Something Mean (Part 1)

Something Mean Version 12

Part 1

Chapter 1: Fire under Water

 

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate, Some men you just can’t reach, so you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it.

I don’t like it any more than you do, men.  – “Cool Hand Luke”

Song #1 Lost in Translation, Nordlight

Adam wiped a water droplet from Mina’s forearm. The East river misted their bench in the breeze. It was July 6, 2006. Cars riding the FDR hummed above them. Yesterday’s downpour left the river high and had washed away most of the gun powder party junk from Independence Day. Explosive scraps of what used to be colorful fireworks were saturated and stuck to plastic containers and other random garbage. Stuff spilled out of the city’s rusty metal bins to join the current that raced for sewers, but in a city like New York, puddles stretch across intersections before they make it underground. Mina slipped her foot out of her sandal to move it closer to Adam. She was always doing things like this; his side of the bed, couch, it didn’t matter.

Her leg reached for Serpico, Adam’s dog, named after Adam’s man-crush, and look-alike according to him. Serpico collapsed onto his back to offer his spotted belly. There were two Al Pacino posters in Adam’s apartment: one in the bathroom and another in the living room, along with an almost complete dvd collection.

“Are you gonna be back tomorrow night?” She rotated Serpico’s chest with the ball of her foot. Normal weekends for Adam consisted of Shabbos dinners in Long Island followed by a usual return to the city sometime Saturday night.

“Don’t know yet, why?”

“You know why.” She tucked her chin into her shoulder and gave him an unblinking stare. She pressed her body into his, and asked without words if she was going to sleep in his bed, but something was off. This wasn’t a question that needed asking. She was reluctant to let him go, but why? She was anxious. He seemed uninviting. The more she thought about it, the less present she was to the conversation. She struggled to find her reliable charm and wit, not even her usual warmth could be felt. How could she turn things around and why did she feel like she had to? How did she get into a position where being herself was suddenly something she had to try for?

Mina wasn’t Adam’s girlfriend. She couldn’t even say that word or other related words without smirking. It was a stupid title, for both genders, and a futile attempt to be any guy’s girlfriend. She and Adam were on an unofficial ‘don’t ask, don’t tell basis,’ but he did mention how he wasn’t looking for anything serious within their first week of dating. They had a common ground that kept them familiar: family, humor, and love of restaurants and wild nights in their city, yet they also had their differences. Mina was third generation from Naples, raised on 12 years of Catholic school, somewhat obsessed with grades in high school, and lived for art. Her time with Adam started from a genuine interest and amusement in his secret life. He was a part-time-Jew, and while she never saw him go full Jew, the little treasures of traditional Orthodox garb found in his apartment were delightful. He wasn’t Hassidic. Most people hear Orthodox and think, big hat, Jew curls, and strange outfits walking in the street, even Mina had been guilty of this. Little hats were what she called his very decorative Yarmullkas. He only wore them when working and because she had never seen one on, they quickly spawned a game she coined Rabbi, as in, ‘Let’s play Rabbi.’ The first time she found one she put it on, and chanted with her eyes closed. He snatched it from her head, removing her smile as well, using the silent glare an adult uses with children.

In this game, he had to wear his Rabbi glasses too, again that was what Mina called them. They were thick black plastic-framed glasses kept in the top drawer of his nightstand, next the Torah and condoms. He read from the Golden Calf from the book of Deuteronomy.

You made yourselves into a golden calf. You turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you. So I took hold of the two tablets, and threw them out of my two hands, and broke them before your eyes. Then I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger.” The first couple of times they played, Mina screamed with laughter sweating from an extreme blush. She answered him with rebuttals like, “I didn’t do anything,” or “You’re crazy.”

But it wasn’t long before Rabbi became a way for her to surrender to him as part of role-play. He reprimanded her with authority continuing with the passage, sometimes smacking her hard on her backside.

I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made.” Smack.

“What are you talking about?” It was usually at this point when he put her on all fours, pulling off what little clothing was left on her body, burying her with his weight and tossing the book to the floor.

And I burned it with fire, he pinned her hands above her head. “…And crushed it,” he leaned heavily on her, and brought his head to hers. “…Grinding it very small,” he danced his hips along hers, lifting his left and dipping his right. “..until it was as fine as dust.

                He always stopped at dust, and it was then that she felt tiny. As if she had transformed under his hands into something like sand, slipping through to everywhere and he was larger than anything she had ever known, so large that in order to be with her he had to sacrifice her.

Song# 2 Pissing in a River, Patti Smith

Mina sat speechless on the bench while phrases and thoughts shared between them marked her like tattoos. She replayed what happened on the night of July 4th over in her head, and like ink up an arm, she didn’t know which way to turn her head. Each angle produced a different ending and imagination was picking up where her memory failed. Her desire and adoration for Adam was certain. She wanted her name listed in a category titled: For the FutureShe assumed he set aside such a category for her, and that this is what people did. The potentiality of that being a farce, even though they hadn’t discussed it flooded her with emotions. Like earthworms post rainfall, she had to show herself, unveil her feelings, and state what she wanted.

“I might come back Sunday instead, my sister just got back from Isreal.” Mina and Adam didn’t typically have Sunday sleepovers.

“Which one?”

“Yael.”

“How long has she been gone?”

“Oh, I don’t know, three weeks or so?”

“And what about her husband?”

“Ishmael? He’ll be there and sure to make things interesting.”

“Why?” She already knew the type of person Ishmael was and Adam’s feelings on him, but if she was going to start this “feeling” conversation, she needed more time.

“Ugh, my sister’s nuts. She complains about everything and he lets her.” Mina laughed at him.

“What do you suggest he do?”

“Tell her to stop. I don’t know. He put his hands up and then let them fall onto his lap. “Maybe he doesn’t hear her, maybe he tunes her out, but all she does is complain. Then, when we tell her she’s complaining, he gets defensive and starts fighting with my father right in the middle of Shabbos dinner.”

“He’s very protective of her?”

“Of course he is as he should be, but at the same time there’s no talking to him. Once he gets started, he’s off, and the way he speaks to us is so strange. It’s as if he harbors all the negativity she has ever felt towards her family. I mean its great that he loves her that much, but it’s just not logical.”

“Oh, if only we could all be as logical as you Adam,” she rolled her eyes. “What was the last fight about?”

“I can’t even remember.”

“Yes, you can.”

“It’s not important.”

“Of course it is.” Mina pleaded for him to go on. He scratched his bottom lip with his teeth.

“It had something to do with her body. She was reading some bullshit celebrity magazine and talking about spending time at the gym, I really don’t remember, complaining about how hard she works only to come here and ruin her diet. Whatever it was, it made my father very upset. He immediately started blessing the food even though we weren’t ready to eat, pontificating about how lucky we all are to have this bread, to have this wine. Please. It went on all night. Thank god the Rabbi wasn’t there.”

“Your Rabbi comes to your house?”

“Occasionally.”

“And wait, your dad’s rebuttal was that the food is holy?”

“Yes. But Mina you don’t get it. You don’t understand how religious my family is. He was basically saying that she’s an ingrate. I mean Jews don’t actually consider a meal a meal unless there’s bread, and everything has to be blessed with its own special blessing. Our food is very sacred.”

“I can understand that, I’m Italian ya know?”

“Mina, of course, you understand, because you’re Italian!” He looked around but no one was near them. But my dear, this isn’t about spaghetti and meatballs,” he laughed.         “Oh. Right. It’s about Matzah balls.” He put his arm around her and squeezed tightly.            “I want to tell you something, okay?” He said softly rubbing his lips on the edge of her ear. “My family doesn’t eat Matzah balls on Shabbos.”

“Yes you do. Liar.” She pulled away bringing her shoulder to her cheek, wincing from the tickle of his whisper.

“Come here.” He continued to pull on her arms bringing her ear and neck closer to his mouth so he could talk in a provocative manner. “We light candles for our food.” He licked his lips “…and pray for it before we eat it.” She pulled away but was still smiling.

“Okay. It’s a little weird, but not insane. Don’t you light candles for everything?” She joked. “My family’s meals have bread in it too ya know and we say grace.” She trailed off into a silent pause between thoughts. “And we eat bread with everything too: the sauce on Sunday, with pasta, with soup, and salad. And there are certain things that are blessed even if it doesn’t come with a prayer and lighting of a candle. Like my parent’s neighbor, Candy asks for 2 jars of sauce every Sunday because it’s that good. And my sister eats most of the Pecorino Romano cheese before it makes it to the table, and the worst, finally, when its all done and we’re starving, my mother searches for the brownest meatball in the pot to serve my father before the rest of us can eat.”

He adored her cadence, the lists she created, her volume, her fingers peeling other fingers to count the ways she was right. He loved the fire inside of her, and thought of her as his hot-blooded Italian. He bit his lip for a minute just looking at her. Mina had olive skin, with brown curly hair and the tiniest freckles on both sides of her nose. They disappeared after her first sunning, but were prominent until then. The most beautiful part of her face was undeniably her eyes. They were long-lashed and reddish brown with bright green centers. She was the only grandchild with her Mamaw’s eyes, and as life would have it, she was her grandmother’s favorite.

 

Ch. 2: Taboo

Mina worked across town from that shady bench at the Museum of Natural History. It granted her intellectual freedom and the right to say anything liberal. She knew a ton about art, making it, dissecting it, and the names of people who spent their lives worshipping it. She fancied architecture and the Grecian way of life. Mina loved saying those two things, and when asked what was best about her year abroad, she would say, nothing was like reading and studying the Duomo, and then using it everyday as a place to meet friends. Walking through the installations of stuffed field mice, painted mannequins and hanging birds hardly fulfilled her passion for art, but it was a start. She lived on 35th street in a small three-story building. Adam lived just three blocks up but still off of first Ave. The main difference was his building had fifty floors, a pool, hot tub, tennis courts, and a remarkable view. Although this wasn’t where they first met, it was easy for them to run-in to one another now that they knew they were neighbors.

They were charismatic articulate adults, dog people; people who made storeowners, bartenders and doormen, even bouncers smile. Adam was a busy man with suits and ties hung neatly next to one another just like his appointments. He played with money and its what he thought about. The minor convenience of her proximity guided their seamless friendship in the way a drop becomes a drip.

Just the night before their conversation on the bench , they slept at his place as they had for the past two days due to the holiday. They were on a mini stay-cation. She packed a bag like she didn’t live close by and used the puffy white towels to and from his pool and Jacuzzi on the 12th floor. Her body was curled away from him. The hour was late and of course Adam fell asleep first. She nestled deeper into the mattress matching the ebb and flow of his inhalations, but even with the calming rhythm of sleep next to her she was insecure. It wasn’t that she was thinking about her feelings for him, but she hated the thought that what happened the day before, could prevent him from loving her. It was bad enough that she wasn’t Jewish, and what they were doing was—this was the heart of the matter, and what kept her awake—the secrecy, intangibility, the unanswered, unasked question of what— just what were they doing?

