For the Woman Who Loved the Predator More Than His Prey
“I wanted to sing you a curse song.”
I would wish on you the knowing—knowing
with your own good body, but I am incapable.
You are made of flesh and nerve and thought,
of heart and love and wonder and grief, as I am.
Let me wish for you this: a deep sleep, trust
in the man at your back who has promised
sanctuary, and you have sipped of the sanctuary,
rolled your milk skin in it, leaned your eyelashes
on his breastplate, removed your bones for kindling
to warm his hands. And he has drunk of you and you
are almost whole in the clumsy wonder of maybe he
is the one, though he appears a strange divergence
from your girlhood imaginings (they say this
is always true). His mouth is filled with the world
and he is giving it all to you and you believe. I will not
wish for you the bruise. The leap in the throat, shriek.
The shock and scramble in your own flowered sheets.
His glazed eyes, the sudden property you’ve become.
You, a scatter of chalk dust beneath a heave of muscle.
You taste its singe. How he culls your pleas into a storm
of thrust, grunt, drool. How you, here, cannot move.
You are nothing more than your wit and your lungs
and neither seem enough. You are the torn cotton,
wrenched thigh, the perfect stone-colored fingerprints.
You are the scrub and the sob, all his countless
hands. I do not wish you become the night terrors.
The flashbacks. The grief and grief and grief.
Insomnia, delusion. The disbelief. The holy holy
holy holy wreck. The awe and burn. I do not wish you
stay. Stay and forgive. I do not wish you forgiveness.
Do not wish you cordial. Polite. I do not wish you his
manipulations, nor the mind’s trickery. I will never
wish you “liar,” as you have christened me.
I do not wish you answer why or how or show me
evidence. I do not wish you silence. Shame. Whiskey.
Box cutter. Xanax. Do not wish you erase. Erase.
I do not wish you anything to erase. I do not
wish you this. No. I will never wish you this.
+ + +
Madness in the Form of a Question
after Kimberly Grey
because your body still flinches, even beneath your husband
because the rise in your heart rate, whenever
because your body is a permanent record of all it has survived
because tattoos and wrist scars and toe nails grown too long
because it’s only part of the story
because we are only part of the story, and we keep on
because a rush hour subway car is always a mine field
because you lost count of the times your body has been not-yours
because all the ways we take from each other
because they’ve got your name in their mouths
because they don’t even bother to pronounce it
because the heat’s out and the oven is all you’ve got
because the neighbor’s radiator leaked down the wall
because rust and roach and lime stain
because meat is violent and so is the kiss
because nothing you say will ever un-make you
because the DA turned down the case
because you finally reported and the DA turned down the case
because you waited too long
because blame and blame and evidence
because the river
because the boy you loved as a girl is an urn of ash
because the lamp flickers and your hand reaches for a gun
because there is no gun
because your hands and sin and survive
because money is low and rent is due
because money is low
because a house is just another mouth to feed
because the phone never un-rings
because the dolls are full of gossip
because someone you love is always running out
because your mind is a kaleidoscope of ghosts
because your mind
because your body/mind/sin/flinch/heart/money/gun/wrist/name
because the story hurts worse each time you tell it
+ + +
Polyamory, with Knives
Just because you fell in love with the river
doesn’t mean you must feed it your bones.
You can take new lovers. Wine, for instance.
And bread. Difficult shoes. Little blue pills.
The first boy’s knife. The bowie, the buck,
the chef’s. Switch, pocket, butcher, butter.
You can submerge in a hotel bath, drainage
ditch, Newton Creek, East River. The sea.
Eat the whole pan of lasagna. The entire box
of Thin Mints. You can go down in mimosas.
You can lose yourself in Clifton, or Sexton,
Walker, Hooks, Rich, Atwood. Or Hughes.
Even the boxer whose poems sewed you shut.
Whose hands pulled you from the red red tub.
The boy who became boxer who became
man who became poet who became husband.
Yes, you can love the river. The knife. The pills.
