The Virgin, the Devil, and the Chosen One
Chapter 13

November Eighth, 1981

"Lots of juice between us," I told Susan. We’d created and shared a spartan feast, the only kind our budgets would allow, then sat around and talked for hours. "Want to go upstairs?" I touched her tummy.

She jerked away from my hand as if bitten, and my sacrum locked with a jolt of pain. I dived to the floor and frantically rolled and stretched. "You're protecting your pain!" I choked out, hardly able to breathe for the screeching in my lower back.

"And why shouldn't I? You're just going to leave me!" I contorted on the floor in agony. "I don't want to make love," she said, softening, "but I do want you to stay and talk to me."

"I can't stay. If we're just. Going to talk," I said, panting from pain, "but I can stay if we're going to have sex." As if from a magic word, my sacrum popped back into place and the pain vanished.

"I just want to talk," she said.

I leaped to my feet, grabbed my coat and raced out the door. I jogged rapidly down the street in the dark. If I stopped running before my attitude changed, my sacrum would lock up again.

When exhaustion finally slowed me down to a walk, I wasn't near tears anymore, but despair had picked my pockets. I had 39 cents and nowhere to go. I forced myself to focus on my feet, seeing them the way they never were, strong and easy and free of pain. They walked right over to Nancy's.

Obediently, I knocked. She opened the door wearing her white flannel nightie and a smile so sweet I collapsed into her arms. "Want to hear some songs I wrote?" she asked, carefully un-hugging me. I was being a little too soft for her hard blue eyes. I stiffened up and followed her inside.

She played the guitar and sang songs of female love and power so joyous I had to dance to her music. I leaped all over her living room, amazed to feel no pain in my feet or ankles. An hour later, when she put down the guitar, I felt so good I straddled her lap and kissed her. Her mouth lunged for my tongue and sucked it while her strong hands undid my zipper and grabbed my erection. I was so startled I fell off her lap and onto the floor on my back. She lifted her nightie, slid off the chair, sat on top and jammed me inside her.

"Uh . . . birth control?" I mumbled, dazed.

"It's all right," she said, grinning like a lioness over fresh prey, "I'm pre¬menstrual." I thrust up inside her just as the screen door creaked open.

We flew apart. I yanked up my pants, turned on the TV, and was asking Nancy, as she sat strumming her guitar, "Is there anything good on tonight?" while her boarder stumbled through to his room and shut the door.

We grinned at each other: what a team. We flung off our clothes, and one short minute later her powerful jogger's legs and massage therapist’s arms tugged me like a rag doll on top of her. I suddenly matched her force and roared up inside her like the lions I could almost smell in the savannah of her coarse yellow hair. We both yelled at the same time. A minute later she wanted me to go. Now!

I trudged home all mixed up. Susan's light was on. Lacerated by guilt, I walked upstairs to my execution. But it was only Susan, a small, slight woman with hazel eyes like mine and a kind smile, sitting on her bed.

I wearily sat next to her. "I owe you an apology," I said. "Sometimes my reactions are way out of line, and the best thing I can do is take them out with me until I work them out."

"I understand," she said, gazing at my lips. My eyes widened in alarm as she moved her head closer, then devoured my lips with her honey-and-butter mouth. I fell over onto my back, stunned by the current between us. It was strong enough to electrocute a gorilla. I stared stupefied at the ceiling. Nancy's vaginal fluid felt damp and sticky on my penis.

"Do I need a diaphragm?" Susan asked me as she started to undress. Her smooth, perfect body emerged from her clothing like a dryad stepping out of an oak tree in pre-Christian Britain. I hoped for impotence, but my penis rose out of my jeans triumphant. This thing is as insatiable as God, I thought, horrified.

"I don't need a diaphragm," she said in the voice of a Goddess, ringing with truth and authority. I'd never heard her speak in that tone of voice before. She stepped out of her panties.

"I'm reluctant to make love to you because I feel you're going to die to me. . . . No, that I will die if I make love to you."