She took in the smell of Freon coming from his humidifier. It was a nostalgic scent that brought the vision of her Great Aunt Mariella’s attic. The door leading the way, opened with a skeleton key permanently poking out of the knob. There was a beautiful dollhouse that lived in that attic, had been her Aunt’s when she was a little girl and was all Mina could now think about. She traveled her open palm over Adam’s taut bed-sheet. The texture ran one ribbed line against the silky weavings of another smooth line. The lines raced away from her to the foot of the bed as she listened to city static twenty floors beneath them. She drifted to sleep from that spot next to him in his bed, breathing that familiar smell in the muffled sounds of summer, feeling small and perfect like a doll in a dollhouse.

~~~

Song #3 Merry Happy, Kate Nash

Back on the bench Mina was making things more complicated than they needed to be. Despite her paranoia, they were perfectly content, now and the night before. The day was beautiful and with the river so high, even the air smelled great.

“What?” she asked about his tempting look: a subtle squint and lick of his bottom lip.

“Nothing.”

“You used to always tell me I bit my lip, but now you do it?” He dug teeth harder into skin.

Adam had a list of women that he liked to be seen with. They were long legged beauties with expensive hair and designer shoes. They fit him, and the regal cleft in his chin. His slicked back salt and pepper hair accentuated the bowing ribbons of grey in his navy eyes. He could make any face, and often contorted to flip between characters when telling stories. Three things that did not change were his extraordinary height of six-foot for a Jewish guy and a washboard stomach with little to no butt. He had ample hair, and not just on his scalp. His chest, back and shoulders were shaded with a thick curly protection. He went for a full body waxing once a month. Mina knew this about him, made fun of him for it, yet still felt insecure whenever she dressed to meet him out somewhere. She was short, graced with a wide set of hips. She liked to get dressed up but it wasn’t a must.

“You have great feet you know that, you don’t wear heels that often do you?” he asked.

“No. I wear them sometimes,” she said becoming shy.

“Your feet don’t look like bird feet.” She lifted her leg so they could both examine her petite foot and even smaller orange painted toes.

“What’s a bird foot Adam?”

He put his hand onto her thigh, right above her knee and thought about the smoothness of her skin, especially on the small of her back. This is where he usually kept his hands when he was on top of her. The thought of being in bed with her took him to his apartment and he remembered smelling her the other day when she wasn’t around. It wasn’t perfume. It was something else, and it was all over her: her face, neck, arms, and hands. It came out of her pores and stayed with him after they parted. It had been a few months that they regularly shared each other’s company and still, he didn’t know what it was about her that smelled so good.

“A bird foot, my dear, is like a dinosaur foot with mangled toes and one big claw-like toe,” he said making a C shape with his finger.

“You’re insane,” she laughed.

“About your family, you should eat that much bread, that’s what Italians do, Meen. Us Jews, on the other hand, we bless our food based on how it grows. There’s blessings for produce, one for that which grows in stalks, another for food grown on trees, a blessing for what we drink, other than wine, and of course the wine’s special blessing.” He took a pause. “Interesting man your father is though that he likes his meat a little brown, huh.” Adam had secretly visited tanning salons, but each time sub-par sanitary conditions forced him to retire from trying to match Mina’s golden hue.

“Mina,” he said wrapping his arm around her to bring her in close. “We bless the bread Friday night, so that while we bless the rest of the food on Saturday, it doesn’t feel left out. Can you imagine how crazy it is to consider the feelings of bread?” They sat close for a while as objects of the Summer’s affection. The dogs mouthed each other and it was a sublime Thursday afternoon. Mina’s dog was a mixed breed from the shelter that she named Rags, as in rags to riches. Rags was black and white, with both colors split evenly down her nose.

“Do your parents know that you took the elevator last weekend? Mina referred to the laws of Shabbos. A specific law that prohibited the use of electricity from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.”

“No.” He lit a cigarette.

“They didn’t call and ask, seeing as you didn’t go to Long Island?”

“My dad mentioned it during the week. He asked me what I did with the dog.”

“Wait, would that be considered using electricity, like pressing the button, or is it breaking the other law, of not riding or driving a vehicle? Or is it a double whammy? What happens when you commit a double whammy?”

“Shut-up,” he said with a smile.

“So what’d you tell him? That you raced down the stairs with Serpico for a good workout?”

“Exactly, you little shit. How’d you know?”

“I know you. Don’t you think that’s weird though, it’s like your dad knows that you don’t follow everything completely.”

“No. He just asks questions. Isn’t that what parents do?” Adam asked. Mina got a sudden wave of confidence. She was sure from Adam’s comment that he was a reasonable man and the conversation she wanted to have was easy, and one they were sure to feel similiarly about.

“I know I joke a lot about your double life, to Jew or not to Jew,” she held up air quotes. “And it’s funny. I just want you to know I don’t mean to diminish the weight you carry living this way. I know it’s not easy, or at least I don’t know how it could be.”

“No it isn’t. But, it’s what I have to do,” he quickly answered.

“I don’t get that. They love you. Why wouldn’t they understand that you have the right, and will to choose a life that makes you happy?”

“Yea man. Free love. Free life. Power to the people.” He mocked her with a peace sign moving his head like Stevie Wonder, except she was nearly positive he didn’t know Stevie. “It doesn’t work that way Mina, you sound like the cat lady in your building.”

“What cat lady?”

“The crazy lady with all the cats! She was holding that poster for peace, just came back from her anti-Bush rally when we passed her on the stairs. Hello? Are you feeling alright?”

“When were you at my apartment?”

“Oh stop it!” he said with a nasal whine for effect. “Mina you are something else. I ask if we should go to your place, but you always want to come to mine,” he smiled. “Look, it would be nice. But we can’t all be like you. The bottom line is that my parents would be devastated. They won’t respect it is as a decision I am making, but a mistake. A mistake that goes against all of their hard work and money invested in my future.”

“But it isn’t going to waste,” she begged. “Can’t you just tell them that you don’t want to live according to some religious prescription? Its not like you’re denouncing everything about the religion. You can still hold onto the faith.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. That isn’t how the world works.” he interrupted her.

“Maybe.” Mina was embarrassed. He took a drag of his Newport, and she didn’t know what else to say. She asked herself what the world had to do with this.

“What you’re suggesting will ruin my relationships with my family, my friends, my neighbors, my clients, my bosses, everyone. Everyone that I have grown up with, have known since I was a kid, that watched me grow, supported me, taught me, parented the kids that I went to school with, that are now in businesses that I can work with. You’re acting like its no big deal to just go on without any of these things. My world will be ruined if I consider your suggestion.”

“Okay. Okay. I’m sorry.” A long silence started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ch. 3: Independence Party

Song#4 Que Bueno Biala Usted, Benny More

The empty city was delightful. Many residents were away for the holiday and the city slowly re-populated in waves as it does every summer. She could have spent the rest of the day testing benches with him. He often said he wasn’t romantic and he rarely if ever kissed her in public, but he absolutely loved to take her, especially when she was wearing a dress, and throw her onto the ground. He didn’t actually throw her onto the ground, but it looked that way to those that watched their fake fights. She would get on top of him and fight back as best she could, after having been taken by surprise, as well as being a whole foot smaller than him. At the finish, she stood completely disheveled, with hair in her mouth and sweat on her forehead. Men loved watching these games. She never knew when it was coming either. He was spontaneous with everything that he did, which is why it was so hard for her to talk about what happened on July 4th.

While her and Adam were as open as a stadium, she still felt like a boundary had been crossed that night. She knew it was wrong to slap his friend Uri on the ass and dance with him, not when she did it of course, because she was nearly blackout drunk. However, she currently had enough sober guilt to know that clearing her name was the only option, yet due to the nature of their involvement didn’t know if it was worth mentioning. She was most confused about what to own up to though: slapping Uri, getting wasted, or that she couldn’t remember the night if she tried. She had no idea what Adam was thinking or how to apologize, also was unsure if she should see this as an opportunity to reveal what she wanted from their future.

Adam’s jealousy, real or perceived, excited her but this was going to be a sobering conversation, essentially their first fight, and she didn’t want it to quell the forbidden and inexhaustible heat between them. Uri was Adam’s friend from kindergarten and Mina gathered from the occasional story that there was an annoying competition between them. Uri was the kid with the jewfro sitting next to Adam in the 1st grade photo Mina examined in the very beginning of the night.

She was already dressed to go to dinner, as was Uri, who had just arrived to the apartment. Neither Mina nor Uri had seen each other before. They were both standing in the kitchen when Uri phoned the restaurant.

“I called to push back the reservation! Don’t rush or anything Adam! Uri yelled so Adam could hear him from the bathroom.”

“You drink wine Mina?” Uri opened the fridge, bending to scan for a bottle. He didn’t wait for an answer and closed the doors fruitless in his searches. He turned to notice Mina holding a bottle of Riesling.

“It was thawing in the sink.” Adam found it in the freezer this morning.

“Who’s better than you?” he asked her.

“Adam. It’s his bottle. I’m surprised it didn’t burst.”

“Good job Adam! Hey pretty boy, you keep your wine in the freezer!” he yelled into the wall. Mina propped herself up on the counter to watch Uri work his way around a kitchen he didn’t know well.

“Do you deal with his tardiness all the time?” Uri poured two glasses.

“I suppose,” Mina shrugged her shoulders. “It takes him a long time to get out of the bathroom, but once he’s out, he’s good to go.”

“Tell me something Mina.” He stared into her eyes and she didn’t know what to make of him. His pupils were like black holes deeply set in the crystalline blue he knew for eyes. He had thick curly black hair and his conversation was mostly inconsequential, however this meeting was the first attempt to introduce Mina to his world of friends and family. She caught him fiddling with his curls to frame his face. There was nothing religious about him and yet he was Adam’s closest friend. They moved into the foyer so Uri could look the mirror. His body was well sculpted, and Mina thought it was safe to say that he was preoccupied with aesthetics.

“What do you do?” he asked her, finishing his manscaping.

“I work at the Museum of Natural History.”

“Oh right. I remember now. That’s where you guys met. Very cool.” He finished half of his wine in one sip as Adam exited the bathroom.

“Thanks, I’d love a glass,” Adam said. “What the hell were you guys yelling about?”

“Your pretty ass. Did you finish your make-up Adam?” Uri looked at Mina for praise in the form of laughter but got none. What Uri didn’t know, was that all this talk about make-up reminded Mina of the eyelash curler she found in Adam’s bathroom just a few hours earlier.

Song #5 Exilo, Thievery Corporation

Her and Adam had spent that day together and had shared the freedom to move in and out of each other’s space, including the bathroom. If he was brushing his teeth while getting ready, it was perfectly normal for her to come in and talk to him. This was a quick progression for both of them, and just that morning, she had found something unexpected.

Adam was watching a news program when it happened. He was one of those that became engrossed in market analysts of every kind, as in he kept an open mouth and was incapable of maintaining conversation whenever the TV was on. Mina used this time to do things alone like pluck her eyebrows, but first she opened the mirror to look for moisturizer. He let her use it once before and gave her permission to take what she needed without question, however instead of face cream her search stumbled upon a Revlon eyelash curler. It rested on the top shelf, and as she reached for it on tippy-toes she imagined the long legs that placed it there for safekeeping. She knew that her and Adam weren’t monogamous, but the find still bothered her. She just held it, shocked. She opened and closed it in her hands a few times as she talked to herself. Who leaves an eyelash curler? When she was done perfecting the arch of her brows and feeling as beautiful, if not more, than the imagined Revlon model without her trusty silver curler, she reopened the cabinet and fearlessly carried the instrument with her to the living room.

“Hey…” she prolonged the sound of the y addressing Adam playfully. She waited patiently for him to look at her.

“I wasn’t searching. I was just grabbing some lotion, but I have to ask, why do you have an eyelash curler?” She stood in the entranceway to the living room, leaning on the wall holding the tool behind her.

“What are you talking about?” Adam asked her without turning his head.

“Why do you have an eye-lash curler?” She smiled and brought it out in plain sight.

“Come show me what you’re talking about.” He patted the seat next to him on the couch, and turned his eyes back to the television. Maury Povich was on and a fight had just ended. Adam could flip back from garbage like this and news all day.

“This?” He grabbed the instrument, opened and closed it a few times, then gave it back to her. “This is mine, but you can borrow it if you like.”

“What! Don’t lie to me. I can borrow it? You’re ridiculous!”

“I’m not lying,” he said without smiling.

“Put it back please. I am not ready for it. I use it when I get out of the shower.” He wasn’t alarmed by the implications of such a find. He resumed and Mina did as she was told. She didn’t believe it was his, despite his feminine details, obsessive personality, and strange hygienic habits, but she respected his cool dismissal and didn’t mention it again.

 

 

~  ~  ~

After the trio’s Fourth of July dinner they waited for a water taxi to Spice, a rooftop club. Juice mixers on ice greeted their cozy corner sofa and bottle menu. Mina’s drinks disappeared as she danced, mingling on their own as lost drinks tend to do at parties. There was one balding man on a couch in front of them in the middle of the club. A few white hairs were glistening against his scalp and the night sky shined over them. He and the six beautiful women that surrounded him were all everyone could gawk at. It may have been what started Uri’s quest for some hot Fourth of July women, along with his very descriptive plans of what to do with them at Adam’s apartment. Cocktail waitresses carrying trays of red white and blue shots were the beginning of Mina’s decline.

She seduced Adam without inhibition mimicking the provocative dance moves of the old man’s escorts. He sat with a sideways smile, looking at her hungrily, but the public display also made him slightly uncomfortable. Uri, inebriated as well, locked hands with Mina for a moment to grind in front of Adam. It was several moments before she pulled away. He continued to dance on his own, grabbing and thrusting his body onto the poles of the canopy. Mina found it difficult to follow, both because of the erratic nature of the movement and her temporary lack of coordination. Adam was too subdued to outwardly join in and in finding her rhythm, she danced her way over to Uri and slapped him on the butt a few times. He turned and danced with her, lifting her up by the waist and at the highest point positioned his arms around her bottom. She hit the tops of his shoulders to come down and that was the abrupt end of their dancing.

