The Virgin, the Devil, and the Chosen One
Chapter 19

January 1, 1982

“I feel ripped off every time you come to visit because you never pay any attention to me.”

My eyes creaked open. It was morning. Phyllis was standing next to the bed. Her long wavy brown hair moved all by itself, like a dream I’d forgotten.

“I don't?”

“No. But I guess you're really Cary's boyfriend.”

“Maybe I don't have to be quite so careful.”

She left. I slept like a dead man till noon. When I got up, Cary was waiting for me with a fresh pot of coffee. He wiped his wire rims, rubbed his short, blonde hair, and we settled down at the kitchen table for a talk. I described the physical body as a metaphor for the psyche, with the self-love of the veins, the aggression of the arteries, and the structural integrity of the lymph. He said the body of movement of tai chi was the tao of the self, and demonstrated. Hours later, we fell silent. We'd built a shimmering castle of intellect in the weak winter sunshine flooding the kitchen with its delicate light. It was the best conversation I’d ever had.

“I have a story for you,” he said into the pale golden silence. The sun reflected off his glasses. “A Western reporter went to China to interview a tai chi master. While they were talking they saw a bullock cart loaded with a ton of vegetables break loose just as it reached the top of a steep hill. It came barreling backward down the hill, right toward the back of a man walking down. When the dust settled, vegetables and pieces of cart were scattered all over the road and the man was walking down the hill as though nothing had happened. 'That man must be one of your students,' the reporter said in awe. 'Yes, but only a beginner,' the master replied. 'A better student wouldn't have been on the road.’”

I laughed, delighted. “Cary, that's the way I want to be! Offering no opposition, so when negativity comes I am either unaffected or not there.”

“Let it be, let it be,” the radio sang out, announcing a three-hour history in song of the Beatles. We sat on the living room couch with Phyllis and their little boy, Asa, the same age as Ariel, nearly three and a half. When “Back In the U.S.S.R.” came on I jumped up to dance, and Phyllis joined me. Cary raced out of the room. She sat down, shaking her head. Half an hour later, Cary came back and sat stonily at the far end of the couch. Phyllis scooted over and hugged him. He french kissed her, and she responded heartily. I looked at them with affection. They were two people, separate from me. I didn’t have to make love to either of them, now or ever.

We moved to the kitchen to start supper. Cary went to the bathroom which was wedged between the back door and the kitchen sink. As soon as he shut the door Phyllis held out her arms for a hug. Her cheek softly grazed mine. A serpent of doom lengthened down my left leg. The sound of his pissing was loud.

…My father’s ghost is upstairs. My time is limited. There is great danger. It is pitch black. I woke up with a throbbing erection. It was pitch black. Disturbed, I went back to sleep… “Carol used to be the love of my life,” I tell Cary, now my mother, “but now my life is.” Cary breathes easier, because he never has to worry about me again.

It was past noon when I got up. Phyllis complained about Cary while I ate breakfast. I winced whenever she said his name because I knew he was having a nap upstairs with Asa and he'd be furious to know she was talking about him. The radio announcer interrupted the music to warn about the worst blizzard in ten years.

“I don't think Cary will make it back,” Phyllis said, looking scared.

“What?” I leaped to my feet. “Cary's not here?”

“No, he took Asa to town to buy cigarettes.”

“Why didn't he take me?”

“You were sleeping.”

“But I wanted to buy a toothbrush!” I howled.

“You can use mine,” she said, laughing, then went upstairs to her knitting machine. I listened to records and smoked the three remaining cigarettes. I couldn’t wait to get out of Nova Scotia. Debbie was meeting me at the airport tomorrow for the drive back to the States. I swept and mopped the kitchen floor. Phyllis came down.

“I was just on the phone to Cary. He wanted to know if I was going to keep my agreements. I told him it made me angry he felt he had to ask.” She smiled and hugged me. I erected and saw Cary shooting me. “Cary is incredibly jealous of you. Last night after we made love I stayed erotic and wanted to make love again. He was enraged! He accused me of being turned on from dancing with you! I have to go upstairs and knit now, even though it seems stupid to avoid each other. But my body wants to hug you right here—” She patted her upper chest. “—first.” We hugged. She was exactly as tall as I was. Our pubic bones met head on—an explosion of paralyzing desire shot through my body and filled the air with sparkles of joy. “I’d better go knit,” she said in a husky voice, and went upstairs. Her long brown hair bounced on her back like a separate person made of love.