Me, too, I thought. Coming twice in one day will kill me for sure.

"I'm ready to die," she said matter-of-factly, standing before me as naked as her words. I didn’t dare move. She calmly started undressing me. I quailed at her touch, until I decided, I’m ready to die, too. I relaxed. Like perfume, a sacred peace saturated the room. All was well, and all would be well.

I hugged her sweet little body into my heart. Nancy had taken the hard edge off my maleness, perfectly preparing me to be the slow, gentle man Susan needed. She was as soft and receptive as forgiveness, and so was my coming, mixing the vaginal fluids of two opposite women into a holy potion of love and power. Church bells chimed four as we slept.

The next morning dawn attacked me in the eyes and drove me out of bed. Before I was done with my porridge, panic about money had eaten me gaunt. I took the bus to Legal Aid in Northampton, only to find they didn't do bankruptcies, no matter how poor I was. When I got back home, I found threatening letters from the credit card companies and a letter from Carol's lawyer saying a default had been entered in my name.

My life was too heavy. I collapsed into a chair and opened Time magazine at random to a drawing of three sheep wearing suits and ties. The ad copy read, Is your ego so big you like being treated like sheep? I put down the magazine. Enough was enough.

I avoided Susan all day. I could never tell her about the mixing of the juices. That night I dreamed . . . I look at the sky that has no clouds and feel the truth of the movement that has no doubt. I reach in my pants and cut off the hollow end of my penis. It lies huge in my hand. I start to cry, then run away. Everyone must pity me.

I felt so awful when I woke up, I knew I had to tell Susan everything. If I cut off my penis so Susan wouldn't hate me, I'd cut off my head for Carol so she wouldn’t take Ariel away.

"Susan," I said out loud, as I roller-skated up the hill to class, "I made love to you with another woman's vaginal juices on my penis." Disgust slapped me like a dead fish in the face. I stumbled, but caught myself, got rolling again, and said it again. I wavered on my wheels and nearly veered into the path of a car, but I didn't fall. I said it over and over again all the way up the hill, until the puking horror of my crime did not interfere with my rolling motion. When I reached the top I knew what I'd done by not telling Susan: turned into a sheep so she wouldn't reject me.

It was late at night when she finally agreed to come outside for a walk. I was so scared of telling her my revolting truth I dropped my cigarette, then lost my voice. I had to whisper it to her. She cried. I felt despicable. When she stopped crying she banged her aikido stick on the sidewalk, then whipped the bushes with it. I jumped back. She'd come within half an inch of poking out my eye.

"I'm sorry," she said sincerely, "that was an accident. Now then, where were we? Oh, yes, respect? I'm asking you? for respect?"

"Susan, you don't ask for respect!” I shouted. “You demand it! Look! This is respect!" I grabbed her stick and banged it once on the sidewalk. It broke into dozens of little pieces. We both looked at the shattered bits.

"Oh, shit! I must be the one who's angry. . . . Susan! I am furious you made me act like a sheep by not telling you the secret!"

"That doesn't make any sense," she said, puzzled. "I mean, I didn't make you not tell me!"

"So? Once I make you my victimizer, even in fantasy, I have to get angry at you in reality before I can stop being your victim. Anger has its own logic. So anyway, why aren't you mad at me? I thought you'd try to kill me."

"How could I be angry when you're being so sweet and open with me? Will you sleep with me tonight?"

"Susaaaan!" I howled to the stars in anguish.


"How can you do this to me?"

"Do what?"

"Love me after what I did. You know, the other woman's juices."

"Well, I do think that's disgusting. Maybe I'll be mad later. But now I feel you're closer to me than you've ever been." She smiled endearingly. "By the way, I decided you're wrong. Our relationship isn't over."

I was so terribly vexed to hear her say that I wouldn't speak to her for the rest of the way home. But by the time we walked up the stairs my irritation was gone, drowned in a muddle-puddle of confusion in my belly. Although I still wasn't sure if I liked her enough to kiss her goodnight before we went to our separate rooms to sleep. Tentatively, I moved my head close to hers.

