The Virgin, the Devil, and the Chosen One
Chapter 11

September Seventeenth, 1981

"Why did you decide to live here?" Susan asked me. We were standing in the high-ceilinged kitchen of Bill Hart's house near downtown Amherst. We had it all to ourselves for a few days, along with Bill’s Springer spaniel, Casey.

"At first, I didn't want to move in here because of you,” I said, then pulled her into my arms. “After the retreat, I wanted to because of you."

"Oh no, oh no, oh no," she said, and buried her face in my neck.

"You're in deep trouble," I said, and thought of her deep vagina and the trouble I was in.

"Boy!" She blew out noisily.

"And girl. Equals sex!"

She laughed, embarrassed. "I'm getting up real early these days, so I can't stay up half the night anymore. And I'm real busy during the day. We'll have to do it in our dreams."

I knew for Susan, postponement meant never. "You mean we'll be too busy in our dreams as well."

She groaned in frustration, and I kissed her wide, sweet mouth while it was still open. Her lips had already melted like butter in the sun. I gently led her upstairs. Each step gave rise to one objection that I had to stop and deal with before going up another step. Even after I got her all the way upstairs and into the bedroom, she kept on listing reasons why we should be doing this later but definitely not now. I plugged up her mouth with a kiss and pulled her down onto the bed without breaking lip contact.

Half an hour later I took a quick break to undress. When I returned to her lips she pulled away. I rested my head on my arm and waited. A few minutes passed.

“What are your motives?” she asked the ceiling.

“Perfection of the spirit. Right now that means you." She looked troubled, so I added, “Let me say it mythologically: my angel is over your head right now.”

“Is he just coming here for sex?" she asked the ceiling. "Would he go to just any lady?"

I rolled on top so wouldn’t talk to the ceiling. "I came here for you, Susan," I said, looking her in the eyes.

She squirmed, then put her hand over her eyes and asked, “Is he just saying that?”

I rolled off. “Susan, one of the ways a man says, ‘I love you,’ is, ‘I want to come inside you.’ When a woman hears that, she thinks he means any pussy will do. When she says, ‘I love you,’ the man think she loves all of him except for his penis. Let’s try reversing the roles. I love you. There. That makes me feel empty, like I’ve left half the love out. Your turn.”

“I want you . . . in me?” She giggled.

“Strange, right? A man has his ego hanging down between his legs, so for a woman to love that part of him enough to want it inside her is to love all his weakness and vulnerability. He thinks she’ll hear the same thing when he tells her, ‘I want your pussy.’ Instead, she feels depersonalized.”

“There might be a lot of logistical reasons why we won't be able to have sex in this house. For example, what if Bill says—"

"What-ifs are a waste of energy, and a waste of energy is to prevent the juice from flowing right now and right here and right here—" She pulled away both sets of lips at once. I gave up and folded my arms behind my head. “It's quite a commitment we're making. Personally, I'm terrified of wanting to be—" I stopped, my face hot with embarrassment.

"What? Did you just say, 'Which means?’”

"No, I said 'wanting to be.’”

"Wanting to be what?"

"Inside you."

"Aaah!" she shouted in a stage whisper.

"Fire! Fire! There’s a fire in here and no one knows!" I yelled in a loud whisper as I ran naked around the room, leaping on the bed and off again. "People are just lying around in bed and there's a fire in here! Aaah!" I jumped back onto the bed and curled up in a tight ball as far away from her as I could get.

Several minutes passed. "I don't think I'm ready for sex yet," she finally said.

"Me, neither."

"Maybe later."

"How about in 20 years?"

"20 years would be just fine, Daniel," she said, soothingly, patting my naked back.

"Susan," I said, uncurling and rolling over to face her, "if sex isn't right it won't happen. But if you never make the decision to try for it all you get is regrets the rest of your life."

"Well, I'm still not ready and I won't be for a long time!" I kissed her, but she pulled away.

"I'm thirsty!" she complained.

I went to the bathroom sink and poured her a glass of water, then drank it myself and poured another for her. Sex is drying me up, I thought. Does sex dry up everybody? I hurried back with the water.

She sipped it slowly. "I'm hungry, too. Let's get some apples."

"Susan, not now. I just have a feeling." Slowly, cautiously, I undressed her. She was tense and cold until I turned up her heat with long, slow licks. Church bells rang five o’clock, neighborhood dogs barked back and forth, and the day slowly turned to dark.

As the bells rang six, she began to cry. I moved my body up between her legs until the head of my penis rested on her labia, careful to put hardly any weight on her. "Is that your clitoris?"

"No, farther down." She reached with her hand and moved me with the same delicate, fearful touch as Carol’s. "You're wet!" She said, shocked.

