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Authors: Tiffanie DeBartolo

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BOOK: God-Shaped Hole
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I looked up.

“Keep your eyes open,” Jacob said. He moved deep in me, slowly at first.


“Try to keep your eyes open the whole time.”

“Why do you want me to keep my eyes open?”

“It’s more intense that way. It keeps you present.”

Jacob wasn’t staring into my eyes, he was staring through them. I wondered what he saw there. He held on to the top of my head with his left arm. His right arm was pressed up against the wall. He stayed fixated on my face. I bet he didn’t blink more than half a dozen times during the whole thing. It made me self-conscious at first. It was scary. I felt like there were waves washing up and over me. I knew I could explode at any second.

About a minute later, I did.

“Oops, sorry,” I said, after realizing my eyes had involuntarily closed during the glorious burst of friction.

“My turn,” Jacob said. He picked up his pace and I watched him. He squinted and threw his head back when he came, like he’d cut his knee open and was having it stitched up without novocaine.

Afterward, Jacob lay next to me. He reached for something over my head—my earring—and helped me put it back on.

“I’ve never done it that way. I mean really paying attention like that,” I told him.

He let his hand glide up and down my body. “Did you like it?”

I nodded.

“I knew you would,” he said.

Once we both recovered, we took turns taking showers, then we got into bed and did it again—backward that time—a position that allowed for eye-closing.


I woke up with the sun pouring over me like an invisible electric blanket. My room was so bright I could barely see, and so hot I could barely breathe. I blinked to adjust my eyes and thought about the twenty-four hours prior to that moment. For the first time in a long while, I was waking up happy. I reached for Jacob.

I was alone.

The clock said it was 9:30 in the morning, and even though I was still half asleep, a million thoughts raced through my mind. Thoughts like how Jacob probably wasn’t his real name, and how he hadn’t even put that ad in the paper, he was just some random insane person that I happened upon in the restaurant, and how he probably already pawned the necklace I made him. I thought, if last night was some meaningless one-night stand, then I’m the biggest fool who ever lived. I deserved any diseases he might have given me, or the demon love-child that might be growing inside me, and last but not least, I promised myself that as soon as it cooled off in my room, I was going to get dressed, hunt the bastard down, and kill him with my Exacto knife.

I got up and walked through the apartment whispering his name. Nothing. His jeans were gone, his shoes were gone, his jacket and shirt were gone, his precious blue boxers with the little airplanes were gone. If it hadn’t been for my still-wet clothes in the doorway, and the sand all over the floor, I would have thought it had all been a dream.

I got in the shower and felt dizzy under the trickling of the water. I scrubbed myself clean of Jacob Grace, then I fell back into bed, smelled him on my pillow, and almost started to cry. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cried, but I had no intention of weeping over some freaky, seraphic asshole. I forced myself back to sleep, thinking, It figures. Mother-fucking, shit-ass, dick-head, piece-of-shit-for-brains, it figures.


“Hey, Trixie, wake up. Do you mind if I open the win-dow? It’s like, nine million degrees in here.”

I opened my eyes and turned my head and he was there, framed by the outline of the glass pane. He looked like a painting of Jesus with the light of heaven shining down around him. My savior. He was wearing different clothes: shabby army pants, and a once-white T-shirt that had become the color of a thirty year-old newspaper—it said Hanoi Dragon Café, and had a drawing of a fire-breathing beast with a smiley face on it. Jacob’s face was stubble-free. He’d shaved.

“God, you sleep a lot. I must’ve really worn you out last night,” he said.

He leaped onto the bed, full of energy, poised directly above me with a maniacal grin. “I brought you a present.” He held up a small white bag that was filled with peaches. “From the Farmer’s Market,” he said.

Every Wednesday and Saturday, the city shut down a half-mile stretch of Santa Monica and held a Farmer’s Market about four blocks from my apartment. Farmers from all over the state came to peddle the best of their crops. I liked going there because it made me feel like I lived in a civilized society from another time. I’d pretend I was a little peasant girl wandering the countryside, bartering for the sweetest tomatoes and the most fragrant basil. Sometimes I even wore a kerchief around my head for effect. I’d go with my best friend, Katrina. She calls me Blanca because I’m so white. I call her Katrina because that’s her name. She’s a Russian Jew.

“The Farmer’s Market? You went to the fucking Farmer’s Market?” I yelled.

Jacob must have thought I was demented. “I woke up early. I couldn’t find any coffee and I didn’t want to wake you.”

