The Virgin, the Devil, and the Chosen One
Chapter 10

August 17, 1981

All the constellations could see my bare bum sticking up out of the sleeping bag laid out on the lawn with Susan inside it while vagina vitamins healed my ravaged gums. She came with soft moans and the lights turned on bright. We looked up. It was the Aborigine moon, Igulgul, risen full and sweet above the trees. I fell asleep in her slender arms beneath the manlight of the moon with the taste of Susan still citrus-juicy on my lips. I would leave her for the same Buddhist monastery I went to after I left Carol in Halifax. Ten days to go, and still safe from ejaculating.

“I don't want to do any touching for three days,” Susan said that afternoon, pale and remote behind her thick elementary-school glasses. “I need to slow down.”

“Fine.” She left. I turned a page of 1978 and read, “I don't want to do any touching for a while,” Carol said. “I need to slow down.”

I sneezed, then sneezed again. My sinuses filled up, my eyes watered, and I sneezed until I gave up on women and went out to eat. My allergies vanished the instant I walked out of the house. I tore into roast pork like a beast. Susan was a vegetarian. With every bite I thanked the Lord for pigs.

…“The end is near, and all the things I do not do now I will do soon.” Curious at what I've just said, I look for the End. I see it in the distance. All there is at the End is shit and IT. I look down and see a giant mouth eating my genitals. The mouth has my face. I woke up wide-eyed and heaving for breath. My lower back was in agony, the pages of 1978 were strewn around the room, and the lymph glands in my left groin were badly swollen and hurting. I'd mistaken my shit for IT so many times, and my groin was telling me I'd made the same mistake again. I had no idea how to change. I read 1978 with a frantic fury. Mid-morning the fever and chills began. All day long Susan screamed “Mommyyy!” at top volume.

I lay awake all night burning, burning, until dawn smashed his way through the heavily loaded prostate clouds and smote my fevered eyes. I shut them tightly against the light, then finally slept . . . The boys and I sleep on the beach, each with our own fire. Now all the fires are out, except Ariel's. He has ashes on his face. I am going to die. I woke up fried by fever. Danny, my old self, had both eyes fixed on his merciless wife. His back was broken by grief. It was time he died.

I mined the past for the power to change my present. As I read, my forehead glowed with fever like a coal-miner's lamp. Hours later, I turned the last pages of 1978 and my hatred of Carol lessened to see how I'd hired her as a guard against my sexual feelings. Otherwise I would have left her long before Ariel. By the time I got through January of 1979 it was clear I'd invoked Ariel by being as responsible, loving and committed to doing the right thing as I knew how to be. I put my hand on my slowly cooling forehead. My sickness was fading away. The recapitulation I was doing was turning into reconciliation.

My parents called to recommend therapy at their expense. I launched into a long description of de-acquisitioning, ending with, “So you see? I throw the baby out with the bathwater, and it's okay. Because if the baby is really mine, it'll come crawling back.” There was a pause while we all thought about Ariel. I resolved never to explain myself to my parents again.

In the middle of the night I woke up on the razor edge of ejaculation. Susan's soft nakedness was touching me all over like warm flower petals. Alarmed, I licked her to wildness, then before either one of us could come, abruptly sat up and said, “We've had as much sex as we can handle. Goodnight.” She slowly got up and left, dazed.

On the last day of August, I mailed Ariel's birth certificate back to Carol, as well as a copy of her will giving me the children if she died. I knew she'd want to change that. I skated down the street from the post office to the pawnshop and got $58 for my wedding ring. That was the last thing I had to do to pay for Danny's funeral.

On September first I blew a kiss to sleeping Susan and Bonnie. We had to be out by the end of the day. I clapped the memories of the house into my heart, threw out the last of my Red Death cigarettes, and left. I'd successfully walked the tightrope between sex and celibacy, and now I was free of sexual need.

I checked at the post office to see if there was any mail. Only one letter…from Carol. I sat down on a park bench to read it. “Dear Danny, I would never ask you to support Ariel since he's not your real son, but it's definitely time you sent me some money for the sons that are really yours. If you don't I'll have to talk to a judge. You have to get a job so you can send me money to support the sons that are really yours. It doesn't matter whether or not you give your consent to changing Ariel's last name. You're not his real father, and you'd better get used to it. Yours Sincerely, Carol.”

