I drafted this piece of fiction for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2010. Seven years later, I edited it and submitted it to two venues, where I was selected to read it publicly.

A friend captured video of me reading it at The Bindery.

You asked what brought me to this silent retreat. Since we can’t talk anymore, I’ll write my story to you. Even though that’s against the rules, too. Shhhh! It can be our little secret.

I’m here because I had nothing left to lose. About a year ago, Nick left me; it was two weeks before our 18th anniversary. Strangely, I didn’t feel anything at that point. It took breaking up with Jonah six months later to get my ass in this convent.

Because, my God. Having someone to dress up for, get waxed for, buy new underwear for… That was fun. It’d been forever since I’d dealt in those methods of seduction. And from the start, I knew that any time with Jonah would have to be stolen. It was worth it, because I had something to live for again.


He was new in town, 26 to my 42. Ah, what a joy it was to take him out and show him around, to plunge headfirst into re-discovery of the East Bay and of another human being. I could finally feel my skin again, with his against mine. His generosity was a sheer revelation after 21 years with Nick. Until Jonah, I never knew a man could be so sexually bestowing. Let alone someone closer in age to my daughter than to me.

For our third date, we booked an hour at the private outdoor hot tubs on Piedmont. The perfect place for a still, mild winter evening in Oakland. We lounged naked together in silence under the stars and redwoods for at least a half hour before he made a move to kiss me. And then he had my legs twined around his neck while he devoured me for the next half hour. Seemingly without coming up for air. Had it not been for the hot tub next door, I would have yodeled with pleasure and relief. But thanks to Nick, I’d gotten very good at keeping a lid on things.

Jonah and I went out for kimchee soondofu once our time was up at the hot tub. Sitting like twins conjoined at the thighs, the last drops evaporating on our skin, felt as calming as the stew was invigorating. We barely talked; didn’t have to. It was a more companionable dinner than any with Nick since Fiona was born 17 years ago.

Despite how easy it was to be with Jonah, I couldn’t relax. Terrified I might run into someone from Fiona’s school and have to explain my relationship to this exquisite young man. I had no desire to publicize my indulgent, post-divorce affair. He was too perfect: tall and slim and golden, like an Oscar. Everyone would assume I was paying him. I’ll admit, it sometimes left me feeling less-than.

Plus, I had to share him. His other lover, Pete, was the real sugar daddy in this lust triangle. So funny. Pete was strangely jealous of me, wanted to know everything, would text Jonah constantly when we went out together. And Jonah got sucked in. I hated to see him jump at Pete’s every command.

He was unfailing to us both. I count myself lucky to’ve spent three months with this willowy Apollonian demigod. His primary concern was ensuring my pleasure. Not only did I receive countless orgasms (as many as I could take, dozens upon dozens at a stretch,) he taught me to delay release for as long as I could. The coiled snake of Kundalini. I’d never heard of such a thing until Jonah taught me how to do it. I always had to take what I could get with Nick. Always had to rush, or be left behind.

Time eventually ran out with Jonah, as I knew it would. Sure, the age difference was ridiculous. But it was more than that. It was his ascendancy. Mine: long past. And my 17-year-old daughter just now entering hers.

Impossible as it was to deprive myself of him, I broke it off. I was in no way ready to give up basking in his sunlight. Being with him brought back those days when seduction came easily to me; of course, I didn’t appreciate it enough when I had it. Now it’s gone, and others have taken up the mantle.

That loss has overwhelmed me. Coming home empty each night, no partner to meet with a distracted kiss. No one to match wits with, no one to communicate volumes with a glance to. Though I love my daughter, she didn’t count. The motivation to wake up and make something of myself was fucking lacking.

Zooming headlong into my mortality, I let Jonah go. I let all men go. My desires and my attachments, my failure to think, speak, and act correctly. My compulsions to flaunt Jonah and Fiona as my trophies, to relive my youth, to audition for another remake of Freaky Friday. I just let. them. all. go.

And yes, even that mane of thick wavy hair, dependable for a compliment most days: yes, I let go of that as well. Cut it. Then shaved the rest. Watched it twist and curl down the drain. I gave it all up. Because losing everything was all I had left to give.

Now, I greet loneliness head-on. Jonah: you’re gone. Fiona: you’re graduating in 5 months. Nick, you douchebag fuckwit: wherever you may be. You are all welcome into my house, Rumi-style. Come in and wipe it clean. I don’t need it anymore. What message do you have for me?

Without these attachments, I am free. Now I notice things. Like this rivulet of light that shines through my tiny convent window from 3 to 4pm every day, stabbing me with its beauty. I have the time to sit and wait for it now. To feel its warmth on my skin. 

And so what if I don’t have someone to share it with over a bowl of Korean tofu stew? Is that so tragic?