"No, that's you, Susan."

"That makes me nervous."

"I just happen to have a condom."

"They burst."

"The U.S. Army depends on them."

"Well, I'm not ready to have sex yet. Maybe tomorrow, or next week."

"Well, I'll just put the condom on anyway."

I did. She felt it. "It's wet!" she said, shocked.

"That's because it's lubricated."

"What about the sperm?"

"There's a little nipple at the end to catch it.”

I barely poked inside her lips— "I am really not ready to have sex!"

"That's okay, I’m not inside you. I'll just hang out here at your entrance."

She reached down to check. "I think you're longer than my birth canal!"

My too-big-to-fit erection faded to nothing. I gave up, and began to fall asleep half on top of her. "It's okay if you want to stay there," she said a few minutes later, opening her legs wider.

"My penis is saying no to sex by going soft. See? That's why it's all right to say yes to sex. There's no guarantee you'll make it."

"Were you a monk in a former life?"

“I don’t know if I was ever anything else,” I murmured, almost asleep.

Sometime later she began gently rocking her hips beneath me while probing my sacrum with her fingers. I moved in time with her movement, and slowly began to erect. She moaned quietly with each thrust. It hurt me to move since I wasn’t fully erect, but I didn't want my pain to get in the way of her orgasm. Her moans became louder and I moved more vigorously.

"Ow!" she yelled. I heard Carol's "Ow!" like a churchbell of condemnation echoing down the long cold years of the marriage. I went still as death.

"I was moaning louder because it was hurting," she said.

I exhaled. "Oh."

"Are you all the way in yet?"

"Just the head."

She reached down and checked. "My goodness."

After a long time in stillness we both began to move at the same time, carefully. As the church bells rang seven, a spray of sparks come pouring out of her vagina and sperm answered with a great rush that went on and on and on. I concentrated on not pushing so I wouldn’t hurt her. When the geyser finally stopped, I lay stiffly on top her, bewildered. The walls of the room were whirling drunkenly around me as if I'd just gotten off the merry-go-round I'd been on all my life and now the world was spinning instead. When the walls slowed down, I rolled off and lay next to her, dizzy.

After a few minutes I took off the condom.

“Wait! Not around me!”

“It’s all right, it doesn’t leak. See?” She nearsightedly inspected it. It was way too full. I rolled away from her and felt oppressed: I’d just embalmed myself in the world of sex. Susan tossed and turned for a while, then got up and left. I gratefully went to sleep alone.

. . . I am alone. I look all over for the Ideal Woman.

I woke up, thought of Susan, and was disappointed.

The next morning I started down the stairs to go the library to write, when poverty paranoia struck me in the face like a bucket of water. I was halfway down the stairs, and I couldn’t move my feet for fear. I had less than $100 left and Bill Hart would soon be back and asking me for the rent. And what about tuition? I thought. No, what about food?

Just as I was about to really freak out I remembered a dream with voiceover narration: . . . “Financial security is in the lower abdomen.” I took a ragged breath, then announced to the bushes, “When I have no resistance to sexual need I will always have enough money.” My feet were unshackled by the truth. I skipped down the stairs to the sidewalk, remembered ejaculating in Susan. Money panic exploded in my belly like a grenade and I didn’t believe a word of what I’d just said.

I ducked under a bush and cowered in helpless panic, until I noticed I was holding a pack of cigarettes in my hand. Squatting behind the bush on my heels like an Aborigine, rocking back and forth, I smoked three in a row, telling myself I would quit tomorrow. After the third one, I realized that the me who was so disgusted by cigarettes and wanted to quit was the same me who was disgusted by sex and wanted to never do that again, either. I had to keep smoking. Sex would kill me long before lung cancer in any case.

I crawled out of the bushes and walked wearily to the library. A feeling of being betrayed followed me all the way there, like a fat lady with purple bags of suffering under her eyes. Her bad breath was hot and heavy on the back of my neck. I sat down at a table, picked up a pen to write, and she landed on my self-esteem with a great squish.

As her bags of bad feeling swelled puffy under my own eyes, I recognized her. I wrote, The long weeks of foreplay for hours every sultry summer night had made Susan into My Holy Virgin Carol. Last night I deflowered my Ideal Woman. No wonder I feel betrayed.

I was relieved to find Susan gone when I got home that night, and happy to go to bed alone. Hours later, I startled awake in the dark to the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs with a slow, heavy tread. The fabric of the night warped. Suddenly I was seven years old and lying in bed paralyzed with fear, listening to the steps of the enormous fox dressed in gentleman’s clothing climbing up the stairs with a tramp, tramp, tramp, as he did every night, to eat me up the same way he almost ate up Jemima Puddle-Duck. I was just about to scream, "Daddy!" as I did every night, knowing only a tiny whisper would escape my frozen lips.

