Like Saxophones

Ray Mantinari was a saxophone player from Toronto who had gotten a temporary job on the cruise ship where I was contracted. He felt that he was too good to play a cruise-ship gig, and aspired to play freeform jazz in the world’s famous live jazz venues.

He was tall, lanky, and wore glasses–not at all my type, but somehow when he played the sax, he and the world around him transformed into a dreamy, seductive, warm and glorious place.

Ray and the cruise-band drummer Tom McClurry hung together and lamented that they wanted to smoke pot, but didn’t dare on the ship, because of customs checking and the threat of being sent straight to jail for smuggling. It was the 1980s, and we were sailing out of Miami; there was cocaine everywhere, which I by some freak or miracle never even tried.

I hung with Ray and Tom. We were the same age; misplaced young artist rebels who somehow landed a cruise-ship gig in the Caribbean between high school and college, or on break from college. On break, it seemed, from the responsibilities of life and real work, suspended in party time with blue-haired cruise passengers off the coast of Florida and a flowing supply of cocaine.

They both hit on me, at different times. Neither was all that attractive, but something happened to Ray when he played the sax, something that melted me inside and made my juices flow. Because I wasn’t all that interested in him, I behaved in that detached, hard-to-get way that drives men nuts. Sadly I’ve only ever been able to act that way when I’m truly not interested.

I was a heavy cigarette smoker at the time, and a heavy drinker. The drinking was limited to evenings and outside of work hours, whereas the cigarettes I rolled out of bed and lit. I invented breaks at work that weren’t there, just to have a few puffs.  I was thin as a rail, like all dancers who smoke heavily.

I decided to have sex with Ray Mantinari because of how he played the sax.  I figured if he could play my body half that that well, I was in for a treat.

I was right. Ray Mantinari ate a mean pussy, and let me lie back smoking cigarettes while he did.

Once, picking up on a cue of mine, he encouraged me to read. He said he considered it a personal challenge to do his part so well that I would be too distracted to continue reading.

The game was on.

I was reading either Isabelle Alliende’s House of the Spirits, or Oriana Fallaci’s A Man. I lay on the pillows in the small cruise-ship cabin cot with a cigarette in one hand and the book in the other, while Ray Mantinari ate my pussy as if the apocalypse was impending.

After a while I put down the book.

It took significantly longer for me to put down my second or third cigarette in a row.

Eventually I surrendered to the sweet feelings he was up-loving in my body, and let him make love to me.

With the rush of the nicotine pulsing through my veins making my heart pound faster, and a slight dizziness from coming, it began to feel like I heard his saxophone playing viscerally. My ears were ringing with the slow, drawling, sensual sound of a solo saxophone crying in the night; there was smoke in my mouth and tongue in my pussy, slowly moving in and out. I was a coyote, a wolf, howling at the moon, longing to merge with its creator. I was transported into a dream of sex and smoke and illusions of oneness.

His love felt like saxophones.


Cigarettes, sex, and a good man with a splash of booze did it for me. And it worked for a long time with many men.

Eventually Tom McClurry was sent to rehab for cocaine addiction, and Ray Mantinari was transferred to another ship in the fleet. That was the end of making love to saxophones and cigarettes.


My favorite song is Trumpets by the Waterboys, but I didn’t know that then. I do now.

Your love feels like trumpets,

and your heart is like a church with wide open doors,

and to be with you is to find myself in the best of dreams.

Your love feels like trumpets sound…