I sat on the stool next to the wood stove in the kitchen and longed for a cigarette. I remembered sitting on this stool a year-and-a-half ago. In the middle of one of our long theoretical conversations, Cary had suddenly said, “I’m afraid I’m going to die of cancer.” Camel smoke wreathed his face in gloom. I looked at his belly and saw the death he clutched in his spleen, then saw it being washed out by intense, violent negativity from finding out I’d made love to Phyllis.

“It’s all right,” I’d said, “you won’t get cancer.”

“Are you just saying that?”

“No, I know that. Because of me.”


“I just know.”

That was then. Now I didn’t know if I loved him enough to save his life by making love to his wife. I got off the stool to go pee, but my bladder would not let me go standing up. I pulled down my pants and sat down on the toilet, forgetting to shut the door. Phyllis’ feet come rapidly down the stairs. I leaped up to shut the door but it swung outward and she was already in the kitchen. She glanced at me trying frantically to yank up my pants and went right back upstairs.

I decided to wax the kitchen floor. The music on the radio played on, with interruptions for weather bulletins. Early dark fell like murder. The blizzard attacked the house with a moan that rattled the walls. I worked myself into a sweat. She came down to a gleaming floor.

“I sure hope Cary can make it back tonight,” I said.

“Well, I don’t think he will.”

“That’s crazy, Phyllis! He’s only 20 minutes away!”

“This is now the worst blizzard in a quarter century,” the radio said. “Major highways are open but not much else, and not for long. I hope all of you out there are nice and snug.”

“He’s already tried twice. The last time he got stuck at the turn-off to the driveway. He would have walked the half-mile in if he didn’t have Asa with him. He got out of the car and was blinded. He barely made it back to town.”

I was trapped with her for the night. The indefinable scent of her femaleness filled up the kitchen like the certainty of spring—I saw my body in a snowdrift, snow filling up my frozen mouth and nostrils. I blinked rapidly several times to dispel the image. I knew what all that white stuff symbolized: sperm.

“I have to tell you something,” I said, hopping from one foot to the other.

“You’re all pink! What is it?”

“It’s what I’m about to say—” I completely forgot. Her femininity was so powerful I couldn’t look directly at her. No wonder I could never remember what she looked like. What I was going to tell her? I knew the word “sex” was part of it, so I started with that.

“Sex!” I shouted. She looked at me with a puzzled grin. “I mean, sex. Sex is the last part of me to move. By the time I actually make love to a woman all of me already loves all the rest of her. So I have to say yes to sex whenever it comes up. Although doing so may lead to sex, by saying yes I free up my body, my sacrum unlocks, and I don’t get migraines. So right now I have to…” Words of air came out my mouth in little pops. I jogged in place to open my throat, then focused on the wall behind her and said, all in a rush, “So right now I have to tell you I will make love to you and just hope you freeze up.”

She took three quick steps back. “Well, I’d love to make love to you, but I can’t. We have this fidelity agreement, even though it’s stupid and we both know it is. We’d both love to make love to different people, but we’d both be really upset and hurt if the other one did. But it’s hard. After trying for so long to get back into my body sexually for Cary, now I have to shut it down.” She sat down on the stool and knocked her cup of tea over, then jumped up to get a cloth. “So I’m probably going to be doing stupid things like this as long as this blizzard lasts.”

“Yeah, who made this blizzard anyway? I just got clear with you guys!”

“Are you going to be all right now that I've said no?”

“Of course! Once I give myself permission to feel, anything is okay. It's only when I say no to myself that I get screwed up. It kind of puts the pressure on you, though.”

“Yeah, it does. Well, I'd better go get some wood.”

“Here, let me help.”