Uri naturally invited himself to Adam’s apartment for a freedom joint with them. This is what he was calling it in light of the holiday and a mockery to the United States’ movement to turn all things modified “Frenchin to Freedom. They sat in front of the bay window sharing half-witted conversation smelling rain that hadn’t yet fallen. Al Pacino joined them with his signature Scarface tall-chaired photo from the movie. It read, “Say hello to my little friend,” and was positioned above a single Japanese White Pine bonsai. Despite its name, nothing about the tree was white.

Adam became hungry nearly seconds after the joint finished, and gorged himself on chicken liver, pickle, potato chip sandwiches in the kitchen. These were tiny little sandwiches where chicken liver was spread to hold a pickle, like a seashell on sand, and then smashed between two greasy potato chips. Typically he would carry on eating them with noises and faces of enjoyment to gross Mina out, but she was falling in and out of sleep sprawled on the recliner. Uri talked about a bartender named Crystal while admiring Mina’s bare feet. Adam popped out of the kitchen, said something to him in Hebrew and disappeared. Uri turned on the tv and stopped browsing when he landed on soft porn. Mina could barely keep her eyes open, but upon looking up at the TV, she sat up.

She didn’t want to deny Adam sex, especially with the lame excuse of being tired or drunk. She compared herself to the Revlon model again and peeled herself off leather to join him in the kitchen. Uri watched her drop to her knees when she reached him. She pretended she needed Adam’s help to get up, but once he bent down she reversed the order and sat on his chest. She tried to be serious, but manhandling him in the ways he usually does to her was hilarious and her body shook with laughter. Adam became aroused and reduced her efforts by lifting her entire body into his caresses. Uri ran over to join them but by the time he arrived the commotion was more intimate than a battle.

“Bro, what are you doing?” Adam asked with his hands still on Mina.

“What do you mean what am I doing?”

“It’s not like that,” Adam replied.

“Definitely not like that! Awkward,” she laughed and stood to fix her dress. “Do you two normally swap swords?” Mina asked.

“No!” Adam said.

“Wow, you two are nothing but a bunch of sword swappers.” She walked towards the bathroom using drunken hands to locate the zipper along her ribs. Uri followed her but Adam didn’t.

“What’s your problem with sword swappers?” Uri asked.

“Me? Why are you saying I have a problem? I just didn’t know you two did that sort of thing.”

“What if it wasn’t two guys? Would you like it then?” She was too drunk to be offended but knew to close the bathroom door on him. She slid to her knees, with the side of her face on the door and gaze on the cabinets. They spoke in Hebrew and she closed her eyes to listen. Still unsuccessful at finding the seam, she pulled her dress over her head and laid under the shower’s stream.

 

 

 

Part 1 Chapter 4 Foreplay

Song #6 Lost in my Mind, The Head and the Heart

Rain dripped onto the black oak floor from the windowsill. The balcony windows were left open and the humidity had moistened their sleeping bodies. The smell of rain was palpable. Adam woke up first, closed all the windows and made coffee. He brought her the yellow mug she used every time she slept over and was inclined to have coffee in bed. Mina had a terrible headache, as did he, and they smothered the bed with dead weight and party-breath. Uri was nowhere to be found.

“Did you have fun last night?” Adam questioned.

“Yea, you?”

“I did. You and Uri danced a lot,” he said.

That was all that was said before they drifted back to sleep. When they woke again a few hours later, the only thing on his mind was food. He hopped out of the shower before her and continued to talk to her as he dried his body in the bathroom.

“You know you wanted to sleep in here last night,” he said putting a toothbrush in his mouth.

“I did?”

Just leave me here, I’ll be fine,” he said mimicking her drunken stupor. She was mortified.

“Why was I in the shower?”

“You don’t remember taking a shower?”

“Not at all,” she said.

“Do you remember coming home and eating chicken liver with me?”

“Oh my god! How did I get that drunk?”

“Nooo!” he said laughing. “I’m fucking with you. You didn’t eat chicken liver, but you and Uri were gonna take a shower together, do you remember that?”

“You’re crazy.” She knew he was exaggerating but also couldn’t be sure of anything. There was definitely some truth behind these playful jabs concerning Uri. “I can’t believe I wanted to sleep in the shower. How did I get out?”

“I carried you my dear.”

“Oh my god. How embarrassing?”

“What? Don’t be embarassed.”

“I shouldn’t have gotten like that.”

“Mina, forget it. You were fine. Are you hungry? I want to get some food and make this omelet I had the other day.”

The kitchen was a disaster from the night before. Also, it didn’t get the same attention as other rooms in the apartment. He ordered the omelet at the Seaport Diner sometime last week and devoured it like an animal eats through skin. His strange relationship with food stemmed from years of restriction based on the rules ofKashrut. The traditional Orthodox consummation of dairy is never on the same plate with meat, even if it has been washed. Many Orthodox communities follow this exactly as it was written in Leviticus, a book written before 1400BC. These laws or Kashrut maintain every Kosher household keep two sinks, two sets of china, and several hours between eating the two. Not having dairy and meat on the same plate prohibits almost all modern day food combinations, marking his ripe age of 29, not only a year of hypocrisy, but also the first time he can enjoy fancy omelets, or any dish, for that matter, combining meat and cheese.

Mina agreed to walk to D’Agostinos for ingredients despite the rain. A man wearing thick glasses and a blue poncho greeted them standing when they walked through the automated doors. His head was cocked up to the left as he read a coupon book held in his hand like a newspaper. His crooked smile and uneven glance reminded her of Red Cross Christmas bell-ringers, except instead of caroling and asking for donations, he repeated:

 

Buy a bag of chips get a free salsa. Pause. Okay.

Buy a bag of chips get a free salsa. Pause. Okay.

 

“Now there’s a nice guy you can settle down with Meen. Go talk to him.The two of you could sleep in the bathtub every night if you want. Just leave me here. I’ll be fineOkay.” He continued to make fun of her for the night before using poncho man’s intonation. He watched her blush and reach for a cart.

“You know how you can tell a crazy person?” she asked.

“How?”

“Their volume. So often a stranger looks totally normal, you say hello or ask them a question, and once they start speaking, you know they’re nuts! They open their mouth too wide, talk too loudly, or have one of those unruly tongues. I mean sometimes you just know they’re crazy before you speak to them, but you can’t always tell, you know?” He turned the corner and parked the cart, as if he knew exactly where the cucumbers were going to be. He squeezed each before collecting them in a bag.

“Oh Man! Can you smell those bagels?” Mina lifted her nose to catch a better whiff of the sweet scent of bread coming from the bakery.

“Oh Right. I meant to tell you. Listen to this. The other day I was coming home, at like four in the morning, and I saw this bagel truck, Best Bagels, Hot Bagels, some bagel shop I’ve never heard of with an OU on it, picking up bagels from H & H!”

“What’s an OU?”

“It’s a kosher thing.”

“Okay. So?”

“Sooo?” he asked dramatically.

“What’s your point? I bet a lot of bagel companies get their bagels from H&H. Unless you’re saying you don’t know why, because then I’m with you, I don’t think they’re good either.”

“My point is that this truck had an OU, on it. H & H isn’t OU. They sell ham, salami, bacon, all that shit, with cream cheese right next to it,” he said with a disgusted face.

“Adam what are you talking about?”

“Hi. Have we met?” He paused looking at her with pursed lips. “You know I’m Jewish right?”

“Yes,” she laughed.

“Maybe you have heard? Us Jews, we eat this thing called Kosher food? Israeli stamps are slicked with certified kosher glue. Kind of a big deal. You get it? Okay?”

“Yes. I know Kosher Pareve. Is that how you say food in Hebrew?”

“No! He rolled his eyes. Pareve literally means neutral, as in not dairy or meat. Anyway that’s not even the Hechsher I’m talking about. Oy Vey.”

“The who?”

“The Hechsher. The certification that guarantees the food my people eat is Kosher. Just stay with me.”

“Oh. Okay,” she said peeling her eye-lids back, to express interest.

“There are five major seals that guarantee kosher quality. It doesn’t matter what seal they have at H & H. I know it’s not an OU.”

“Oh an Ohhh Uuuu?” She made fun of his severity.

“An OU is the Orthodox seal. All the other seals are basically signed by non-rabbi’s that put their picture up guaranteeing that business there is under Kosher supervision. It’s bullshit!” He raised his volume. “How would they know? They’ve never even been there!”

“You know that I know little of what you are actually talking about, and your volume is reaching that crazy level I was explaining before.”

“It’s all a scam, these seals and certificates are just another business. Bottom line: Jews are making money off Jews. He made his point and wrapped a bundle of asparagus in a green tinted plastic bag and tossed them in the cart.”

“Ohh okay,” she nodded, glad his rage had concluded.

“What do you mean ohh, okay? It’s mutiny!”

“Take it easy Adam, how do you know all this?”

“I went to see for myself.” He picked up some tomatoes on the vine.

“You’re totally insane.” She watched him park his cart slowly and kneel down to examine blocks of cheese. A large trough filled with plastic wrapped animal milk, blended with herbs and peppers from different parts of the world lit up his face.

“Maybe you can tell a crazy person by what they notice or spend time theorizing about,” she said watching him.

“I know but get this, these Hechshers sometimes come from another city or state, and the poor schmuck buying a bagel from Hot Bagels thinks its OU, meanwhile its been sitting next to bacon all morning. Crazy? Eh?” He didn’t need a response. He lifted a block of cheddar cheese to his nose. “Cheddar?”

“That’s fine.”

“Or Pepper Jack?” He threw down the block of extra sharp cheddar.

“That works.”

“Oh man. Jalepeno Swiss, or Muenster. These all look good.” It was impossible for him to choose as he brought each cut of cheese to his nose.

“Too hard to make a decision?” she asked commenting on his life.

“You ever have horseradish cheese?” he asked.

“Yep. So wait, do you read Kosher labels on everything you eat?”

“Hell no.” He laughed. “I’m going to follow my Italian instinct, and get us Parmesan.”

“An Italian instinct on a Jew might be a little awkward.”

“No its not. You’re on me all the time.” She walked away from him rolling her eyes.

Song #7 Freedom Like a Shopping Cart, NOFX

Adam began driving the cart as if one of the wheels was possessed. He jerked it from left to right lifting one of the wheels for effect. One minute he was pushing it straight then he stopped it short and started fishtailing, shouting things like whooaa, like the cart had a mind of its own and was ready to flip over. He hadn’t known Mina very long, and he wasn’t usually this jokey but it was so easy, so incredibly corny and she enjoyed it. He cut her off without warning, nearly crushing her feet with the cart and every time he did something like this it reminded her of how awkward he had made their first kisses. Their very first time was normal, in the way lips connect to form a kiss, but after pulling away he pretended as if he didn’t know how to find her mouth again. He pulled this trick regularly. He would close his eyes, move in extra slowly, and still miss her lips and get bits of her nose and eyebrow.

The cart’s zigzagging stopped on freckled linoleum and he bumped out from the drivers position to survey egg cartons. He opened and closed lids to check shell condition and size.

“C’mon Adam, just grab em already. I’m starving now.”

“Yesiree, we are ready. I hope you’re hungry,” he said pretending he didn’t just hear her. “I bet you don’t know how Jews use the express isle?”

“Nope. Tell me.”

“No seriously, you can ask any Jew. We only buy certain items at the grocery store, whether we’re here everyday or not, but we count the item type, not the quantity. Get it? We can check out on the Express aisle, because an item only counts once, no matter how many you have of it.”

“Sounds Jewish to me.”

“You got a lot of nerve you know that.” He was full on acting now.

“Why?”

“You’re more Jewish than me. How could you be an anti-Semite? Mina began grabbing things from the cart with a smile on her face, but he quickly reprimanded her in an Irish accent.

“What in God’s name do you think your doing? Ya keep on touching me groceries like that and I’m not buying em, not even one item.”

“Jesus Mary and Joseph, I’m just putting them on the belt for God’s sake,” she came back at him in a brogue of her own.

“Ya don’t even know how I like em.” He arranged his items in size order, covering every part of the belt. He stacked them close to one another, and she watched him act out an idiosyncrasy that was dangerously close to the control issues present in his true personality.

She didn’t help unload the cart after that and was distracted by a star-struck magazine. She hid her face in pictures of a sex scandal between three very well known celebrities, and turned herself on thinking of their sex. He walked closer to Mina by the front of the cart and grabbed the cheese from the child seat.

“Oh excuse me, is that your leg,” he said as his hand wrapped around her inner thigh. She stepped back and turned away shaking her head.. “Oh my, is that your ass? Wow! Sorry, oh I am so sorry, I thought it was mine.” She turned to face him, frozen laughing and not sure where to go to avoid his ass grabbing. “I had no idea you were there, really, excuse me. I just wanted to get some gum. Fresh breath is important. Really sorry about before, I didn’t even see you.” He hooked one of his fingers in her belt loop and pulled her into him with great force, yet catching her by her breast before she fell into him. He cupped it in his palm and placed his other hand on her shoulder with a theatrical look of concern. “Darling, are you okay?”

 

Ch. 5: Grand Slam

She had sex with Adam, only after about a month of dating, having denied the invitation upstairs several times. They met randomly one night dog walking. She was wearing her usual work button down-blazer combination, and said yes to dinner on the spot, even though they hadn’t spoken at all that day. She wanted him badly, especially the sharp edge of his canine on her body. She often visualized him tonguing it, something he did while thinking, and also the way it got caught when he licked his lips. They were big smooth lips and all she could focus on as he spoke. They didn’t have any wrinkles; just a supple invitation to the expression of his mind that she couldn’t deny.

His room was different than she imagined, and she did imagine it, nearly every-time they spoke on the phone before bed. Its neatness pleased her. His four-posted metal-framed bed, otherwise wooden in her mind, was pillow puffed with a military grade-tucking job. His tightly bound comforter, cognac recliner, and fluffy white shag rug looked as though it came right out of a Nautica catalog. She crushed carpet fibers between her toes. The smell was calming, not like the scent of a man, like something she knew but couldn’t place. She looked at herself in the mirror and became light-headed. She smiled for no specific reason and fell onto his bed.

“What do you wanna eat?” he asked her while peeing.

“Anything. I’m starving.” She didn’t get up from her catalog spread. He picked up on what she was really saying and cocked an eyebrow.

“Okayyy?” he cut through their tension with deliberate resistance. They left the apartment within minutes and walked down the street to a new Thai restaurant.

“I’m going to have a Lychee martini, what about you?” he asked her with his face hidden behind his menu.

“Definitely not following suit,” she laughed.

“Oh I didn’t tell you about my condition?”

“Oh right,” she said uninterested and turning to the second page of the menu.

“Noooouhhh,” he said pronouncing no like the name Noah. “You’re supposed to say, What condition Adam?”

“What condition Adam?” she asked with a Brady Bunch inflection. Mina was getting used to him now and could tell when he was going to act out a character.

“I’m gay,” he said. She fake smiled and returned to dinner options. His only audience was the green cliff-sides and ocean view printed on her menu’s cover.

“Drunk Man Noodle? Why would I want to order a dish called Drunk Man Noodle? Why would they put that on a menu? Uh, yea hi, can I please have the drunken man noodle?” Adam ordered to a fictitious server.

“It’s kind of delicious. I’ve had it before,” she said.

“What! You’ve been here before?”

“No. I’ve had it though, it’s a common Thai dish.”

“Oh cuz if you were here, I was gonna say you know…. you know…” He spoke as if he was tough.

“No I don’t know.” She looked him directly in the eye.

