Shall I Eat You Nikita Mirzani 8

Afterwards, when he saw the photo of himself naked, he was delighted with how well hung he looked. They had made love slowly, gently, she on her side, her back to him because of her belly, still wearing her pearls, which they took off and hung from his erection for a moment, and she remembered feeling, in that city of churches, Jew that she was, beatified.

She occasionally recognized that she had an eternally summery image of her marriage to Zack. À la Fragonard, if that wasn’t too fancy. It was not so much that the dead sprouted wings, as some said, for she genuinely believed Zack had been a good man—as was Xander.

In fact, she was a fortunate woman. It had something to do, she’d had the thought very recently—why only very recently?—with glorifying the inaccessible, while denigrating what was available to her. She recognized in some inchoate way that doing this darkened her life, and the lives of others.

Afterwards, in that Toledo hotel room, she had asked him if he wanted to have anal intercourse, and he said if she wanted. Neither of them had ever done it before. She lay on her side and they lubricated him to the hilt and he came into her slowly, carefully, and it felt strange, like she had to go to the toilet.

Throughout, she worried she’d crap all over the place. And she got angry at him later. And he said, rightly, “It was your idea!” And they both spent a long time in the shower.

Sometimes he would come almost as soon as he entered her. They would have screaming fights about it—why had she screamed at him? She had impoverished their love life—even though he’d get a second erection and could last so long she’d limp afterwards.

In a box from the basement she saw her shrink bills that he’d paid. She’d gone to Dr. Levinson with the complaint that she was in the wrong profession and that she’d married the wrong man.

She’d had it with social work—sitting on the phone at the hospital trying to find dispositions for chronic psychiatric patients, getting them out of the hospital and into group homes, or into the homes of relatives. It often took days if the patient was poor.

Finally, when she found a place, the patient would stay there at most a few months—after which he would stop taking his meds and end up hallucinating on the streets again. And then, back to the hospital. She wanted to do something less Sisyphean.

Zack made enough money so that she could afford to quit. She’d gone to film school at NYU, which she really enjoyed. But she wanted to be a star, to excel at something, and she never really had. Except that she’d been loved immoderately. But that wasn’t exactly her excelling.

She complained that her husband wasn’t creative. She should be married to a filmmaker. Not someone who put in long hours at a hospital, although he managed to drive Billy to school several mornings a week, and he ran a boys’ basketball league.

He spoke at different medical schools and hospitals, and not only about that procedure he had invented but about different materials he was experimenting with for pinning bones. She went to hear him a few times and was vaguely proud of him, but found the talks stupefying.

There was a receipt from a hotel in Lucca, in Tuscany. It had been pouring so hard that dark night that he had to pull the car to a stop on a cobblestone street before they could get near the hotel. Billy was asleep, seat-belted in, in the back of the rented car.

She and Zack somehow got into a discussion of money. He was very proud of being a good breadwinner. She was maintaining that money didn’t matter. Art mattered. She yelled at him, “All you think about is money.”

“I’m what keeps this family afloat,” he said. The rain beat against the windshield and the top of the car. “It’s because of me you can do whatever you damn please.”

“Don’t throw that up to me.”

“I’m not. I was happy to pay for school for you.”

“You don’t respect me. I mean, as an artist.”

“For God’s sake, where do you get that claptrap from? Talk about respect! If I had to depend on you for my self-esteem, my head would be in the toilet.”

She was in the bookstore with her son. Billy was his present age, thirty-seven, but with his formerly curly blond hair (a putto, they’d called him, until he was school age), indeed a big bush of curly blond hair, although his hair had never been bushy.

Certainly he didn’t have his current bright-brown wavy hair, graying a little, thinning out and receding at the temples. Instead of being distraught, he was happy. Happy to see her. In fact, he shone. He was well muscled, in a black T-shirt and red shorts.

He showed her first editions of books she had read to him in childhood (he handled them with pleasure now, but also carefully): Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, Norman the Doorman.

She remembered he would lie under the covers and she would lie above the covers beside him and read to him. They would look at the pictures. They would fall asleep together.

One night Billy, age four, had said to her, “Marry me.”

“What about Dad?” She smiled.

“He can sew.”

Now Billy took her by the hand and led her to his book-lined office. There was no photo of Dewi Persik here, not even one with the glass cracked. And no computer.

What there was, was a riot of flowers, cream-colored roses on the desk, a tall black vase of burning orange gladioli standing in front of the fireplace, fat pink peonies and deep-red poppies in a bowl on a side table beside an easy chair.

A soft light shone against the white walls. The mingled odors, the sweetness of the flowers and the woody acridness of the books, moved her. She and Billy slowly, languidly undressed, and he had a glistening erection.

Her body was taut as a young girl’s or as a pregnant abdomen. He entered into her and she came at once, explosively, yet gently, and they went on and on.