"Ow!" we both yelled at the same time, leaping apart and holding our singed lips. A huge yellow spark had snapped between our mouths.

I ran to her room, ripped off my clothes, and dove into her bed before lightning struck the house. The new and dangerous charge between us stayed until sex made us too much the same to have a “between us.”

Afterward there was so much peace and wealth in me I did not know what to do or how to do it. It was like swimming in a salty lake of smiling ladies. I didn't even have to tread water.

The next day crumbled in my hands. Everything I touched, broke, and everything I tried to do became impossible the minute I attempted it. Sex disturbed my deepest deeps.

That night I dreamed. . . . "We have to change Ariel's name from Baker- Toombs, " Amin, a young Hindu, says. "It'll be more convenient." He goes on and on about it, sliding from English into Hindi as he speaks. l slowly get angry, then punch his chest and twist his shirt in my fist. "You need my permission! And I don't give it!"

I rose from my hammock choked with hatred. This Amin was not the real Amin who could invade my dreams, he was a young Hindu man, a symbol for my celibate. He wanted to remove my spirit, Ariel, from the name Baker-Toombs.

"Hey! Good idea!" I yelled aloud, and ran happily downstairs to make breakfast. The dream meant I had to legally change my last name before I went to Halifax.

. . . I walk into a room. Phyllis, Cary’s wife, is naked and waiting for me. l quickly walk through to the next room. Another naked woman approaches me with an alluring smile. l back up to the wall in terror. She imitates the look on my face and lets loose with a horrible scream. I want to run to Susan to hide, but the only way out of the room with the naked screamer is back to naked Phyllis.

I woke up as the screaming in the dream slowly faded into the silence of early morning. I was so afraid of my desire, I wanted to run to Susan to hide. I got out of bed, furious at her. This is why our relationship has to end, I thought. She wants to turn her life into a suitcase and have me carry her around for the rest of mine. Which turns my passion into her porter.

All I could do was avoid her. Her assumption we would never split up permeated the house like pinkish fog. She smiled benignly whenever she saw me and I felt smaller than her assumption. Living with her was like breathing cotton candy. Whenever we passed in the hallway I looked straight ahead and held my breath. She only smiled, patient as a spider.

Many days later, I was on my way upstairs to bed when I passed her heading down. Instead of pulling back when she approached, as I’d been doing for over a week, I held my ground to let her pass. She stopped, too close to me, and smiled. Suddenly sparkles of happiness burst all around us. Against my better judgment, I was compelled to hug her. "I just have to do my laundry first," she said, beaming. "Would it be okay if I came to your room later?"

". . . Okay," I said, reluctantly.

"What vitamins are good for relaxation?"

"Cunnilingus," I said. She blushed.

I went to bed, knowing Susan’s "later" could mean any time up until dawn. I was unable to sleep for the desire flooding through my legs. Finally, hours later, I realized a policy of denying Susan was a way of denying desire, since desire had its own policy that I had no control over. My only business was obedience. I will follow my sexual flood wherever it tosses me, I decided, even if it keeps me with Susan forever. I surrendered like a drowning man giving in to the embrace of the sea, and then I could sleep. In the wee hours, she came to me like night comes to the forest, and all my trees merged with her female dark in one star-sprinkled blackness.

"Hi, Cary," I said on the phone the next day. "I just called to see how you were doing."

"Hi. Fine. Oh, Phyllis is coming to Boston to visit her parents next month. Maybe you could meet her there."

I changed the subject, fighting the urge to swear I would stay away from Phyllis forever.

I had to trust my sexual feelings even if they got me murdered by Cary. My heart pounded in alarm, and kept me awake late into the night with a panicky rhythm.