“I just want to know, yuno…who you mighta come here with.” He puckered his lips and bopped his head like some hip-hop gangster, but not in the true sense of the word.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m sayin… I’m sayin,” then he stopped. He stopped with his hands and voice. The excitement for that persona left the table. “So, just so I’m clear, what you’re telling me is… is that Drunk Man Noodle is a dish you can get at other Thai places?”

“Yes.”

“Okay will you please order the drunken man noodle? I want to hear you say it,” he laughed at the thought of it. Mina was still thinking about the conversation prior. It was the first time he asked her a question like that. She asked herself if he had just acted slightly jealous, or was pretending. It didn’t matter, she wanted him and her confusion quickly turned to happiness.

“Maybe,” she smiled about it all. “Do you like curry puffs?”

“Puffs? My god,” he exaggerated and spread a gay hand with pinky-extended across his chest. “Do you even listen to me? Try to remember my condition.” She looked up with one hard blink. It was unspoken, but definitely clear that she was annoyed with the gay joke and wanted him to stop.

“Yes I would love to order curry puffs okay? We’ll have two orders, or is one okay? One should be fine, right dear? One is good. Did I tell you that you look very nice this evening? Your skirt shows off your sexy legs. Tell you what, why don’t you just order for us, since you seem to be so acquainted with the menu?”

“Really?”

“I’m in your hands. Guide me,” he said. It felt like a first date for Mina, not that she had been the one to lead at all on their first date, and he was talking like a Jewish woman at the moment, but that didn’t matter. It was somehow her turn to impress him. The two of them walked side-by-side after dinner saying nothing, and then it happened: He grabbed her by the arm in the street, aggressively squeezing her by the elbow, pretending to dig his knuckle in her ribs.

“What’d you say? What’d you say to me? Don’t even think about moving.” He threw her against a glass door in a vestibule. “Don’t make a sound. Just walk. You just shut-the-fuck-up and walk.” Mina couldn’t stop laughing, but did it with minimal noise and loved her body so close to his. She was getting turned on in the way humans take sex with violence. Her glands prepared her body for what was coming. The insides of her cheeks filled with saliva, like lemonade streaming down beverage fountain bins. They walked in through the grand lobby of the Corinthian just like that, her laughter shaking him, arousing him and his gun-finger poking her small ribs.

He slammed her back against the wall of the elevator hidden from the concierge. He kissed her on the mouth with his hand around her neck and open eyes. They kissed passionately under the heat of elevator lights, and his incharacter hand became affectionate. They broke sweat mid kiss and he caressed his way down and around her body. The elevator stopped and they disconnected their mouths waiting for the door to open.

Once in the apartment it took all of five minutes for him to go to the bathroom and turn on his sound system. He played, “Regulators,” by Warren G. She couldn’t stop laughing and it was what he wanted. He needed to slow things down. He wanted this badly. With puckered lips, he rubbed her hips and legs as she slithered to the music. It was, at first, a joke for both of them. This wasn’t the song she had in mind, and he seriously wanted to have sex with her, but because he hadn’t showered, or mentally prepared. He tried once before and she denied him. He didn’t want to rush anything. He released her from his clutches to make two apple martinis and gather his wits. She resisted making fun of him for owning a bottle of Apple Pucker, and preoccupied herself examining his very religious bookshelf and un-Orthodox movie collection.

Song #8 Orange Wedge, The Chemical Brothers

“Oh I like this song,” she said. He returned to the living room holding two neon green liquid diamonds.

“You like this techno rave shit?” He clicked the remote towards the television to see what was playing. “Orange Wedge? What the fuck is that?”

“This is your Ipod!”

“I know I love this shit,” he said.

“You’re so weird.” There was a silence and she stood up. She knew she was being watched but she wasn’t going to make this easy for him, even if he did have a bonsai. She walked towards the tree to examine it.

“Do you cut this yourself?”

“I do. It’s called prune, as in the art of pruning,” he said with perfect diction.

“How often do you prune?”

“Twice a year, usually, but it depends on the changes it goes through each season,” he said walking closer to her with drinks.

“So wait, when a branch begins, hold on let me get a sip.” She lifted her martini and pinky. “Ahhh Apple Pucker, it’s been a while. Okay, so a branch begins to bud and very quickly grow, but because it’s not picture perfect or in the right place you eliminate it in order to preserve the tree’s ultimate design?”

“Yes, and no. The aim of keeping a bonsai is to capture its beauty and power, but to keep the tree’s natural form without showing that it’s been crafted by hand. They’re many types of pruning.”

“What’s your method?” She loved how intense he was being. Not one character she had seen of his could compete with the passion he had at that moment.

“Kajiwara. Do you really want to learn horticulture right now?”

“Teach me something.” She shrugged her shoulders.

“Okay there are two important parts of a bonsai: the sucker and the crotch.”

“Shut up,” she pushed his arm.

“I’m serious,” he grabbed her hand and pulled her in slowly. He didn’t let her leave his grip.

“No you’re not.” She remained still.

“Okay I absolutely am, but I’m not getting into that right now.” He moved a strand of hair away from her face. “Some say…that a bonsai…develops from a combination…of what the owner feels about the tree and the tree’s behavior…” He freed her hands from the martini. “And, that the most beautiful bonsais are in a constant state of compromise.”

“How’d you learn so much about this stuff?” She stared at his mouth.

“One of my mentors in Israel was part of the Israeli Bonsai Society. He taught me everything I know.”

“Are you a member now that you have your own tree?” Mina laughed as she spoke, despite how much this interest of his interested her.

He moved behind her. The tips of his fingers traced along her clavicle and spread wide to press her chest into his. He snuck an index and middle finger between two buttons and cupped the side of her face and neck. His hand swam through her hair, tilted her head back and used his teeth to move her shirt collar out of the way. He heavily exhaled on her skin.

“Mina, may I please take you to my room?”

“Uh- huh.” She was covered in goose bumps and had more of that lemonade saliva filling her mouth.

She loved the way he kissed. She grabbed his bottom lip and lightly chewed on it. His breath intoxicated her like truffle oil always did. They walked as they kissed. He licked the outside of her lips, coating them, making them his and every time he did it she lifted her knee and tucked her foot around him.  They walked half of the way with her hopping on one leg. She reached for balance, grabbing at the wall and doorframe. When he lifted her completely to softly lay her on his bed, he said hi, as if he was seeing her for the first time. He took his time removing her clothes, unbuttoning and peeling her garments off with precision. Adam exuded a level of confidence that calmed her and she knew she was never going to look at him the same. He watched her respond to his touch and could feel her shutter as he licked her. He returned to her face to kiss her mouth just before opening his nightstand drawer   for a condom.

She grabbed it from his hand and got on top. It made him smile. He didn’t think she had it in her, seeing that he waited a month for her to just come upstairs. She kissed the top of his chest and moved her way down his torso while he closed his eyes.

“This is the sucker,” she paused.  “And here,” she paused again. “This is the crotch.” He exploded into laughter and covered the huge smile on his face.

The Ipod continued to shuffle. Bass swelled against the bedroom wall and joined them in their naked dance. Each of them stared at the other as something miraculous took hold of their bodies. It changed their positions and framed their moans. He came unexpectedly but it somehow ignited pleasure in her as well and they held on to each other like they never thought they would.

“Oh my god,” he said when it was done.

“What?” she asked with eyes closed and head to the side.

“Where’s the condom?” he asked. Mina looked down between her legs at his bare naked body where there should have been a jimmy, and jumped up.

“Oh no! Are you kidding me?” She looked at the bed and saw nothing. He hopped off as well to search the moistened sheets.

“It’s not here,” he said.

“No shit Adam!” Mina was already squatting with her hands inside of her.

“You think the condom’s in you?”

“Yeah!”

“Why?”

“It’s not on the bed. It’s not on you. Where else is it going to be?”

“How long do you think it was off?”

“I don’t know I’m not the one with the dick, it still feels good for me with or without the condom,” she spoke while feeling around inside of her. “Oh come on!” She was getting frustrated that she couldn’t feel or remove the foreign object.

“Can you feel it?”

“No not yet.”

“How do you know it’s even in there? Has this happened to you before? It can’t be in there.”

“You find it then,” she said with obvious aggravation.

“I’m going to,” he said sure of himself. Adam moved his comforter and pillows, even checking the floor on both sides of the bed.

“I feel it!” Mina said in exasperation.

“You do?” Adam walked around the bed uninhibited by his limp penis picking up pillows. He sat down on the mattress and put his head between his hands rubbing the sides of his head. Adam let out a big sigh as he waited for more information.

“I can’t get it. It keeps slipping. This is… ridiculous.” her tone changed. She saw the humor in the situation. “This is so stupid, of course this would happen right now,” she said as she pulled her hand out but staying low like a tribal woman looking up at him for a solution.

“Let me try,” he offered.

“No.” She shook her head as pitcher calls off hand signals.

“C’mon bring me your vagina. Let the doctor take a look at it. You can’t see what you’re doing, I have a better view.” She stood up and looked him in the eye. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she had to stretch her legs.

“Get on the bed,” he told her.

“You aren’t going to be able to see it. You men hardly know where the entry point is.”

“Not the doctor, baby, bring it to me.” He had never called himself the doctor before, nor had he referred to her as baby, but it worked. She crawled onto the bed and opened her legs for him. He attempted and his all-knowing fingers hurt her instantly.

“Stop. This isn’t going to work,” she said standing up. She spread her lips wide and reached deep inside for the condom. Once she felt around for a little bit she threw her butt down into a low seat to dig deeper. “Oh I can feel it. It’s the brim too. I’m gonna get it.” He watched her with his naked body hanging off the side of the bed. His focus on her softened and he was no longer aware of her naked breasts or what she was doing. He became removed and consequently noticed how physically tired he was.  His eyes gazed at the floor as thoughts of work entered his mind.

“Got it,” she pulled it out and slapped his thigh with the slimy condom to get his attention.

“Here’s your drunken man noodle.”

 

Chapter 6: Sacrilegious

It wasn’t spring anymore and those first time butterflies had passed. The tenderness they shared then was ripe. But here under August’s sun, there was a heavy conversation pending. It referred to a serious problem, and although they were walking, silence was still between them. It was obvious, of course, to both of them. They walked in slow motion. Until now, Murray Hill was a neighborhood they both called their own, but he now considered the many dangers of her address. Mina too was experiencing a state of shock. She had been warned by some of her friends about this very thing happening but never took them seriously. She was quick to say that her and Adam were only friends and often told others not to get involved, and even deluding them with the notion that, they were just perfect as a faux couple.

Mina was a modest woman, and this was what Orthodoxy stressed, but by no means did that quality make her Orthodox. She wasn’t going to all of a sudden join their community and start wearing a wig like the rest of the women just because of her love for Adam. What was apparent from their silent stare on the bench was that he was only willing to see things through this narrow scope.

“You want me to go in?” she asked in front of the coffee shop. This was their normal routine when they had the dogs.

“No I’ll get em, you stay here.” He wanted to be the one to escape. He knew the time had come to say what he had avoided telling her all along, and he always envisioned feeling this way, not because he wanted to, but because he knew that dating, fucking, and trying women on for size was going to get the best of him at some point.

Song #9 Wasting My Time, Taryn Manning

Mina smeared one sweaty palm against the other desperately trying to get her head straight. It was ten in the morning. The quiet streets alarmed her like white space between words in a sentence that didn’t make sense. Those that didn’t make their own coffee were sleeping to the rattle of an air conditioner, leaving Starbucks completely empty. She clicked a parking meter dial until it couldn’t go anymore.

“I want to talk to you about the other night,” she said as he handed her an iced espresso.

“Okay.”

“I didn’t mean to slap Uri on the ass or flirt with him like that.”

“Okay.”

“I was happy…and drunk.”

“Noo?” he said with heavy sarcasm.

“Don’t do that, we were having a good time, flirting and dancing. I was feeling feisty, and I admit I got carried away, but I want you to know that there wasn’t any foul play.”

“Okay.”

“What’s okay? Say something other than okay? What’re your feelings?”

Adam thought about that night, especially when he slipped his finger down her shirt, playing with her cleavage as she danced all over him. He partially blamed himself for letting her drink so much, getting a bottle, when there were only three of them, but he did love watching her dance. He didn’t think she wanted Uri but it bothered him that they got along so well. He even remembered them sitting in the kitchen drinking later that night after the club, chatting about the old man and his escorts, and wondered why so much of their talk harbored sex. He didn’t know that any of it mattered. He didn’t want to talk about it because he hadn’t spent enough time thinking about it.

He noticed the white of her fingertips as they clutched the parking meter. She was wearing her favorite jeans, he called them her favorite because he hated them, and still she wore them. They had about four holes, and were easily two sizes too big. Her eyes were especially green. They were big bright eyes that expressed everything she felt and at that moment, he looked into the face of someone that was ready to cry.

“Lets sit in the park,” he said untying leashes from the pole. They walked into the Park on 36th street, let the dogs loose and sat on another bench.

“I just want you to know that I wouldn’t do that to you, you know. It’s really hard to talk about this without letting you know how I feel.” Mina couldn’t stop talking.

“That’s okay. You can tell me how you feel about me,” he said to make her smile and she did.

“I hate you,” she joked. He at least had that, a smile to look at and remember regardless of what happened next.

“I don’t know Adam…It starts with an appreciation, I guess. An appreciation of someone, or many things about someone, and then, a desire to spend as much time with that person as possible… And the more that you’re with them, the more they improve who you are, and then soon enough, they’re a part of you and you just want to be around them all the time.” She was blushing and smiling as she lifted her gaze from the floor and brought it to his face. “I appreciate you.”

“Thanks.” He took her hand. “I know you do, Mina.”

Rags rounded the opening of the fence, and she yelled out her name. The dog came running back inside.

“I don’t want more than you’re giving me, and nothing should change in anyway. It’s just that since this happened with Uri, I realize that I have to let you know something.”

“What?”

“I’m not interested in being with anyone else.”

He too knew the feelings she described, and there were certain things he noticed about himself because of her. He was much more self aware, due to her. He was also happier. He woke up happy and had energy that he didn’t have before knowing her. He noticed that he wanted to become cultured and learn things to impress her with, but this didn’t pay his bills, and it wasn’t logical to think in terms of impressing someone else. He became worried that he might have wasted too much time with her already. He imagined saying to his dad, ‘Sorry I’m just going to travel around the world with my hot-blooded Italian trying out different cities, looking at art and eating at fine restaurants, hope you can understand and take care of yourself.’ He couldn’t bear the thought of it. He had a responsibility and it concerned him that someone like her, so different from all the other girls he had ever been with, had distracted him so severely. He couldn’t imagine sincerely desiring a non-religious woman.

