Mogador, December 30th, 1872 (excerpt from my new novel in the making)

I have never wanted to pray but today I touched something holy.

The madame said the girl was 19. I didn’t believe her but followed her behind the heavy carved door.

She immediately began to peel off her veils, without feigning modesty—she did it like my aunts would take off their apron when they were done making lunch—efficient and jolly.

She noticed I had a missing hand, didn’t look away, didn’t twist her nose, didn’t ask. I stood there. A man forgets how to be a man.

She pointed at a beautiful rug, pillows in piles of indigo, silk, camel skin. I kneeled down and she kneeled down behind me. She lifted my shirt and pressed proud breasts against my back. I pushed away memories of Soeur Marie in my early days at the hospital, the damp washcloth she ran softly over my body. I shuddered. I felt weak and fell forward on my elbows. The girl grasped my shoulders and hoisted me back up against her. She coiled her hair around my neck. Her breath in my ear. Her breasts hard and soft on my spine. I recalled my skin and my nerves. I was hungry and thirsty. Famished. The smell of lamb meat drifted in from the street. The voices of the street vendors. A goat. Someone hitting something.

I leaned harder into her and she pinched my nipples, too hard. I yelped. She pinched harder. I seized her wrist with my good hand and she let go of one nipple. Pinched the other one harder still. It hurt and I began to protest but she placed her hand over my mouth and thrust her pelvis forward against my buttocks. I was getting hard. I began to lick her fingers and she slipped one inside my mouth, thrusting harder. I tried to turn around. I wanted her, like I didn’t remember ever wanting anything. Not Virginie. Not the horizon. Not the coastline when my ship sunk at sea.

She kissed my mouth with full lips and lied back to clasp steel thighs around my waist. She held me still, unable to turn. She pulled my pants down and began to rub her vagina against my bare buttocks. Everything in me ached. I let out a “Oh God, please …”

She kept on glazing her vulva against my back, lascivious, and said, “Allah Akbar!” Then she surprised me with her perfect French. “Allah est grand. Dis-le.” I believed her. I knew she was right. I knew Allah is God, and God is the body of a woman. And so I did. I said “Allah is great,” and she reached around my waist to grasp my cock in her hand, and I was the pulse of the universe as I came inside the cup of her hand.


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