I opened the door and the blizzard struck me in the teeth with such force I could neither see nor breathe. I turned around and backed out. There was a four-foot-high drift right outside the door that hadn't been there an hour ago. I attacked it with the shovel beneath the light of a solitary bulb, while the snow-clogged wind out of the darkness moaned and whistled like agony and death. After 20 minutes of hard work I'd cleared a six-foot-long path through the drift, and we could walk on top of the snow the rest of the way. Phyllis and I staggered to the barn to get wood, bent over nearly double, leaning into a wall of sodden flakes flung by the screaming wind that formed ice on everything they hit. By the time we stumbled back from the barn with precious armloads of wood, the doorframe was iced over like a sloppy cupcake. I got the hammer. In the few minutes it took to chip away enough ice so the door would shut, a foot-high drift had piled up behind me inside the porch. If I opened the door to shovel that snow outside I might never get the door shut again, so I shoveled it into the toilet and poured a kettle of hot water on it. A large lump of snowy ice floated in the middle of the bowl. I didn't dare flush.

“We did it!” I said triumphantly.

“Yeah, we did.” Her face glowed from the cold. We beamed at each other for a minute, then she went to the bathroom and didn't close the door. I quickly turned away, almost in time to not see a flash of white panties slipping down over soft, wide hips. I started to shake.

“I need a nap,” I said miserably, unable to move. I heard the toilet flush behind me, and wondered if the lump of ice would plug it up. Snap! went the waistband of her panties as she pulled them up.

She walked out of the bathroom and stood behind me. “What do I have to do to make you take a nap? Drive you out of the kitchen?”

“I'm going, I'm going.” I hurried into my room off the kitchen and crawled under the covers. I was scared of the dark like a little boy. I wondered if I would ever get out of Nova Scotia. I hoped I wouldn't wake up till morning. It was 6 p.m.

I woke up in pitch black. My sacrum was locked and in pain. I walked into the kitchen. Phyllis was sitting on the stool next to the stove. I sat in the rocking chair and propped my feet on the open oven door.

“I am pissed off at Cary!” I said. “He's using me! Trying to get me to break his neurotic pattern where he gets mad at you for his man-under-¬the-bed.”

“He told you about that little wooden box I gave him with the carving on top of a couple in bed, huh?”

“He thinks you gave it to him to send him a message.”

“Maybe he's right, though I just saw the couple in bed and thought of us. That's why I got it for him. I really didn’t see the man under the bed.”

“I am also pissed off at Cary for being so weird about me and you. I do not want to climb into your marriage bed. Or under it, for that matter. I'm going to check the drift.” She came behind me to see. I pried the door open a crack. The drift was five feet high. The path I'd shoveled through it had vanished. I quickly jammed the door shut, but our feet were already covered with snow. We came back into the kitchen stamping our feet.

“It is scary out there!” I said, settling onto the chair again. “This is the kind of storm where people get lost and die within a few yards of their front door.”

“I’m pissed off at Cary, too,” she said, sitting on the stool. “He’s keeping me down with his ferocious jealousy. You know he gets violently angry? He kicks the cat all the time. I mean really hard, the cat hits the wall! He even hit me and Asa until I laid down a limit, that I’d leave him if he did it again. That’s what’s controlling me now, my fear of his violent anger. I even feel guilty about this snowstorm. He’s going to be violently angry at me whether I make love to you or not.”

“You know the three worst things that could happen? I could make love to you, Cary could murder me, or I could never see either of you again.”

“That’s funny, that making love to me is one of the worst things.”

“Well, it’s true for me. What’s yours?”

“Telling him, I guess. If we made love I’d have to lie.”

“That’s interesting. Mine is doing it, yours is saying we did it.” I stood up, feeling drained. I could go to bed now.

“Well, all I know is that my body has this empty feeling right here—” She patted her chest above her heart. “—and I have to hug you before I go to bed.”

She stood up with a smile like an invitation to heaven. We each took one step closer, then hugged like an electric shock. I couldn’t breathe until she moved her hands slowly down my back, stroking my skin into flames. My sacrum popped back in place with an exhalation of joy. With a sigh of sweet-smelling breath, she moved her mouth wetly onto mine and rubbed her hand up and down on my erection. I surrendered my life to God, sex, and death, and slipped my hands under her shirt, burrowed them into the heat of her armpits, then fanned my fingers around her tiny, tantalizing breasts. I salivated, inhaled saliva, and choked. She pulled her head back to let me cough and sputter. Her face shone like summer sunshine in the little house surrounded by the mad dogs of the blizzard.

“We have to make love,” she said, “But I can’t tell Cary, and you can’t, either.”