The day was uniform gray with omnivorous mist, the sun like a tongue tip trapped behind cloudy teeth. A migraine flicker shimmered like a slow explosion on the trees to my left. Within minutes I was so blinded by the dancing jagged colors I couldn’t stand up. I had to wait it out. Then the pain came.

A long time later I dragged myself to the bus station, lugging the heavy cardboard box held together with two old belts, one of which used to be my father's from World War Two. Stuffed with my remaining journals and photographs, it was the not-now pile, all that was left of my life. I set it down to let some men pass in front of me. They were carrying a casket. They loaded the body into a hearse. That should be spelled “hers,” I thought, not “hearse.”

“Daddy! Daddy!” the boys screamed in the air all around me. I got on the bus and sat down like curdled milk. I murmured over and over again until I was lulled into an ashen quiet, “Hush now baby, don't you cry, Daddy be back by and by, go sleep now and suck your thumb, Daddy in dreamtime he will come. Hush now baby, don't you cry.” I steered my heavy box through the silent people at the monastery to my assigned cell. I lay down and drifted, then was woken all the way up by a desire to see the boys so sharp it skewered me like a piece of meat. I breathed heavily and rapidly for a long time, then fell almost back asleep, filled with intolerable longing for the feel and the smell of their little boy bodies in my arms. A huge gray vulture landed on my left thigh. He tore out and gobbled each of my organs, rending my flesh with his piercing beak. My heart was last. Torn veins and arteries dangled out of his beak, then followed the bleeding organ into his gullet. His great gray wings noiselessly flapped as he lifted off, turned in mid-air, then vanished through the wall of the room. I fell asleep, plundered.

At the 6 a.m. gong I shuffled to the great hall in a stupor to meditate. All the still, silent people looked dead. I went back to the past and stayed there all day. In 1979 I became a house¬husband. One day I dealt with four-year-old-boy-mad-at-the-baby chaos by having Wren and me each make a list of Very Important Jobs, then one by one doing them and checking them off with a big black crayon.

I had to go for a walk. Reading about Wren made his absence intolerable. Dusk was yanking down the night as I walked into the forest behind the monastery to the old stone wall no one was allowed to cross because the landowner on the other side had threatened to sue. I slowly made my way along the wall, thinking of the man-hours it took to build what was now a meaningless division through thick woods. I decided I would see all three of my boys at Christmas, no matter what Carol said, no matter what Carol did. The relief was so deep I could hardly stay awake. I followed the crumbling wall back to bed.

…Three little boys are walking along Frankenstein's path in Greece. Then all that's left are three little pairs of shoes. The foul head of the monster floats in the air, dripping poison pus. With a shotgun I blow it to bits. The fragments of the mouth, speaking English for the first time in years, say in a voice like the sound of trees being uprooted in a swamp, “I will return!”

I jerked awake and onto my feet, shivering with fright. I got dressed in a hurry then headed for the woods to think about the dream. The monster's head dripping poison reminded me of the way semen dripped out in globs whenever I peed. My painstaking work to eliminate sexual need had made semen into poison pus. I would have to accept that I had a need to ejaculate. If I didn’t, the monster would come back. His promised return was me ending up with no needs and no boys, just as I had been trying so hard to do. I had to become needy again, starting with the soles of my feet. No wonder they burned and itched all the time. I would not abandon my boys, and I would not abandon my needs. The dream happened in Greece because up until now the truth had been all Greek to me.

I walked deeper into the woods, thinking about sexual need. I didn’t know where to look for it. I walked back to the monastery, down the long cold hall to my room, shut the door behind me, and filled with dismay. What I really needed was a lengthy sexual relationship full of all the horrible complications they always were. Galling failure rose up inside me. I pressed my back rigidly against the door. I got heartburn—Knock! Knock! Knock! I exploded in fright, landing on top of the desk in an animal crouch. Knock! Knock! Knock! I got down and opened the door, panting heavily. “There's a phone call for you,” the lady from the office said. That was odd. No one knew I was here except Susan. I followed the woman down long, frigid hallways to the phone.

“Hi!” Susan said. “Listen, I've moved into another house near downtown Amherst. They need another roommate here, and I thought you might be interested… Hello? Are you there? Hello?”

My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth at the thought of living with Susan, the last person in the world I wanted to have sex with. “Sorry. Haven't talked in a long time. The rule of silence.”

