Fear of Dying

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong Read Free Book Online

Book: Fear of Dying by Erica Jong Read Free Book Online
Authors: Erica Jong
dining room window, but Veronica restrains him.
    â€œYou ought to count your blessings,” she says. “Look down the street at the homeless people. You got it good. You got to get you some gratitude.”
    â€œGratitude, platitude,” my father growls.
    â€œAt least he can still rhyme,” says my mother.
    â€œLet me go back to bed!” my father screams. “I’ve been awake long enough!” He is Dylan Thomas raging against the dying of the light, Ivan Ilyich in his black sack.
    â€œHe sleeps all the time,” my mother says. “I don’t understand it.”
    In movies the dying have long, intense conversations before parting, but it’s not like that in real life—or is it? My father escaped from my mother the only way he could. He was escaping from her in sleep as he had once escaped from her in work.
    â€œI do,” I say. I have only been there five minutes and already I’m longing to leave.
    I think of the rubber suit and suddenly begin to laugh.
    â€œWhat are you laughing at?” my mother asks as my father is frog-marched down the hall to his bedroom, a prisoner in striped pajamas.
    â€œNothing.”
    â€œSome nothing. Tell me.”
    â€œI’m thinking that if we have to see the world as a tragedy or a comedy, we might as well see it as a comedy. It’s more fun.”
    â€œI agree with you,” my mother says. I long to tell her about the rubber suit. She would see the absurdity of it. Even in her present condition.
    My phone vibrates then. I sneak a peek. It’s from my swain with the rubber suit—or at least I think it is.
    â€œYou bitch!” he’s texted; the creep now has my cell phone number.
    â€œAre you happy, darling?” my mother suddenly asks. She has become as angelic as my father was demonic.
    â€œDon’t I look happy?” I ask.
    â€œYou look worried,” my mother says. “A mother can always tell.”
    I go into the other room and call my friend Isadora. “I’m visiting my parents and I need a drink,” I say over the phone.
    â€œThat’s the last thing you need. What’s happening?”
    â€œMy parents are dying and I met a man who wants me to wear a rubber suit for him.”
    Isadora breaks into gales of laughter. “I must have met him too once upon a time—or his twin brother. He’ll do you as little good as a drink.”
    â€œCome—meet me for coffee. We can compare notes.”
    *   *   *
    When Isadora bounces into the espresso place where we always meet, I’m struck again by her curly blond hair and big smile, as if she is thirty, not sixty. Seeing her makes me feel that getting older is not so terrible.
    Isadora and I like to meet in a tiny coffee shop where the espresso is supposed to be the best in the city. It’s a hole in the wall on the Upper East Side but the coffee is indeed extraordinary. We both order lattes.
    â€œRubber suit?” asks Isadora.
    â€œRubber suit,” I say.
    â€œHow do you know you wouldn’t like it?”
    â€œI know,” I say. “Have you ever worn one?”
    â€œI refuse to answer on the grounds it might tend to incriminate me. I know that most people who have read my books think I’ve tried everything. I let them think so.”
    â€œBut it’s not true?”
    â€œWhat do you think?”
    â€œI think you’re just a nice Jewish girl pretending to be a sex fiend,” I say.
    Isadora laughs. “At one point in my life I may have been a love junkie, but it taught me a lot—and I would never be fooled by a site like Zipless now—even though I named it. Sex on the Internet is much overrated.”
    â€œWhy?”
    â€œBecause most of the people drawn there are confusing fantasy with reality. They think they know what they want, but they don’t.”
    â€œWhat do they really want?”
    â€œConnection. Slow sex in a fast

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