From Chapter 16 / Mari

Mari opened the door wearing a long black lace negligee, her nipples, small and hard, struggling against the paisley pattern. The only light in the apartment came from her bedroom, a dim column on the hall carpet.


She put her fingers to her lips, then turned and disappeared into the bedroom. She was in the futon when I walked in, the negligee at the foot. The pale orange glow from the night light clung to the walls like a second skin.

We made love without saying a word, bodies barely moving, as if the past two days hadn’t happened. Was the “change” my imagination? I wanted to ask, but didn’t know how. Mari had her back to the light. It played in her hair like an aura, softening the eyes, bringing out the contours of the cheeks. Our fingers intertwined, traced patterns on each other’s skin. I slid my hand down her back and hips to her buttocks and pressed gently as I slid into her deeper. She smiled and let out a low “Mmmm.”

I had no idea how much time had passed. I couldn’t remember the beginning or imagine an end. But who said it had to end? Our breathing had fallen into a long, slow rhythm, bodies relaxed. And the more relaxed we became, the more intense the sensations grew, heightening until nearly unbearable. I could actually feel it, like electricity, pulsing upwards through my body and eyes, into Mari’s. I had felt similar intensity several times during sesshin, but never with another person, never like this. I wanted to tell her, but didn’t know where to start. Finally I stopped trying. She had to know. “Gordon?” Her voice startled me. The dim outline of buildings was emerging in the faint glow of dawn. We hadn’t spoken since I joined her in the futon.


“I want to have a baby.”

I raised my head and studied Mari in the half light as the words knifed into consciousness. I had never dreamed of having a kid of my own. Now, as we lay making love, I tried to come to grips with what that meant. For starters, quitting Zen, diapers at three in the morning, a non-negotiable commitment for twenty years. But more than that, it meant risking a child’s future on a three-week affair between a penniless Zen trainee and a cabaret hostess. I still hadn’t said anything when Mari reached up, cradled my head in both arms and slowly ran her tongue around my lips. “It would make me stronger,” she whispered, “even if I have to raise it myself.”

Now I was back to not knowing where I stood. Was she looking for a baby without the spouse? Did she really just want a haafu, like she’d “joked” at the yakitoriya? Many Japanese girls did. Several had asked me to impregnate them. Or was she giving me a way out, interpreting my silence as rejection? I felt her body tense, the connection broken.

Then I caught myself. Maybe her baby suggestion wasn’t a proposal of marriage, but I should be flattered she wanted me as the father. And if I was going to be a father, I was going to participate. The thing was, having a baby was the worst thing we could do. Mari and I didn’t know each other, and what I did know was not reassuring. But the more reasons I found against having a baby, the more I found myself wanting to give her one. I looked down at Mari and smiled. “Ready or not.”