The next morning, I woke up—blood spatters across my vision as Cary cuts off my penis—I gasped, gagged, leaped out of bed, yanked on my clothes, then ran out of the house to the cheap restaurant down the street. I walked in the door—Cary is sitting at the counter, murderously angry—I blinked. It wasn’t him. I sat down with my back to the wall so I could keep an eye on the door. I ordered eggs and bacon and wrote down the gory images as fast as they came, scribbling away like a demented Russian novelist in the smoky early-morning coffee shop.

When the visions slowed down, I tried to figure things out. The images of Cary made me feel as murdered as I had been by Carol’s betrayal. I watched my cigarette smoke merge with the layer of greasy smoke right above head level. It’s the same betrayal! I realized with a start, that’s why it feels the same. Only this time I would play the part of the devil-Amin—Oh God! What if Phyllis gets pregnant?! I left money on the table and fled.

On the way home I thought of avoiding Cary and Phyllis for the rest of my life, and immediately saw crows picking the flesh off my frozen bones on the highway to Halifax at Christmas. By the time I got home, cold sweat was slithering down from my armpits, despite the chilly weather.

. . . It’s time to sort the big box of toys. Caleb, Wren and Ariel help me arrange them into piles, but I avoid throwing any out. Clutter and crankiness increase until I’m nearly crazy with exhaustion. I leap to my feet and yell, “All the toys have to go!” The boys are scared of me.

Maybe Daddy and boys were only Carol’s playthings. A black-tailed anger that was nobody’s toy stirred deep inside my pelvis.

“I’d start on his tail,” Carole said that afternoon in develop-mental movement class. Sara, the redheaded teacher, supervised while Carole, my partner, guided me on how to initiate movement from the tail. Within a few minutes, I was too stupid to understand the simplest instruction. Instead of anchoring my spine with my tail, I used my lateral muscles to stand upright. This made my shoulders rear back and my pelvis tip forward, which spilled my guts out.

The harder I tried to change, the stupider I got. On the left side of my body I felt like a woman in emotional collapse; on the right, a man with no feelings. In the middle, in front of my spine, was a blankness like a ribbon of fog. The two-hour session was almost over when they ran out of ideas and sat against the wall to figure out what to do with me and my unconnected tail.

I sat on my knees, feeling like a failure. Suddenly, I fell through a trap door on my left side into a slow, quiet dimness. I saw a diamond of light extending from the tip of my tail to each sit bone and to my pubic bone, pulsing with vital energy in the black cellar at the base of my being. I slowly rotated my head to look at the two women leaning against the wall, their long legs stretching out toward me. As in a dream, there was the feeling that some things had already happened.

“How. do. you. like. being. worked. on. by. two. women. at. your. tail?” Sara’s words drifted toward me, each a separate chunk, the spaces in between the chunks filled with hidden meaning.

"He. loves. it," Carole said.

They burst into uproarious laughter which floated down over my head and shoulders like a deluge of shiny bubbles. Then sounds sharpened, time sped up, and the lights came on bright.

"This is enough!" I said, alarmed. "With the tail, just contacting it is enough. Now I need to think of other things."

I stood up like an animal in one smooth burst of tail-connected power. All three of us were flabbergasted.

The next time I was in class with my 12 women fellow students, I wasn’t afraid they all wanted to kill me with sex, as I had been since the first day of school. I could be just friends with all or any of them. The diamond of the tail pulsing power at the base of my being drained sexual neurosis like pulling a plug on a bathtub of dirty water. Western civilization is based on not knowing about this power, I thought, shifting uncomfortably on my pre-Christian tail in the midst of refined, upper-middle-class white women.

. . . "I am no longer Danny Baker- Toombs, " I write, then realize the man can't write me the check unless I have a name. "I still am, " I hurry to add, "for a little while longer. I'm not Daniel John yet.” As he writes the check out to my old name the sky changes color to the nearly black star-speckled blue of a different kind of day.

So that was my new name! My middle name was John. Now my middle would be my end. Of course I couldn't go back to my father's name, Toombs; after 12 years of being connected to Baker, it was all used up.

