Everett Hafner 1920 - 1998

Bad Luck Trembling

I can't remember what day I stopped eating, but I remember what happened. A spoonful of Rain Forest Crunch was on its way to my mouth, and I just couldn't. I put the spoon down. It was a few days before I met Thomas, but it was after I heard his beautiful voice over the phone-- listened to a poem he'd written, and a song he sang. And then, after I met him, when all I wanted was for him to take me-- carry me off, fuck me until I howled and then maybe, just walk out, beating me up a little on the way.

"Jews come in twos don't they?" he asked after I told him I have one sister.

"Jews come in twos and they're murdered in millions," I said.

"Catholics come in sixes," he pointed out.

That was the first time I met him and he didn't touch me. The second time I met him, after I told him I didn't eat anymore, he asked me why. "I don't deserve food, I don't deserve anything. Haven't you ever met a woman like that?" "All my life," he sighed. And I stopped looking at him, turned away. "Maybe if I had sex I'd start eating again," I said. He didn't respond. I am obviously evil. Men usually make passes the minute they meet me. Please. Stop, I have to say. But this man, Sad horse, I named him--Sad horse didn't touch me, and he didn't touch me again, later, after we went to a bar and he drank three beers, bummed one of my cigarettes and told me all about his bad luck.

"I got two women pregnant at the same time," he said.

"That's not bad luck, Sad horse, that's just dumb," I said, wondering if he would do that to me.

"Your opinion," he said.

"It's not an opinion," I said. "It's a fact."

"Only an opinionated person would say that," Sad horse said.

I didn't get home until midnight, and as soon as I walked into the house I called him.

"Please make love to me," I said. "No strings, I mean that." That was the point.

"Friday," he said. "No, Thursday, how's Thursday? I can't be in a committed relationship-- Where are you?" he asked.

"Thursday sounds good," I said. "I'm in bed."

"What are you wearing?"

"Nothing," I said. It was a lie. I was wearing a T-Shirt that says Hard Rock Cafe. I walked to the refrigerator, dragging the phone cord, and pulled out a chicken leg. "Do you speak, when you have sex?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, as I put the untouched chicken back. I said goodbye.

I couldn't sleep. So I took my hair and put it up. Then I cleaned the kitchen. I even mopped it, and wiped the windows, and organized my spices. The problem is this--this fifty-cent secret: no one ever taught me how to masturbate. I put on The Roches, loud. I sang along to the married man song, wishing Sad horse was married. Then I went to Liquors 44, which is open all night and bought his kind of beer, along with some whiskey. I myself don't drink, but I like whiskey breath. In the morning, or at some point, I knew I was going to have to see my shrink. The bottom line is, I am supposedly cured.

But what if he canceled? I couldn't bear that. What I'd do if he canceled is drink all that whiskey. I could taste it, the sour stinging liquid--almost a sneeze. No, not over a man. What would my psychiatrist say? I could hear it:

"Don't. Don't sleep with him, Brontë."


"Why do you want to?"

"To get somewhere, wherever there is, a place where the sexes are one. I want to say, 'I'll call you.' There's power in that. If I can do that--get fucked without my little heart breaking, without whining, I gave him my best part, if I can do that, walk away--I can do anything. I'd be worthy of food."

"But you already are."


"Because you're not there."

He had a point. I'd call Sad horse and cancel. I got his answering machine. Couldn't cancel on an answering machine. Really.

I changed the sheets and called his number, getting the machine. I cleaned the porch and watered all the flowers and I called to cancel. I went out and bought Long Lash Mascara and condoms and tried to cancel again and again, until the house was sparkling, and my bathroom glowed. I was ready. I tried to cancel all day Wednesday--I got that pathetic machine. Oh Sad horse, you are a mean man-- you will come here, you will drink my whiskey and look at my flowers, and I will be a sensation--so stunning and I will look at you when it's over and I'm feeling full, and calm, and then I'll say, "You can go now."


It was a perfect summer evening. Just cool enough to cover myself up with a sweater. The fushia practically glowed in the dark, and the impatiens were spreading. There were cigars and there was whiskey. Brandy and crystal glasses and wonderful french cigarettes. I decided to wear my hair up, put on my glasses, let him wait to see me so beautiful. A single comb in my hair, holding it up, a flick of the wrist and it would be down, shining and lovely. I'd close the sale in less than ten seconds.

