|Where You Cant Go Again
Now that spring semester is over and hes back home, sex has
become a sticking point again.
Not sex, per sesince his mother is emphatically
not interested in knowing the details, the how and whenbut the idea of sex.
Sex in her house. Because Lucy keeps appearing at the back door, day after day, like a
derelict cat, and Jays mother has always hated Lucy for the offense of having sex
with her son.
* * *
He licks sticky apple juice from his fingers, and a warm breeze teases his
hair. "So if I get a place," he says, consonants wet and lazy because of the
half-chewed piece of apple in his mouth, "instead of going back to the dorm, can
youand dadhelp with rent?"
She glances up from the herb garden, dirt tumbling
from her gray gloves. He notices the gray in her hair, too. "Help you pay the
rent?" she says.
"Tuition would be less without room and board. So
youd pay almost the same."
"Jay, I ought to make you pay rent to me
all summer. You need a job."
Jay, who has always been precociousin sex,
drugs, and procrastinationstares past his mother into the forest, hears it rustling.
The trees are heavy and abundant. A bird screams somewhere close and he thinks about
Nicole Kidman, naked. He thinks about the gray hair at his mothers temples.
"Ill tell you one thing, though," his
mother says, vaguely waving gnats away. " If you live in this house, you
better follow my rules."
There is a satisfying crack as Jay bites an iceberg
chunk out of the apple. He chews softly while his mother returns to her weeding. "I
dont know why you have to be so damn Catholic about it," he says mildly, even
though she is agnostic and liberal with regard to everything but her sons sex life.
He wonders, chewing, if his mother even remembers the last time she had sex.
* * *
He isnt sure what woke him, but hes covered in sweat. Maybe
the dream. The dream woke him. It was about Lucy, but she was . . . old.
Sitting up, he chases his breath. He kicks the damp
sheets off, feeling a soft breeze. In the next room, his mother is asleep.
His father is away on business, as he will be again
and again this summer.
A door connects his bedroom to the adjacent one. As a
child, he was always grateful for it; nightmares sent him through that door to his
mothers bedside, where he was comforted. But as a young man, the existence of the
door, which has no lock, makes him nervous and guilty. As if, through it, she can hear an
erection rise. Or read his dirty mind, with its amateur-hour fantasies and acquiescent
women. And he doesnt like to think what would happen if his mom heard him and Lucy
fucking. Which is why they never use his room unless the house is empty. His breath is
slow and regular. He lies back down. Thinking of Lucy.
Lucy in a dress. Lucy in jeans. Lucy in the sky with
sequins. Lucy undressed.
* * *
A breathless tapping at the back door. His mother jumps up, hurries
to answer it.
"Oh, hello again," he hears her say
tonelessly. The brief silence before the greeting seemed to tremble with wariness and
He walks into the kitchen where his mother has poor
Lucy, who is only a senior in high school, cornered near the cupboard like a nervous
insect that has gotten in the house and must be crushed.
"Ready?" Jay says. "Lets
go." He knows how best to defuse these scenes: quickly.
Before Lucy has even finished nodding, she is at the
back door again, bristling to leave, backpack slung on her shoulder. Smiling at his mother
in diplomatic apology, Jay follows the high school girl out. Theyre going hiking,
then to her house.
Thats what he allows his mother to believe, at
least. In reality, after they cross the neatly sloping yard, go into the woods a good
ways, and leave the meager pathnot a path, really, just matted grassthey stop.
With distance from Jays mother, Lucy is no longer nervous. She takes a blanket from
her backpack, spreads it. Afternoon shadows fall around them. Because the woods are
resonant with eerily acoustic echoesancient, girlish voices twitter in the
forestJay and Lucy are self-consciously quiet while they fuck, half-dressed.
A bird caws in the distance.
Slowly, in the blissful but exquisitely sad afterglow,
Jay rolls one of her little pink nipples under his tongue and wonders what pregnancy would
do to this fresh, flushed body. Stretch her breasts? Flatten her feet? He imagines Lucy
holding a child; the picture seems extraordinarily, scarily correct.