“Well, I can’t promise.”

“But then I can’t make love to you!”

“Since telling is not a problem for me, it’s unlikely that I will.”

“So let’s go to bed, then.”

My bladder was screaming, but I was much too scared to pee. We clung to each other as we walked to the bedroom, then separated to undress. Her skin was so white she made the dim room lighter by degrees, like the full moon taking off her clouds. The radiant glory of the female dazzled me into doubt, but as soon as she touched me the air filled up with a happiness so thick it tossed all negativity out into the deadly blizzard. We lay down on the bed and hugged lips to toes, making the happy air ecstatic.

“See my little breasts?” she said, rolling onto her back and tucking her chin to look at them. “Somebody called them tit-lets once.”

“I like little breasts—God! Are you wet!”

I tentatively entered a little ways. “You’re clean!” she said in amazement. “You don’t have any stuff!” I smiled, and pushed a little harder. “Stop a minute, it kind of hurts. It's not a real hurt, it's pleasure, almost too intense.” I lay still, barely inside the gateway to forever. A few minutes later she reached down to feel me. “You're not even all the way in yet! God, it feels like I'm going to die!” She lay still for several minutes, breathing heavily. “Come all the way in now,” she said in a throaty voice. “Oh, God!” she yelled, grabbing my butt with both hands and grinding her pubis against mine. “It goes so far in it makes a tickle too deep! I feel like I'm dying, I just can't take it anymore!” She dropped her legs and stopped moving. “Let me rest a minute and then I want it some more.” We lay joined in an increasingly sacred stillness while the blizzard bellowed in frustration around the house. A long time later, she moved like an invocation from the center of the universe. I responded like a star shooting into a deep so ferocious only the ferocity of my farthest reach could meet her there.

“Oh, God! Oh, God! I'm dying!” she yelled as I yelled and collapsed. The little house spun twirling through the void with us joined together inside it.

“Want some coffee substitute?” I asked her after a while.

“Not really. Can you get an erection again?”

“Uh, sure. I think. First I have to pee.”

It took me several minutes to release at least a quart. When I returned she snuggled into my arms like soft butter. “Cary and I have been trying to get pregnant for months, but just can't. Cary says it's my fault, that I'm blocking a baby.”

“It’s just as much his fault.”

“If I’m pregnant I’ll abort. I just couldn’t handle that.” I didn’t tell her the baby would not let her abort. It was a little girl with brown curly hair like mine.

“Oh, goody,” she said as I grew big in her hand.

I rolled on top and entered her. “God, you sure are wet!”

“That’s because I keep coming.”

I lifted her leg around in front of me then rolled onto my side so that back of her thigh pressed into my belly while I squeezed her other thigh with both of mine, our legs all mixed up like cuddling puppies. I stroked her soft white belly with my inner thigh, and her female deep slid under my skin as I moved inside her moving inside me. The joy in each of our bodies for the inside close of the love of the other seeped throughout the blizzard-proof house, saturating it with the peace of the dove that descended to Jesus on that God-blessed orgasmic day. We moved together in timeless ecstasy until I became chafed.

“Can you come again?” she asked me.

“Maybe, though I’ve never come twice before.”

I rolled on top and slipped into forever again, with interruptions for “Wait a minute, I’m dying, I’m dying!” which came more and more frequently until she said, “I can’t take anymore.” She snuggled into my arms. “I don’t want to go upstairs to sleep. The best part of making love is sleeping together all night.”

“Yeah, it is, but if we do Cary will be able to smell our joining.”

She agreed, but I still had to coax her out of bed. I walked her up to her room. She kissed me goodnight at the top of the stairs and said, “Nice fit. Thanks. Such a simple act. Why should it cause so much fuss?”

“I don’t know,” I said. Although Jesus and I both did.

I went back downstairs to bed. Even the creaking floorboards fit together more easily. The blizzard roared on unabated. I imagined making love to Cary, smiled as the image changed to him making love to me, than fell asleep with the feeling of my baby Ariel in my arms.

The phone rang. I staggered out of bed and with a great thump! walked into a wall. It was pitch black. I stumbled in the opposite direction until clothing batted me in the face. The phone shrilled on and on. I found a wall and followed it out of the closet, then groped my way along until I ran into a light switch. I turned it on and was blinded. I squeezed my eyes shut and felt along the wall until I found the kitchen, then struck out into the empty space, aiming for the phone. The phone had stopped for a little while, but now started up again, imperiously ringing. I squinted my eyes open a crack. Almost there. I grabbed it.

