Servi wandered about the back of Joy’s bungalow where the sand sloped gently to the sea. A small light burned in her living room window, but it was not enough to illuminate the beach. So Servi stumbled on something in the sand.
“Is that you Servi?” said Joy. Servi answered yes and sat next to her. Gone where the orthodox garments. He loose, brown hair blew in the stiff, ocean breeze and she was draped in a rough, wool blanket. She offered Servi a corner and he slid in, feeling her warmth. Her regular rate of breath.
“You still smell like beer,” Joy said softly. Servi could not see her well, but he could feel her eyes probing him in the dark. “Are you always drunk?”
“When I’m not working.”
“And what do you do?” Servi answered her. Joy was silent.
“You think I’m falling below the mark of my potential,” Servi intoned with mock gravity. Joy, on hearing this, heaved a heavy sigh.
“Trust me, Joy, I didn’t fall below the mark, the mark fell below me… or at best, we met each other as we passed, it up and me down…” Joy laughed and reached out beneath the blanket and squeezed his hand. For a moment, he remembered their subtle youth, when a touch on the hand or the arm could tingled every nerve in his body. Now he lived under the tyranny of the shattering male orgasm. The touch of a hand or arm felt blunted upon his skin.
“I shouldn’t judge,” Joy said, breathing deeply. “My life has fallen below the mark, many marks. However you want to see it…”
“What happened to your marriage?”
“My husband was secular when we married, but then he began to get more and more Jewish. He fell in with a Chasidic group, so I followed along. But then things got strange. We had the kids, and he wanted to make aliyah to
a second wife. This group does this,
secretly. I refused. He tried to force me to go… so I came here,
the only place that's mine, my parent’s bungalow. Rather than fight me we agreed on a
divorce. He didn’t want a scandal. He has a business and a lot of money. Let him go to Israel and have a harem, for all I
“I’m sorry that happened,” Servi answered, squeezing her hand.
“It was God,” Joy continued, taking her other hand and wrapping it around the one in Servi’s. “All those times in my twenties when I had many men at once… two, sometimes three at a time… sometimes in the same day. Then I get a husband who wants to wives and I think it is an injustice.”
“The situations are a little different, aren’t they?”
“No. Maybe. I don’t know. It was sperm competition.”
“Sperm competition. Barry, my ex, works for a genetics company. There was always this evolutionary biology literature around the house. Woman want the ejaculate of more than one man because the sperm fight it out to fertilize the egg. Survival of the fittest stuff. Some sperm act as hit men, stopping alien sperm in their tracks. In studies men are more turned on by viewing porn with two men and one woman than any other combination… the possibility of sperm competition raises the sperm count in men, makes it more hot. I don’t know. You had sex with me back then, was it hotter than with women who weren’t sleeping around?”
“I just thought it was because you were hotter than most women I knew”
“That’s sweet, Servi. But when you heard I was sleeping with other men, you did the things the study said you’d do. You were more aggressive. You were fast. The penis is designed, in part, as a scoop to take out sperm of other men. You did all those things. It was great.”
“Well, if I would have had a choice, I wouldn’t have shared you with anyone. But I didn’t have a choice.”
“I’m sorry. I was unfair to you. To everyone. If it makes you feel better, I am paying the price now.”
“That’s a load of crap, Joy,” Servi laid her hand gently on the sand and pulled him toward her, hugging. “You were young. You did what you wanted to do… if I could have, I would have done the same thing.”
“But not to me…” Joy asked, her voice quivering. “If we were together, you wouldn’t need another woman?”
“No. You’d be everything to me.”
“We should have stayed together,” Joy mused.
“Joy, were we ever together to stay together?”
“Don’t make fun of me, Aaron. I always had strong feelings for you… even when we were kids, even when I was engaged, that was why I called you back then… because… I..."
“I loved you,” Joy said, and then, after a moment’s reflection. “I love you… now.”
“You shouldn’t say things like that unless you mean them. The heart of a drunk seems buoyant but it is as fragile as china.”
“I’m fragile too. I feel like I haven’t learned a thing about life. I’m all broken up…” And they kissed, and Servi and Joy pressed against each other, and searched for indicators of a past which was, if not ill spent, than was so abused it had only left a bare impression of its original innocence. They pulled at each other’s clothes. They adjusted the wool blanket. When it was over, Servi lay there, aware of how cold it was, but doing nothing to remedy it. His face was planted in the moist sand.
“I haven’t made love in a year,” Joy said, pointing away from Servi, into the wind.
“I haven’t made love in a year, can you believe it?” she answered louder. “When did you have sex last?”
“This morning,” Servi answered, turning his head toward her. “Does that surprise you?”
“No,” Joy answered quickly, firmly. “It is all fair.”