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Written by Charles Rammelkamp. Charles Rammelkamp’s latest book is entitled “Fusen Bakudan” (“balloon bombs” in Japanese), a sequence of poems involving missionaries in a leper colony in Vietnam during the war (Time Being Books). A chapbook is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press entitled “Mixed Signals”. For more on Jewrotica by Charles, see Kitty, Reunion, More Jewish, and The Merkin.
This happened a long time ago, before I went to law school, when I was still in college and planning to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a Presbyterian minister. Maybe it’s precisely this long passage of time that prompts my recollection now; in fact, as it seems so very long ago to me that lately I’ve begun contemplating the concept of “forever.”
I’d come back to Boston for my junior year at Boston University after a summer working in a Capitol Records factory in central Illinois. I found an apartment in short order, and registration wouldn’t be for another few days. So when a college buddy, Paul, a native, invited me to go to the “Marblehead Spaghetti Sauce Contest,” a cook-off between two contestants at the beach, I gladly accepted.
We drove north out of the city mid-afternoon on a glorious sunny end-of-summer day to the Oceanside cottage where maybe a hundred people had gathered for the party.
“Beer’s in the cooler,” the host, a friend of Paul’s, announced as soon as we arrived, in a heavy New England accent (“Bee-yuh’s in the coo-luh.”)
Besides Paul I was acquainted with maybe three or four others I’d seen around campus over the last couple of years, and I gravitated toward those people. We greeted one another and exchanged information about how our summers had gone. Several had gone overseas – Europe, Japan, India – and one had had a job in New York. By comparison, mine had been pretty drab, and I tried to make a joke of it.
“The Beatles kept me busy all summer,” I told them, as if my job driving a forklift with pallets stacked with boxes of record albums from the factory floor to the loading dock were part of the glitzy entertainment industry. “Their new greatest hits collections, 1962 – 1966 and 1967 – 1970, were hot items. So were Grand Funk and Maureen McGovern.”
“There’s got to be a morning after,” one boy mocked the Canadian singer, but I noticed I’d caught the attention of a dark, good-looking girl in an adjacent group of partiers.
“Why don’t we put on some music?” somebody suggested, whether because of my comments or not, I don’t know, and so somebody put on the new Bob Marley and the Wailers album and cranked the sound way up. Pretty soon you could smell marijuana on the sea breeze. The party was getting started, all right. The spaghetti sauces were still simmering in the kitchen, and we killed time drinking and smoking.
By the time the contest got underway – everybody was given two plates of pasta, one green and one red, with the different sauces and voted for their favorite – everybody was mellow and relaxed.
“Hey,” one drunken boy bellowed. “You know how I can prove it was a Polack who invented the pussy?”
Everybody stopped talking, briefly, and looked over at him.
“Who else would put a snack bar next to a shithouse?”
The dark girl and I looked at each other and away, smiling at some private intimacy. And then, a little stoned, I found myself over-thinking that glance. What did it mean? Was it flirty, over the crude sex reference; was it mutual tolerant recognition of the loudmouth, a stock character at parties like this? Was it simple mirth at the joke? Was it an invitation? Whatever the case, I found my attention drawn to her, as if somebody were physically turning my head in her direction, and the only voice I seemed to hear in that loud, raucous cacophony of voices and music was hers.
“Anybody who’s the lover of a Jewish woman automatically becomes Jewish, forever,” she was saying to another girl. “It’s an old legend.”
So she was Jewish! It explained the dark good looks, the exotic pools of her brown eyes, exciting and unfamiliar to a small-town Midwestern boy.
“Oh, Sarah! Don’t be so romantic!” her companion giggled. “I know all about matrilineal descent. Born of a Jewish mother you’re automatically Jewish. But having sex with a Jewish woman? What rabbi would buy that?”
Sarah laughed. “I didn’t say it was Halachic! I said it was an old legend. I didn’t make it up, Jenny, I swear!” She waved a bottle of beer like a magic wand, absolving herself. “It’s like that old Lenny Bruce routine. How does it go? All New Yorkers are Jews, all disaffected Irish Catholics are Jews?”
Sarah! So I had her name, and in a few minutes I contrived to get next to her and ask, innocently, “So, Sarah, which sauce did you vote for?”
“The green,” she replied emphatically, as if to say who in their right mind wouldn’t. “The herbs and spices in the red were just all over the place.”
“I kind of liked the red,” I shrugged.
“You voted for the red?” She looked at me as if I were crazy.
“Can you forgive me?”
In the middle of a drink of beer she nearly choked, laughing, and put a gentle hand on my shoulder. “I forgive you…what’s your name?”
“Oh, like Philip Roth! I’ll remember. Only, you aren’t Jewish, right?”
“I was just reading Maimonides on the Ger Toshav,” I blurted, without answering her question (it didn’t need an answer, did it?). Technically, I’d read about the Ger Toshav for a course on Judaism the previous semester. “The ‘resident-alien’ in the Jewish community.”
“Rambam,” Sarah murmured, and she guessed at my association of ideas. “Who’s a Jew, right?”
