Ruth Adler had been my expert consultant and moral support when I wrote the book that elevated me to full professor, Newark Unbound: Place and Identity in the Fiction of Philip Roth. “The only place Philip Roth has ever found his identity is between a woman’s legs,” Helen would say. Ruth helped me laugh it off. But, threatening divorce, Helen had left. (Her departure had nothing to do with the book, by the way. That had been a gentle bump in the road for a marriage that ultimately developed potholes the size of craters.) Ruth’s husband, Joel, had died, and her only child had died in her teens a decade earlier. It was time to shed grief and assume new identities, or at least try. And I’d been in love with Ruth’s mind forever. It was easy to forgive her for being smarter than me because she was so much smarter than me. The truth is that she was out of my league.
Jonah was not conscious in the way that humans would deem as being so. On the day he ‘met’ Lily, he was with other bodies whose skin, or synthetic dermal coating, was the same as his. They all stood in a line, in a seedy sex shop in Soho. Since the law had long said he was not a person, not a real person, he was not allowed, he was unlawful. Because of this, he was without protection. Jonah had seen his friends bought by other customers, or other things or bodies that looked somewhat like him with his outer shell, but needed to be turned on first, before fucking, whereas Jonah was turned on all the time. Inside his synthetic skin, Jonah wondered at these creatures.
“Whiskey is a sure fire cure for every illness.” I know that voice — the only one with a British accent I heard out West. I spent three months chasing that voice through the streets of Tempe, Arizona, so I can’t help but stand at attention and wonder what the hell Emmett is doing in New York.
What goes around never comes around. That’s our tragedy. Life is one-way; there’s no return journey. Our single ticket allows us to see ourselves as part of a cycle, which is humbling, yet debars us from taking part in its completion, which is tragic. When we understand this there can be no premature opting-out. We see it through, painlessly if we’re lucky. But the tragedy is complicated by the absurd, in that what we are resigned to leaving behind is what we want more of. At the point of death, we crave more life.
You will almost certainly have heard of my husband Marcus, the author of a series of highly successful books on intuitive relationship management. He has been fêted from Dublin to Dubai and is credited with rescuing the marriages of many thousands. I feel a deep gratitude toward those thousands, for they have supplied me, through their eagerness to buy my husband's books and attend his seminars, with a standard of living almost embarrassingly high. The size of our villa in the San Fernando Valley is a particular asset, as it enables us to maintain a polite distance. Marcus and I have, over many a long year, mastered what may be a uniquely convivial form of loathing.
It was the year a Turkish aircraft was hijacked to Lebanon. The same year of the Taksim Square massacres on Labour Day. The year of the post-modern coup. Two years after Billy Hayes took his midnight express from Imrali prison. Fifty-four years after the republic was formed. The four young adults, in the full bloom of raging hormones and thirst for enjoyment, were blissfully unaware of it all, heading to Turkey for what they hoped would be a memorable holiday.
Larry was kind of a bad guy. He had gotten in some trouble with the law when he was younger. I liked him. I met him when I was eighteen at Toronto Fashion Week. He was twenty-eight. I was on the security team and Larry was too.
It’s not all that wild up here in New Hampshire. Along with our adjacent states we share some rugged territory, but in truth are mostly pretty well settled. In winter the roads get cleared to enable the skiers to get here, which they do in numbers. That said, it is entirely possible for overly venturesome hikers to get lost and into trouble, which they predictably do.
The electric chariot was prepared for immediate departure, with fresh flowers arranged in vases that were attached to its interior walls. There were two robots in the exact shape and form of stallions, efficient and self-driving. All the attendant needed to do was to tap in the coordinates of the destination and pour the champagne. The intelligent horses got pulling at a max speed of 23 miles per hour. The ride was so smooth it felt like walking on clouds, while being tickled in all the right places.
You tell me to leave the door open and wait, so I do. Naked, crouched with the small of my back pressed to the wall, looking down at the hardwood floor. It is late afternoon. Gold light comes in through the windows. The weather has turned and the air drifting in gives me goosebumps, pulls my nipples up. Sometimes I love being cold.