“I agree Mina, that we have gotten to be really close and spend a lot of time together. But I am not in the position to be with you. I am not in the position to be with anyone. When we first got involved we both said we weren’t looking for a relationship.”

“Yes I know that. But, I am also not in the business of not looking for a relationship either, Adam. I am not crazy, right? I mean we have a rare, and beautiful connection.” It sickened her to imagine that the adoration she felt for him was in her head. She knew that there were going to be consequences for speaking like this, but she had to know.

“There really is something special about you, something irresistible, something incredible, something Mina, but…I don’t know what to tell you, he said.

“Tell me you don’t want to be with me.”

“I can’t do that.”

“What do you mean you can’t do that? You always have the answers.”

“Not this time.” He looked into his palms.

“Tell me to walk away, or don’t. Tell me to stay.”

“It isn’t what I want, but if I had to tell you what to do, what was smart for you, it would be to walk away. I care about you so much, but I’m not ready for this. So, yes, I think walking away makes the most sense for you.”

Song #10 Something Heavens, H.U.V.A Network

 

 

***

 

Publisher’s Note : This piece is an excerpt (Part 1) from the pending same titled novel, « Something Mean. »

 

Something Mean

Chapter 1 : Fire under Water

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach, so you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you do, men.

– “Cool Hand Luke”

 

Song #1 Lost in Translation, Nordlight

Adam wiped a water droplet from Mina’s forearm. The East river was high and misting, their bench in the breeze. It was July 6, 2006. Cars riding the FDR hummed above as they sat quietly. Yesterday’s downpour had washed away most of the gun powder party junk from the Fourth of July and left the river high. Explosive scraps of what used to be colorful fireworks were now saturated and stuck to plastic containers and other garbage. Stuff spilled out of the city’s rusty metal bins to join the current that raced for sewers, but in a city like New York, puddles stretch across intersections before they make it underground. Mina slipped her foot from her sandal and moved it closer to Adam. She was always doing things like this, his side of the bed, bench, it didn’t matter.

Her leg reached for Serpico, Adam’s dog, named after Adam’s man-crush, and look-alike according to him. Serpico offered his brown spotted belly and collapsed onto his back. There were two Al Pacino posters in Adam’s apartment: one in the bathroom and another in the living room, along with an almost complete dvd collection.

“Are you gonna be back tomorrow night?” She rotated Serpico’s chest with the ball of her foot. Normal weekends for Adam consisted of Shabbos dinners in Long Island followed by a usual return to the city sometime Saturday night.

“Don’t know yet, why?”

“You know why.” She tucked her chin into her shoulder to hide her smile and looked up at him with unblinking eyes. She pressed her body into his, and asked without words if she was going to sleep in his bed. It wasn’t a question that needed asking ; something was off. She was reluctant to let him go, but why? This was their routine yet  a sudden anxiety colored everything he did as aloof and uninviting. The more she thought about it, the less present she became to the conversation. She struggled to find her reliable charm, even just a bit of warmth. How could she turn things around and why did she feel like she had to? How did she get into a position where being herself was something she had to try for?

Mina wasn’t Adam’s girlfriend. She couldn’t even say that word or other relationship related words without smirking. It was a stupid title, for both genders, and a futile attempt to be any guy’s girlfriend. She and Adam were on an unofficial ‘don’t ask, don’t tell basis,’ as he was sure to mention how he didn’t want anything serious within their first week of dating. They had family, a sense of humor, as well as a love of wild nights in their city in common, but they also had many differences.

She was third generation from Naples; raised on twelve years of Catholic school; somewhat obsessed with grades in high school, but lived for art. Spending time with Adam started from a genuine interest and amusement in his secret life. He was a part-time-Jew, and while she never saw him go full Jew, the little treasures of traditional Orthodox garb found around his apartment were delightful. He wasn’t Hassidic. Most people hear Orthodox and think, big hat, jew curls, strange outfit walking in the street but that wasn’t right. Even Mina was guilty of this misconception. Little hats were what she called his very decorative Yarmulkes. He only wore them when working and because she had never seen him with one on, they quickly spawned a game she coined Rabbi, as in, ‘Let’s play Rabbi.’ The first time she found one, she put it on, and chanted with her eyes closed. He snatched it from her head, removing her smile as well, using the kind of silence an adult uses with a child.

In this game, he had to wear his Rabbi glasses too, again that was what Mina called them. They were thick black plastic-framed glasses kept in the top drawer of his nightstand, next to the Torah and condoms. He read from the ‘Golden Calf’   from the book of Deuteronomy.

You made yourselves into a golden calf. You turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you. So I took hold of the two tablets, and threw them out of my two hands, and broke them before your eyes. Then I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger.”

The first couple of times they played, Mina screamed with laughter sweating from an extreme blush. She answered him with rebuttals like, “I didn’t do anything,” or “You’re crazy.”

But it wasn’t long before Rabbi became a way for her to surrender to him as part of role-play. He reprimanded her with authority continuing with the passage, sometimes smacking her hard on her backside.

I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made.” Smack.

“What are you talking about?” It was usually this point that he put her on all fours, pulling off the little clothing left on her body. He buried her with his weight and tossed the book to the floor.

And I burned it with fire, he pinned her hands above her head. “…And crushed it,” he leaned heavily on her, and brought his head to hers. “…Grinding it very small,” he danced his hips along hers, lifting his left and dipping his right. “…until it was as fine as dust.

He always stopped at dust, and it was then that she felt tiny. As if she had transformed under his hands, like sand, slipping through to everywhere and he was larger than anything she had ever known, so large that in order to be with her he had to sacrifice her.

 

Song# 2 Pissing in a River, Patti Smith

Mina sat speechless on the bench while phrases and thoughts shared between them marked her like tattoos. She replayed what happened on the night of July 4th over in her head, and like ink up an arm, she didn’t know which way to turn her head. Each angle produced a different ending and her imagination was picking up where her memory failed. Her desire and adoration for Adam was certain. She wanted her name listed in a category titled, For the Future. She assumed he set aside such a category for her, and that this is what people did. The potentiality of that being a farce, even though they had never mentioned it flooded her. She wanted to come clean and break through all of this superficial bullshit, like earthworms after rain.

“I might come back Sunday instead, my sister just got back from Isreal.” Mina and Adam didn’t  typically have Sunday sleepovers.

“Which one?”

“Yael.”

“How long has she been gone?”

“I don’t know, three weeks or so?”

“And what about her husband?”

“Ishmael? He’ll be there and sure to make things interesting.”

“Why?” She already knew the type of person Ishmael was and Adam’s feelings about him, but needed more time to figure out how she was going to unveil her feelings.

“Ugh, my sister’s nuts. She complains about everything and he lets her.” Mina laughed at him.

“What do you suggest he do?”

“Tell her to stop. I don’t know. He put his hands up and let them fall onto his lap. “Maybe he doesn’t hear her, maybe he tunes her out, but all she does is complain. Then, when my father tells her to stop complaining, Ishmael starts fighting with my father right in the middle of Shabbos dinner.”

“He’s very protective of her?”

“Of course he is as he should be, but at the same time there’s no talking to him. Once he gets started, he’s off, and the way he speaks to us is so strange. It’s as if he harbors all the negativity she has ever felt towards her family. I mean its great that he loves her that much, but it’s just not logical.”

“Oh if only we could all be as logical as you Adam,” she rolled her eyes. “What was the last fight about?”

“I can’t even remember.”

“Yes you can.”

“It’s not important.”

“Of course it is.” Mina pleaded for him to go on. He scratched his bottom lip with his teeth.

“It had something to do with her body. She was reading some celebrity magazine, talking about spending time at the gym, I really don’t remember, complaining about how all of her hard work and diet is ruined when she comes here. My father immediately started blessing the food even though we weren’t ready to eat, pontificating about how lucky we all are to have this bread, to have this wine. Please. It went on all night. Thank god the Rabbi wasn’t there.”

“Your Rabbi comes to your house?”

“Occasionally.”

“And wait, your dad’s rebuttal was that the food is holy?”

“Yes. But Mina you don’t get it. You don’t understand how religious my family is. He was basically calling her an ingrate. I mean Jews don’t actually consider a meal a meal unless there’s bread, and everything has to be blessed with its own special blessing. Our food is very sacred.”

“I can understand that, I’m Italian ya know?”

“Mina, of course, you understand, because you’re Italian!” He looked around but no one was near them. But my dear, this isn’t about spaghetti and meatballs.” He laughed at what he thought was a fantastic joke.

“Oh. Right. It’s about Matzah balls,” He put his arm around her and squeezed her tightly. He then put his face into her ear and began to whisper.

“I want to tell you something, okay?” He said softly rubbing his lips on the edge of her ear. “My family doesn’t eat Matzah balls on Shabbos.”

“Yes you do. Liar.” She pulled away bringing her shoulder to her cheek, wincing from the tickle of his whisper.

“Come here.” He continued to pull on her arms bringing her ear and neck closer to his mouth so he could talk in a provocative manner. “We light candles for our food.” He licked his lips “And pray for it before we eat it.” She pulled away from him.

“Okay, its a little weird, but not insane. Don’t you light candles for everything?” She jokingly criticized their differences. “My family’s meals have bread in it too ya know and we say grace.” She trailed off into a silent pause between thoughts. “And we eat bread with everything. Sauce on Sunday, bread with pasta, bread with soup, and there are certain things that are blessed even if it doesn’t come with a lighting of a candle or prayer. Like my parent’s neighbor, Candy asks for 2 jars of sauce every Sunday because it’s that good. And my sister eats most of the pecorino romano cheese before it makes it to the table, and the worst, finally, when its all done and we’re starving, my mother searches for the brownest meatball in the pot to serve my father before the rest of us can eat.”

He adored her cadence. The lists she created. Her volume. Her fingers peeling other fingers to count the ways she was right. He loved the fire inside of her, and thought of her as his hot-blooded Italian. He bit his lip for a minute just looking at her. Mina had olive skin, with brown curly hair and the tiniest freckles on both sides of her nose. They disappeared after her first sunning, but were prominent until then. The most beautiful part of her face was undeniably her eyes. Long-lashed and bright green centers with tones of reddish browns from light to dark. She was the only grandchild with her Mamaw’s eyes, and as life would have it, she was her grandmother’s favorite.

 

Chapter 2 :

Mina worked across town from that shady bench at the Museum of Natural History. It granted her intellectual freedom and a steady liberal audience. She knew a ton about art, making it, dissecting it, and the names of people who spent their lives worshipping it. She fancied architecture and the Grecian way of life. Mina loved saying those two things, and when asked what was best about her year abroad, she would say, nothing was like reading and studying the Duomo, and then using it as a meeting place everyday.

Walking through the installations of stuffed field mice, painted mannequins and hanging birds hardly fulfilled her passion for art, but it was a start. She lived on 35th street in a small three-story building. Adam didn’t live far, just three blocks up, still off of First, only difference was his building had fifty floors and a remarkable view. Although this wasn’t where they first met, it was easy for them to run-in to one another now that they knew they were neighbors.

They were charismatic people, articulate adults, dog people; people who made storeowners, bartenders and doormen, even bouncers smile. Adam was a busy man with suits and ties hung neatly next to one another just like his appointments. He played with money and its what he thought about. When they were together  the small convenience of being home or close to home provided their seamless friendship with an invisible momentum, in the way a drop becomes a drip.

Just the night before their conversation on the bench, they slept at his place as they had for the past two days due to the holiday. They were on a mini stay-cation. She packed a bag like she didn’t live down the block and used the puffy white towels to and from his pool and Jacuzzi on the 12th floor. Her body was curled away from his. The hour was late and of course Adam fell asleep first. She nestled deeper into the mattress matching the ebb and flow of his inhalations, but even with the calming rhythm of sleep next to her she was insecure. It wasn’t that she was thinking about her feelings for him. She hated to think that what happened the day before could prevent him from loving her. It was bad enough that she wasn’t Jewish, and what they were doing was—this was the heart of the matter, and what kept her awake—the secrecy, intangibility, the unanswered, unasked question of what— just what were they doing?

She took in the smell of freon coming from his humidifier and envisioned turning a key in the door that led to the attic in her aunt Mariella’s house. There was a beautiful dollhouse there. Mina and her sister used to play whole afternoons just as her aunt had in that very same house. Still restless, she spread her palm over Adam’s taut bed-sheet. It was textured with one ribbed line touching the silky weavings of another. The lines raced away from her to the foot of the bed as she listened to city static twenty floors beneath them. She drifted to sleep from that spot next to him in his bed, breathing that familiar smell in the muffled sounds of summer feeling small and perfect like a doll in a dollhouse.

 

Song #3 Merry Happy, Kate Nash

Back on the bench Mina was making things more complicated than they needed to be. Despite her paranoia, they were perfectly content, now and the night before. The day was beautiful and with the river so high, even the air smelled great.

“What?” she asked about his tempting look, the one where he kind of squints and licks his bottom lip.

“Nothing.”

“You used to always tell me I bit my lip, but now you do it?” He dug teeth harder into skin.

Adam had a list of women that he liked to be seen with. They were long legged beauties with expensive hair and designer shoes. They fit him, and the regal cleft in his chin. His slicked back salt and pepper hair accentuated his navy eyes, which were decorated with their own bowing ribbons of grey. He could make any face, and often contorted to flip between characters when telling stories. Three things that did not change were his extraordinary height of six-foot for a Jewish guy and a washboard stomach with little to no butt. He had ample hair, and not just on his scalp. His chest, back and shoulders were shaded with a thick curly protection. He went for a full body waxing once a month. Mina knew this, made fun of him for it, but still felt insecure whenever she dressed to meet him out somewhere.

She was short, graced with a wide set of hips and it was just the thing she focused on when she looked at herself in the mirror.

“You have great feet you know that, you don’t wear heels that often do you?” he asked.