“Well, are you interested?”

I noticed the timing of this phone call. I remembered Frankenstein. “Yes, I’m interested. Goodbye.” I stomped back to my room in a foul, stinking rage.

“Are you a smoker?” a stranger asked me on the porch the next day.

“A smoker?”

“I'm quitting. Would you like a pack of Marlboros?”

“…Uh, yeah. Thanks.” I slowly tore open the brand-new pack. I felt so loved I nearly cried and saw for the first time what terrible shape I was in. I'd given up sex, the boys, and cigarettes all at the same time. My body had been registering desperate need on every level for months, and I hadn't noticed. I tenderly lit a cigarette. As match touched flame to the tip, my entire body flared with a sadness so intolerably painful I would have left that minute to see the boys if I'd had the bus fare to Halifax. I could smell their bodies, hear their voices, feel the backs of their little necks.

…I stop to pee on the way to claim the car I parked at the Buddhist monastery a year ago. The attendant runs to arrest me, furious. I flee in panic and run smack into a waist-high chain at the exit. I flip right over it. As I turn upside-down I realize I don’t want to go home to Carol because she’s been fucking around with Amin for so long. I land on my bum crying and peeing at the same time. I woke up with tears splashing down my face. The dream was about me and my below-the-waist sexual feelings. I’d parked them when I’d left Halifax a year ago and not claimed them until now. All that sex with Mary Jane hadn’t even touched the basic pattern of denial—I saw a butcher knife cutting off my penis. Rattled, I sat down at my desk, and the truth settled over me like snowflakes of death: The real reason I was so betrayed by Ariel’s origins was that he was a special child of God, yet was conceived in evil adultery. Therefore, God approved of sexual feelings, even illegal and illegitimate ones. In other words, God was below the chain at my waist. Which was not where He belonged. I stood up quickly—and was suddenly so dizzy I collapsed on the floor.

The next morning in front of the statue of Buddha I thought of how good it would feel to have Caleb's little boy body soaking up love from my big daddy body—and the Caleb I was imagining holding dissolved into me. My eyes shot open in surprise and the entire front of my body screamed with pain, as if my skin had been ripped off. I remembered a poem I sent the boys a long time ago: “In the deep dark furnace in the middle of the night, Daddy will find you and hold you tight.” I'd found the murdered boy of need in my deep dark furnace belly, and was bringing him back to life. No wonder it hurt.

I went back to the past. The last day of 1979 was one long running battle with Wren. I was close to throttling him by the time I finally got him to bed. He lay quietly looking up into my face, then said, “Daddy, send me a picture of you into my heart…Why are there tears falling down your face, Daddy?” Even though reading that made tears fall down my face again, I wasn't demolished, for once. I was much more likely to get to see them when I wasn't driven insane by the lack of them. I'd seen this happen in every other area of my life: When I neither denied a need nor glorified it, I was most likely to get what I needed. Why didn't I trust it to happen with the boys?

Because Carol.

I was tired of sitting in my room. I went outside to the picnic table on the porch to write beneath the single bare light bulb. It was past midnight. A mouse raced noisily between my feet and a sudden wind blew my notes off the table. As I crawled under the table to collect them I remembered Brugh Joy, the healer I’d met at Findhorn, telling the story of a time he was viciously abused by a woman. He was saved from becoming a murderer or worse by a group of friends who knew what he was going through and surrounded him with love. I looked around me in the dark. Even the mouse was gone.

…“Why didn’t you do it this way more often?” Carol asks, moaning with pleasure as I penetrate her from behind, the position she abhorred.

“Because I always hated my penis.” Suddenly I’m in a cathedral with shafts of sun pouring in through stained-glass windows. It’s the last day of fall, and almost all the leaves have fallen.
I woke up soaring with joy to the brisk smell of autumn. Sexual self-love was the church I’d never known existed. I felt resurrected.

Lightning flashed through the trees and thunder cracked directly overhead so loudly it made me erect. With every great boom I was sure I'd ejaculate with the next. I woke up wet from throat to thigh. I hoped wet dreams would be enough to satisfy my new sexual need. Otherwise I'd have to have sex with Susan. A lot. What a horrible thought. All that idiotic mommy-screaming. If I'd known what we were doing was foreplay I would never have touched her.

Fighting a rising anxiety, I put my hand over my eyes and went back to sleep.

