All I wanted was a good fuck. That’s how I felt when my mother died.
I wanted death sex. No, more than that. I needed death sex. That hot sex you have when life outside yourself in the real world is up to shit. Like when someone close to you dies. It’s different from the crisis sex you have when you lose your job or your landlord sends you a rent increase letter. It’s different because your soul is numb when you’re doing it. It’s only your cunt that feels anything. But sometimes it unleashes something in you and you cry.
I discovered crisis sex when my grandmother died. Boyfriend the First thought it strange but he didn’t complain when we fucked all day. The day of her funeral.
To stop myself thinking of them all thousands of kilometers away, lined up in the crematorium hall chanting Hebrew prayers, I had sex. It took the boyfriend by surprise. He’d brought camembert and baguette and white wine, ready to be the broad shoulder, to listen to more stories about my grand-mother. I’d already spent two nights crying and telling him how she used to beat me at scrabble and could do a cryptic cross word from right to left without pause. When we eventually ripped off hunks of bread, the camembert was a perfect temperature.
It helped. I think. The sex. And the camembert.
When my Dad died there was no boyfriend. There wasn’t even anyone I could call for a friendly fuck. And masturbation just doesn’t cut it at those times. So I walked. Every morning. Around the fake lake with its swans and rowing boats and swaying trees and history of small black kids who had drowned when the rowing boats capsized and no one could swim to save them. And that’s what I thought about as I walked. Drowning.
It was better than thinking about my Dad dead against the steering wheel of his car from the heart attack. And it was fitting. I was drowning. In my grief and in the sweet cakes and biscuits my father’s friends brought to cheer me up. They didn’t cheer me up. Sex wouldn’t have either but it might’ve made me feel alive. Some part of me, anyway.
Years later, my partner’s father dies. We sleep on a sofa bed in his parents’ lounge and his mother wanders from bedroom to bathroom every hour, her slippered feet slapping the floor boards. He’s choking with the responsibility of his father’s unpaid debts, of his mother’s vacant look when he explains to her how to use a cheque book. I massage his body with rose oil and tell him I love him and then my hands swirl firmly around his buttocks and I feel the strength of his thighs and the softness of the skin on their inside. He sighs and I feel his taut muscles let go just a little. And my hand crawls under his body and I stroke him.
He opens his eye and looks at me and says, ‘What are you doing?’
I tell him to trust me.
He closes his eyes again and my hands massage his shoulders, gripping the knots in my ten fingers. I slide myself astride him. My cunt is wet against his back. And then I lie along his body and wheedle my hand underneath him and my fingers wrap around his hard cock.
‘We can’t do this,’ he says to me.
‘It’s ok,’ I tell him as I kiss the nape of his neck and ride his ass.
That night he sleeps a deep sleep.
And then my mother dies. I’m alone in her city by the sea. I walk like I did when my father died. But now I’m a woman in her forties, now I know sex. So I walk the coast track in the morning and then I walk it at night when it’s lit only by distant street lights and the white of the ocean’s foam. There are other walkers at night. But not those of the morning who stride with swinging arms and smiles. The night walkers are slower; they don’t nod, they don’t make eye contact.
He’s been there every night I’ve been on the path. He wraps himself in his arms as he sits on the bench over-looking the cliff face. I’ve wondered if he plans to jump but I haven’t said anything. One night he’s not at the bench so I sit down and wrap myself in my arms and watch the waves heave against the cliff. I hear his foot steps before I see him. They slow as he comes closer. I know he’s thinking I’ve muscled in on his bench. He passes me with quickening steps. I turn and say, ‘I don’t mind sharing.’
He pauses and looks at me and nods. He comes back and sits down on the outer edge of the bench and wraps himself in his arms.
I say to him, ‘I’ve seen you. Here.’
He looks straight ahead and he doesn’t answer me. He smells of caramelized sweet potato and onion.
‘Don’t you talk?’ I ask him.
He looks at me and says, ‘Sometimes.’
I leave him on his bench.
The next night I’m back there, on his bench. I’ve arrived earlier than him. I don’t know any after shave that smells like him. I decide I’ll ask him if he’s a chef. He doesn’t show that night.
The day of my mother’s funeral, I cover the mirrors and paintings in her house and clear the furniture to the side so people can gather for prayers in the evening. I kiss and shake hands in my grey dress and flat heels.
They ask me in heavily accented English, ‘How are you doing?’
I shrug and say ‘You know how it is.’
They ask if there’s anything they can do for me. I don’t tell them that I’d be much better if I could just get a fuck. Nice Jewish girls don’t say that kind of thing. No one does at their mother’s funeral.
Late that night, after the prayers, I go back to his bench. This time he’s there. I sigh as I sit on the left edge.
‘Bad day?’ he asks.
‘You could say that,’ I say. ‘My mother’s funeral.’
‘No need. She wanted to die.’
He doesn’t say anything. I smell the sweet vinegar of his body.
I turn to him and say, ‘I want to have sex.’
I watch his adam’s apple lurch as he swallows.
‘That’s putting it right out there,’ he says looking straight ahead.
‘I mean it’, I say. ‘I want you to come home with me to her unit and fuck me. One fuck. That’s all I’m asking.’
He squints up his forehead and wraps himself tighter in his own arms. ‘You can’t do that,’ he says.
‘Because you’re in mourning. No one fucks when they’re in mourning.’
‘And who are you? The rabbi?’ I ask.
We walk home to my mother’s unit with its fridge full of cakes and biscuits to help me get over it, to help me while I pack her fur coats into garbage bags for St Vincent de Paul, while I fill boxes with books on Kabbalah and Kashrut. He doesn’t know where to stand or whether it’s disrespectful to look at the paintings exposed by their gaping shrouds. He stops at the shrine I’ve made for her with her photograph in a silver frame and her wedding ring with the diamonds and lapis lazuli and her large framed reading glasses. And a brown carnation.
‘Her favourite flower?’ he asks.
I nod and say, ‘She was unconventional.’
We sit on the couch in the room emptied of furniture from the evening prayers. Three hours ago the room ached with voices reciting the mourners’ kaddish, wishing me a long and a good life. Now there’s just he and I. We drink a glass of my mother’s sweet port and look at each other in the dim light of her lamps. His ankles are crossed tightly but his arms are loose at his sides. It’s the first time I’ve seen him stop hugging himself.
‘I can’t fuck you,’ he says.
‘What? You don’t find me attractive?’
‘Not here,’ he says.
I place his glass on the carpet and I sit astride him and push myself against him. I push his shoulders back against the chair as I rock against him.
Afterwards I fill up his wine glass and serve him a bubke, a syrup coated biscuit. He shakes his head as I tell him that this was the third time I’d had death sex. Only this is the first time it’s been anonymous. Kind of. I tell him it’s as good with someone you know as someone you don’t. And then I cry.