Originally published on my long-defunct Livejournal.
I’m participating in a Jewish Young Adults’ Writers Workshop. This month, our assignment was to write a two-page scene “in which two people who are fated to become involved meet for the first time.”
I’ve been fooling around with doing a gay take on the Biblical story of Jacob for a while now, so I thought I’d use this opportunity to rethink Genesis 28. After all, that’s Jacob’s first meeting with God, and I think it’s fair to say the two are fated to become involved. To refresh your memory, this happens when Jacob has left his parents’ house en route to his uncle’s home, where he’s been sent by his father so he can find a wife from within his clan.
I just finished my first draft. It’s very drafty. I’m going to rewrite it tomorrow before I show it to anyone in the workshop. But since I have neither the self-confidence to do this on my own nor the shame to be embarrassed by the considerable shortcomings of this draft, I’m posting it here for feedback first.
A couple of caveats: I’ve been debating whether this should be set in modern times vs. ancient times, and in America vs the original places. In this draft, it’s modern America. That is almost definitely the wrong answer. I think tomorrow I will attempt modern-but-original-places. I may end up just going for overall anachronistic. It worked for Joseph Heller’s retelling of the David story.
Also, I’m not sure what to do about the sex. I’m not sure my answer below works – what do you think? I don’t want it to get pornographic, and I think there’s good reason to leave it ambiguous as to what exactly happens, but… well, tell me what you think.
Okay, enough with the caveats. Here goes:
I had been in the car for so long I had lost track of just about everything… what time it was, what state I was in, how many times the Jimmy Buffet Greatest Hits CD in the car stereo had finished and restarted… “Maybe,” I thought, “it’s time to find a place to turn in for the night.”
I pulled off the highway at the next rest area to consult my AAA book. I found a YMCA in Cleveland about four minutes off the interstate that placed me within a day’s driving of my Brooklyn cousins and figured that was as good a spot as any. I flipped open my phone and called the Y.
“YMCA,” a woman answered in a voice that came straight from her nose.
“Hey there…,” I said, trying my best to be amiable, “I’ve been on the road all day and I’m looking for a place to stay tonight. Any beds available?”
“Well, you generally need to call at least twenty-four hours before arrival for a reservation.” Her voice could rip a hole through Kevlar.
“I see. So, no room?”
“That’s not what I said, sir. I was just letting you know that generally you need to call at least twenty-four hours…”
“Yeah, yeah, I got that part,” I nearly barked. Keep it together, Jake. “I specifically need a bed for tonight. Do you have a place for me to stay?”
There was a click, and my ear was suddenly filled with “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Why did I feel like someone was fucking with me?
And then she was back. “Very well, sir. We can accommodate you tonight even though you are calling so last minute.”
I get it, I should have called earlier. I give her my name and get back on the road so I can reach the damn place before midnight.
* * *
Turns out, I did get there before midnight but only just. Luckily, it looked like the front desk shift had changed, and I get my key from an exhausted-looking Arab man who’s more interested in his battered Abnormal Psychology textbook than making small talk with me. I head upstairs and find my room is already occupied. I pause for a moment before remembering that some of the Y’s have dormitory-style lodging, and sure enough, when I take a second peek in I noticed one empty bed that must be for me. Trying not to wake anyone up, I dropped my overnight bag onto the bed and fish out a toothbrush and the raggy sweats and T I like to sleep in. The room was lit with a dull glow from a billboard just outside the window advertising a touring production of Mamma Mia. “Take a chance on me,” it advised passers-by.
I thought I managed to get myself washed up and into bed without disturbing any of the other guys in the room, but just about when my head hit the pillow, I noticed one of the other guys getting up and shuffling over to the bathroom. Almost as soon as he returns, another gets up, and the next half-hour is filled with what seems like an endless cycle of guys getting up and laying back down again. Of course, I was so exhausted I kept falling back to sleep despite being continually woken up by the hubbub.
At the point when I figured every man in the entire YMCA must have walked past my bed en route to the bathroom or God-knows-where, I started to lose it. I had at least seven hours of driving ahead of me the next day, not to mention the stress of the ridiculous undertaking I was on to begin with, and if I didn’t get some shut-eye soon there was no way I’d make it. I felt another guy brush past the head of my bed and I sat up to find out what the hell was going on.
What I saw was the most unbelievably beautiful man I have ever seen standing over me. Before I could even speak, he opened his mouth. “I know who you are,” he said.
My mind was racing. Surely, if we had met before, I’d remember such piercing eyes, such a stunning physique. He must have seen the quizzical look in my eyes. Before I could answer him, he continued, “I made a promise to your family a long time ago. This place will be covered in your seed.”
Was he coming on to me? Who talks like that? I had to admit, though. It was hot. Hell, this guy could make the phonebook sound like a porno.
He touched my shoulder and I felt a surge of anticipation. “You’re going to grow tremendously.” He was right, although I’m not entirely sure he was only talking about the goings-on beneath my sweats.
He sat down on the bed and leaned in close. “Here I am with you, and we’ll be together for a long time.” His breath stirred the hairs on the back of my neck and I didn’t care about the future one bit. “I’ll be watching you,” he whispered, “and I won’t let go until I fulfill every word of my promise.”
I couldn’t take it any more, I had to have him, but I’ll spare you the details. Okay, to be honest – and let’s face it, honesty isn’t always my strong point – I’m not exactly sure what happened next. I want to tell you we had the most fabulously sensual night the city of Cleveland has ever seen, but the next thing I remember is waking up the next morning feeling both spent and alive. He was nowhere to be seen, and I never even got his name. He said he knew my family? That didn’t even make sense, and I sure as hell wasn’t about to ask my brother or my parents about this.
But that morning as I lay in bed, I knew that I had crossed a point of demarcation in my journey. So I did something I hadn’t done since I was a little kid. Before I left the Y, I said a tiny prayer: God was in this place, and somehow I didn’t know it. And although I’m not sure I even put the next part into words at the time, I made a little promise to God that if I survived this fool’s errand, I might be willing to rethink our relationship.