The wine. You can love a thousand lonelinesses.
You can love the man and each of his hands.
Love the brine and the meat and all the tiny ruins.
+ + +
The Riot Kings (of Apartment F9)
Untamed, we are godless & malformed.
We unearth & fight our whole lonely, our
despicable traumas, in curses & slammed
doors & we shun & shame & fuck & surrender
nightly to the bottle & this goes on. For me,
the endless promise of pills & the threat of pills,
the promise of leaving or being left &
the scathing ache of failure upon failure.
All mine. & how the hell did I get to be forty
& learn to put on clothes & wash my back &
paint my toenails but can’t coherently move
a sentence from my lips among strangers
or ease my sister’s hurt or keep from injuring
the man I love in remarkable & dangerous ways?
Me, a rusted hammer. Me, a sweet & lovely
disaster. How much beautiful must I kill?
Experts warned. Books & lecture halls, shrink
after shrink. Hospitals & psychiatric wards.
Kind strangers in dank pubs & subway cars,
offering tissues & hotlines & somber advice.
Here we are. The bed we share. It is the dark.
Truths offered in the dark are always ugly.
There are always ghosts where we think there
are none. There are no children. This, too,
is a ghost & we are the ghosts. We cradle each
other & rupture. This ruin is a thing no fists
can answer. My boiling brain is a flood of disease.
It never stops, it can’t. It will always slaughter.
+ + +
Your Mouth Is a Church, I Forgot How to Pray
It’s raining ice despite April’s promise and
………somewhere a bloodmoon hangs in the sky.
Now, morning. We made it, despite my cruel
………wishes. We were children once. Guiltless.
There is a war in each of us. Yours has a peculiar
………scent. Mine is dead wet, the color of sickness.
I am a mouth of mettle and iron. Godless.
………You are brawl and fang. Courage, code.
Though battle keeps us, we die a little
………each day. I’ve lost the word for prayer.
My love, take these walls, these wars.
………Dull my blades. I am tired of the hunt.
I’ve laid my only words at your feet. Open for me.
………I want to know, be known. Want and be wanted.
+ + +
Tonight I would tell you,
if you would believe it,
I am the bouncer of the season.
That, out on its ear,
winter doesn’t stand a chance.
And below us, the river,
a dark glossary of size,
carves the future map I have sketched
without ever telling you,
guided by the one constellation you knew,
that I painted by hand,
that I saw even in the day.
If you would believe it,
tonight I would tell you
I have cornered the market
on air and water
and that the world is my best friend.
That in my basement
whole broods of coelacanths
in saline tanks
practice clever tricks
with balls and hoops
simply because I know each by name.
And if my reputation
has gone before me like a tidal wave,
while you sunned yourself
or waited for the light to change,
then I counsel you
to take with a grain of salt
the ever recurring tale
of how I slew a dragon
in a bright green meadow
when I was little more than a toddler.
In truth, I was nine
and the least lucky of my village.
But, also the bravest.
Tonight, after love,
and what is a night without it
and what is love without this night
but more darkness,
I will sing to you.
I will recite to you
the genealogy of shadows,
revealing the ease of their coupling,
and in turn, our own,
softly attended by
the lustrous choir of fireflies
outside our window
waiting for a word
to rise and take wing
which, if you would believe it,
would be no small wonder.
The clouds do not bother us
when we look for heaven. Always
we find a faint, veiled outline
like the ship on the horizon,
a dark memory
on the edge. The sea moves in waves,
garbling the language.
We’ve been a great distance
and the darkness has rolled back
enough to be honest.
In the guesswork
of light I heard: the figment
of god does not love you.
Meaning: I was not the only apparition
in the room. Meaning: there was a room.
Time’s running low,
the Eastern sky
an unreachable horizon of amber,
specks of definition, a fleet
idling on the soft ledge.
by Gilbert Sorrentino
This was in 1948. A group of young people sitting on the darkened porch of a New Jersey summer cottage in a lake resort community. The host some Bernie wearing an Upsala College sweatshirt. The late June night so soft one can, in retrospect, forgive America for everything. There were perhaps eight or nine people there, two of them the people that this story sketches.