"I never want to have kids," he says
suddenly, brushing a caterpillar off the blanket.
"Im on the pill."
"Not just with you, I mean ever."
"Well, thats dumb," Lucy says, pursing
her mouth. "Im definitely having one someday. Someone, you know . . . to take
care of. Who . . . always loves me."
"Yeah," he answers doubtfully. And then:
"I just love fucking you."
Under cool, leaf-patterned shadows, they kiss, and as
the afternoon fades theyre bathed in the sharp, earthy odor of wild onions,
honeysuckle, and covered graves.
Later, she asks, "You think I could come to the
beach with you?"
He has relatives in Pensacola. Every August, he and
his parents vacation there.
His face assumes a painfully opaque look, eyes
darkening. "Well . . . Id be down for it . . . I mean, if you can."
"If I can?"
"Well . . . my mother . . . "
"Is scared of me, yeah." Lucy smiles
self-indulgently. To himself, Jay doubts its that simple.
"Ill ask," he says. "I mean,
Id definitely like it. If it ends up being just me and herand
Daditll be so . . . boring, you know?"
Lucy sighs, worrying a dead wasp with her index
finger. "Do you ever watch the, like, Discovery ChannelI mean, when youre
shrooming or something?" She props herself up, elbows askew. "Its always
about how the mother bear or lion just roars at anything that gets near her cubs.
Thats what your mom reminds me of, kinda. A big jealous animal. A big, silly, stupid
animal." Her giggle is a little cruel.
"Ill pass that on to her."
"I bet she thinks about me all the time.
Shes so jealous. . . . Should we go over to my house? My dad might be gone by
"Rather fuck you again right here."
And he does.
* * *
Again a dream awakens him. Again he is gasping in swollen darkness.
In the dream hes downstairs. A kind of
dream-mist flows through every room, changing and unmaking things; a lamp melts into a
deformed infant . . . off-white drapes become a mildewed wedding dress. He flows upstairs
where his bed has sheets with dinosaurs and rocket ships. Shrinking, becoming a boy, he
pads to the door that connects his room to his parents bedroom. He eases it open,
sees that theyre awake and sitting up (his father mostly obscured by his
mothers body) and staring at him, worried. But as he starts to voice a vague
terrorI couldnt find youa tentacle of mist uncoils from their bed
and slips away, revealing a confusing, lascivious four-legged beast. Interrupted, his
parents remain coupled at the hips, still thrusting, their lower bodies obscenely and
impossibly entwined. He watches in nauseated fascination, clutching a bowtie-wearing teddy
But now, awake, he begins to breathe normally again.
Lying back on his pillow, he tries to soothe his nerves by composing erotic vignettes
about Natalie Portman, and soon he is both half-asleep and half-erect.
* * *
Its raining, and this is reassuring. The insulating hush of warm
droplets as they fall creates a sense of lovely stasis, of a lush refuge.
Because his mother isnt home, and wont be
for hours, theres time for them to lie together in the living room, noticing how
languidly the rain-shadows slide over each others skin. Silhouetted drops caress
Lucys breasts, slip down the whiteness of her belly and disappear into a golden tuft
of pubic hair, which gives off a fading, faintly titillating scent of condom lubricant and
As twilight nears, they are fucking again, this time
in the dining room, Lucy bent almost primly over the back of a chair and whimpering
perhaps more noisily than necessary. This is the fifth or sixth time so far this afternoon
and in the last four hours theyve done it in every downstairs room.
Afterward, the rain mumbles in a flat soliloquy while
they recover. They are draped naked on the sofa, exhausted and raw, calmed by the rain.
* * *
"She is not invited. Under
any circumstances. This is a family tradition. You may be old enough to make your
own decisions, and mistakes, but you dont make mine. Or your fathers. No
Nonplussed, he watches his mother turn back to her
easel with what seems to him a little like petulance.
"Dont push me, James Anthony Toleman. I hate
it when you try to push me."
