Sin, Samantha, and the Talmud
That’s the famous passage in the Talmud that played in my head over and over like a nagging friend who just doesn’t know when to stop. I was horny and desperate, and the Talmud, just to complicate things, seemed only to say, “Eh, better you don’t, but if you can’t help it… nu, here are some ideas…”
It’s a healthy urge, I said to myself, as Cathy, the cute Hispanic receptionist, put another pile of mail on my already overflowing stack. Men all over the world feel the same, nothing unusual about it. Or perverted. I’m just healthy and normal, looking for what every male has looked for since the dawn of the Y chromosome.
Cathy’s ass was toward the flat side, and her face still had some residual acne, those flaky skin cells that stubbornly refused to read the memo that her adolescence was over. But she had a face that reminded me of Eva Langoria in her better days. I’d have done her in a heartbeat, except she hardly looked my way. My feeble attempts at making conversation seemed only an unwelcome distraction from the Yahoo Messenger windows she kept open all day, chatting no doubt with hot and ripped hunks from the South Bronx. I could never compete.
Why the unbearable urge? I couldn’t really say. Sex with the wife wasn’t so bad – in fact it was quite good. We’d come a long way from the shocked look on her face when I suggested we take it out of the bedroom and into the laundry room. Eventually she came to love doing it while sitting on the washing machine, during both the wash and spin cycles. (The dryer never proved very satisfying.) She didn’t have an orgasm until after our third child was born, but once she had it there was no going back. Seeing women in movies moaning “Oh, yeah; oh, God, yes!” once brought a completely baffled look to her face. She’d look away uncomfortably. But now she understood it. She’d changed.
But I changed too, and while she was just discovering her sexual side, I was starting to feel, um, uninspired. I needed variety.
Craigslist proved a failure. The women I encountered were interested in hearing about my Chasidic lifestyle, but their photos were a letdown. An overweight woman riding an elephant in Thailand, a punk rocker with more piercings and tattoos than body parts and a sizable muffin top to boot, a dorky looking girl with a crooked nose and no chin. I closed my email on the last one and grimaced. Not my thing, I mumbled to the stapler on my desk and the piles of overdue invoices. Cathy was just putting on her short white jacket with the fur- lined hood. I wondered what she had in store for the night. I imagined her in a tight mini-skirt, getting down at a club and shaking it. I longed to ask, but I didn’t dare.
And then came Samantha.
It was another of those days at the office. The boss yelled like a maniac, threatening to fire — no, fucking fire! — anyone who came within sight of him. Murphy’s Law had kicked in and just when we had an important meeting, the computer froze during the Powerpoint presentation. I, bookkeeper-slash-techie-slash-office-manager-slash-janitor, was at fault. I needed a break. Fuck it, I thought.
The Talmud warned against my intended actions. It’s like bringing a flood all over again. Automatic excommunication. Deserving of death. But that wasn’t the worst of it. I was tortured by the mystical warnings. I remembered the nighttime sessions studying Reishis Chochma as a teenager. Kaf Hakela, it said, was no fun. My attempts at re-imagining it as a super cosmological roller coaster might’ve worked, except for those damn Mal’achei Chabala, the angels of destruction, who beat and pursue your soul from place to place and make the Christian purgatory seem like a cruise to the Bahamas.
Then comes the Talmud and gives you ideas. Dress in black, go to a new city, just keep quiet about it; it’s all good. Talk about mixed messages. But at that point I no longer cared. By the time I got out of the meeting and out from under my boss’s fury, I’d made up my mind.
A sign outside declared it “the cleanest gentleman’s club in NYC.”
Hmm, I thought, clean is good, and I walked past the bouncer who looked after me without a word. The place was dark. On a small, low stage two topless girls lazily trotted around while gripping a gleaming silver pole. I wasn’t aroused. I felt in the wrong place. Self-consciousness kicked in like a bitch. Not to mention my anxiety about the sin, which reared its ugly head again. The fucking Talmud had me confused. Couldn’t the rabbis get their damn theology straight? Their inconsistency was killing me.
I ordered a Coors Lite and sat down to watch. I kept thinking I should leave. This wasn’t the place for me. I thought about how I’d feel the next morning, beating my chest, Ashamnu, bagadnu… rashanu, shichasnu, tiavnu. We’ve been wicked, wasteful, and committed abominations. But it wouldn’t be we, it would be I. Good Jews didn’t do these things. I did these things.
Samantha made it all go away. I hadn’t noticed her at first. I looked up from my beer and saw her walking across the room from where she’d been sitting alone. She sat down next to me and asked for my name. She was cool with just schmoozing, she knew how to sell her goods. She wanted to know about my life, my family, my job. If she was pretending, she was very good at it. She asked the right questions, and shared about herself without hesitation. She was smart, but not too brainy, working, literally and figuratively, towards an MBA. She was Hispanic, an Eva Mendez look-alike without the mole on her cheek, with long brown hair, baby-soft skin, a well-rounded butt that jiggled oh, so subtly, and very few clothes. Two pieces, to be precise, if you didn’t count the shoes.
While we were talking she caressed the fuzz on my arm. When she put her hand on my thigh I knew she had me. I wasn’t so naive to think this was anything more than a business transaction. She had something to sell, and I was an eager buyer. I might say I wasn’t looking for romance, or even a personal connection. But there was an illusion of that. People who work in this industry know what men want, and it isn’t, in most cases, just brute sexual gratification.
Unable to resist, I took Samantha to a private room towards the end of the club. Across the doorway was a curtain. Inside there was a bare table and an easy chair. Music was playing, top-40 songs, bubble-gum pop I’d been hearing on the radio. Samantha took my hand and said, “Let’s dance.” When I hesitated, she laughed. I didn’t know how to dance anything but a Chasidic-wedding-style hora. Dancing with a naked woman was completely new. But we danced. Or she did, and I held on to her hand and twirled her around again and again, turning my awkwardness into pretending I was spinning a top. She laughed when we stopped, dizzy from spinning, and fell on top of me onto the chair.
She went beyond the limits she’d set when she explained the rules. I like to think it showed she liked me, although it’s possible that she did the same for all customers. I had no way of knowing.
She became a habit. I ended up coming back at least every other week for a period of a few months. At the office I’d see Cathy and wonder what I ever saw in her. During stressful days at work, it was Samantha I looked forward to, a relaxing high before heading home, an oasis of pleasure in between the demands of office and family life.
Until one day, as I walked into the club, the bouncer yelled, “Samantha, your rabbi’s here.”
If my beard made me a rabbi then Allen Ginsberg was Moses himself. But you can’t argue with people’s perceptions. What do goyim know of rabbis and beards, I thought to myself. I greeted Samantha with the usual peck on the cheek, and settled down with a drink.
It was one of our best evenings. I started to think that perhaps she liked me for real. She’d started allowing things that she didn’t when we first met. To me that meant something. I even thought to ask her out, but then thought better of it. Best to keep it this way, simple, no attachments. I wasn’t even sure I had her real name, which suited me fine.
It was only when I left that I caught sight of the bouncer and remembered what he’d called out. Me, a rabbi. The thought was both ludicrous and insulting. I gave him a thumbs up as I left. He nodded and said, “Take it easy, boss.”
But I never went back.Printable Version