Bernie was talking about Sonny Stitt’s alto on “That’s Earl, Brother.” As good as Bird, he said. Arnie said, bullshit: he was a very hip young man from Washington Heights, wore mirrored sunglasses. A bop drummer in his senior year at the High School of Performing Arts. Our young man, nineteen at this time, listened only to Rebecca, a girl of fifteen, remarkable in her New Look clothes. A long full skirt, black, snug tailored shirt of blue and white stripes with a high white collar and black velvet string tie, black kid Capezios. It is no wonder that lesbians like women.
At some point during the evening he walked Rebecca home. She lived on Lake Shore Drive, a wide road that skirted the beach and ran parallel to the small river that flowed into Lake Minnehaha. Lake Ramapo? Lake Tomahawk. Lake O-shi-wa-noh? Lake Sunburst. Leaning against her father’s powder-blue Buick convertible, lost, in the indigo night, the creamy stars, sound of crickets, they kissed. They fell in love.
One of the songs that summer was “For Heaven’s Sake.” Another, “It’s Magic.” Who remembers the clarity of Claude Thornhill and Sarah Vaughan, their exquisite irrelevance? They are gone where the useless chrome doughnuts on the Buick’s hood have gone. That Valhalla of Amos ’n’ Andy and guinea fruit peddlers with golden earrings. “Pleasa No Squeeza Da Banana.” In 1948, the whole world seemed beautiful to young people of a certain milieu, or let me say, possible. Yes, it seemed a possible world. This idea persisted until 1950, at which time it died, along with many of the young people who had held it. In Korea, the Chinese played “Scrapple from the Apple” over loudspeakers pointed at the American lines. That savage and virile alto blue-clear on the subzero night. This is, of course, old news.
Rebecca was fair. She was fair. Lovely Jewish girl from the remote and exotic Bronx. To him that vast borough seemed a Cythera—that it could house such fantastic creatures as she! He wanted to be Jewish. He was, instead, a Roman Catholic, awash in sin and redemption. What loathing he had for the Irish girls who went to eleven o’clock Mass, legions of blushing pink and lavender spring coats, flat white straw hats, the crinkly veils over their open faces. Church clothes, under which their inviolate crotches sweetly nestled in soft hair.
She had white and perfect teeth. Wide mouth. Creamy stars, pale nights. Dusty black roads out past the beach. The sunlight on the raft, moonlight on the lake. Sprinkle of freckles on her shoulders. Aromatic breeze.
Of course this was a summer romance, but bear with me and see with what banal literary irony it all turns out—or does not turn out at all. The country bowled and spoke of Truman’s grit and spunk. How softly we had slid off the edge of civilization.
The liquid moonlight filling the small parking area outside the gates to the beach. Bass flopping softly in dark waters. What was the scent of the perfume she wore? The sound of a car radio in the cool nights, collective American memory. Her browned body, delicate hair bleached golden on her thighs. In the beach pavilion they danced and drank Cokes. Mel Tormé and the Mel-Tones. Dizzy Gillespie. “Too Soon to Know.” In the mornings, the sun so crystal and lucent it seemed the very exhalation of the sky, he would swim alone to the raft and lie there, the beach empty, music from the pavilion attendant’s radio coming to him in splinters. At such times he would thrill himself by pretending that he had not yet met Rebecca and that he would see her that afternoon for the first time.