I was impressed that he could be so lively after so little sleep, and that he even looked alluring with dark half-moons under his eyes, but I was too traumatized to compliment him. I tossed the peaches across the room. They hit the floor with a splat then rolled to a stop. I pulled Jacob tight into me and buried my face in his neck. About a minute passed and he pulled back, looking at me with his head cocked to one side like a dog does when you make a high-pitched noise. It was because I was crying. I couldn’t hold it in that time; he felt the tears on his neck. Goddamn it, I cursed myself. Over the course of the night, I’d apparently turned into a Vermont Maple. I had sap oozing from all my glands and ducts.

I heaved away from Jacob and draped myself with the comforter, holding it down over my head.

“Hey…” he said.

“Go away.”

“Beatrice, come on, what’s wrong? What is it?”

That was the first time he’d called me by my real name. I hated my name, but it sounded like a piano sonata when he said it.

“Nothing. I thought you left. Leave me alone.”

I heard him giggle. He lifted off his shirt and snuck under the covers at the bottom of the bed.

“What is so goddamn funny?” I said.

“You are. You’re cute.” He slithered up to me. “And I wasn’t sure if you actually liked me, or you were just really horny last night, but now I know.”

I wanted to tell him I didn’t usually act that way. Ordinarily, I wasn’t such a
. But Jacob had seemingly used his dick as a knife and pierced right through my armor. I felt my vulnerability trickling down my legs, spilling out all over the bed, being replaced by an injection of his fresh new hope. A love transfusion. Like Keith Richards flushing out the heroin. I was clean.

Jacob spun me around so that I was facing him. “I’m sorry, I should’ve left a note or something.”

He held my face in his hands and kissed me so deeply I thought he was going to draw blood. Then he slithered down the length of my body. He stopped when his face was between my legs. He used his tongue
his finger, and made all the pain go away.

“Oh, hey, I think I met your ex this morning,” Jacob yelled from the kitchen. I was in the bedroom getting dressed.

“You what?”

“Surfer boy. I ran into him in the lobby. With his board,

He mimicked Greg’s voice exactly. I finished buttoning my shirt, ran into the kitchen and hopped up on the counter where Jacob was making something in the blender. Between tossing chunks of bruised fruit under the lid, he gave me the hang-ten sign.

“You know, you’re kind of funny. For a writer.”

“That guy’s a real tool,” he said. “A screw, no doubt.”

“Don’t remind me,” I said, embarrassed that I’d ever touched Greg after the experience of Jacob. “What did you say to him?”

“He was coming back when I was. I had your keys and I think he recognized your keychain. He asked me where I was going. I told him 3E, and by the look on his face, I knew he was the guy. I said I’d just left you a couple hours ago, that you were still sleeping. I introduced myself to him as Henry Chinaski.” Jacob howled, like this was the most hilarious thing he’d ever said in his life.

I didn’t get the joke until he told me Henry Chinaski was Charles Bukowski’s alter ego. Charles had used the alias in a bunch of books. Jacob clearly found it to be a highly amusing name. He handed me a frothy drink.

“What is this?” I said.

“A smoothie. We could’ve made a pie or something, but your little peach-throwing tantrum put an end to that,” he said. “And by the way, it may be a little premature, but I told that Greg guy I was your boyfriend.”

I paused. “You know how to make pie?”


Sushi Night was a weekly event taken very seriously among Jacob’s clan of friends. We went out with a group that included Jacob’s best friend, Pete, a struggling musician with a round, jovial face and a beer belly, who made his living as a house-painter; Pete’s wife, Sara, a pixie of a girl with flaming-red hair and a toothy smile; a drummer called Odie, who always wore leather pants; and Odie’s girlfriend of the moment, Kristen, who went outside every ten minutes to smoke. She was a model.

Jacob introduced me to his friends as Beatrice. “But I call her Trixie,” he said, and slouched into a seat at the head of the table. I took the chair to his right, and the rest of the gang scattered themselves around us. As soon as we were all in place, Pete whispered something to Jacob, who smiled and said, “I told you. My woman’s got class.”

“Yeah, well then what the hell’s she doing with you?” Pete said.

Thus began a banter that continued all evening between Jacob and Pete. They finished each other’s sentences and affectionately insulted each other’s wit and manners. They were like children, like brothers; or what I imagine brothers could be like, since the only model I had were my own, and they didn’t have that kind of rapport. Jacob told me how he’d introduced Pete to Sara after he met her at a salon. She cut his hair, he played Cupid.