The heavy feet reached the top of the stairs, paused, then headed toward my room with a tramp, tramp, tramp that made the floorboards rattle. I held my breath and shook¬.

"Hi!" Susan said brightly, opening the door. Light flooded the room. "Were you sleeping?"

“. . . No!" I turned my back, highly irritated.

"You're so lovable," she said, lying down next to me and stroking my hair. I bristled. "That was real nice yesterday when you got all vulnerable." She slipped out of her clothes, then reached around and held my penis. "You couldn't come in if you wanted to! You're not hard enough!"

"You aren't either!" I shot back, miffed.

She let go. We lay next to each other in silence. A migraine dressed in a coat of flickering colors began to tramp up the stairs of my spine, its claws on my shoulderblade and its teeth in my neck.

I quickly rolled on top of Susan, and she opened her legs as if she'd been waiting for me. At the touch of her labia I erected like a church steeple, so hard it was painful. I jammed on a condom, then got in position again, delicately so as not to hurt her. We moved small and gentle together for a long, easy time. Step by step, I climbed flights of stairs up to the belfry where I teetered.

“Wait!” she said urgently. I turned into ice. "I want to stop now and go eat." I flipped into a fury that could have burnt the planet to a cinder. Then I was angry at myself for being idiotic enough to want sex in the first place. A migraine flapped evil, muddy colors up and down in my left visual field. I whimpered.

"Bad timing?" she asked.

". . . Yeah," I croaked.

She moved like sudden flames then went rigid. Her desire burned the head of my penis like a match on the tip of a cigarette, but she wouldn't move her hips and I couldn't come unless she helped. She threw her head back and sobbed uncontrollably. Her pelvis stayed stiff as stone.

My eyeballs nearly burst out of my head with rage. I shut them tight and frantically did all the work by myself until I came in a great, dangerous emptying out, right as she screamed in my ear. She burst out laughing.

I rolled off and touched my head in amazement. The migraine was gone.

"I'm going to eat now," she said happily, and left me alone in the dark.

I dressed in a panic, then ran down the stairs and out the front door. I squatted under the same bush I’d been under that morning and smoked three in a row, congratulating myself again on having the wisdom to keep smoking. I waited even longer, until I felt kind of okay, then joined her in the kitchen.

I watched her make salad for a while, then said, "You know what, Susan? We had a simultaneous orgasm, even if you did come from the breastbone up. That's something few couples manage over a lifetime of marriage."

"Maybe we should get married," she said, beaming.

Fate like an iron gate clicked softly shut behind us.

I went back outside for another cigarette and bravely abandoned my hope of leaving her in ten days. I’ll probably make it out of here by the end of October, I thought, although I don’t know how on earth I’ll last that long if we keep on having sex.

It began softly to rain. I wondered if it was raining in Nova Scotia. The boys were so little when I left. I needed them so badly I gave up needing. All I gave up was me. How painful it was to need.

Making love the next night felt like saying the solemn vows of marriage before God. Afterward, we were so badly frightened of what we'd done we couldn’t sleep together afterward. Even after she left, I couldn’t sleep; not until the wee hours, when she quietly slipped under the covers, and I felt her woman warmth next to me.

The next morning I woke up at the same time as the soft, smooth Susan next to me. The smell of sperm was all around us. I was mortified and expected severe criticism. After several minutes in rising tension, I asked her, "Am I too smelly, like Casey the dog?"

"No, I like it," she said, smiling nearsightedly at me.

The next day Bill came back to his big old house in Amherst and I met him for the first time. He was a tidy, gregarious, red-headed lawyer, and as tactful as a Canadian: he didn't mention a thing about money, as a way of letting me know it was uppermost in his mind. Pale with worry, I went upstairs and called my parents to ask if I could borrow another $1000.

"I'm delighted you're asking," my mother replied. "I feel like you're letting us in for the first time since you told us about Ariel nine months ago. Now we can help you."

I thanked them profusely, told Bill Hart the rent was on the way, then went outside for a smoke. I was just about to light up when a pack of laughing boys ran down the sidewalk and I heard my children calling out for Daddy in pain and loneliness.

I turned away from the endless grief and went back inside to Susan, who kissed me. "You kiss completely differently than a week ago," she said. 'It's like you're letting me in more."

"Yeah. I've decided to give up resisting being your lover." "Sometimes I feel really affectionate. I hope that's all right."

“. . . Sometimes," I said, and hurried upstairs to bed before she got any ideas.