The first time he touched her breasts he cried in his shame and delight. Can all this really have taken place in America? The trees rustled for him, as the rain did rain. One day, in New York, he bought her a silver friendship ring, tiny perfect hearts in bas-relief running around it so that the point of one heart nestled in the cleft of another. Innocent symbol that tortured his blood. She stood before him in the pale light in white bra and panties, her shorts and blouse hung on the hurricane fence of the abandoned and weed-grown tennis court and he held her, stroking her flanks and buttocks and kissing her shoulders. The smell of her flesh, vague sweat and perfume. Of course he was insane. She caressed him so far as she understood how through his faded denim shorts. Thus did they flay themselves, burning. What were they to do? Where were they to go? The very thought of the condom in his pocket made his heart careen in despair. Nothing was like anything said it was after all. He adored her.
She was entering her second year at Evander Childs that coming fall. He hated this school he had never seen, and hated all her fellow students. He longed to be Jewish, dark and mysterious and devoid of sin. He stroked her hair and fingered her nipples, masturbated fiercely on the dark roads after he had seen her home. Why didn’t he at least live in the Bronx?
Any fool can see that with the slightest twist one way or another all of this is fit material for a sophisticated comic’s routine. David Steinberg, say. One can hear his precise voice recording these picayune disasters as jokes. Yet all that moonlight was real. He kissed her luminous fingernails and died over and over again. The maimings of love are endlessly funny, as are the tiny figures of talking animals being blown to pieces in cartoons.
It was this same youth who, three years later, ravished the whores of Mexican border towns in a kind of drunken hilarity, falling down in the dusty streets of Nuevo Laredo, Villa Acuña, and Piedras Negras, the pungency of the overpowering perfume wedded to his rumpled khakis, his flowered shirt, his scuffed and beer-spattered low quarters scraping across the thresholds of the Blue Room, Ofelia’s, the 1-2-3 Club, Felicia’s, the Cadillac, Tres Hermanas. It would be a great pleasure for me to allow him to meet her there, in a yellow chiffon cocktail dress and spike heels, lost in prostitution.
One night, a huge smiling Indian whore bathed his member in gin as a testament to the strict hygiene she claimed to practice and he absurdly thought of Rebecca, that he had never seen her naked, nor she him, as he was now in the Hollywood pink light of the whore’s room, Jesus hanging in his perpetual torture from the wall above the little bed. The woman was gentle, the light glinting off her gold incisor and the tiny cross at her throat. You good fuck, Jack, she smiled in her lying whore way. He felt her flesh again warm in that long-dead New Jersey sunlight. Turn that into a joke.
They were at the amusement park at Lake Hopatcong with two other couples. A hot and breathless night toward the end of August, the patriotic smell of hot dogs and French fries and cranky music from the carousel easing through the sparsely planted trees down toward the shore. She was pale and sweating, sick, and he took her back to the car and they smoked. They walked to the edge of the black lake stretching out before them, the red and blue neon on the far shore clear in the hot dark.
He wiped her forehead and stroked her shoulders, worshiping her pain. He went to get a Coke and brought it back to her, but she only sipped at it, then said O God! and bent over to throw up. He held her hips while she vomited, loving the waste and odor of her. She lay down on the ground and he lay next to her, stroking her breasts until the nipples were erect under her cotton blouse. My period, she said. God, it just ruins me at the beginning. You bleeding, vomiting, incredible thing, he thought. You should have stayed in, he said. The moonlight of her teeth. I didn’t want to miss a night with you, she said. It’s August. Stars, my friend, great flashing stars fell on Alabama.
They stood in the dark in the driving rain underneath her umbrella. Where could it have been? Nokomis Road? Bliss Lane? Kissing with that trapped yet wholly innocent frenzy peculiar to American youth of that era. Her family was going back to the city early the next morning and his family would be leaving toward the end of the week. They kissed, they kissed. The angels sang. Where could they go, out of this driving rain?
Isn’t there anyone, any magazine writer or avant-garde filmmaker, any lover of life or dedicated optimist out there who will move them toward a cottage, already closed for the season, in whose split log exterior they will find an unlocked door? Inside there will be a bed, whiskey, an electric heater. Or better, a fireplace. White lamps, soft lights. Sweet music. A radio on which they will get Cooky’s Caravan or Symphony Sid. Billy Eckstine will sing “My Deep Blue Dream.” Who can bring them to each other and allow him to enter her? Tears of gratitude and release, the sublime and elegantly shadowed configuration their tanned legs will make lying together. This was in America, in 1948. Not even fake art or the wearisome tricks of movies can assist them.
