A man with the right scruffed-up beard and breadth of chest swaggered into the S and M dungeon that was my place of business, and twenty minutes and one grand later had my chin — still soft with the downy fluff of teen-girl skin — held steady in one paw while the other one flew at my face so hard and fast that I ceased to exist as the same collection of matter I had been the previous instant.
When both of us were fourteen days clear of getting over COVID, I left our New York apartment for the first time in a long while and quickly became alarmed. No one was on the street. This was in April, when tourists normally descend on Manhattan in flocks, even in our off-avenue neighborhood. But this year a tumbleweed would not have been out of place.
Earlier that same afternoon All-Star slugger Dave “The Cobra” Parker had revealed to me the secret of hitting: “Hit the fucker hard, and hope it goes far.” I keep this revelation enshrined in the same chamber of my heart where my rabbinical ancestors kept their favorite Scriptures.
When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.