I wore a little red camisole, underneath the sweater--all silk. My tightest blue jeans, and lip gloss, a little Chanel No. 5. Chanel No.5 kills me. I began shaking as I imagined Sad horse on the road, the dark road, fifteen minutes away--off in the country. I took a tranquilizer and then a breath. Then another breath. I had to be calm. Cool, this is all about cool. After twenty minutes the tranquilizer began to work, and I was ready. I lit some candles in the bedroom and sat on the porch. I waited. The phone rang. He was lost. I gave him directions, thinking--you'll pay for that--that doesn't happen, you don't get lost, Sad horse, you fool. Get lost again and I'll send you home with nothing. Fly away little sparrow, fly fly fly, I thought. I put on water for tea. I could sip tea, relax my throat, my mouth so warm, and let it slide, open my throat, let him slide right down, like a clam.

Sad horse walked in with flowers. I had his album playing. It's your voice, you sang these songs. I looked at him, we walked out to the porch, where I put the flowers down. He drank whiskey and I watched.

"You look pained," he said.

"Of course I do," I said. "I'm about to do a terrible thing."

I lit a cigarette. No hurry. I let him talk, that beautiful voice, and he looked at me and I nodded occasionally, looked down, looked away. His voice changed for a minute; it wasn't beautiful. Perfect, I thought. This was going to be easy. Make yourself human, Sad horse, be that way, and just you wait.

Now I was in physical pain--this longing had reached its peak. No need for foreplay, not tonight. I got up, took the comb out of my hair, and let it fall, along with my glasses. Then I sat on his lap, and covered him with small kisses, as sweet and fragile as the impatiens--and he began kissing me back. He was gentle, until it hit him, something hit him. He opened up a place in himself and now he had urgency--now he wanted me. I could feel him getting harder, and I was gone too. Now I was watching us. A small child-like beautiful woman, kissing this man--he's smitten, she's moaning a bit. Into the bedroom she said. I watched him begin to undress her, and she him, then they were in bed, and he began kissing her again, until she was tired of kissing--and I was back in the picture.

I was wearing nothing but the red silk. It looked dark in the candle light--the candle flickered. The candle was flickering to us. The music was now Chet Baker playing his horn and I arched my back--my muscles, he had to see--I wanted him to know about my muscles--five miles a day, that's how much I run. And then I got up, let him see the ass walking away, and I made my tea--no rush, carried it back into the bedroom and sipped it for at least a minute. Time.

Then I bent over him and began taking him in my mouth. He was whimpering. It was very deep, and I stopped and lay back down--alone, without touching him, let him make the next move. He got on top of me, he began, and I let my vagina contract--grab him, pointing this out: if you were bigger I wouldn't be able to do this. This would be a cinch to give up, nothing-- these two heads kissing, the bed squeaking--my voice moaning until I heard him muttering--I love you, Brontë. I love you. You do not love me, shut up, don't get confused about who loves who, just keep doing that, I thought. All night long, until we were drenched in sweat. And then it was my mouth on him with ice water.

It was beginning to get light out. One of us was trembling--it was not me. I wanted to sleep now, I wanted to sleep alone. All alone in my bed. It is time for you to leave now, you can go, I thought. I blew out the candles, and turned my back on him, I willed him to leave. He wasn't going anywhere.

"You can leave now," I said.

"When will I see you again, can I see you on Friday? That's tonight."

"I'll call you," I said. He put on his clothes, I was faking sleep as he walked out, then I heard his car, and he was gone. I got up and sat on the porch. There was magic here. After that I played some more Chet Baker. And then I ate a bowl of cold spaghetti with my fingers. I wanted to fall asleep before any tears, if tears were coming--a prediction, like rain: maybe, maybe not, came. But first I threw out six condoms--Catholics come in sixes, ha! I took a shower, and changed the sheets. Let the dreams work on this. Isn't it romantic? Merely to be young on such a night as this? Isn't it..? Chet was asking, half saying, half singing. But Sad horse, it was so easy, and I was right: I thought I'd heard pain, that first time, and it's true, you were right, it was bad luck, I heard it in your voice.