She tottered, holding the umbrella crookedly while he went to his knees and clasped her, the rain soaking him through, put his head under her skirt and kissed her belly, licked at her crazily through her underclothes.
All you modern lovers, freed by Mick Jagger and the orgasm, give them, for Christ’s sake, for an hour, the use of your really terrific little apartment. They won’t smoke your marijuana nor disturb your Indiana graphics. They won’t borrow your Fanon or Cleaver or Barthelme or Vonnegut. They’ll make the bed before they leave. They whisper good night and dance in the dark.
She was crying and stroking his hair. Ah God, the leaves of brown came tumbling down, remember? He watched her go into the house and saw the door close. Some of his life washed away in the rain dripping from his chin.
A girl named Sheila whose father owned a fleet of taxis gave a reunion party in her parents’ apartment in Forest Hills. Where else would it be? I will insist on purchased elegance or nothing. None of your warm and cluttered apartments in this story, cats on the stacks of books, and so on. It was the first time he had ever seen a sunken living room and it fixed his idea of the good life forever after. Rebecca was talking to Marv and Robin, who were to be married in a month. They were Jewish, incredibly and wondrously Jewish, their parents smiled upon them and loaned them money and cars. He skulked in his loud Brooklyn clothes.
I’ll put her virgin flesh into a black linen suit, a single strand of pearls around her throat. Did I say that she had honey-colored hair? Believe me when I say he wanted to kiss her shoes.
Everybody was drinking Cutty Sark. This gives you an idea, not of who they were, but of what they thought they were. They worked desperately at it being August, but under the sharkskin and nylons those sunny limbs were hidden. Sheila put on “In the Still of the Night” and all six couples got up to dance. When he held her he thought he would weep.
He didn’t want to hear about Evander Childs or Gun Hill Road or the 92nd Street Y. He didn’t want to know what the pre-med student she was dating said. Whose hand had touched her secret thighs. It was most unbearable since this phantom knew them in a specifically erotic way that he did not. He had touched them decorated with garters and stockings. Different thighs. She had been to the Copa, to the Royal Roost, to Lewisohn Stadium to hear the Gershwin concert. She talked about The New Yorker and Vogue, e.e. cummings. She flew before him, floating in her black patent I. Miller heels.
Sitting together on the bed in Sheila’s parents’ room, she told him that she still loved him, she would always love him, but it was so hard not to go out with a lot of other boys, she had to keep her parents happy. They were concerned about him. They didn’t really know him. He wasn’t Jewish. All right. All right. But did she have to let Shelley? Did she have to go to the Museum of Modern Art? The Met? Where were these places? What is the University of Miami? Who is Brooklyn Law? What sort of god borrows a Chrysler and goes to the Latin Quarter? What is a supper club? What does Benedictine cost? Her epic acts, his Flagg Brothers shoes.
There was one boy who had almost made her. She had allowed him to take off her blouse and skirt, nothing else! at a CCNY sophomore party. She was a little high and he—messed—all over her slip. It was wicked and she was ashamed. Battering his heart in her candor. Well, I almost slipped too, he lied, and was terrified that she seemed relieved. He got up and closed the door, then lay down on the bed with her and took off her jacket and brassiere. She zipped open his trousers. Long enough! Sheila said, knocking on the door, then opening it to see him with his head on her breasts. Oh, oh, she said, and closed the door. Of course, it was all ruined. We got rid of a lot of these repressed people in the next decade, and now we are all happy and free.
At three o’clock, he kissed her good night on Yellowstone Boulevard in a thin drizzle. Call me, he said, and I’ll call you. She went into her glossy Jewish life, toward mambos and the Blue Angel.
