In On My Knees, her follow-up to 2005’s The Only Bush I Trust is My Own, self-proclaimed narcissist Periel Aschenbrand recounts the shock-humor, chick-lit horrors of her single-girl search for love from the perspective of a woman who eventually found it, though not in any of the genre-typical ways. Eager to joke about her sex life, she doesn’t skimp on the profane details, but the payoff is breezy writing that cuts straight to the neurosis and comedy in a way that euphemism wouldn’t allow. And if the lessons she learned seem like common sense, they’re also feminist truths that can’t be overstated. Our excerpt below, a Heeb exclusive, surrounds a long-awaited reunion with a holiday fling. —Judith Basya
Time moved forward, as it is wont to do, and Guy’s visit eventually rolled around. Soon enough it was December and I was on my way to the airport to pick him up. Although we talked on the phone fairly frequently I hadn’t seen him in more than two months and I began to think that it was entirely possible I had completely lost my mind. What in the world would we do for sixteen days in the dead of a New York winter, trapped in my tiny apartment? It’s one thing to have a love affair in a foreign country. It’s another story entirely to invite someone into your home—especially when your home is the size of a rabbit cage. The only thing I had to go off of was how I felt while I was with him when I was in Israel. It was not lost on me that it was entirely possible that my fondness for Guy could have been brought on by some sort of sex-and pheromone-induced state of mind.
Because I am a total narcissist, I am constantly seeking instant gratification. On account of this, I often get really excited about something and then when I’ve found something that I think might gratify me more or better or more quickly, I lose all interest in the first thing.
It’s not like this hadn’t happened to me before. The worst might have been back in college when David Grosenschmidt came to Arizona to visit me. David and I had met in Florence during our semesters abroad. Instead of all the Italian men I could have had a love affair with, I wound up sleeping with a Jew with a big nose from Long Island. At some point I found out that he had a girlfriend back home, the daughter of a mustard heiress, and I promptly broke up with him—at which point he declared his love for me and swore to me that he had broken it off with the mustard heiress. I took him back and we resumed our affair for the duration of our time in Italy. I was really into David, until he got off the plane when he came to visit me in Arizona.
The second I saw him and his big nose and his thin, wispy hair, I was completely revolted. I couldn’t even look at him, let alone have sex with him. I believed that all the gluttony of the pasta and the wine and the pot I had been smuggling from Amsterdam had clouded my judgment. Or, more likely, it was the fact that in the time that had passed, and in David’s absence, I had met and become smitten with someone else. Or maybe it was just that even though I had enjoyed him in Italy it didn’t necessarily mean I was going to like him in America. All of this is to say I had no idea how I would feel about Guy when I saw him in New York and I was not looking forward to a repeat of that experience. I don’t mind making mistakes. I just like to think that I actually learn from them.
I braced myself as I walked into the airport.
And the second I saw Guy, I knew. He walked out into the airport with a backpack and he looked like such a tourist and he was so cute and had come so far just to see me. It all came flooding back. When I hugged him, it was absolutely electric. Even after eleven hours on a plane, surrounded by hot, sweaty Middle Easterners, he smelled delicious.
We were both a little nervous in the taxi to my place and when we arrived he seemed kind of tripped out by my crazy Chinese whorehouse building. But by the time we got upstairs and he saw how cute and cozy and neat and clean the apartment was, I could tell he calmed down.
I gave him a glass of wine and was like, “Well, do you have them?”
Guy: “Yes, I do.”
Me: “In English?”
Guy: “Yes, in English.”
Me: “Well, can I see them?”
Guy went fishing around in his carry-on and pulled out an envelope and handed it to me.
Me: “Thank you.”
I opened the envelope and was pleased to see that he was officially not HIV positive.
You may think this is psychotic, but I’ll be real fucking clear here. No one and I mean no one is sticking his dick in me without a condom without my seeing some hard evidence that he is not infected with some disease. Men are dogs and like dogs, they need papers. And any woman who doesn’t require this from a guy is a fucking idiot. If you’re too shy to ask or if you think he’s not going to like you anymore, I have two things to say: (1) if he doesn’t like you enough to get tested for STDs, then you shouldn’t be fucking him to begin with, and (2) men are willing to do pretty much anything to get laid.