“Hi, Cary.”

“Hi. Is everything okay?” His voice was taut with fear and caffeine.

“Uh-huh. What time is it?”

“Six o’clock.”

“Oh. Sure is dark out.”

“The roads aren’t going to be plowed until nine.”


“Well, I’ll call you if anything changes before then.”

“Okay. Bye.” I went back to bed. The phone rang immediately. I got it in only six rings this time. “Hi. Cary?”

“Yeah. I can meet—”

“What time is it?”


“Oh, already?”

“Listen! I can meet you at the end of the road in about 20 minutes. Can you walk half a mile in the snow?”

“Sure! No problem!”

“I'll drive you right to the airport. The big highway's clear.”


“Hurry. I'm leaving now.”

My body and mind worked together like an emergency medical team, merging the events of the last week into a dimly remembered blur. I would deal with everything later, when I was safe. There was a spot on the sheet, pinkish at the edges with the last of Phyllis’ period. I'd just finished turning the sheets over and around when Phyllis came down and hugged me, warm and easy. There was nothing wrong, so there was nothing to be concerned about.

“Nice fit,” I said, and kissed her goodbye. I shut the door as best I could against the ice in the frame, then clambered over the six-foot high drift and started walking.

“Come visit me again sometime!”

I turned to see Phyllis standing in the doorway waving goodbye. Warm yellow light spilled out around her onto the snow, bluish in the dimness of a slow dawn. Her hair was a halo with light shining through it from behind. I clapped the memory of our love into my heart, then bowed to her with respect and gratitude. She laughed and bowed back to me. Her rich, deep laughter rang out over the dark blue snow. It sounded like church bells ringing out the joy of Christmas.

I headed out. The only sign of the road was the top few inches of the fence posts sticking above the snow. With each step the crust almost held my weight then broke, dumping my leg deep into the heavy, clinging snow below. The day reluctantly lightened up. It was a bleak, gray, difficult-road-to-hoe, Nova Scotia kind of day. I saw the car in the distance. My stomach went funny. I trudged on.

“Hi.” I climbed in.

“Hi.” He didn't look at me. We drove off. Asa was in the car seat in back.

“Some blizzard, eh?”

“Yep.” He was sitting on a panic as tall as the brooding sky.

“Bet you can't guess what I did last night.”

His flesh turned to stone. “No. No, I bet I can't.”

“Well, I got real pissed off at you yesterday. I figured you caused the blizzard as a way to keep me in Nova Scotia. When I think like that, I interpret. So there I was, surrounded by retained semen in a house with an unattainable woman inside it, the prototype of my decade's Nova Scotian experience.”

“ …Uh…A house surrounded by semen?”

“The blizzard. Ice and snow are my dream symbols for retained semen.”


“Anyway, yesterday I dreamed you were my mother. You represented the last aspect of Carol I had yet to leave: mother, or self-love I hadn't yet claimed as mine. So you know what I did?”

“No. No, I don't. What?” His knuckles went white on the steering wheel.

“I imagined making love to you. Sex is the only way I finally integrate anything. Well, actually, it was you who made love to me.”

“I can feel that in my second chakra,” he said, suddenly vague. I looked at his hard, set lips. The only way I could ever have made love to him was by making love to his wife. This man was closed.

We drove in silence to a McDonald's. He had a cup of coffee while I ate breakfast. Asa was quiet and still. When I was done we both lit up. “Well, I had a dream last night too,” he said, blowing smoke as he talked. “I dreamed I took that little box Phyllis gave me and smashed it. Only the sides were left standing.”

“Hey, that's terrific!”

“That man-under-the-bed of hers!”

“Wait a minute. He's yours.”

“She gave me the box!”

“You reacted to it. By your reaction you know what's you. So he's in you—” I pointed to his lower belly— “right about there.”

“Don't! You're confusing me!”

We walked to the car in silence. As we drove I talked steadily about Bonnie's work. “So ever since that class on the bladder I make peeing my first priority, since it's a symbol for feeling release. I have to push on my bladder all the time to see if I need to go. I've habitually withheld urine for so long I don't even know when I have to go.”