Let me come and sleep with you. Let me lie in your bed and look at you in your beautiful pajamas. I’ll do anything you say. I’ll honor thy beautiful father and mother. I’ll hide in the closet and be no trouble. I’ll work as a stock boy in your father’s beautiful sweater factory. It’s not my fault I’m not Marvin or Shelley. I don’t even know where CCNY is! Who is Conrad Aiken? What is Bronx Science? Who is Berlioz? What is a Stravinsky? How do you play Mah-Jongg? What is schmooz, schlepp, Purim, Moo Goo Gai Pan? Help me.
When he got off the train in Brooklyn an hour later, he saw his friends through the window of the all-night diner, pouring coffee into the great pit of their beer drunks. He despised them as he despised himself and the neighborhood. He fought against the thought of her so that he would not have to place her subtle finesse in these streets of vulgar hells, benedictions, and incense.
On Christmas Eve, he left the office party at two, even though one of the file girls, her Catholicism temporarily displaced by Four Roses and ginger, stuck her tongue into his mouth in the stock room.
Rebecca was outside, waiting on the corner of 46th and Broadway, and they clasped hands, oh briefly, briefly. They walked aimlessly around in the gray bitter cold, standing for a while at the Rockefeller Center rink, watching the people who owned Manhattan. When it got too cold, they walked some more, ending up at the Automat across the street from Bryant Park. When she slipped her coat off her breasts moved under the crocheted sweater she wore. They had coffee and doughnuts, surrounded by office party drunks sobering up for the trip home.
Then it went this way: we can go to Maryland and get married, she said. You know I was sixteen a month ago. I want to marry you, I can’t stand it. He was excited and frightened, and got an erection. How could he bear this image? Her breasts, her familiar perfume, enormous figures of movie queens resplendent in silk and lace in the snug bedrooms of Vermont inns—shutters banging, the rain pouring down, all entangled, married! How do we get to Maryland? he said.
Against the tabletop her hand, its long and delicate fingers, the perfect moons, Carolina moons of her nails. I’ll give her every marvel: push gently the scent of magnolia and jasmine between her legs and permit her to piss champagne.
Against the tabletop her hand, glowing crescent moons over lakes of Prussian blue in evergreen twilights. Her eyes gray, flecked with bronze. In her fingers a golden chain and on the chain a car key. My father’s car, she said. We can take it and be there tonight. We can be married Christmas then, he said, but you’re Jewish. He saw a drunk going out onto Sixth Avenue carrying their lives along in a paper bag. I mean it, she said. I can’t stand it, I love you. I love you, he said, but I can’t drive. He smiled. I mean it, she said. She put the key in his hand. The car is in midtown here, over by Ninth Avenue. I really can’t drive, he said. He could shoot pool and drink boilermakers, keep score at baseball games and handicap horses, but he couldn’t drive.
The key in his hand, fascinating wrinkle of sweater at her waist. Of course, life is a conspiracy of defeat, a sophisticated joke, endless. I’ll get some money and we’ll go the holiday week, he said, we’ll take a train, O.K.? O.K., she said. She smiled and asked for another coffee, taking the key and dropping it into her bag. It was a joke after all. They walked to the subway and he said I’ll give you a call right after Christmas. Gray bitter sky. What he remembered was her gray cashmere coat swirling around her calves as she turned at the foot of the stairs to smile at him, making the gesture of dialing a phone and pointing at him and then at herself.
Give these children a Silver Phantom and a chauffeur. A black chauffeur, to complete the America that owned them.
Now I come to the literary part of this story, and the reader may prefer to let it go and watch her profile against the slick tiles of the IRT stairwell, since she has gone out of the reality of narrative, however splintered. This postscript offers something different, something finely artificial and discrete, one of the designer sweaters her father makes now, white and stylish as a sailor’s summer bells. I grant you it will be unbelievable.