I happily rolled out of the hammock. Christmas in Halifax zooms down out of the sky like a kamikaze airplane, glittering black and loaded with lost boys. The vision smacked me back into the hammock. I stood right up again, feeling punched in the mouth. If my name was still Baker-Toombs when I went to Halifax I would die from a grief-induced heart attack, a murder-suicide, or by starving to death. I might die in any case, I thought, but I refuse to die as Danny Baker-Toombs.

I couldn’t deal with thoughts or images of Halifax. Or with Susan, for that matter. I gave thanks to God she was gone for a week or so to run a workshop—in Halifax, of all places, which had to be the least likely place on the continent to hold a Body-Mind Centering workshop.

That night I dreamed . . . "What do you have for the boys, Danny?" Carol asks as we all gather around the Christmas tree. The boys look at me hopefully. "Nothing," l say, hollowed out to the edge of insanity by grief. Suddenly I'm back in Amherst, reading books onto tapes for the boys.

Susan barges into my room yelling, "Please don't! l can't process feelings when l have to listen to your voice!”

"No!" I scream. "You lie there faking grief so anger is denied, sex is choked off—"

Like little hand grenades, my eyeballs exploded me awake into fury at Susan. I palmed my eyes, breathed carefully and realized the truth: I am faking grief for the boys so I won't get angry at Carol or feel sexual in her presence. That’s why I let her call me Danny in the dream. Five weeks to Halifax. I don't know if I can change in time to save my life, let alone rescue three little boys.

I got up and took the bus to the courthouse to apply for a change-of-name. I wouldn’t even begin to believe I was different than Carol’s Danny until I had the legal certificate in my hands. I was so exhausted and nervous after I handed my paperwork to the clerk I had to come straight home for a nap.

I broke into a sweat as I boarded the bus. I was fried by fever and racked with chills by the time it let me off. I burrowed into the hammock like a shuddering, blistered worm. A ringing filled my ears with pain, then something snapped. . . . I am looking at lines of fire like bare nerves running all over my skin. My sleeping body beneath me is covered in the same lines, like a spiderweb of fire. The pain is excruciating in both bodies at once. Slowly the pain subsides. The lines of fire are healing me.

I felt drained when I woke up. I went to the closet to get clean clothes. I didn't know why I still had my wedding pants from 11 years ago. I started separating out Baker-Toombs clothes. When I was done, my closet looked as bare and skinny as I felt. I took the clothes that were good enough to the used clothing store and threw out the rest.

I walked over to Nancy's. She'd hired me to give her a massage for $20. She opened the door before I could knock and grabbed me in a lion hug. I laughed aloud. She was saving my life again. We drove to her massage studio in Northampton, happily sharing stories of what an awful week it had been.

"The pectineus is one of the small female muscles," I told her as I tried to get her to move it independently. She had a male pattern imprinted on her musculature: all her movement came from her big jogger’s muscles. She couldn't find her pectineus. I had to do the movement for her by guiding her leg manually, then had her work on repeating the movement by herself.

"Woo! Sex-y!" she said when she finally got it.

"That's how you know you reached the pectineus."

"Want to do something about it?"

The male pattern was deeper than her muscles. She reminded me of the way I was with Susan, aggressive and immediate.

"Uh. . . I have to pee," I said, paralyzed by indecision just like Susan. I stood over the toilet for a long time, but could not release a drop until I agreed to surrender to desire. I came back and put oil on my hands. "Time for some female muscle massage."

"Ah, just what I needed.” I tenderly turned her on, careful to stay out of her reach at the foot of the table so she couldn’t grab my penis and stuff it in her as she usually did. After a few minutes she sat up, scooted down to the end of the table, unzipped me, and grabbed it. I laughed, and flew out of my clothes.

Minutes later we were locked tight, holding our breaths, our pubic bones jammed so hard together it hurt. Then a spark shot out of her womb into my prostate, and sperm shot back with a ferocity I had never known. She took a quick breath then held it, squeezed my relaxing body like a dishrag or a sponge, then shrieked so loudly I thought the police would come.

