Mary told Ben she was afraid of the ghost in her house. This was on their first date. On their second, Mary invited Ben to her place in Germantown. When they walked through the front door she said, “This is my house with the ghost. And this is Sascha.” Sascha was a black and white husky with blue eyes, and he walked toward Ben that night and smelled his boots and then his hand. Ben considered saying he had always wanted a dog like Sascha, but he worried about the summers. Instead he crouched down, looked at the dog’s eyes and said, “Sascha is a nickname for Alexander.” “I know,” Mary said. “That’s why I chose it. I thought Sascha was almost as beautiful as him.” Ben thought that was the best response to anything he had ever said. “Sascha,” Ben said as he rubbed the dog’s head, “you have wolves in your blood.” Ben could feel the smile on his face and it felt like a smile he hadn’t smiled in years.
Sascha was stretched out on the floor next to an AC vent when Ben kissed Mary for the first time. Ten minutes before, he had started to tell her about the past three years of his life. She wanted to know why he had moved back from Chicago and she also wanted to know why he didn’t drink. Ben started to tell the story, and in the telling he kept trying to stop, but he couldn’t. So he finally leaned over, brushed the dark hair from her face and kissed her.
After a couple minutes, Mary stood up from the couch and pulled Ben with her. She took his hand and walked him across the room and down the hall, and as they were walking, Ben watched all of her dark hair. Just before her bedroom, he pulled at her hand and when she turned to him he said, “You think we should wait?” Ben had never said anything like this to a woman as attractive as Mary. He thought that even though he didn’t know her, he might love her. It was the way she smelled. It made him think he was in love. He wanted to see her again and was afraid fucking her could tear it apart.
Mary smiled at him there in the hallway leading toward her bedroom and said, “Are you really not going to fuck me?” And the truth was, after kissing her Ben felt he could eat her alive. So he followed her into her bedroom and walked her against the white wall and kissed her neck and her back and kept her pushed against the wall as he pulled her dress over her chest and shoulders and dropped it on the wood floor.
Ben fucked Mary there against the wall, turning her head with his hand as he fucked her so that he could kiss her mouth and listen to her moan and breathe her breath. After she came, he picked her up and laid her on her white sheets and fucked her again. And while she lie there, just before he knew he was going to cum, he started to feel his past rise up from his stomach toward his head, and started to feel these words: I am not sure what you see, but if you give me time I will show you everything. I am not frightened. But I am scared that you will be afraid. I have seen the worst, or at least felt the worst. And some of my friends have seen beyond what I have seen, but they have not felt anything beyond what I have felt. And there have been other women. I have loved other women and I have broken their hearts and they have broken mine and I have used women and men like you have. I have used them for sex and for drugs and even a drink on a lonely day. And my friends have woke with their girlfriends dead beside them. I have not seen that, but I have seen other awful things. I am fucking you right now and looking down at your flawless skin and your dark hair spread out on the white pillow, and I do not know if this is right. I do not believe that you will take me as I am. And I cannot take you as you are because I do not know you, Mary, who lives in Germantown in a shotgun house and who smells exactly how a woman is supposed to smell. But I am not afraid of what is human. I am Ben and I do not know if I can take this. But here I am in your bed. And he leaned down and kissed her mouth and looked into her eyes and said, “Do you feel this?” And she said, “Yes,” as he moved back and forth with her. And she said, “Cum for me.” And he lay down on her so that he could feel the heat from her stomach and he started to groan and breathe harder and faster, and he came and pulled at her hair that he had bunched up in his hand. She watched him tremble and his muscles contract, and when it was over, sweat was dripping from his face onto her chest.
After their breathing had slowed, Ben started to laugh at himself and what he had done with Mary there in her bedroom. Even Sascha out in the hallway moaning and howling had added something to it. Mary started laughing with him, and all he could think while he was lying there watching his chest bump with his heart was that some days you fuck a stranger and it feels like you have known each other’s bodies for years. That’s what Ben was thinking as cold sweat ran from his forehead and over his ear and dripped onto Mary’s pillowcase.