In the first class of my second year at the School for Body-Mind Centering we studied the names, locations and functions of the parts of the heart, then palpated a partner to feel how the heart rose, fell and changed shape with each breath. Like a penis, I thought, and broke into sweat. The effort of finding my partner's moving heart without running into her large, loose breasts made me break into sweat all over again. I longed for the day when I wouldn't have to deal with sex at all anymore. As soon as I got home and picked up a pen, the truth came out. My longing reveals me for the monk I still am. All I've really done by having sex with Susan is joined an order of sexually active monks.

The migraine came an hour later. There was nothing to do but go find Susan. She was sitting on her bed when I walked in her room.

"Let's just lie together," she said nervously.

"That's okay. I have a migraine, so I'm already as good as dead." I fell on top of her bed like a corpse. Using my last reserves of strength, I shifted position so my screaming head was in her lap. She stroked my hair for a while, then started massaging my gums. The day slowly turned to dark around us.

"Your mouth feels mangled," she said, a long time later.

"It is. By denying need, I've restricted blood supply and nerve connection to the organ of need." Together, we slipped into an internal darkness until it was not clear who was touching who. Sometime in the middle of the night I went to my own bed. The migraine was gone.

. . . l hear a loud, terrible growling as the gruesome monster tears all over the house looking for me. I run in panic to my bedroom and it leaps in front of me. Its huge, drooling, many-toothed mouth opens wide and roars, "I AM THE FEMALE COMFORTER!"

I shrieked awake in the middle of the night, too terrified to get out of bed. My bladder screamed at me. I sprinted to the bathroom and locked the door. If I hadn't been shivering with cold I would have stayed there. I raced back to my room, hurried into my clothes, then went downstairs and forced myself to meditate.

A few minutes later my head slumped over and I could see through my eyelids. I watched in awe as a vagina opened up under the tip of my breastbone. The skin of my belly stretched wide as a head slowly emerged, face down. It rotated to look up at me, shook "No" three times, then slowly went back inside my body. It had my face.

I leaped to my feet, uniquely horrified, and ran up the stairs to bed where I lay stiff and wide awake under all the covers until dawn woke up safety.

A few nights later I watched Susan shuffle like a bag lady around the kitchen. Debbie, my friend who had sheltered me in June when I left Mary Jane, was coming over for supper in an hour. I looked at the random pieces of clothing piled haphazardly on Susan’s small body and listened to her whine about how she didn't have the right kind of groceries. I really didn’t want Debbie to see the little nerd I lived with. I shut my hard critical eyes just in time to see the flicker. Speaking slowly, I confessed my judgmental thoughts to Susan.

She kissed me sweetly on the forehead. "You're in no shape for company."

"Everything will be all right," I said, eyes shut. "When I’m worse than dead with pain, of course everything else is okay. How do people who don't get migraines ever learn how to have faith?"

I squinted open my pain-filled eyes and saw her take off her thick grade-school glasses. "I don't know," she said sadly, picking at the Scotch tape holding them together.

I shut my eyes again and said, with the clarity of the “female comforter” monster from my dream, "I want to come inside you." Through my closed eyes I could feel her smile. She took my hand and led me like a blind man up the stairs. Sheets of flashing silver electrocuted my skin when I came. I couldn’t help her try for an orgasm after that. It was all I could do to keep my teeth stiff.

We went downstairs. The migraine was gone. Debbie arrived a few minutes later. She didn't seem to have any trouble with the way Susan looked. Neither did I.

Susan glowed like a new bride.

"I want to go back to Halifax to visit," Debbie said after supper, "but I can't afford to fly."

"Why don't we drive?" I asked.


“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" I asked, grinning.

She laughed and agreed.

"Oh, by the way," she said, "I brought your hammock."

"My hammock?"

"Yeah," she said, smiling. "After you left last summer I couldn't use it. You practically lived in it."

I strung it between clothesline hooks in my room after promising Bill there would be no visible marks when I left. I swung myself to sleep, happy to have my floating bed back.

. . . I see how valuable it is to have the kind of genetic mix you get from two fathers for one son. I admonish myself for being so critical in the past of Ariel's origins. Even after I woke up, that made perfect sense. So what if Ariel had two fathers? He was a lucky boy.

I went rollerskating that morning, and for the first time understood how to put on the brakes by turning my toes inward like a snowplow. The technique was so obvious and yet I hadn’t discovered it for long. That reminded me of the dream, where it was obvious that having two fathers made Ariel a lucky boy.

I wondered why I couldn’t have figured that out before I surrendered to the need for sex. I know the answer to that, I thought. Because I’m the kind of man who has to come in order to understand.