I was like, “This is great news. Mazel tov. There’s just one more thing we need to get out of the way.”
A look of consternation crossed his face.
“We are going to be stuck in this tiny apartment for sixteen days so we really can’t afford to get caught up in formalities,” I said as I handed him a book of matches. “I only have one bathroom.”
That sufficiently broke the ice and for the next two days the only time we stopped having sex was to sleep and eat. After we had fucked so many times that I could barely walk (not that I was complaining), I took Guy traipsing around Manhattan. Even though we went to places I have been to a thousand times, just being with him made it all exciting. I mean, being with him was exciting to begin with, but being with him and watching how excited he was to be with me and in New York was even more exciting. Plus, he was hot and I was horny, which even made things like riding the subway fun. He was so interested in every little thing and he noticed things I had never even paid attention to—buildings, parks, stores, architecture. It was like I was discovering the world with him anew. Plus, it was Christmastime in New York, so the city was even more majestic than usual.
I started to think that perhaps I had not been delusional at all. I started to think that I actually really, really liked him. In fact, I was becoming kind of crazy about him. He was almost too good to be true. He was sweet and thoughtful, he made me coffee in the morning, he cooked, he cleaned, he smelled delicious, he fucked me until I couldn’t even see straight, and he cracked me up. He was interested in music and art and good food and wine and on top of that he was incredibly snuggly.
Moreover, because he had no reference point for anything I was talking about, sharing my idiosyncrasies with him was amazing because his reactions were priceless. I felt like I was living in a comedy sketch.
For example, when I tried to share my love for Ice-T and his wife, Coco, I asked Guy, “Do you know Ice-T and Coco?”
And Guy said, in his hilarious accent, “Yes, I like iced tea and chocco.”
Chocco is the word for cocoa (chocolate milk) in Hebrew.
I was dying. I was like, “Not that iced tea and cocoa! Don’t you know Ice-T and Coco?!”
I showed Guy a bunch of pictures of Ice-T and he did, indeed, recognize him. He said, “Oh yes, he makes rap music.”
I was like, “Yes! He does make rap music. Ice-T is the OG!”
I could tell by the expression on Guy’s face that he had no clue what I was talking about.
I was like, “OG, Original Gangster. Ice-T is like the godfather of hip-hop. He’s very important, culturally speaking.”
Guy was like, “Okay, but then what is this Coco?”
I showed Guy a litany of images of Coco with her huge boobs and bubble butt in a variety of fluorescent g-strings. He was finally like, “I get it! Who is that?”
Me: “That’s Coco. She’s Ice-T’s wife!”
Guy, in his adorable broken English: “She is singer like him?”
Guy: “So why she is famous?”
Me: “Well, she’s kind of a model and actress but she’s also famous for her camel toe.”
Guy: “What is camel too?”
I was bowled over at this point. I was like, “Not camel too, camel toe.” And then I pulled my jeans up as far as I could and showed him how my vagina was divided in half by the fabric and it looked like a camel’s toe.
And Guy said, “Oy yoy yoy. I thought maybe you say she is famous for music or because she make art. But no, she is famous for camel toe. Only in this stupid country can someone be famous for camel toe.”
I snuggled up next to him and pulled up my favorite video on YouTube, which is an interview with Ice-T where he talks about meeting Coco. They were on the set of a music video (he was wearing a red sharkskin suit) and he saw Coco and went right up to her and said, “Hey, baby, would you ever consider dating a gangster rapper?”
And she cooed, “Well, if he was niiiiiice.”
Ice replied, “If you take the N from N-I-C-E you get Ice.”
I started clapping. I was like, “I love that story! It’s so romantic!”
Guy looked at me like I was crazy.
Me: “Do you get it?”
Guy: “Yes, I get it. If you take the N from N-I-C-E you get Ice-T.”
And then he gave me a kiss on my forehead and told me I should be committed to a mental institution.
Right then, I decided: I love this boy.
From ON MY KNEES by Periel Aschenbrand (c) Periel Aschenbrand. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.