“If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be a miserable bastard,” Jacob told Pete. “I take that back, you still are a miserable bastard.”

Pete counter-offended by accusing Jacob of using him for frivolous entertainment.

“Let me tell you something,” Pete said to me. “Don’t let Jake give you his old ‘I don’t own a TV’ bit, like it’s beneath him or something.”

own a TV,” Jacob said.

“That’s because you don’t need one. You watch ours.” Pete turned back to me. “He likes to pretend he’s a real
, but he comes over to our house for no other reason than to watch game shows and bad sitcoms.”

“You two
a bad sitcom,” Sara said.

Every so often, when Jacob was engaged in a conversation that didn’t include me, he would reach for my hand and squeeze it, or he would just look over and smile, to make sure I was having a good time.

Kristen didn’t talk much, she was too busy staring at the door every time someone walked into the place. I think she was waiting to be discovered. The homeless have more
. But she did like my jewelry, so I gave her a point for a decent sense of style. In the meantime, Sara and I got to know each other. I liked her a lot. She was soft-spoken and genuine. Jacob had told me all about her before we got to the restaurant, how she desperately wanted to have a baby. She and Pete had been trying for a couple years but, up to that point, had been unsuccessful, and she really took it hard. Early in the evening there was a family sitting behind us who had two small children making a lot of noise. Everyone at our table turned around at least once to see where the racket was coming from, except for Sara. It was like she couldn’t bear to look.

Sara told me Jacob had stopped at their apartment that morning after he left mine. He woke them up to tell them about me.

“He was wearing damp clothes and he stunk like seaweed, but he wanted us to know he’d met someone really special,” she said.

In the little basement-cum-restaurant, with cement blocks for walls, and browning Shoji screens as doors, we ordered more sushi than I thought was humanly possible to consume. During the process, it seemed like the men at the table each took a turn picking out something unusually wretched, like sea urchin, or gizzard shad. Everyone ordered with straight faces, but with the countenances of people trying to outdo each other. More than once I couldn’t help myself, and made the mistake of expressing a negative sentiment regarding their extreme-sport version of sushi ordering, stating emphatically that monkfish liver wasn’t going anywhere near my mouth. Pete and Odie looked at each other and raised their eyebrows, as if making mental notes. It was obviously an inside joke, and I didn’t get it. When I asked Jacob what the deal was, he began to explain, until Pete silenced him.

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” Pete yelled. “That is
the way we welcome new friends!”

“Can I just advise her that it’s in her best interest not to comment on the orders?” Jacob said.

“Absolutely not,” Pete replied. Pete was the life of the party. He had the pleasantly crass manner of a Bostonian Irishman, even though he was originally from Burbank. He spoke a dozen decibels louder than anyone I knew, and I found it hard not to laugh at almost everything he said. I also noticed he drank saki like it was water. By the end of the night he must have consumed two bottles. It turned the tip of his nose pink.

“Try not to find my husband so amusing,” Sara said. “It encourages his misbehavior and inflates his ego.”

After everyone seemed to be finished eating, there were still over a half-dozen pieces of sushi left on the table—all the grotesque ones, I might add—and Sara was kind enough to explain to me the event that would take place next. They called it Roe-Sham-Bo. It was your basic papers-scissors-rock game, and everyone played until all but two contenders were eliminated, then those two would continue playing, with the loser of each round having to eat a piece of sushi—a piece chosen by the winner. The contest went on until all the sushi on the table had been consumed. At that point, it was clear to me why I’d made a big mistake commenting on the slimy ones. When they knew your Achilles heel, they made you eat it.

“Let the tournament begin!” Pete roared.

Kristen declined to play. “I’m stuffed,” she said, even though I didn’t see her eat anything but a bowl of miso soup and a couple bites of rice. The rest of us were game. Odie was an impressive competitor. He didn’t lose a round and was out first, followed by Sara. I was horrible. I had a nervous habit of getting confused during the count and always playing paper.

“Strategy is very important, Trixie,” Jacob said with serious conviction. “Think, then throw.”

I was surrounded by professionals. They caught on quick to my weakness and nailed me with scissors three times before Jacob kicked me under the table.

“You might want to rethink the paper,” he whispered. “It’s getting you nowhere.”

“Do you think we can’t hear you?” Pete said. “No cheating or I’ll kick your scrawny ass.”