I put the young man in 1958. He has served in the Army, and once told the Automat story to a group of friends as proof of his sexual prowess. They believed him: what else was there for them to believe? This shabby use of a fragile occurrence was occasioned by the smell of honeysuckle and magnolia in the tobacco country outside Winston-Salem. It brought her to him so that he was possessed. He felt the magic key in his hand again. To master this overpowering wave of nostalgia he cheapened it. Certainly the reader will recall such shoddy incidents in his own life.
After his discharge he married some girl and had three children by her. He allowed her divers interests and she tolerated his few stupid infidelities. He had a good job in advertising and they lived in Kew Gardens in a brick semidetached house. Let me give them a sunken living room to give this the appearance of realism. His mother died in 1958 and left the lake house to him. Since he had not been there for ten years he decided to sell it, against his wife’s wishes. The community was growing and the property was worth twice the original price.
This is a ruse to get him up there one soft spring day in May. He drives up in a year-old Pontiac. The realtor’s office, the papers, etc. Certainly, a shimmer of nostalgia about it all, although he felt a total stranger. He left the car on the main road, deciding to walk down to the lake, partly visible through the new-leaved trees. All right, now here we go. A Cadillac station wagon passed and then stopped about fifteen yards ahead of him and she got out. She was wearing white shorts and sneakers and a blue sweatshirt. Her hair was the same, shorter perhaps, tied with a ribbon of navy velour.
It’s too impossible to invent conversation for them. He got in her car. Her perfume was not the same. They drove to her parents’ house for a cup of coffee—for old times’ sake. How else would they get themselves together and alone? She had come up to open the house for the season. Her husband was a college traveler for a publishing house and was on the road, her son and daughter were staying at their grandparents’ for the day. Popular songs, the lyrics half-remembered. You will do well if you think of the ambience of the whole scene as akin to the one in detective novels where the private investigator goes to the murdered man’s summer house. This is always in off-season because it is magical then, one sees oneself as a being somehow existing outside time, the year-round residents are drawings in flat space.
When they walked into the chilly house she reached past him to latch the door and he touched her hand on the lock, then her forearm, her shoulder. Take your clothes off, he said, gently. Oh gently. Please. Take your clothes off? He opened the button of her shorts. You see that they now have the retreat I begged for them a decade ago. If one has faith all things will come. Her flesh was cool.
In the bedroom, she turned down the spread and fluffed the pillows, then sat and undressed. As she unlaced her sneakers, he put the last of his clothes on a chair. She got up, her breasts quivering slightly, and he saw faint stretch marks running into the shadowy symmetry of her pubic hair. She plugged in a small electric heater, bending before him, and he put his hands under her buttocks and held her there. She sighed and trembled and straightened up, turning toward him. Let me have a mist of tears in her eyes, of acrid joy and shame, of despair. She lay on the bed and opened her thighs and they made love without elaboration.
In the evening, he followed her car back into the city. They had promised to meet again the following week. Of course it wouldn’t be sordid. What, then, would it be? He had perhaps wept bitterly that afternoon as she kissed his knees. She would call him, he would call her. They could find a place to go. Was she happy? Really happy? God knows, he wasn’t happy! In the city they stopped for a drink in a Village bar and sat facing each other in the booth, their knees touching, holding hands. They carefully avoided speaking of the past, they made no jokes. He felt his heart rattling around in his chest in large jagged pieces. It was rotten for everybody, it was rotten but they would see each other, they were somehow owed it. They would find a place with clean sheets, a radio, whiskey, they would just—continue. Why not?
These destructive and bittersweet accidents do not happen every day. He put her number in his address book, but he wouldn’t call her. Perhaps she would call him, and if she did, well, they’d see, they’d see. But he would not call her. He wasn’t that crazy. On the way out to Queens he felt himself in her again and the car swerved erratically. When he got home he was exhausted.
You are perfectly justified in scoffing at the outrageous transparency of it if I tell you that his wife said that he was so pale that he looked as if he had seen a ghost, but that is, indeed, what she said. Art cannot rescue anybody from anything.