“God! You’re always challenging yourself.”

“You know what happened to me in Manhattan?”

“You're going to tell me, right?”

I told him the story of the broken tail, the utter chaos of sperm in my anus, and Susan's Angel-of-the-Female love saving my life. “I'm so melodramatic, aren't I? My life reads like a soap opera.”

Especially right now. One more exit.

He rolled the window down a crack and threw out a butt. “You know why I left you alone with Phyllis? She's always complaining to me that you and her never have time to talk, so I figured I'd give you guys that. She didn't want me to go, but when it came down to cigarettes, I left. Then the blizzard hit. It wasn't even snowing when I left.”

God doesn't fuck around when it comes to sex. I suddenly needed to do something with my sweaty hands. So as he told me the story of his snowbound day in town, I repacked my knapsack—and found an unopened pack of Marlboros. If I'd found them before the blizzard, Cary would never have gone to town. And if he'd woken me up, I would have gone with him. And if he hadn't taken Asa with him, he could have walked in from the road after the blizzard began. To say nothing of the precise timing of the blizzard. I didn't let him see the Marlboros. He'd think I'd concealed them on purpose.

“I was protected the whole time,” he was saying. “Whenever my fear and frustration built up to destructive levels, something would happen to steer me away. Except Asa kept saying 'Fuck this!' and 'Fuck that!' all day and he never does that.” His knuckles went white on the steering wheel. “It made me furious to see Phyllis turned on by you when you danced to the Beatles in the living room. And again that night when she was erotic.” He glowered at me. “She's never erotic!” I shrank back into the seat. His pale eyes and his voice were as hard as Pharoah's heart when he would not let Moses go. “I knew it was because she'd been turned on by Danny downstairs and fuck! Did it ever piss me off!”

“That reminds me—”

“I'm not finished yet!” He took his eyes off the road to glare at me. I looked straight ahead. He jerked the car back onto the road just in time, then glared at me again. “Well, did it come up? I mean, there it was, I first made love to her in that house in a blizzard, and there you were, in a blizzard.”

His wire-rim glasses were dirty and his pale eyes were filled with anguish and rage. “Well, uh…kind of, because I talked about this interpretation to her, and I guess that was a way of bringing it up.”

His eyes bored into the side of my face. I looked dead ahead. The car jerked each time he glanced back at the road and yanked on the steering wheel. The silence lengthened. “Well, did she make a clear decision?”

“Uh, well…It seemed like she did.”

He lifted his hard eyes off me to look fixedly at the road. “Remember when I phoned to remind her about her agreements? God, it made me furious when she told me, ‘Danny and I talked.’” He mocked her viciously. “I'm just trying to get some emotional feedback from this woman who just! won't! give!” he yelled, pounding the steering wheel with both fists. He jerked the car to the right barely in time to take the airport exit. He pulled up in front of the terminal and turned off the engine, then rocked rapidly back and forth in his seat like an autistic boy. I could see the words, “Did you fuck my wife?” stuck on his lips. He knew I wouldn’t lie.

“What was Phyllis' experience?” he finally managed.

“Well, uh, she was kind of jumpy,” I said, panting, my face hot. “She spent most of the time at her knitting machine, so I don't really know.” He turned the key with a vicious twist. The engine roared and the tires screeched as the car sped away from the terminal. I looked back in rising panic.

“Don't worry,” he said scornfully, “I'm not going to keep you in Nova Scotia! We're just driving through the parking lot. Now then, what color is Debbie's car?”

“Brown. Dark brown.”

We didn't see it. He drove in a large circle, then parked again in the same spot. He turned off the engine and looked straight ahead. Minutes passed, each one stiffer than the last.

“Let's go, let's go, let's go,” Asa said, loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to provoke a blow.

“In a minute, Asa. Now then, what were we saying?” Cary slowly turned to look at me. His eyes were emptied. He was gone. The air pressure in the car doubled. My mouth opened in slow-motion shock and my neck went slack. My head slowly drifted down toward to the dashboard.

“Oh, yes,” he said in a slow, dead voice. “I was asking you what Phyllis' experience was.” I slumped closer to the little lock on the door to the glove compartment. I frowned in confusion. I couldn’t control my body.