Immediately following Jacob’s scant advice, I threw scissors. Pete was way ahead of me. Luckily, it was a best-out-of-three scenario. I managed to save myself by throwing paper a few more times, while Jacob kept throwing rock. I was pretty sure he’d done that intentionally.

That left Jacob and Pete.

“Why is it
Jacob and Pete who are left?” Sara said. “I swear they do it on purpose, just to torture each other.”

And torture they did, forcing one another to eat things I wouldn’t feed to a dog if I had one. Jacob desperately tried to avoid the giant clam. “It tastes like a foot that’s been marinated in sewer-water for a week,” he said. Pete was oddly petrified of anything containing avocado. “Rabbit diarrhea,” he called it.

Pete ended up having to eat almost everything that was left on the table, including a small ball of wasabi. Jacob raised his arms in the air and declared himself the champion.

After dinner we all followed Pete and Sara to a seedy club in Hollywood, hidden in an alley behind Melrose Avenue, about two blocks away from Paramount Pictures. Odie said it was called Hearts, though I never saw a name or address anywhere on the building. It was one of those joints that, if you had to ask what it was called or where it was, you weren’t cool enough to belong there.

The walls inside the tiny bar were painted the color of oxygenated blood. The air was foggy from all the cigarette smoke, and the place was packed with the typical mix of wanna-be’s and already-are’s. The music, however, was particularly memorable—a plump, middle-aged Jamaican woman known only as Pherbie, who slowly, soulfully belted out nothing but Led Zeppelin songs. Jacob thought she was the coolest thing he’d ever seen.

“This lady is
,” he said.

We swayed on the dance floor while Pherbie sang “Whole Lotta Love” and “Fool in the Rain.” Jacob stood close behind me, nodding his head to the beat, singing along, his arms around my waist. I got a strange, sort of surreal sensation there, mainly because it felt so natural and so new, all at the same time. I guess the events of the two preceding days had finally hit me. Technically, I hardly knew Jacob Grace. But I’d cried in front of him, I’d been naked in front of him, I’d had his penis in my mouth, for God’s sake, and yet at that point, I’d been in his company for less than thirty-hours. Still, I knew that if an angel would have come down right then and there and given me the choice to spend all of eternity in his arms, listening to him sing in my ear, and feeling his warm breath on my cheek, I would have signed on the dotted line without a second-long thought.

When Pherbie took a break, Jacob asked me if I wanted anything to drink. He asked Pete and Sara the same, and walked off to the bar. Kristen was hanging out with some starlet friends in the corner, and Odie looked lost, so I wandered over to chat with him. We had to stand really close together to hear each other speak. I learned that he and Pete used to play in a band together, but that Odie had been doing mostly studio work since then. He eventually wanted to write soundtracks for movies. When he burped in the middle of a sentence, I got sushi-dinner deja-vu. I had to take a few steps back—I’m highly sensitive to smells.

I tried to keep my eye on Jacob while he was gone. I liked to observe him when he didn’t know I was watching, even though I got the impression he always knew when I was. I saw a girl approach him—an attractive girl in a tank-top and a pair of studded jeans that seemed laminated to her legs. She bumped right into Jacob and tried to pretend it was an accident. I saw her touch his shoulder and attempt a joke. She tossed her hair around when she laughed like the glamorous android slut monster I knew she was. Jacob would never give the time of day to a girl like her, I told myself. Be that as it may, I focused on the ceiling panel above her head. I tried to will it loose. I wanted it to crash down and squash her like a villain in a cartoon. And I’m a pacifist.

Jacob, unfazed by the glamazon, walked back my way with a beer bottle in each hand, one for himself and one for Pete. Kristen stomped over to Odie and I heard her mention my name. I couldn’t make out everything she was saying, but it sounded like she was mad because he’d been standing so close to me. She wanted to know what we’d been talking about. I think she even accused him of flirting. Odie hadn’t flirted with me at all, still, I got a cheap thrill out of Kristen being jealous, since she was the future cover girl and everything. But then I felt sorry for her. She proved my point that beauty means nothing without the right attitude. Besides, why would she think I’d be interested in her boyfriend? He had Spicy Tuna Roll breath and Jacob was The Everything.

We stayed at Hearts for another half-hour. Pete said we couldn’t leave until we heard “Stairway to Heaven.”

Once that song was over, Jacob slipped his hands down into my hip-slung trousers and said, “What do you say we fucking blow this hotdog stand?”

BOOK: God-Shaped Hole
9.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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