I got off the table and sat in the chair, freaked out.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah, sure,” I lied, on the edge of terror, but suddenly the sunshine caught my eye and the wonderment of things as they really are washed away all my fear. After a while I got up and finished the massage. Her muscles were soft as butter, and her skin glowed from deep within.

She had difficulty getting off the table without falling down. I had to hold her arm and help her across the street to a Taco Villa restaurant. The cars frightened her. I sat her down at a booth and got her coffee. She was slack-jawed and vacant-eyed. “God, what happened?” she asked, finally making it all the way to the end of a sentence.

“Look at the sun blessing everything it touches. Wouldn’t it be great if we felt this way all the time?”

A look of pure horror crossed her face. “I have to give a massage now. I don’t know if I can do it.”

“Go ahead. It’ll ground you. I need to write.”

“You can write? At a time like this?” She looked uncomprehendingly at me. I got up from the table, irritated. It hadn’t been all that bad. She drove me home in silence.

. . . A woman gives me a one-candle birthday cake she made just for me. I hold the candle, long, fat and hard. I woke up holding my erection, just in time to see a bird fly in the open window and land on my desk with a clatter-scratch of its feet, then fly out again. I remembered when I was ten years old and a bird flew in the house. My father tried to chase it out, flapping his arms and shouting at it. His face was ashen by the time he finally got it out the door. He said some people believed a bird flying inside a house was an omen of death for one of the inhabitants, and despite his best intentions he’d ended up chasing it through every single room in the house. The birthday candle melted in my hand. One month to Halifax.

The next day, Nancy phoned to ask for another massage. Her left leg had spasmed after I worked on her, and she thought it was my fault. I was worried about her getting grabby, but another $20 would double my worldly wealth, and besides, sex was unlikely to happen again only two days later.

“That was something else the last time,” I said as we walked into her massage studio in Northampton.

“That’s for sure,” Nancy said. “That’s never happened to me before. I mean, it was incredible, it just kept building and building and building until I thought I was going to go crazy. I had to make myself come to make it stop, and for a while I didn’t know if I’d be able to.”

My hands knew just where to go and what to do. Great waves of tension flooded off her neck like dirty dishwater. I was so overwhelmed I had to take a break for an apple. I did her legs last. Her inner thighs were full of little bumps of fear and anxiety. By the time I finished smoothing them out with long, slow strokes I could scarcely speak for the desire that filled the room. Even standing up was difficult.

"You mean the ones with all the power and initiation? Yeah!"

She almost got it right. The small, weak muscles carried the initiation for movement. The power was in the big muscles she loved to use instead of feeling her feelings. I danced around the table to avoid her grabbing hand while I worked deep inside her groin, but then she grabbed my erection with her toes! I flashed an anger so savage I almost ripped her foot off before I remembered my penis knew best. I obediently undressed. It happily waved at her. I felt smaller than it.

"Did you bring a rubber?"

"Yep.” She roughly manhandled me into position on top of her. Then suddenly she jammed me inside her and started moving. Within a few minutes she came with a deafening shriek and a vaginal contraction so powerful it squirted me right out of her along with a jet of fluid.

“No,” I said.

“What was all that liquid?”

"That was your Bartholin gland." I wasn't too sure of that, but she needed an answer that said normal more than she needed anatomically correct.

She laid her head back down. "God! I've never done that before! I feel like I ejaculated."

"Some women do that all the time," I said, reassuringly, as if I knew. I entered her again and began to move, then lay perfectly still on top of her because she was moving under me with all her big muscles full of joy and exuberance, lifting me hugely up and down on woman waves while she held me in a hug as tight as a womb. I came with a tremendous shout of agony as red-hot lava exploded out of me all the way up from the rift at the bottom of the sea.

