Dissident Gardens

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem Read Free Book Online

Book: Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jonathan Lethem
could you go to so much trouble to arrive in New York City, as the throngs at Columbia and Barnard had, and not
ride the system
?) As if Miriam’s life-exuberance pointed back toward Rose’s punitive ferocity, just the way the IRT screamed in the direction of home. Did Miriam pause at that instant and gander at her motives, bringing Porter to Queens? No. She was randy, had been randy for what felt like her whole life, and now she was going to find out the secret of what it was to make love. This was simple enough. They needed a private room. Miriam had one at home.
    She tried to see Sunnyside’s Forty-Seventh Street through his eyes, too. The slumbering apartment blocks, the tended shrubbery and flagstone walks, Miriam’s home borough some false vision of calm, an immigrant’s dull fantasy of American sanctuary that suddenly turned her stomach; she hurried him past. No one apart from the two of them had exited the train at the Bliss Street station, and now, on the sidewalks, they passed no one. The whole journey might havebeen a dream she’d had from her bedroom, once she’d tiptoed inside through the Gardens and the kitchen door, that being farthest from Rose’s bedroom, and swept Porter inside. Only he was still blithering about the elevated’s rocket ride, so that she had to hush him until her door was safely shut. She stuffed a towel along the jamb as if enjoying a secret cigarette.
    At this point, the dream of night—or morning; she’d glanced at Porter’s wristwatch on the street and the time was past three—veered toward squalid comedy before becoming a nightmare. The two of them remaining on their feet, in some shyness still unwilling to commit to her bed, Porter struggling with one or another of her fasteners and buttons, forcing Miriam to add her hands to his and solve whatever problem he’d been muttering over, so that before very long she was entirely nude while he still wore his whole outfit. In exasperation she pulled him to the bed and half tented herself under the spread. “Take off your shoes, at least,” she whispered.
    “Have you got an, um, pessary?”
    “Pessary?” She tried not to snort at the absurd term, which struck her as Midwestern if not actually Victorian. “Do you mean a diaphragm?” What, was he afraid to remove his clothes for fear of pregnancy? Should she lie? Yes. “Yes.”
    “You do?”
    “It’s taken care of, Porter.”
    Miriam flashed on Rye Gogan and his reputation: Where was the masculine devourer when you needed him? Must you swim with sharks to get sharked? Take me, she wanted to tell Porter, yet refused to have to tell him, on the principle that even men in tortoiseshell glasses were meant to transform into animals in the dark. Perhaps especially men in tortoiseshell glasses, according to the cartoons in
Playboy
, Lorna Himmelfarb’s older brother’s copies of which she’d also perused during Elvis-auditing sessions in the Himmelfarb basement. Something should be swarming Miriam, apart from her desire to be swarmed. She got Porter onto the bed, on his knees before her, as though praying at the entrance to her tent. Pulled him by the belt. Unzipped and researched inside. Oh, Lord, the boy, nicely long and rigid, Chinese-finger-trapped by desire in his too-tight boxer shorts, wasn’t circumcised. He also blurted his goop into her palm at thesame instant she’d groped the knob and discovered its stretchy hood. Then, sighing, Porter covered her lips and chin and nose with a flurry of seeking kisses, as if both grateful and falsifying the record.
See, I’m ravishing you, therefore I must have been all along!
Instead she’d accidentally ravished him. Like her trail of verbal conquests, Miriam persistently slayed men before she’d begun even trying to.
    They kissed as passionately as they had in the booth at the Cedar, embraces that claimed a story was still in the making in the space between their bodies, and meanwhile she cradled his softening self until her

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