“No. I wear them sometimes,” she said becoming shy.

“Your feet don’t look like bird feet.” She lifted her leg so they could both examine her petite foot and even smaller orange painted toes.

“What’s a bird foot Adam?”

He put his hand onto her thigh, right above her knee and thought about the smoothness of her skin, especially on the small of her back. This is where he usually kept his hands when he was on top of her. The thought of being in bed with her took him to his apartment and he remembered smelling her the other day when she wasn’t around. It wasn’t perfume. It was something else, and it was all over her: her face, neck, arms, and hands. It came out of her pores and stayed with him after they parted. It had been a few months that they regularly shared each other’s company and still, he didn’t know what it was about her that smelled so good.

“A bird foot, my dear, is like a dinosaur foot with mangled toes and one big claw-like toe,” he said making a C shape with his finger.

“You’re insane,” she laughed.

“About your family, you should eat that much bread, that’s what Italians do, Meen. Us Jews, on the other hand, bless our food based on how it grows. There’s blessings for produce, one for that which grows in stalks, another for those grown on trees, a blessing for what we drink, other than wine, and of course the wine’s special blessing.” He paused. “Interesting man your father is though that he likes his meat a little brown, huh.” Adam had secretly visited tanning salons, but each time sub-par sanitary conditions forced him to retire from trying to match her golden hue.

“Mina,” he said wrapping his arm around her to bring her closer. “We bless the bread Friday night, so that while we bless the rest of the food on Saturday, it doesn’t feel left out. Can you imagine how crazy it is to consider the feelings of bread?” They sat as objects of Summer’s affection. The dogs mouthed each other and it was a sublime Thursday afternoon. Mina’s dog was a mixed breed from the shelter that she named Rags, as in rags to riches. Rags was black and white, with both colors split evenly down her nose.

“Do your parents know that you took the elevator last weekend? Mina referred to the laws of Shabbos. A specific law that prohibited the use of electricity from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.”

“No.” He lit a cigarette.

“They didn’t call and ask you, seeing as you didn’t go to Long Island?”

“My dad mentioned it during the week. He asked me what I did with the dog.”

“Wait, would that be considered using electricity, like pressing the button, or is it breaking the other law of not riding or driving a vehicle? Or is it a double whammy? What happens when you commit a double whammy?”

“Shut-up,” he said with a smile.

“So you told him you raced down the stairs with Serpico for a good workout?”

“Exactly, you little shit. How’d you know?”

“I know you. Don’t you think that’s weird though, it’s like your dad knows that you don’t follow everything completely.”

“No. He just asks questions. Isn’t that what parents do?” Adam asked. Mina got a sudden wave of confidence. She was sure from Adam’s comment that he was a reasonable man and the conversation she wanted to have was an easy one, maybe even something they felt similiarly about.

“I know I joke a lot about your double life, to Jew or not to Jew,” she held up air quotes. “And it’s funny. I just want you to know I don’t mean to diminish the weight you carry living this way. I know it’s not easy, or at least I don’t know how it could be.”

“No it isn’t. But, it’s what I have to do,” he quickly answered.

“I don’t get that. They love you. Why wouldn’t they understand that you have the right, and will to choose a life that makes you happy?”

“Yea man. Free love. Free life. Power to the people.” He mocked her with a peace sign moving his head like Stevie Wonder, except she was nearly positive he didn’t know Stevie. “It doesn’t work that way Mina, you sound like the cat lady in your building.”

“What cat lady?”

“The crazy lady with all the cats! She was holding that poster for peace, just came back from her anti-Bush rally when we passed her on the stairs. Hello? Are you feeling alright?”

“When were you at my apartment?”

“Oh stop it!” he said with a nasal whine for effect. “Mina you are something else. I always ask if we should go to your place, but you want to come to mine,” he smiled. “Look, it would be nice. But we can’t all be like you. The bottom line is that my parents would be devastated. They won’t respect it is as a decision I am making, but a mistake. A mistake that goes against all of their hard work and money invested in my future.”

“But it isn’t going to waste,” she begged. “Can’t you just tell them that you don’t want to live according to some religious prescription? Its not like you’re denouncing everything about the religion. You can still hold onto the faith.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. That isn’t how the world works.” he interrupted her.

“Maybe.” Mina was embarrassed. He took a drag of his Newport, and she didn’t know what else to say. She asked herself what the world had to do with this.

“What you’re suggesting will ruin my relationships with my family, my friends, my neighbors, my clients, my bosses, everyone. Everyone that I have grown up with, have known since I was a kid, that watched me grow, supported me, taught me, parented the kids that I went to school with, that are now in businesses that I can work with. You’re acting like its no big deal to just go on without any of these things. My world will be ruined if I consider your suggestion.”

“Okay. Okay. I’m sorry.” Mina started the long silence between them.

 

Chapter 3 : Independence Party

Song#4 Que Bueno Biala Usted, Benny More

The empty city was delightful. Many residents were away for the holiday, and the city  slowly re-populated in waves, as it did every summer. She could have spent the rest of the day testing benches with him. He often said he wasn’t romantic and he rarely if ever kissed her in public, but he absolutely loved to take her, especially when she was wearing a dress, and throw her onto the ground. He didn’t actually throw her onto the ground. It just looked that way to those that watched their fake fights, and she would get on top of him and fight back as best she could, after having been taken by surprise, as well as being a whole foot shorter than him. At the finish, she stood completely disheveled, with hair in her mouth and sweat on her forehead. Men loved watching these games. She never knew when it was coming either. He was spontaneous with everything that he did, which is why it was so hard for her to talk about what happened on July 4th.

While her and Adam were as open as a stadium, she still felt like a boundary had been crossed that night. She knew it was wrong to slap his friend Uri on the ass and dance with him, not when she did it of course, because she was nearly blackout drunk. However, she currently had enough sober guilt to know that clearing her name was the only option, yet due to the nature of their involvement didn’t know if it was worth mentioning. She was most confused about what to own up to though: slapping Uri, getting wasted, or that she couldn’t remember the night if she tried. She had no idea what Adam was thinking or how to apologize, also was unsure if she should see this as an opportunity to reveal what she wanted from their future.

While Adam’s jealousy, at the time, excited her, this was going to be a sobering conversation, essentially their first fight, and she didn’t want it to quell the forbidden and inexhaustible heat between them. Uri was Adam’s friend from kindergarten and Mina gathered from the occasional story that there was an annoying competition between them. Uri was the kid with the jewfro sitting next to Adam in the 1st grade photo Mina examined in the very beginning of the night.

She was already dressed to go to dinner, as was Uri, who had just arrived to the apartment. Neither Mina nor Uri had seen each other before. They were both standing in the kitchen when Uri phoned the restaurant.

“I called to push back the reservation! Don’t rush or anything Adam! Uri yelled so Adam could hear him from the bathroom.”

“You drink wine Mina?” Uri opened the fridge, bending to scan for a bottle. He didn’t wait for an answer and closed the doors fruitless in his searches. He turned to notice Mina holding a bottle of Reisling.

“It was thawing in the sink.” Adam found it in the freezer this morning.

“Who’s better than you?” he asked her.

“Adam. It’s his bottle. I’m surprised it didn’t burst.”

“Good job Adam! Hey pretty boy, you keep your wine in the freezer!” he yelled into the wall. Mina propped herself up on the counter to watch Uri work his way around a kitchen he didn’t know well.

“Do you deal with his tardiness all the time?” Uri poured two glasses.

“I suppose,” Mina shrugged her shoulders. “It takes him a long time to get out of the bathroom, but once he’s out, he’s good to go.”

“Tell me something Mina.” He stared into her eyes and she didn’t know what to make of him. His pupils were deeply set black holes in the crystalline blue he knew for eyes. He had thick curly black hair and his conversation was mostly inconsequential, however this meeting was Adam’s attempt to introduce Mina to his other world. She caught Uri fiddling with his curls to frame his face. There was nothing religious about him and yet he was Adam’s closest friend. They moved into the foyer and he was in the mirror. His body was well sculpted, and Mina thought it was safe to say that he was a man preoccupied with aesthetics.

“What do you do?” he asked her, finishing his manscaping.

“I work at the Museum of Natural History.”

“Oh right. I remember now. That’s where you guys met. Very cool.” He finished half of his wine in one sip as Adam exited the bathroom.

“Thanks, I’d love a glass,” Adam said. “What the hell were you guys yelling about?”

“Your pretty ass. Did you finish your make-up Adam?” Uri looked at Mina for praise and laughter. What Uri didn’t know, was that all this talk about make-up reminded Mina of the eyelash curler she found in Adam’s bathroom just a few hours earlier.

Her and Adam had spent the day together and had reached a level of comfort and freedom to move around the apartment in each other’s space, including the bathroom. If he was brushing his teeth while getting ready, it was perfectly normal for her to come in and talk to him. This was a rather quick progression for both of them, and just that morning, a few hours before Uri showed up, she found something unexpected.

 

Song #5 Exilo, Thievery Corporation

Adam was watching a news program when it happened. He was one of those that became engrossed in market analysts of every kind, as in he kept an open mouth and was incapable of maintaining conversation whenever the TV was on. Mina used this time to do things alone like pluck her eyebrows, but first she opened the mirror to look for moisturizer. He let her use it once before and gave her permission to take what she needed without question, however her search for face cream turned up a Revlon eyelash curler instead. It rested on the top shelf and as she reached for it on tippy-toes she imagined the long legs that placed it there for safekeeping. She knew that her and Adam weren’t monogamous, but the find still bothered her. She just held it shocked. She opened and closed it in her hands a few times as she talked to herself. Who leaves an eyelash curler? When she was done perfecting the arch of her brows and feeling as beautiful, if not more, than the imagined Revlon model without her trusty silver curler, she reopened the cabinet and fearlessly carried the instrument with her to the living room.

“Hey…” she prolonged the sound of the y addressing Adam playfully. She waited for him to look at her.

“I wasn’t searching. I swear. I was grabbing some lotion, but I have to ask, why do you have an eyelash curler?” She leaned on the wall to the entrance of the living room, holding the tool behind her.

“What are you talking about?” Adam asked her without turning his head.

“Why do you have an eye-lash curler?” She smiled and brought it out in plain sight.

“Come show me what you’re talking about.” He patted the seat next to him on the couch, and turned his eyes back to the television. Maury Povich was on and a fight had just ended. Adam could flip back from garbage like this and news all day.

“This?” He grabbed the instrument, opened and closed it a few times, then gave it back to her. “This is mine, but you can borrow it if you like.”

“What! Don’t lie to me. I can borrow it? You’re ridiculous!”

“I’m not lying,” he said without a smile.

“Put it back please. I’m not ready for it. I use it when I get out of the shower.” His calming tone wasn’t alarmed by the implications of such a find. He resumed and Mina did as she was told. She didn’t believe it was his, despite his feminine details, obsessive personality, and strange hygienic habits, but she respected his cool dismissal and didn’t mention it again.

 

After the trio’s fourth of July dinner they waited for a water Taxi to Spice, a rooftop club. Juice mixers on ice greeted their cozy corner sofa and bottle menu. Mina’s drinks disappeared as she danced, mingling on their own as lost drinks tend to do at parties. There was one balding man on a couch in front of them in the middle of the roof. A few white hairs stuck to his glistening scalp and the night sky shined over them. Mina was drunk and her eyes were less interested in details but without exaggeration this old man was a focal point, for them and everyone else at the club. He and the six beautiful women that surrounded him were all Uri could talk about. It may have been what started him on his quest for some hot Fourth of July women, along with his very descriptive plans of what to do with them at Adam’s apartment. Cocktail waitresses carrying trays of red white and blue shots were what started Mina’s decline.

She seduced Adam without inhibition mimicking the provocative dance moves of the old man’s escorts. His sideways smile looked at her hungrily, but the public display also made him slightly uncomfortable. Uri, also inebriated and following her lead, locked hands with Mina to grind in front of Adam, but she pulled away. He continued to dance on his own, grabbing and thrusting his body onto the poles of the canopy. Mina tried to follow and was less than successful, partly because of the erratic nature of the movement and her current lack of coordination. Adam was too subdued to outwardly join in. She danced her way over to Uri the moment she found her rhythm,  and slapped him on the butt a few times. He turned and started dancing with her again, lifting her up by the waist, and at the highest point, positioning his arms around her bottom. She hit the tops of his shoulders to come down and that was the end of their dancing.

Uri naturally invited himself to Adam’s apartment for a freedom joint with them. This is what he was calling it in light of the holiday and a mockery to the United States’ movement to turn all things modified “French into Freedom. They sat in front of the bay window sharing half-witted conversation smelling rain that hadn’t yet fallen. Al Pacino joined them with his signature Scarface tall-chaired photo. It read, “Say hello to my little friend,” and was positioned above a Japanese White Pine Bonsai. Despite its name, nothing about the tree was white.

Adam became hungry nearly seconds after the joint finished, and gorged himself on chicken liver, pickle, potato chip sandwiches in the kitchen. These were tiny little sandwiches where he situated a pickle nicely in the evenly spread chicken liver like a seashell on sand, all to be smashed between two greasy potato chips. Typically he would carry on eating them with noises and faces of enjoyment to gross Mina out, but she was sprawled on the recliner falling in and out of sleep. Uri talked about a bartender named Crystal while admiring Mina’s bare feet. Adam popped out of the kitchen to say something in Hebrew but quickly disappeared. Uri turned on the tv and stopped browsing when he landed on soft porn. Mina could barely keep her eyes open, but sat up after looking at the TV.

She didn’t want to deny Adam sex, especially with the lame excuse of being tired or drunk. She compared herself to the Revlon model again and peeled herself off leather to join him in the kitchen. Uri watched her drop to her knees when she reached him. She pretended she needed Adam’s help to get up, but once he bent down she reversed the order and sat on his chest. She tried to be serious, but manhandling him in the ways he usually does her was hilarious and her body shook with laughter. Adam quickly became aroused and reduced her efforts by lifting her entire body into his caresses. Uri ran over to join them but by the time he arrived the commotion was more intimate than a battle.

“Bro, what are you doing?” Adam asked with his hands still on Mina.

“What do you mean what am I doing?”

“It’s not like that,” Adam replied.

“Definitely not like that! Awkward,” she laughed and stood to fix her dress. “Do you two normally swap swords?” Mina asked.

“No!” Adam said.