I got out of her arms and off the table, then hurried to the bathroom and flushed the condom. My urethra felt seared like the inside of a gun, and there were lines of pleasure-pain extending deep within my belly, like fault lines in the earth. I heard footsteps in the hallway.

"Someone's coming!" Terror cracked my voice. I put on my clothes in such a rush I tore a button off my shirt.

". . . Are you okay?"

“Uh. . . I think so.” I squatted on the floor. "Would it be all right if I sat under the massage table for a while?"

"Hey, that's the way I felt last time!"

“I think you’d better take me to Taco Villa for coffee and cigarettes.”

“Need some grounding, huh?” She grinned and got dressed.

I stood up and grabbed onto the table. My legs were so alive they were about to walk away from the rest of me. “God, is this the way you felt?”

“I needed someone to take me by the hand and lead me around. I was so vulnerable I thought I’d go crazy.”

“Do you think there’s anyone hiding in the sauna?”

"Come on, let's go."

"I'm not going out that door first!" She gently pulled me out, then held my arm and walked me across the street to Taco Villa.

"Maybe I'm just hungry," I said hopefully.

“Go ahead and eat,” she said kindly, “I’ll pay.”

I ordered the largest meal with the most meat. “Will this last forever?” I asked, sickened by the thought.

“I wondered that, too. Maybe it’s the person who comes last who has to go paranoid.”

“Next time we’ll both race to come first. Could you change seats with me? I want to watch the door. No wonder I’ve always been scared of sex. This is insanity.”

“I wonder if other people feel this way after sex.”

“I doubt it. It’s one enormous secret. God is an abyss. Sex is here. I am all center. I have no edge.”

“Do you feel like writing now?”

“Are you kidding? I can hardly talk. I can't describe my experience in words. Have you any idea how frightening that is for me?"

My fork scraped loudly on the empty plate. I looked at it, surprised. The milk was all gone, too. She looked ugly, suddenly. I hated how calm she was. “Was I obnoxious last time, when you felt this way?”

“God, yes! Saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we felt this way all the time?’ when all I wanted to do was crawl under the table and stay there.” I checked under the table. It was small, dark and a good vantage point, too. “Let’s go,” she said, grabbing my arm with a powerful grip. I let her lead me to the car.

“You know what the real ultimate might be?” she asked as we got into the car. “Coming together.”

“So we could both feel this way at the same time?” I squeaked, shrinking into the seat. “Are you kidding? We’d both crawl under the massage table and stay there like bumps until next Halloween. Listen, I’ve had enough ultimates for a very long time.”

At home I forced myself to write out the story of sex with Nancy. It took a long time since I had to rest between sentences. The concept of writing overwhelmed me. Words that stayed: a sacred act.

After that thought, I was unable to write a single word for several long, anxious minutes. I was sinking beneath an uncontrollable ocean of feeling. My little island of paper was all I had left to stand on, and it was sinking a little bit deeper with every word I wrote. If I didn't know how to breathe water by the time I got to Halifax, I would drown.

. . . "I'm sorry," Carol says, "I've taken over your room. I needed a place to be sick and feel sorry for myself in. " I look at the old, thick carpets she's put on the floor and walls and recognize my dream symbols for insulation against feelings.

"This is my special room!" I scream. "And you have to leave this house!"

I woke up with waves of rage at Susan flooding through my body. I'd made her into "Carol," my internal oppressor, and I had to get her out of me. I firmly decided to never have sex with her again. That should end things; infidelity certainly didn't. Sex with Nancy only made me horny for Susan, a fact I found utterly distressing.

I was worn out and nervous all day, with Susan due back from Halifax any minute. By late afternoon I had to take a nap.

. . . No matter which woman l call 'wife' and pursue for sex, the other woman becomes my sexual feelings and pursues me. So why am I running?

I woke up in gloom. Refusing to have sex with Susan made her the symbol for the sexual feelings I was fleeing. I had to trust my penis around her. What an awful thought!

