Thursday, February 28, 2013


I've never thought that single beds would be any good for sex. But this new boy, Jeffrey, who has come out to see me for a few days, tells me with a little laugh about fucking his first girlfriend in a single bed. He talks about it with affection, as if the smallness of the bed had been part of the fun.

We start off in my single bed under the slanting attic roof. We are alone in the house – my father in the city, my mother taking advantage of an invitation from people we hardly know to stay on a lake in New Hampshire with my two little sisters.

This looks good. I can say to this new boy who wrote me a letter a couple of weeks ago – two pages typed singled spaced – a letter where he said he loved me – I can say to him – he who has so many things I don’t have and haven’t even thought of having – a phone, a TV – I can say: I am alone in a house. I can say: I have a father who stays in the city, and a mother staying on a lake.

This new boy has divorced parents and even stepparents, which I do not, but at least I have parents who don’t like each other and are usually apart.

I pick up the boy at the station. Yes, I have this car. It is my father’s, but I have it for these few days. I pick up the boy, wearing my soft beige cotton halter dress. In the car, the boy runs his hand up my calf. “Ah,” he says, “you shaved.”

Last week I hadn’t fully prepared for our first make-out session, and he had commented on my stubble, “I didn’t know you were the type who shaved.” I had been found out. He was supposed to think I had naturally smooth legs.

He is here, this boy who must not find out too much about me or he will lose interest. I show him my attic room with its pitched roof, its wall-to-wall carpet, the bright yellow cupboard doors I painted, the couch cushions on the floor, and my pride: the Panasonic stereo, a turntable with two speakers that I inherited from my father’s bachelor pad when he moved back in. This stereo looks like something a rich kid would have.

He looks through my handful of records. I only have one Dylan album, a double-album of greatest hits. I have listened to it over and over. I know the words to every song. “Funny the songs they chose for this,” Jeffrey muses – he knows every song and which album it’s on and what year it came out, plus how many bootleg versions there are.

We didn’t fuck last week. I pretended that I didn’t have my diaphragm with me. Now I am lying beside him in my single bed because that’s how he did it with Jane, and I have figured out my lie for this week. “I think I must have left my diaphragm in a box of things I left at school,” I say, though there is no box of things, and there is no diaphragm because – and this is my real secret – I have never needed one.

I don’t care though. I want to get fucked and I’ve finally found someone who I am sure can do it, because he’s had two girlfriends before me, he’s been fucking for three years, and I won’t get pregnant. I just won’t.

“We could use my mother’s bed,” I offer because really sex needs room, doesn’t it?

We go down the steep flight of stairs to my mother’s room with its double bed. I have always imagined fucking in a double bed.

I make sounds to show I’m into it, that I’m a pro.

Afterwards I suggest we change the sheets. I think it’ll be nicer for both of us to have clean dry sheets. I get the sheets from the closet in the small bathroom with its tub and no shower and when I come back this boy is sitting naked and cross-legged on the bed, looking at the framed photo that hangs over it, a photo of me as a little girl.

“I love that picture,” he says. “I want one. I’m going to photograph it.”

And I have a naked boy with black curly hair in a pony tail talking to me, sitting cross-legged, lighting up a joint. These are all the things I wanted.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


My father sitting in that apartment in Budapest, the one with the high ceilings, the double doors between rooms, the apartment he has known since he was four years old and his grandparents bought it, the apartment he returned to like a ship to harbor when everything in this country fell apart, a place all along he must have kept in mind as a place he could return to if all else failed. Which it did.

I think of him there though he is there no longer. I think of him sitting there for the last thirty years of his life, his life becoming smaller and smaller and smaller until it finally went out.

I remember visiting him early on when he was still active. He took me to another apartment in the complex one evening to visit a woman he had known since they were teenagers. She was an artist, her apartment filled with canvases. She gave me a piece of her jewelry, a bracelet of silver rectangles linked together. It was ugly, but I had very little jewelry at that time and I liked that this bracelet was old, held history, had come from someone.

My father dressed up for that dinner as he always did in the navy blue double-breasted blazer and a cravat. He said something to me about how wearing a cravat takes care of the need for a tie but is so much more comfortable. He said this to me with the air of triumph that he often used. Triumph. Everything had to be won and it made me always want to put down my pieces, not play at all.

He said something before or after the dinner, disparaging about the woman artist, something that implied he wanted to keep some distance between them. Yet he was proud that she was a painter, proud that she was a friend. I had the feeling that perhaps they’d been lovers, or that she wanted them to be – some history of some sort.

Like the dinner with Ilona, a woman in a different part of town, a woman my father assured me had once been very pretty when they were in high school. Ilona had definitely once been his girlfriend and now she was a widow in an apartment filled with old-lady things, cooking dinner for my father almost every night, a sad woman who still spoke of the war and how it had changed everything forever.

But by the end it was just my father alone with his younger sister caring for him. Maybe people came by or called. I don’t know. I wasn’t there and with so many barriers of distance, culture and language I don’t know at all how things really were.

But I think of him there, silent, perhaps brooding. The last time I called he could not speak and I didn’t know if he knew it was me. I didn’t know anything. I could hear him struggling, and he managed the phrase “keep in touch.”

Which I do. I keep in touch. I think of him. Without tears. I welcome the pieces of his writing that my aunt sends as soon as the translator finishes a chapter. Because my father remains a mystery. He never did succeed in explaining himself to me. He tried. But he edited out so much I was not left with much.