“What was Phyllis' experience?” he asked again. His words ricocheted in slow motion around the car, surreal and meaningless since they were the wrong words. There was a roaring like white noise, only silent. Time slowed to a stop.

“I always think of you as standing cock in hand,” he mused. The words slowly unglued themselves from his lips. He lifted his leaden eyes away from my face to look out the front window. Time sped up to slow motion and a glimmer of possibility shone in front of me like a crack of light. In order to leap across the gap, I had to speak before the sound of his words was murdered by the awful silence.

“Speaking of which,” I said laboriously, feeling I was talking underwater, “I have piss coming out of my ears.”

I slowly pushed down the handle of the door. It clicked open.

“Out! Out!” Asa yelled, distracting Cary's eyes to the back seat. Slowly, carefully, I got out. I gently shut the car door. It was over. I waited on the sidewalk while he got Asa out of his car seat. We walked into the terminal together. I had no fear of him.

“Where were you?” Debbie yelled, appearing in front of us with her blonde hair tied back so tightly it made her eyes tiny. “We've been waiting two and a half hours!”

“Debbie, there was no way I could get here! As it was, I had to walk half a mile in the snow. You must have known!”

“I know, I know, I just called Phyllis. Funny, I knew when I woke up you weren't going to be here on time. I got up and came anyway.”

“Don't you follow your intuition?” I asked, shocked.

“Come on! Let's go!” she yelled, mad again.

I quickly kissed him on the lips and said, “I love you, Cary.” I meant it. In that moment I knew Love was the source of both betrayal and blizzard. He backed up looking severely confused.

I sprinted to the bathroom. No one was there so I could use a urinal without worrying about bashful bladder. I groaned with relief as I released a powerful stream, thinking thank God Cary isn't here to see me standing cock-in-hand after I fucked his wife—The door banged open and Cary walked in with Asa on one arm.

“How dare you,” he said in the dead voice, staring at my penis.

I whipped it inside my jeans, splashing all over. I slowly turned toward him, ready to die. His face looked like a tortured animal's. He let go of the swinging door. It swung with an ominous swish, swish, swish that got smaller with each swing. Step by tiny step he backed away from me until he was squeezed in the corner behind the door, with his kid on one hip like an appendage and Asa’s bright blond hair a shock of weird white in the fluorescent lights. I carefully squeezed past him. When I was halfway out, I said, “See you guys,” and reached back and patted his arm. He jerked it away, but I was already out the door and running.

Debbie was parked behind Cary’s car, gunning the engine. I hopped in, we sped off, and for the next two hours I heard Phyllis and Asa screaming as he murdered them. Traffic was jammed with only one lane plowed on each side. Cars were strewn in the ditches sideways, backwards, and upside down all the way to the New Brunswick border.

I took over the wheel when we left Nova Scotia. The roads got better and the screaming in my head stopped. Phyllis was tough, she could handle Cary. If not, she and Asa would die, and that was that. The strange New Brunswick forests of spruce trees planted in rows, that had always reminded me of the evil woods of Mordor, closed in from the sides of the road as day turned early to dark.

Hours later, I saw the border crossing in the distance. Fear roared through my body like a waterfall. My hands slipped off the steering wheel from a sudden sweat as I saw myself dumped in Canadian snow, watching the red tail lights of Debbie's car getting smaller in the distance as she drove into America without me. “If that happens I will die,” a voice in my head softly said. I could hardly breathe. I now knew it was possible to die of fright. My rational mind was a flashlight in a void, but it was all I had that was not terror-struck, so I drove on automatic and forced myself to think: Crossing the border into the Land of Liberty has to be a symbol for crossing into the Other World, the one I first stepped into when I denied Susan's baby. Love and poetry rule that world, but so does a Medusa-like terror. Which is why people create the ordinary world of consensual reality: it stays the same from minute to minute, and is therefore safer. A lot safer. People die of boredom in the ordinary world. I’m nearly dead of terror in this one. My first step into the real world was only ten days ago. I’m just not used to it over here, that’s all. I slowed to a stop beneath the overhang of the border station. The guard approached. I will answer only what he asks. I rolled down my window. I will not hold my breath. I looked at the buttons on his coat.

“Where were you born?”


“What is your name?”