…Susan is waking up. Her hand is over her eyes. She slowly lowers her hand in terror. I woke up in terror! There were footsteps running down the hall! My door blew open and banged into the wall. I leaped out of bed and checked the hallway. Empty. Irritated at how much time this sexual acceptance thing was taking, I sat down at the desk and said, “I've got to abort this process.” I froze, aghast. What I'd meant to say was, “I've got to shorten this process.” Enraged, I broke the rule of silence and yelled at the walls, “Enough! I want to have sex with Susan right now—Ow!” My knees had slammed together on their own! “I mean it.” I said grimly. “I will never be celibate again. I will die ejaculating.” My knees didn't move. Then I saw myself calling Susan and telling her to save the room for me. Before I could argue myself into paralysis I ran down the long, cold halls of the monastery all the way to the office.

“Hi, Susan. I'll take the room.”

“Really? Oh, that's great!”

My disgust on hearing the delight in her voice was so intense it was like one of those burps that bring up a little bit of puke. I stomped back to my room like Swamp Thing. My dreams that night were full of the humiliation of having that little nerd for a lover. She'd wept for weeks when her mother had a hysterectomy—because her first home had been destroyed. She's so slow to change, I thought, disgusted, whereas I love to change—oops. Only as long as I didn't have to have sex. So of course sex was how I changed. If only it didn't have to be with Susan.

Rain flooded down from the sky as I roller-skated back to the monastery from eating a non-Buddhist hamburger. I had to be like the pouring clouds above me and come and come and come and get myself all wet in this sexy world. Water poured off me as though I’d stepped out of the swamp. I toweled my head dry in my cell, then paced in what little space there was, saying, “I want to be Susan's lover,” over and over again until something shifted within me. When it did, I sat down to work on the past—then noticed something else shifting: Susan was erecting in my pants. I flushed with humiliation…which slowly turned into humility. It was only horrible to be her lover to the extent I judged my own desire horrible.

…After sex, Susan tells me, “Oh, by the way, l have VD.” I woke up into such fear it was hard to remember that a dream symbol is not reality. Desire was the infectious disease of humiliation, insanity and death, and VD stood for Very Damned. That settled, I got a bowl of granola from the dining hall and snuck it back to my room. I lifted the spoon to my mouth and… Susan shyly undresses for me. She is Lilith, the she-demon. Her skin breaks out in oozing sores and with a burning grip she drags me down to Hell… I slowly put the spoon down. I was so threatened by sex I saw death and damnation in every word and image of desire. Badly disturbed, I looked out the window at the trees turning on fire and remembered six years ago at the Findhorn community in Scotland…

I’d just finished a book that said every warrior has a sword to cut through deception. I meditated at 3:30 the next morning as I usually did, but this time with the intent to discover my warrior’s sword. I immediately got an erection, as I always did when I meditated. After a few minutes I opened my eyes, disturbed. It was much harder than normal—a great blue spark flashed off the top with a crackle-snap. I carefully followed my breath until I was beyond the pain and could no longer see the after-image of the bright blue spark shooting through the air. Sometime later I popped out of my body… I am looking down from above at a freshly dug grave. I understand my erection is my warrior's sword and the grave is for me. I become indignant, and my anger throws me back into my body in the little trailer. I opened my eyes to see the erection throbbing away, as enormous as ever. The tip felt singed. I couldn't meditate for days after that.

My erection is my warrior’s sword? What am I then, a sexual warrior? I snorted in contempt. The trees outside creaked loudly in a sudden wind. I looked at them, frightened, and remembered the story Jung tells of Merlin, whose mother, a virgin nun, was impregnated by the Devil floating in through her convent window. Rural people in Wales, when the wind made strange noises in the trees, say it’s Merlin howling in the woods. Jung said the consciousness of mankind was not sufficiently developed to encompass the union of good and evil, so it had nowhere to put Merlin, except into the noises in the woods. I listened to the weird, low screech of a tree as it rubbed against its neighbor, and was deeply unsettled.

The next morning I ate breakfast as carefully as if it was the Last Supper, then opened the journal that began on the sixth of June 1980. I read the story of finding out about Ariel’s origins and continued reading up to exactly one year ago, September 10, 1980. I looked at the clock. It was one in the morning, and I was still waiting for the 9:30 gong announcing evening tea. I was weak from hunger, coughing continually, and I looked awful in the mirror, but I was done with my past.