Slam! went the front door as if in response, and tramp, tramp, tramp, footsteps came deliberately up the stairs. Once again I was a little boy frozen in bed listening to the fox climb up the stairs to gobble me up.

"Hi!" she said, appearing in my doorway fresh as a breath of spring.

I was forced to smile, and all fear left as I did. "God, you look good! Doing your work makes you shine with strength and beauty, you know that?"

"Yeah? Maybe that's why I get so tied up about it."

I couldn't get the grin off my face. She beamed back at me. I rolled out of the hammock and stood up in my sleeping bag. "Come here, you!" I said. I kissed her amazing buttered lips and melted to the floor. I looked up at her from flat on my back and said, "Boy! Are you hot from Halifax!" She laughed and stepped out of her jeans. With my bare feet sticking out the bottom of my bright red shell, I followed her to her room, where we fell into bed and didn’t stop giggling until we began moaning.

We lay quietly together afterward, as the shadows of late afternoon darkened the room. "Three men approached me in Halifax,” she said, “but I told them I was in a committed relationship."

"Why did you tell me that?"

"Well, to be open with you, I guess. I just wanted you to know."

"Why? So I wouldn't think you'd had sex with anyone else?" "Well, yes, so you'd know I'm committed to you."

"That’s how you want me to be. You're trying to make sure I think the right things about you. What are you doing trying to fix my thinking?"

"I know I can be strong enough for you. I'm learning to be independent and take my own power, if you'd just let me. I wish you'd share more with me."

I didn’t reply. Power is taken, never given, I thought, and she asks my permission for every step she takes. My opinion of her is more important to her than her own. I wish she'd share less with me.

Anger rising, I went to my room and sat at the desk as the last of the light faded, and wondered what it meant to a three-year-old boy to have Daddy come back after one whole year away. Probably very little. I sat in my fading room and smoked.

. . . l am shown a photograph of me and Carol. The game is to guess which one of us is sexual. I woke up fiercely determined. This game would end. As soon as she got up I called her into my room. "Susan, the more you try to be what I would like you to be the less I like you. When you change in order to keep me, you haven't changed at all."

"But I'm not doing that!" she said, then went into a long monologue with lots of anger in it. She was being self-assertive since she knew I liked her that way. There was only one thing left to say.

"This relationship is over. Period."

She ran out with a yowl of anguish. I shut the door and thought about Carol. I'd tried my absolute best to not be me for her, but I never did it well enough. Susan did it too well. Apart from her opinion of my opinion of her, she didn't even know who she was.

I listened to her bawling loudly in her room for a while, then went downstairs to check the mail. There was just a letter from Carol. I quickly walked back up to my room and shut the door, slowly tore open the envelope, and unfolded the letter.

"Dear Danny . . . "

I carefully put the letter down without hurting it and walked around the room for a few minutes. Calling me that name was the same as throwing gasoline on a house already in flames. She wasn't stupid. This was deliberate. I approached the desk with caution, then picked up the letter.

"I don't want you to take Ariel to Cary and Phyllis'. Caleb and Wren need your undivided attention. After all, Ariel has his own father here."

I put the letter down and walked to the window. Susan let out a long, loud wail that cracked and broke into pathetic sobs. In the nick of time, I'd kicked her out in the nick of time. If I still had Susan around my neck I'd be berserk right now.

I'd been gone one whole year from my children and Carol would not begrudge me three days with three little boys. I turned away from the sight of the leafless trees and read the rest of the letter.

"I want you and Amin and I to get together and talk things over.”

That was one party I’d be glad to miss. With one fist I crushed the letter into a tiny ball, held it over the wastebasket, and let it go plunk. Daddy was a wounded beast, desperate and dangerous. I looked at the little ball of paper all alone at the bottom of the wastebasket, and cracks of grief grew down my animal-anger face. I picked up the letter, smoothed the crumples out, and put it upside down on my stack of blank paper. I would write my feelings and dreams on the back of it. Maybe that would help.