“Daniel Baker-Toombs.” I shriveled. I had no identity papers for Daniel John yet. I didn’t know if my old self had the right to live, let alone in liberty.

“And what is the purpose of your visit?”

“Debbie is going to drop me off at her friend's house in Maine. I'll stay two days, then return to Halifax for school.”

“And where is your luggage?”

“Just the knapsack.” I knew what he was thinking: This is how Canadians try to sneak into the States. Despair hollowed out my face.

“Could I see the trunk, please?”

“Here, I'll get it,” Debbie said. “It sticks.”

While they were behind the car, I went through my wallet and took out all my American identification and stuffed it in my jacket pocket. The sight of “Baker-Toombs” on my Amherst, Mass. library card was so confusing I didn't know which me was who. I broke. I absolutely could not go on. In the last ten days, I'd let go of every single rope in my life and now the threads of my sanity were slipping through my dying fingers. The officer was only toying with me. He was going to drag me out of the car at gunpoint and send me back to die of exposure in Canadian snow. I prepared to confess everything and just go ahead and die—suddenly, I moved Left.

I looked around in astonishment. Everything looked the same, but I was now to the left of where I used to be. It was the same as in the death table dream, when with a zip and a dizzy and a blur of speed, the whole world moved to the Left. I was now on the Left Side of reality, that stable place with both feelings and awareness. Over here I had the power of my death: Since I was already as good as dead, the fact that death was imminent was not significant. With the fear of death gone, there was nothing to worry about. And nothing to do but carry on.

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the officer quizzing Debbie behind the car. I propped a book open on the steering wheel and pretended to read. Debbie glanced heavily at me, then took Melissa to the restroom. The officer waited until she was gone, then knocked on the window. I rolled it down. He bent over and leaned his face too close to mine. I calmly returned his gaze.

“So, you came up together, did you?”

“No, I was in Halifax. Debbie came to visit, and I'm driving down with her.” On the Left Side I made true what I said by saying it, so I spoke easily and without hesitation.

“What do you do?”

“I just sold my natural foods store. Debbie used to work for me.”

“So, you’ll be gone—two weeks you say?”

“No, no, two days.”

“All right, all right, go on,” he said, and walked away.

I could just barely believe it. I pulled the car up to the restrooms and waited. They were taking a long time. My bladder felt like a grapefruit, but I thought I should stay in the car so as not to set off my paranoia—terror bloomed like a bloody rose in my chest. Since it was already too late, I might as well pee. I got out of the car and went to the bathroom, forcing myself not to sprint. But even when I was squatting on the toilet and listening to the helpful sound of flushing water, I was unable to release a drop. I gave up and went back to the car. Debbie and Melissa were waiting. I crawled in the back seat and we drove into Liberty’s dark.

I glued my eyes to the rear window. There were no vehicles on the road behind us, but I got even more frightened until I put my hand on my lower belly. It was relaxed and easy, and beneath it the downward blackness of my tail felt strong and happy. I looked out the rear window again, and saw darkness devour the puddle of light at the border crossing. I faced forward, and felt a thick yellow cord firmly anchored beneath my navel. It stretched out ahead of the speeding car and fastened onto the two boxes of journals in Bill’s garage in Amherst. It’s the not-now pile, I realized, surprised. My not-yet-de-acquisitioned personal history was all that was holding me to earthly existence.

I closed my eyes. The vibration of the engine was a mighty beast within and under me. The holocaust of Ariel had finally come to an end, perhaps only because I had nothing left to lose. I’d lost friends and family, parents and children, livelihood and possessions, house and home, even name and country, and I’d also lost the world that contained them, the world with a past and a future. I had no Hitler to blame, not even Carol. I’d acted of my own free will every step of the way, even though the god of Ariel and blizzards had moved in outrageously non-mysterious ways.

I had no sense of being a victim. That felt like the greatest loss of all. Feeling like a woman’s victim as usual might have nursed me through all the other losses, perhaps even through the despairs to come. If I lived that long. A lot of what had happened in the last ten days hadn’t hit me yet. When the shock wore off, I might need a hospital. Or a morgue. After Christmas in Nova Scotia, death would be as easy as Jell-O.

Funny how my body felt strong and happy, as though what I called a holocaust, it called freedom.