“Wow, you two are nothing but a bunch of sword swappers.” She walked towards the bathroom using drunken hands to locate a zipper along her ribs. Uri followed her but Adam didn’t.

“What’s your problem with sword swappers?” Uri asked.

“Me? Why are you saying I have a problem? I just didn’t know you two did that sort of thing.”

“What if it wasn’t two guys? Would you like it then?” She closed the bathroom door on him. She could barely stand but knew Uri was out of line. She slid to her knees, with the side of her face on the door and her gaze on the cabinets under the sink. They spoke in Hebrew just outside the door, and without reason she closed her eyes to try and hear what they were saying. She pulled her dress over her head, having never found the seam and turned the faucet on. She wanted nothing more than to lay down under a hot shower.

 

Chapter 4 : Foreplay

Song #6 Lost in my Mind, The Head and the Heart

Rain dripped onto the black oak floor from the windowsill. The balcony windows were left open overnight. The morning’s humidity moistened their sleeping bodies and the smell of rain was palpable. Adam woke up, closed the windows and made coffee. He brought her the yellow mug she used every time she slept over and was inclined to have coffee in bed. She had a terrible headache, as did he, and they smothered the bed with dead weight and party-breath. Uri was nowhere to be found not that either of them had spent time looking.

“Did you have fun last night?” Adam questioned.

“Yea, you?”

“I did. You and Uri danced a lot,” he said.

That was all that was said before drifting back to sleep. When they woke again a few hours later, the only thing on his mind was food. He hopped out of the shower before her and continued to talk to her as he dried his body in the bathroom.

“You know you wanted to sleep in here last night,” he said putting a toothbrush in his mouth.

“I did?”

Just leave me here, I’ll be fine,” he said mimicking her drunken stupor. She was mortified.

“Why was I in the shower?”

“You don’t remember taking a shower?”

“Not at all,” she said.

“Do you remember coming home and eating chicken liver with me?”

“Oh my god! How did I get that drunk?”

“Nooo!” he said laughing. “I’m fucking with you. You didn’t eat chicken liver, but you and Uri were gonna take a shower together, do you remember that?”

“You’re crazy.” She knew he was exaggerating but also couldn’t be sure of anything. “I can’t believe I wanted to sleep in the shower. How did I get out?”

“I carried you my dear.”

“Oh my god. I’m so embarrassed.”

“What? Don’t be.”

“I shouldn’t have gotten like that.”

“Mina, forget it. You were fine. Are you hungry? I want to get some food and make this incredible omelet I had the other day.”

The kitchen was a disaster from the night before, in addition to the weeks he hadn’t cleaned it. It didn’t get the same attention as other rooms in the apartment. He ordered the omelet at the Seaport Diner sometime last week and devoured it like an animal eats through skin. His strange relationship with food stemmed from years of restriction based on the rules of Kashrut. The traditional Orthodox consummation of dairy is never on the same plate with meat, even if it has been washed.  Many religious Jews perceive this to be an antiquated tradition that should be taken lightly, but Orthodox communities follow it exactly as it was written in Leviticus before 1400BC. These laws or Kashrut maintain every Kosher household keep two sinks, two sets of china, and families must observe several hours between eating the two. Not having dairy and meat on the same plate prohibits almost all modern day food combinations, marking his ripe age of 29, not only a year of hypocrisy, but also the first time he can enjoy omelets, sandwiches, or any meal for that matter that combines meat and cheese.

Mina agreed to walk to D’Agostinos for ingredients despite the rain. A man wearing thick glasses and a blue poncho greeted them standing when they walked through the automated doors. His head was cocked up to the left as he read a coupon book held in his hand like a newspaper. His crooked smile and uneven glance reminded her of Red Cross Christmas bell-ringers, except instead of caroling and asking for donations, he repeated:

Buy a bag of chips get a free salsa. Pause. Okay.

Buy a bag of chips get a free salsa. Pause. Okay.

“Now there’s a nice guy you can settle down with Meen. Go talk to him.The two of you could sleep in the bathtub every night if you want. Just leave me here. I’ll be fineOkay.” He continued to make fun of her for the night before using poncho man’s intonation. He watched her blush and reach for a cart.

“You know how you can tell a crazy person?” she asked.

“How?”

“Their volume. So many times a stranger looks totally normal, you say hello or ask them a question, and the minute they start speaking, you know they’re nuts! They either open their mouth too wide, talk too loudly, or have one of those unruly tongues. I mean sometimes you just know they’re crazy before you speak to them, but you can’t always tell, you know?” He turned the corner and parked the cart, as if he knew exactly where the cucumbers were going to be. He squeezed each before collecting them in a bag.

“Oh Man! Can you smell those bagels?” Mina lifted her nose to catch a better whiff of the sweet scent of bread coming from the bakery.

“Oh Right. I meant to tell you. Listen to this. The other day I was coming home, at like four in the morning, and I saw this bagel truck, Best Bagels, Hot Bagels, some bagel shop I’ve never heard of with an OU on it, picking up bagels from H & H!”

“What’s an OU?”

“It’s a kosher thing.”

“Okay. So?”

“Sooo?” he asked dramatically.

“What’s your point? I bet a lot of bagel companies get their bagels from H&H. Unless you’re saying you don’t know why, because then I’m with you, I don’t think they’re good either?”

“My point is that this truck had an OU, on it. H & H isn’t OU. They sell ham, salami, bacon, all that shit, with cream cheese right next to it,” he said with a disgusted face.

“Adam what are you talking about?”

“Hi. Have we met?” He paused looking at her with pursed lips. “You know I’m Jewish right?”

“Yes,” she laughed.

“Maybe you have heard? Us Jews, we eat this thing called Kosher food? Israeli stamps are slicked with certified kosher glue. Kind of a big deal. You get it? Okay?”

“Yes. I know Kosher Pareve. Is that how you say food in Hebrew?”

“No! He rolled his eyes. Pareve literally means neutral, as in not dairy or meat. Anyway that’s not even the Hechsher I’m talking about. Oy Vey.”

“The who?”

“The Hechsher. The certification that guarantees the food my people eat is Kosher. Just stay with me.”

“Oh. Okay,” she said peeling her eye-lids back.

“There are five major seals that guarantee kosher quality. It doesn’t matter what seal they have at H & H. I know it’s not an OU.”

“Oh an Ohhh Uuuu?” She made fun of his severity.

“An OU is the Orthodox seal. All the other seals are basically signed by non-rabbi’s that put their picture up guaranteeing that business there is under Kosher supervision. It’s bullshit!” He raised his volume. “How would they know? They’ve never even been there!”

“You know that I know little of what you are actually talking about, and your volume is reaching that crazy level I was explaining before.”

“It’s all a scam, these seals and certificates are just another business. Bottom line: Jews are making money off Jews. He made his point and wrapped a bundle of asparagus in a green tinted plastic bag and tossed them in the cart.”

“Ohh okay,” she nodded. She was glad his rage was coming to an end.

“What do you mean ohh okay? It’s mutiny!”

“Take it easy Adam, how do you know all this?”

“I went to see for myself.” He picked up some tomatoes on the vine.

“You’re totally insane.” She watched him park his cart slowly and kneel down to examine blocks of cheese. A large trough filled with plastic wrapped animal milk, blended with herbs and peppers from different parts of the world lit up his face.

“Maybe you can tell a crazy person by what they notice or spend time theorizing about,” she said watching him.

“I know but get this, these Hechshers sometimes come from another city or state, and the poor schmuck buying a bagel from Hot Bagels thinks its OU, meanwhile its been sitting next to bacon all morning. Crazy? Eh?” He didn’t need a response. He lifted a block of cheddar cheese to his nose. “Cheddar?”

“Yea I like it.”

“Or Pepper Jack?” He threw down the block of extra sharp cheddar.

“That works.”

“Oh man. Jalepeno Swiss, or Muenster. These all look good.” It was impossible for him to choose as he brought each cut of cheese to his nose.

“Too hard to make a decision?” she asked commenting on his life.

“You ever have horseradish cheese?” he asked.

“Yep. So wait, do you read Kosher labels on everything you eat?”

“Hell no.” He laughed. “I’m going to follow my Italian instinct, and get us Parmesan.”

“An Italian instinct on a Jew might be a little awkward.”

“No its not. You’re on me all the time.” She walked away rolling her eyes.

 

Song #7 Freedom Like a Shopping Cart, NOFX       

Adam began driving the cart as if it had been possessed. He jerked it from left to right lifting one of the wheels for effect. One minute he was pushing it straight then he stopped it short and started fish-tailing, like the cart had a mind of its own and was ready to flip over, and shouted things like whooaa for show. He hadn’t known Mina very long, and he wasn’t usually this jokey but it was so easy, so incredibly corny and she enjoyed it. He cut her off without warning, nearly crushing her feet with the cart and every time he did something like this it reminded her of how awkward he had made their first kisses. Their very first time was normal, in the way lips connect to form a kiss, but after pulling away, he pretended as if he didn’t know how to find her mouth again and it was something he obviously enjoyed. He did it every now and then, sometimes closing his eyes and moving in extra slowly yet still missing and getting bits of her nose and eyebrow.

The cart’s zig-zagging stopped on freckled linoleum and he bumped out from the drivers position to survey egg cartons. He opened and closed lids to check shell condition and size.

“C’mon Adam, just grab em already. I’m starving now.”

“Yesiree, we are ready. I hope you’re hungry,” he said pretending that he didn’t just hear her. “I bet you don’t know how Jews use the express isle?”

“Nope. Tell me.”

“No seriously, you can ask any Jew. We only buy certain items at the grocery store, whether we’re here everyday or not, but we only count the item type, not the quantity. Get it? We can check out on the Express aisle, because an item only counts once, no matter how many you have of it.”

“Sounds Jewish to me.”

“You got a lot of nerve you know that.” He was full on acting now.

“Why?”

“You’re more Jewish than me. How could you be an anti-Semite? Mina began grabbing things from the cart with a smile on her face, but he quickly reprimanded her in an Irish accent.

“What in God’s name do you think your doing? Ya keep on touching me groceries like that and I’m not buying em, not even one item.”

“Jesus Mary and Joseph, I’m just putting them on the belt for God’s sake,” she came back at him in a brogue of her own.

“Ya don’t even know how I like em.” He arranged his items in size order, covering every part of the belt. He stacked them close to one another, and she watched him act out an idiosyncrasy that was dangerously close to the control issues present in his true personality.

She didn’t help unload the cart after that and was distracted by a star-struck magazine. She hid her face in pictures of a sex scandal between three very well known celebrities, and turned herself on thinking of their sex. He walked closer to Mina by the front of the cart and grabbed the cheese from the child seat.

“Oh excuse me, is that your leg,” he said as his hand wrapped around her inner thigh. She stepped back and turned away shaking her head. “Oh my, is that your ass? Wow! Sorry, oh I am so sorry, I thought it was mine.” She turned to face him, frozen laughing and not sure where to go to avoid his ass-grabbing. “I had no idea you were there, really, excuse me. I just wanted to get some gum. Fresh breath is important. Really sorry about before, I didn’t even see you.” He hooked one of his fingers in her belt loop and pulled her whole body into his with great force, yet managing to catch her by her breast before she fell into him. He cupped it in his palm and with a theatrical look of concern, he placed his other hand on her shoulder. “Darling, are you okay?”

 

Chapter 5: Grand Slam

Mina wouldn’t have sex with Adam until they had dated for a month. She denied his invitation to come upstairs after their first evening together, but the night it did happen was like fate. They passed each other randomly in the street walking their dogs after work. She was wearing her usual work button down-blazer combination, and said yes to dinner on the spot, even though they hadn’t spoken at all that day. She wanted him badly, especially the sharp edge of his canine on her body. She often visualized him tonguing it, something he did while thinking, and also the way it got caught when he licked his lips. They were big smooth lips and all she could focus on as he spoke. They were perfectly wrinkleless; an expression of his mind and a supple invitation she couldn’t deny.

His room was different than she imagined, and she did imagine it, nearly every-time they spoke on the phone before bed. Its neatness pleased her. His four-posted metal-framed bed, otherwise wooden in her mind, was pillow puffed with a military grade-tucking job. His tightly bound comforter, cognac recliner, and fluffy white shag rug looked as though it came right out of a Nautica catalog. She slipped her shoes off to crush carpet fibers between her toes. The smell was calming, not like the scent of a man, but something she knew well yet couldn’t place. She looked at herself in the mirror and became light-headed. She smiled for no specific reason and fell onto his bed.

“What do you wanna eat?” he asked her while peeing.

“Anything. I’m starving.” She didn’t get up from her catalog spread. He picked up on what she was really saying and cocked an eyebrow.

“Okayyy?” he said cutting through the tension with deliberate resistance. They left the apartment within minutes and walked down the street to a new Thai restaurant.

“I’m going to have a Lychee martini, what about you?” he asked her with his face hidden behind his menu.

“Definitely not following suit,” she laughed.

“Oh I didn’t tell you about my condition?”

“Oh right,” she said uninterested flipping to the second page of the menu.

“Noooouhhh,” he said pronouncing no like the name Noah. “You’re supposed to say, What condition Adam?”

“What condition Adam?” she asked with a Brady Bunch inflection. Mina was getting used to him now and could tell when he was going to act out a character.

“I’m gay,” he said. She fake smiled and returned to dinner options. His only audience was the green cliff-sides and ocean view printed on her menu’s cover.

“Drunk Man Noodle? Why would I want to order a dish called Drunk Man Noodle? Why would they put that on a menu? Uh, yea hi, can I please have the drunken man noodle?” Adam ordered to a fictitious server.

“It’s kind of delicious. I’ve had it before,” she said.

“What! You’ve been here before?”

“No. I’ve had it though, it’s a common Thai dish.”

“Oh cuz if you were here, I was gonna say you know…. you know…” He spoke as if he was tough.

“No I don’t know.” She looked him directly in the eye.

“I just want to know, yuno…who you mighta come here with.” He puckered his lips and bopped his head like some hip-hop gangster, but not in the true sense of the word.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m sayin… I’m sayin,” then he stopped. He stopped with his hands and voice. The excitement for that persona left the table. “So, just so I’m clear, what you’re telling me is… is that Drunk Man Noodle is a dish you can get at other Thai places?”

“Yes.”

“Okay will you please order the drunken man noodle? I want to hear you say it,” he laughed at the thought of it. Mina was still thinking about the conversation prior. It was the first time he asked her a question like that. She asked herself if he was slightly jealous, or just pretending. It didn’t matter, she wanted him.

“Maybe,” she smiled about it all. “Do you like curry puffs?”

“Puffs? My god,” he exaggerated and spread a gay hand with pinky-extended across his chest. “Do you even listen to me? Try to remember my condition.” She looked up with one hard blink. It was unspoken, but definitely clear that she was annoyed with the gay joke and wanted him to stop.

“Yes I would love to order curry puffs okay? We’ll have two orders, or is one okay? One should be fine, right dear? One is good. Did I tell you that you look very nice this evening? Your skirt shows off your sexy legs. Tell you what, why don’t you just order for us, since you seem to be so acquainted with the menu?”

“Really?”