I blushed. It was as if she’d read my mind, since my logic basically went like this: if it’s true that whoever fucks a Jewish woman becomes a Jew, hey, please consider me a candidate. I would love to fuck you. I was pretty sure that was written all over my face, or as if I wore a sign around my neck.
“Well, the treatment of non-Jews is what he was talking about. Something like, ‘visit their sick, bury their dead alongside the Jewish dead, feed their poor amongst the Jewish poor, for the sake of peace.’”
“Caring for the needy?” She already sounded a little bored. “Feeding the hungry.”
I could tell she wasn’t that into this conversation, and who would be, a discussion of ethics at a beach party? So I made a joke: “Right, feed the hungry. Please take me to your snack bar.”
Again, she nearly choked, laughing at the allusion to the loudmouth’s joke.
The ice broken, we talked more generally. She was from Baltimore, a student at Brandeis. “I’m a huge Beatles fan,” she told me, “and I love Paul McCartney’s new solo record.”
“Band on the Run, another big seller,” I said with all the authority of a forklift-driver.
As the night wore on and people began to leave, I looked around for Paul. Somebody told me he’d already left, that he’d been looking for me and had been told that I’d already gotten a ride. I wasn’t panicking but I probably looked a little anxious. How was I going to get back to Boston?
“Do you need a ride?” Sarah asked.
“Could I?” My gratitude and relief seemed to touch her.
“I’m just leaving myself. You live in Back Bay?”
“Near the Fens,” I nodded.
“You’re on my way. No problemo.”
We drove mostly in companionable silence back to Boston, listening to the radio, a rock and pop station, the songs melting into one another, from Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” to The O’Jays’ “Love Train” to the Temps’ “Papa was a Rolling Stone” and the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man.” When Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” segued to McCartney and Wings’ “My Love,” we looked at each other and nodded, and I put my left hand on her bare right thigh and left it there. We were both wearing shorts.
I directed Sarah to my apartment house on Commonwealth Avenue, and, not expecting she’d accept my invitation, asked her if she’d like to come up anyway.
”I would love to.”
We were both giddy, climbing the stairs to my third-floor one-bedroom, but the minute the door was closed behind us we were all over each other, lips, tongues, hands. I pulled down her shorts and knelt with my face in her lush pubic bush, licked her thighs, and after a minute she tugged me to my feet and unzipped my pants. My hard-on sprang out like a jack-in-the-box. Kicking away our pants, I led her to my bedroom.
In those days I slept on a mattress and box springs on the floor, so when you lay down you were beneath the level of the windowsill and had to look up to the scaffolding of the steel fire escape and the city beyond. We lay side by side, kissing and caressing one another. I kissed and suckled and nibbled her breasts, the nipples swelling and tautening, like my penis, which she stroked and fondled, and then, through some wordless maneuver, Sarah had me on my back, and I watched as she opened her legs and guided my dick into her. How snug and warm it felt, and I was afraid I might have an orgasm without even moving.
After we lay there like that for a few more minutes, she on top of me, her breasts against my chest, kissing, Sarah sat upright and began to rock back and forth on me, lifting her ass and thrusting me deeper and deeper. The sensation was so intense, I resorted to the old trick from boyhood, reciting state capitals and the batting averages of baseball players; only in this case I reviewed the hit songs on the radio back to Boston. Billy Joel, “Piano Man,” “George Harrison, “Give Me Love,” Elton John, “Daniel,” Helen Reddy, “Delta Dawn,” War, “The Cisco Kid”….
Sarah began to moan as if she were climaxing, and I stopped holding back and gave in to the warm, wet sensation of my own orgasm and release, and though manfully trying to stay erect inside of her as she continued to buck and grind, I felt my penis shrink and soften and spill out of her in a damp, sticky mess.
“Did you come?” I asked, but she only smiled dreamily, seemingly spent. She looked content and I didn’t want to press the issue, even though the sense of my manhood insisted, nagging. Had I satisfied her?
After that we must have dozed off for ten or fifteen minutes, and then we were smoking post-coital cigarettes.
“Thank you,” I mumbled.
“I think I’d better be going,” Sarah yawned. “I have a lot to do tomorrow and I want to wake up in my own bed in Waltham.” She gave me a quick kiss on the lips, her mouth closed.
“There’s got to be a morning after,” I crooned the Maureen McGovern song, and Sarah laughed and joined in when I repeated the chorus, but it sounded sad to my ears, even as we laughed and embraced.
“Can I call you?” I asked.
“I’ll call you,” she said. “I don’t have a phone yet.” This was decades before anybody carried a cell phone, after all.
But she never did. I never saw Sarah again. At first I was brokenhearted, especially since I thought we’d enjoyed each other’s company, no drawbacks that I could see, but I had no way of tracking her down. I considered calling her college, directory assistance, but I was afraid I’d come off as some sort of stalker, an unwanted pest.
By the end of that academic year I’d decided to go to law school. It was just a career decision. It had nothing to do with my disillusionment about a career in the clergy as a Christian minister, and certainly it had nothing to do with the fact that I was now Jewish. Forever.