Strained sunlight comes through the ancient blinds and
slats of light affix themselves to floating particles of dust. Frustratedbut vaguely
entertainedby his mother, Jay stares at the canvas she has nearly completed.
"Is it abstract?" he asks.
"Whats it supposed to be, then? A tadpole
fighting a dodge ball?"
"Id appreciate it if youd not be
"Mom . . . if I go to the beach with just you
guys, you know were gonna fight the whole time."
A dollop of red-pink paint quivers on the tip of her
brush as she spins to face him so sharply that he flinches.
"She is not invited! Dont bring it
Theres that strange, threatened petulance again.
All at once he feels intense contempt for her, with a trace of sympathyand
curiosity, as well. What must it be like, he wonders, to grow up, discover love, give
birth to a son, then be so suddenly disoriented again by the rote realities of sex?
* * *
"Nine or ten,
at the earliest," he tells Lucy, two of his fingers buried in her vagina.
"Shes at her arts and crafts thing. She wont be home before then."
"Good," she gasps, biting the pillow
dramatically, "Im gonna be so loud."
Because they know his mother wont be home for
hours, theyre in his bedroom, sprawled naked across the crumpled sheets (which do
not have dinosaurs or rocket ships, only plaid), sweating and biting. Its dusk
outside the window.
She moves down the bed and takes his erect penis in
her mouth, licking and gripping it, flicking her long light hair out of her eyes. Leaning
back for a moment, she looks up at him as he tears open a condom, his erection hovering
over her, and she laughs.
"Thats a Kodak moment," she says.
"You should take a picture and show it to her."
"Yeah," Jay says humorlessly, placing the
condom over the head of his swollen penis and unrolling it. "Ready?"
"Make me cry."
When he pushes inside her, she bares her teeth,
emitting a sound that makes him think of a hissing, silver-eyed cat, and as he feels her
long white legs fold around his waist, he wonders how it is that women have such a
ridiculous amount of influence in his life.
But this self-consciousness dissolves in the rough
heat of fucking, in the panting rhythm which he and Lucy create; she is crying out and
writhing theatrically beneath him, aroused by her own moans, crushing her little breasts
into his ribs, biting at his jaw, only pausing when she realizes that he has stopped
thrusting, his head to one side, his hand frozen in the air near her mouth, trembling
slightly, as he listens.
"Oh, baby, whats"
He slides out of her. "Make noise," he
whispers. Confused, she gives a half-hearted moan, noticing as she does that his erection
has gone soft.
Possessed by an impossible, dream-like fear, he slips
off the bed, condom dangling, and a second later hes standing by the slightly ajar
doorthe one that connects to his parents bedroomand he throws it open.
The reality of his mother hiding there, just behind the doorher face a portrait of
guilty, helpless fascinationfills him with an erotic terror that he cannot describe
and has never felt before. He is viscerally awareas they lock eyes, paralyzed for a
nightmarish momentof his own nakedness and his diminishing-but-still-there erection.
And of the small, red tip of his mothers tongue protruding from between her lips
like a piece of horrible candy.
Lucy yelps, covering herself.
Which seems to shock his mother loose. The weird,
childish expression disappears from her face, which turns maternal and stern, and her eyes
darken as she backs away, then turns and flees into the hallway. Jay hears her footsteps
descend the stairs, hurry into the kitchen; water roars in the sink and plates clatter;
shes doing the dishes.
He turns around, sees Lucy on the bed, her eyes large
and alarmed. "Holy shit," he says, "Thatsshes never . . .
He touches Lucys naked arm as he trails off, and
she covers herself with the blanket, recoiling. Downstairs, a dish shatters.
"Its okay," he tells Lucy, getting himself together, wondering with a
strange thrill if he should go downstairs, confront his mother. "Its okay, Luce
. . . calm down, its . . . ." But his mind is not on Lucy, not entirely. He is
remembering how he used to go through that door some nights as a little boy, scared of
nightmares, and lie in his mothers arms; and he is also wondering now for the first
time what his mother dreams about at night.