or undead is purely coincidental ... we think. As a matter of fact, the question was put to the enigmatic Melusine, and on this subject she remains pointedly silent.

To learn more about the author, Comtesse Melusine de Nuit, please check her Bio on the Editors Page.