Two events of note in the same day: Ruth finally caught up on my blog, and I received my first email about it. They are not unrelated.
I didn’t expect a torrent of messages. It just felt right to offer accountability, to say I’m not afraid of judgment. Here’s what my confessions in the void have garnered from reader Zod:
hey dude, dosnt your gf think your weird? who wants to get it on with a golam???? oh well i guess I wouldd tap a sexy vampire…or a zombie if she had junk that didnt fall off
A proud moment.
Let me answer you this way. Ruth belonged, for a time, to a society of people who put on medieval clothes and used antiquated speech patterns and pursued pastimes like dancing estampies and mace fighting. She pushed for more immersive activities, like bread-making from scratch and beating clothes on rocks. (The other members weren’t that committed.) Ruth’s friend Val self-identifies as a vampire, and Ruth takes her very seriously. It is important for Ruth to validate our Life Choices.
What she said immediately after reading the blog was, “You’re so creative! Don’t stifle it!” I waited for more. About my under-the-table jobs. About the vorompatra.
We went down to the beach, all the way to the castle keep of the water-treatment plant, not saying much. I must have been looking exceptionally hard at her face because she stopped walking.
“Really, I like it. I like being in it. I know who I am.”
I nodded, but that isn’t entirely what I’m worried about. I’m worried about what’s to come. The Hakham Zevi. The cabin. Judah. A hundred random horrors she doesn’t know.
It occurred to me just now: Is she daring me to go further?
In bed, she says, “Grab me.” I know how hard she wants me to squeeze, but I won’t. She slaps me in the face, but I won’t slap back. She kicks: I don’t move. The farthest I will go is raising my hand in threat. Her breathing quickens.
She turns me over and picks up my deformed phallus. Yes, Zod, it exists. Created by a man who could barely look at his own when he washed. He even created a groove in my leg for it. It’s as blunt and lumpy as the rest of me. Ruth slaps it against her vulva. It scrapes, it bruises. Her face contorts.
And like my mouth, it gives me no pleasure. The pleasure it gives Ruth is strange. How is a girl raised to look at me like I can fill her heart up? Who twisted her to see me that way? I once asked her if her father was like me. She said not really. But she didn’t think hard about it. She almost thought about it and then her eyes started to roll around and her head shook, just a little and she had to stop thinking about it before—what?
She gets on top. It’s difficult to watch it go in. She’s almost always in pain the next day, but she grinds and pushes no matter how much it cuts. Hashem enlivened my manhood along with the rest of me, clumsily, movable but unbending, like a joint of the finger. And like my mouth, it gives me no pleasure. The pleasure it gives Ruth is strange. Afterwards, even if there’s blood, she says the sweetest things about love. Sometimes, during, when she’s close, she says:
“Some day you’ll bring your hand down, I know it. Say you’ll bring it down.”
She’s talking about my fist above her face.
In Toledo, women would cower at my approach. Men saw me as they would a whore—sometimes urgently necessary, largely a reminder of their weakness. The tropes of revulsion had long been in the Jews’ blood; they were taught to revile in a particularly inward manner. Until they saw me. They had stopped sending goats into the barrens long ago, but they had me.
That was the Jews. The gentiles who crossed me lurching up their streets couldn’t distinguish me from any other Jew, or wouldn’t. Jews, they knew, traveled with many a foul creature, held palaver with demons, kept counsel with imps. I was a dull color next to these unnaturals. A minor concern. Powerful, maybe, but a known quantity. And today I’m just another rough face. Not the worst person on the subway.
I came to count on you people for both those reactions. Ruth wouldn’t have it. Ruth wanted to be surprised be me. She welcomes my stories of ruin.
She wants the demon.