…The Christian Fundamentalist has tried everything. Nothing has worked. He's exhausted. He can't go on. I woke up exhausted to tears. I was 32 years old and I'd tried every possible means of getting rid of desire, including having a lot of sex. Nothing had worked. I couldn’t go on. I felt condemned to fuck away the rest of my life. Fine, I decided again, I will die ejaculating—with a burst of light the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. I could hardly write it out I was so astounded.

The reason I felt so betrayed was because Ariel, the symbol for my Spirit, was the product of sex between Amin, the Devil of my sexual power, and Carol, the Virgin of my celibacy. Spirit is wholeness, and wholeness is the union of the opposites on the lowest level, sexual. Spirit is the product of the sexual union of the Virgin and the Devil.

…Halifax is a softly weeping heart. Deep in the forest, a woman brings me forgiveness on a plate, like food. I accept it, and eat. I make love to Carol from behind. We have a simultaneous orgasm. I woke up ecstatic! I was cured! Now I could go to Halifax and see my boys! I flew out of bed, ready to start walking to Nova Scotia. The shock of the cold floor on my feet reminded me I wasn’t done yet. I still hated Amin. But I didn’t wish Carol harm anymore, and that was the first step. Trash cans banged and clattered outside my window. I leaped into my jeans, grabbed a three-foot-high stack of old journals and photographs and raced outside, heaving it into the open maw of the garbage truck just as it pulled away. I watched it labor up the driveway under the weight of my past. I didn't believe it would make it until I saw it turn the corner and drive away.

I combed through the not-now pile to find the remaining photographs. I looked at the stunning one of Carol and me cheek-to-cheek an hour after Ariel's birth, radiating a love so intense and divine we both look like angels. Melancholy took my breath away. I brushed away the tears and looked at the second picture, of me and Amin when we lived next door to each other. We'd gotten together with the other young husbands in the row of six attached condominiums to build a common back yard fence. He and I spent all day Sunday digging holes for fence posts in the rocky soil. Out of the last hole we dug a rock so large it took both of us to lift it. The picture was of the two of us, bare-chested, sweaty, dirty, grinning with triumph, holding the huge boulder above our heads. It was the only picture in the world of Ariel's two real fathers.

I went outside for another cigarette, but inhaled so much sorrow with the smoke I threw it away and fled into the woods to the crumbling stone wall. I leaped over it to sit on forbidden ground. My thighs wept for the loss of Carol-and-Danny. I tenderly rubbed them down, but the sorrow jammed up in my genitals. I fell onto the soft pine needles, rubbed my face against Earth's scratchy cheek, and let my body worm up and down, releasing gut-wrenching sobs all the way from my perineum. One year after I left the love of my life, I had finally reached bottom.

Hours later, I went back to the monastery and cleaned up my cell like an avenging angel, then hauled out the much lighter box of the not-now pile to the front door and waited for the ride to the bus station. The Buddhist meditation teacher sat next to me in the back seat. “I love your presence,” she said. I glanced at my eyes in the rear view mirror and saw them shining out of my tear-scrubbed face.

On the bus to Amherst, the old lady in front of me leaned her seat all the way back and stretched her hands above the headrest, dangling her scrawny fingers inches above my lap. I shrank desperately into my seat. Sex had just reached out her old bony hands to get my penis. I didn’t know why sex scared me so badly. For as far back as I could remember I had wanted what Jesus wanted for me: one true love, without sex, for life. The central anxiety of my adolescence was that in the midst of holy procreation with my lawful wedded wife I'd get an erection and ruin everything. I found out from reading a book on sexual dysfunction that the lack of an erection was a problem, not purity. I was as shocked as I was when I found out my father was still doing it with my mother, without any intention of having children. “It wouldn’t be much of a marriage without sex,” he said. After that I started masturbating and shoplifting the occasional Playboy. After all, anything goes in a brothel.

I became increasingly anxious as the bus got closer to Amherst and Susan. I had nothing to guide me but my penis. This was my worst-case scenario of all time. I had to keep repeating what I’d learned because I kept forgetting it: Murdered monks have no children, so the only way back to being Daddy was to step into the lewdly shimmering blackness of sex and find not just light, but salvation.

If there was any salvation to be found in that awful dark.