In the kitchenette the espresso pot hissed like a geyser. Sharon wore her terry cloth robe, a garment reserved for when she was indisposed.
“He’s a mess,” she said, sighing. “All night long, English and Yiddish. It was a strain. And then the crying. I couldn’t just cast him out into the night… into that snow.”
“Of course not.”
“And he kept asking me if I was a Jewish daughter, again and again. He can’t believe it. He thought I must be a convert.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him my genealogy. He was impressed. But he said with my blond hair and green eyes my great-grandmothers must have been raped by Cossacks. Can you believe he said such a thing?”
“Yes,” I answered. “You should read his fiction.”
“No thanks,” Sharon answered, lapping the cup of espresso, cringing at its bitterness. “His truth is queerer than his fiction, I’m sure.”
“Don’t be so certain,” I answered. We sat in silence for a while, and I took her hand. She was tired but striking, emanating a soft glow from unfathomable regions within her. Sun slanted through the small kitchen window. New York City was ablaze with the white, diffused light of freshly fallen snow.
A soft moan wafted in from the bedroom. We stood up, on cue, and gazed down at the figure in our bed. Mendele Goldfarb’s face was the very likeness of death. Somewhere in this long, interminable winter night, he had become gravely ill. Without a word, Sharon called an ambulance. But by the time she returned, it was already too late.
Goldfarb was now sleeping with our fathers of blessed memory. When Sharon returned, I softly said the words. She sat on a chair and began to noiselessly cry the caustic tears of generic grief. After all, a Jew died, and a Yiddish speaking one at that. She was married to a Yiddish writer, of sorts, and knew full well the implications of this death. One less reader. One less writer. One more world expunged.
I had met Mendele Goldfarb and thought him already dead and then in some feat of imaginative alchemy, he had died in my marital bed, a place where Sharon and I had been trying to conceive a child.
Despite being a kohen, a priest, and hence technically forbidden to touch the dead, I closed his open eyelids. I kissed his cold forehead. I pulled the sheet over his face. I lit some candles by his head and taking a book of psalms, began to sway and recite, waiting for the ambulance to come and take him away.