“I’m in your hands. Guide me,” he said. It felt like a first date for Mina, not that she had been the one to lead at all on their first date, and he was talking like a Jewish woman at the moment, but that didn’t matter. It was somehow her turn to impress him. The two of them walked side-by-side after dinner saying nothing, and then it happened: He grabbed her by the arm in the street, aggressively squeezing her by the elbow, pretending to dig his knuckle in her ribs.

“What’d you say? What’d you say to me? Don’t even think about moving.” He threw her against a glass door in a vestibule. “Don’t make a sound. Just walk. You just shut-the-fuck-up and walk.” Mina couldn’t stop laughing, but did it with minimal noise and loved her body so close to his. She was getting turned on in the way humans take sex with violence. Her glands prepared her body for what was coming and the insides of her cheeks filled with saliva, like lemonade streaming down beverage fountain bins. They walked in through the grand lobby of the Corinthian just like that, her laughter shaking him, arousing him and his gun-finger poking her small ribs.

He slammed her back against the wall of the elevator hidden from the concierge. He kissed her on the mouth with his hand around her neck and open eyes. They kissed passionately under the heat of elevator lights, and his incharacter hand became affectionate. They broke sweat mid kiss and he caressed his way down and around her body. The elevator stopped and they disconnected their mouths waiting for the door to open.

Once in the apartment it took all of five minutes for him to go to the bathroom and turn on his sound system. He played, “Regulators,” by Warren G. She couldn’t stop laughing and it was what he wanted. He needed to slow things down. With puckered lips, he rubbed her hips and legs as she slithered to the music. Neither of them were actually turned on. This wasn’t the song she had in mind, and he seriously wanted to have sex with her, but because he had been denied before, he didn’t want to seem eager. He released her from his clutches and made two apple martinis. She resisted making fun of him for owning a bottle of Apple Pucker, and preoccupied herself examining his very religious bookshelf and un-Orthodox movie collection.

 

Song #8 Orange Wedge, The Chemical Brothers

“Oh I like this song,” she said. He returned to the living room holding two neon green liquid diamonds.

“You like this techno rave shit?” He clicked the remote towards the television to see what was playing. “Orange Wedge? What the fuck is that?”

“This is your Ipod!”

“I know I love this shit,” he said.

“You’re so weird.” There was a silence and she stood up. She knew she was being watched but she wasn’t going to make this easy for him, even if he did have a bonsai. She walked towards the tree to examine it.

“Do you cut this yourself?”

“I do. It’s called prune, as in the art of pruning,” he said with perfect diction.

“How often do you prune?”

“Twice a year, usually, but it depends on the changes it goes through each season,” he said walking closer to her with drinks.

“So wait, when a branch begins, hold on let me get a sip.” She lifted her martini and pinky. “Ahhh Apple Pucker, it’s been a while. Okay, so a branch begins to bud and very quickly grow, but because it’s not picture perfect or in the right place, you eliminate it in order to preserve the tree’s ultimate design?”

“Yes, and no. The aim of keeping a bonsai is to capture its beauty and power, but to keep the tree’s natural form without showing that it’s been crafted by hand. They’re all different types of pruning.”

“What’s your method?” She loved how intense he was being. Not one of his characters could compete with the passion he had at that moment.

“Kajiwara. Do you really want to learn horticulture right now?”

“Sure. Teach me something.” She shrugged her shoulders.

“Okay there are two important parts of a bonsai: the sucker and the crotch.”

“Shut up,” she pushed his arm.

“I’m serious,” he grabbed her hand and pulled her in slowly. He didn’t let her leave his grip.

“No you’re not.” She remained still.

“Okay I absolutely am, but I’m not getting into that right now.” He moved a strand of hair away from her face. “Some say…that a bonsai…develops from a combination…of what the owner feels about the tree and the tree’s behavior…” He freed her hands from the martini. “And, that the most beautiful bonsais are in a constant state of compromise.”

“How’d you learn so much about this stuff?” She stared at his mouth.

“One of my mentors in Israel was part of the Israeli Bonsai Society. He taught me everything I know.”

“Are you a member now that you have your own tree?” Mina interrupted their concentrated gaze with laughter. He moved behind her. His fingers traveled her clavicle and pressed her into his chest. He snuck two fingers between buttons and cupped the side of her face and neck. His hand swam through her hair, tilted her head back to expose her neck, and using teeth he moved her shirt collar out of his way. He exhaled on her skin.

“Mina, may I please take you to my room?”

“Uh- huh.” She was covered in goose bumps and had more of that lemonade saliva filling her mouth.

She loved the way he kissed. She grabbed his bottom lip and lightly chewed on it. His breath intoxicated her like truffle oil. They walked as they kissed. He licked the outside of her lips, coating them, making them his and every time he did it she lifted her knee and tucked her foot around him.  They walked half of the way with her hopping on one leg. She reached for balance, grabbing at the wall and doorframe. When he lifted her completely to softly lay her on his bed, he said hi, as if he was seeing her for the first time. He took his time removing her clothes, unbuttoning and peeling her garments off with precision. Adam exuded a level of confidence that calmed her and she knew she was never going to look at him the same. He watched her respond to his touch and sizzle as he licked her. He returned to her face to kiss her mouth just before opening his nightstand drawer for a condom.

She grabbed it from his hand and got on top. It made him smile. He didn’t think she had it in her, seeing that he waited a month for her to just come upstairs. She kissed the top of his chest and moved her way down his torso while he closed his eyes.

“This is the sucker,” she paused.  “And here,” she paused again. “This is the crotch.” He exploded into laughter and covered the huge smile on his face.

The Ipod continued to shuffle. Bass swelled against the bedroom wall and joined them in their naked dance. It changed their positions and framed their moans. He came unexpectedly but it somehow ignited pleasure in her as well and they held on to each other like they never thought they would. Each of them stared at the other as something miraculous took hold of their bodies.

“Oh my god,” he said when it was done.

“What?” she asked with eyes closed and head to the side.

“Where’s the condom?” he asked. Mina looked down between her legs at his bare naked body where there should have been a jimmy, and jumped up.

“Oh no! Are you kidding me?” She looked at the bed and saw nothing. He hopped off as well to search the moistened sheets.

“It’s not here,” he said.

“No shit Adam!” Mina was already squatting with her hands inside of her.

“You think the condom’s in you?”

“Yeah!”

“Why?”

“It’s not on the bed. It’s not on you. Where else is it going to be?”

“How long do you think it was off?”

“I don’t know I’m not the one with the dick, it still feels good for me with or without the condom,” she spoke while feeling around inside of her. “Oh come on!” She was getting frustrated that she couldn’t feel or remove the foreign object.

“Can you feel it?”

“No not yet.”

“How do you know it’s even in there? Has this happened to you before? It can’t be in there.”

“You find it then,” she said with obvious aggravation.

“I’m going to,” he said sure of himself. Adam moved his comforter and pillows, even checking the floor on both sides of the bed.

“I feel it!” Mina said in exasperation.

“You do?” Adam walked around the bed uninhibited by his limp penis picking up pillows. He sat down on the mattress and put his head between his hands rubbing the sides of his head. He patiently waited for more information blowing as much air as he could out of his mouth.

“I can’t get it. It keeps slipping. This is… ridiculous.” her tone changed. She saw the humor in the situation. “This is so stupid, of course this would happen right now,” she said as she pulled her hand out but staying low like a tribal woman looking up at him for a solution.

“Let me try,” he offered.

“No.” She shook her head as pitcher calls off hand signals.

“C’mon bring me your vagina. Let the doctor take a look at it. You can’t see what you’re doing, I have a better view.” She stood up and looked him in the eye. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she had to stretch her legs.

“Get on the bed,” he told her.

“You aren’t going to be able to see it. You men hardly know where the entry point is.”

“Not the doctor, baby, bring it to me.” He had never called himself the doctor before, nor had he referred to her as baby, but it worked. She crawled onto the bed and opened her legs for him. He attempted and with his all-knowing fingers hurt her instantly.

“Stop. This isn’t going to work,” she said standing up. She spread her lips wide with her hand and reached deep inside for the condom. Once she felt around for a little bit she threw her butt down into a seat and dug deeper. “Oh I can feel it. It’s the brim too. I’m gonna get it.” He watched her with his naked body hanging off the side of the bed. His focus on her softened and he was no longer aware of her naked breasts or what she was doing. He became totally removed and noticed how physically tired he was.  His eyes gazed at the floor and thoughts of work entered his mind.

“Got it,” she pulled it out and examined it in front of her face. She rolled her eyes and slapped him on the thigh to get his attention. The slimy condom stuck to his skin.  “Here’s your drunken man noodle.”

 

Chapter 6 : Sacrilegious

That was in the spring when their tenderness was ripe like the season’s strawberries, but this conversation was heavy and referred to a serious problem, and although they left the bench, silence was still between them. It was obvious of course to both of them, always had been but never strong enough to cause separation. The August sun bore down on them as they walked in slow motion. Until now Murray Hill was a neighborhood they both called their own, but currently he considered the dangers of her living proximity. Mina too was experiencing a state of shock. She had been warned by some of her friends about this very thing happening, but didn’t take them seriously. She was quick to say that her and Adam were only friends, often told others not to get involved, and deluded them with the notion that, as a faux couple, they were just perfect.

Mina was a modest woman, and this was what Orthodoxy stressed, but by no means did that make her Orthodox. She wasn’t going to all of a sudden join their community and start wearing a wig like the rest of the women just because of her love for Adam. What was apparent from their silent stare on the bench was that he only wanted what he knew, and that was religious devotion.

“You want me to go in?” she asked in front of the coffee shop. This was their normal routine when they had the dogs.

“No I’ll get em, you stay here.” He wanted to be the one to escape. He knew the time had come to say what he had avoided telling her all along, and he always envisioned feeling this way, not because he wanted to, but because he knew that dating, fucking, and trying women on for size was going to get the best of him at some point.

 

Song #9 Wasting My Time, Taryn Manning

Mina smeared one sweaty palm against the other desperately trying to get her head straight. It was ten in the morning; those that didn’t make their own coffee were still under covers sleeping soundly to the rattle of an air conditioner. There was no line in Starbucks and there were hardly any people in the street. She clicked a parking meter dial until it couldn’t go anymore. The quiet city alarmed her like white space between words in a sentence that didn’t make sense.

“I want to talk to you about the other night,” she said as he handed her an iced espresso.

“Okay.”

“I didn’t mean to slap Uri on the ass or flirt with him like that.”

“Okay.”

“I was happy…and drunk.”

“Noo?” he said with heavy sarcasm.

“Don’t do that, we were having a good time, flirting and dancing. I was feeling feisty, and I admit I got carried away, but I want you to know that there wasn’t any foul play.”

“Okay.”

“What’s okay? Say something other than okay? What’re your feelings?”

Adam thought about that night, especially when he slipped his finger down her shirt, playing with her cleavage as she danced all over him. He partially blamed himself for letting her drink so much, getting a bottle, when there were only three of them, but he did love watching her dance. He didn’t think she wanted Uri but it bothered him that they got along so well. He even remembered them sitting in the kitchen drinking later that night after the club, chatting about the old man and his escorts, and wondered why so much of their talk harbored sex. He didn’t know that any of it mattered. He didn’t want to talk about it because he hadn’t spent enough time thinking about it.

He noticed her fingertips were white from her clutching the meter dial. She was wearing her favorite jeans, he called them her favorite because he hated them, and still she wore them. They had about four holes, and were easily two sizes too big. Her eyes were especially green. They were big bright eyes that expressed everything she felt and at that moment, he looked into the face of someone that was ready to cry.

“Lets sit in the park,” he said untying leashes from the pole. They walked into the Park on 36thstreet, let the dogs loose and sat on another bench.

“I just want you to know that I wouldn’t do that to you, you know. It’s really hard to talk about this without letting you know how I feel.” Mina couldn’t stop talking.

“That’s okay. You can tell me how you feel about me,” he said to make her smile and she did.

“I hate you,” she joked. He at least had that, a smile to look at and remember regardless of what happened next.

“I don’t know Adam…It starts with an appreciation, I guess. An appreciation of someone, or many things about someone, and then, a desire to spend as much time with that person as possible… And the more that you’re with them, the more they improve who you are, and then soon enough, they’re a part of you and you just want to be around them all the time.” She was blushing and smiling as she lifted her gaze from the floor and brought it to his face. “I appreciate you.”

“Thanks.” He took her hand. “I know you do, Mina.”

Rags rounded the opening of the fence, and she yelled out her name. The dog came running back inside.

“I don’t want more than you’re giving me, and nothing should change in anyway. It’s just that since this happened with Uri, I realize that I have to let you know something.”

“What?”

“I’m not interested in being with anyone else.”

He too knew the feelings she described, and there were certain things he noticed about himself because of her. He was much more self aware due to her. He was also happier. He woke up happy and had energy that he didn’t have before knowing her. He noticed that he wanted to become cultured and learn things to impress her with, but this didn’t pay his bills, and it wasn’t logical to think in terms of impressing someone else. He became worried that he might have wasted too much time with her already. He imagined saying to his dad, ‘Sorry I’m just going to travel around the world with my hot-blooded Italian trying out different cities, looking at art and eating at fine restaurants, hope you can understand and take care of yourself.’ He couldn’t bear the thought of it. He had a responsibility and it concerned him that someone like her, so different from all the other girls he had ever been with, had distracted him so severely. He couldn’t imagine sincerely desiring a non-religious woman.

“I agree Mina, that we have gotten to be really close and spend a lot of time together. But I am not in the position to be with you. I am not in the position to be with anyone. When we first got involved we both said we weren’t looking for a relationship.”

“Yes I know that. But, I’m also not in the business of not looking for a relationship either, Adam. I’m not crazy, right? I mean we have a rare and beautiful connection.” It sickened her to imagine that the adoration she felt for him was in her head. She knew that there were going to be consequences for speaking like this, but she had to know.

“There really is something special about you, something irresistible, something incredible, something Mina, but…I don’t know what to tell you, he said.

“Tell me you don’t want to be with me.”

“I can’t do that.”

“What do you mean you can’t do that? You always have the answers.”

“Not this time.” He looked into his palms.

“Tell me to walk away, or don’t. Tell me to stay.”

“It isn’t what I want, but if I had to tell you what to do, what was smart for you, it would be to walk away. I care about you so much, but I’m not ready for this. So, yes, I think walking away makes the most sense.”

 

Song #10 Something Heavens, H.U.V.A Network