Sex and the Single Assassin

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A112 sexWithAssassin2

They connect. Fascination of the circumcised with the un-, and vice versa. Herschel, my father at least, was agile of mind, quick with a joke (but would a vom go for Yiddish humor?) and then there was that white magic–disappearing coins, handkerchiefs.

They make arrangements to meet again.

Why is Herschel letting a Nazi fuck him? But how else is he to get money in this city where he knows three, four words of the language? How much more humiliated can you get, but what if–the Nazi can be converted, become a lover of Jews as well as Jewish bodies. Or, what if he can be blackmailed. I will do anything for my family, Herschel thinks. I will use the Nazi to bring my family out of his country. I will bring my family to France, one blow job at a time. He tries not to think of the other possibility–that the man will have him arrested. So he begins watching craftily, eagerly waiting for the chance to take an identifiable token–a button, a handkerchief–to prove, the… entanglement when the time comes.

Vom Rath may not be a Nazi. He may be a loyal German, which is what Herschel may have been, growing up. Like Otto Frank (Anne’s father). Not quite like Otto Frank, though Frank was a veteran of the Great War who spoke a comfortable and correct German, celebrated Christmas, lived in a house with a garden.

And we don’t know who was fucking/sucking whom.

But maybe they do meet in the office. Maybe a consul of the legation is the one with stamps and seals. Ah, a Jew, he says, after the official business is taken care of. Perhaps you could do something for me, says vom Rath. I am very generous to my friends. I have a project in hand, at the moment, a whim actually; perhaps you would be so good as to translate the mysteries of the Kabbalah? Though both are native-born Germans, their accents and intonations are much different. They speak to one another warily, landsmen in a foreign land. Because they are. There are some complicated passages, says vom Rath. Of course it would not do to be seen here turning the ancient pages. Here is my card. Come to my rooms this evening. What mysteries do you know? Where does the body end and the spirit begin? Is it true that the Kabbalah reveals the secrets of turning base metal into gold? That would be a true Jewish trick, but if so, my good man, how could your clever race be unable to transform a dirty kike into a good German?

Herschel, with difficulty, refrains from answering. From shouting, hitting. Calme-toi, he tells himself. He knows that man could help or hurt him. Save or destroy him. He remembers the old Yiddish joke about the Jew offering to turn shit into bombs for the Czar, doesn’t dare to refer to it. But wants to. And wants to plumb the heart of this man, to fathom how cruel he is. He wonders how much he can seem to trust him without losing himself, without revealing, without giving anything up. But it’s too late for that.

He takes the card, and that night locates the address. He is surprised that vom Rath would live in such a dive. It must be a scheme, then. But if vom Rath intended to deport him, why all the bother? Why not nab him at the embassy? But perhaps that is the heart of it, the big black Nazi heart of it. Unseemly to rough up a Jew at the embassy. But vom Rath is there, in the lobby. They go in back into a small room to talk. It becomes clear this is a meeting place, that vom Rath does not rent sleeping rooms here. And there is a book of Kabbalah, and Herschel has no idea how he will spin this straw into gold. He can read the Hebrew letters, the open mouths of them, but the words–though he recognizes most, do not lead him into a terrain he knows. He opens his mouth into a small O, his plump fruity lips like a baby’s–but nothing comes from them. Intake of breath. It is difficult, Herschel begins. Men spend their live trying to achieve a partial understanding of this. What you have before you, sir, he says, drawing himself up, is the long circular poem of the history of the wandering Jewish soul. It is our masterpiece and yet so few of us understand it that the misunderstanding is a thing in itself, a familiar and comforting mystery, which blinds us to the true tragedy of our ignorance.

The study of Kabbalah was not part of the curriculum at the yeshiva where Herschel studied briefly, yet Herschel seems to himself to be repeating words that are familiar. Perhaps a rebbe gave a talk during which Herschel was dreaming, and the words crept into his brain and lay there sleeping? Or, he thinks with an intake of breath, could it be that the rebbe is speaking now, his words floating to Herschel across the River Main? Herschel stands, turns his head as if listening. Vom Rath notices. What is it? he asks. He is undoubtedly enchanted. Not by the boy, but by the situation.

The German leans toward Herschel, whispers again, What is it? What is it?

Stillness. A shrug.

And then, suddenly begins the exploration of German and German-Jewish flesh.

I see what you mean, says vom Rath afterwards.

Of course he doesn’t say that. This is not an X-rated Hogan’s Heroes.

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