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Hot & Cold —A Very Brief History of Intimate Love

Sadie’s idea of a good time was making love to Wilbur in an igloo, on a bear skin rug. If she had to articulate the fantasy she would use the word, fucking, and not, making love, because making love in an archaic structure built of ice, on the scruffy fur of an omnivorous, four-legged mammal—copulating in that basic, primitive environment—was animal instinct, pure and simple, and from what she could observe animals fucked, they didn’t make love. That didn’t mean she didn’t love Wilbur, on the contrary, she cherished and adored him. Fucking was one of many ways she ritualized that affection.

Back in high school.…

Sadie argued that the word fucking was a good example of onomatopoeia, because it sounded exactly like what it meant. She used it in a couple of sentences in an AP English class and her fellow high achievers cheered in support of her theory. Her teacher who secretly lusted after Sadie approved of her, “bold and unconventional stand on literary definition,” as he put it, and praised her in hopes that his sympathy would evolve into the improprieties he dreamed of in the privacy of the faculty men’s room. But Sadie had no sexual interest in her teacher or anyone else for that matter, for she was already smitten with Wilbur Burtanski, and would remain so for the rest of her life.

It was late spring.…

Wilbur was shy, but determined to fulfill the prophecy he had made to himself after he had first observed Sadie Pascarella cross the school yard of Lafayette High School earlier that term. On the last day of their freshman year he approached her, not boldly nor timidly, and asked without ever taking his eyes off her, if she would like to go to the movies with him on Saturday. From the moment he slipped the ice cube in his mouth into Sadie’s, showing her how to pass it back and forth as they French kissed in the smoking section of the Loews Coney Island, there was a simultaneous realization that perhaps they were destined for each other. The film if he recalled, was Return to the Frozen Planet. It was her idea.

Once they began dating.…

Wilbur acknowledged his love for Sadie in many different ways. He was kind and attentive, sensitive and a good listener. He helped her mother, recently divorced, with some of the fix-it chores around their small apartment above the Reliable Bakery, under the ‘el’ on 86th Street, and once a week he took her younger brother fishing on Steeplechase Pier.

But when did Wilbur know he was in love?

It had been a record hot day in August. That night, after working the concession stand at Friday night bingo, Wilbur had a dream. He dreamt he was making out with Sadie in the steam room of Scoville’s Bath House where his family kept a locker for the summer. All they did was kiss. He woke up feverish and mid-ejaculation, watching his sperm arc across the room like gooey confetti tossed in the air to celebrate his moment of awareness. The blinking neon light from the all-night garage across the street, pulsed its red OPEN sign on the wall of his room and his heart released his love.

And then.…

He got up invigorated, changed out of his sticky, sear-sucker pajamas, and went to his desk to write. Till five in the morning he penned sonnets furiously, dedicating all of them to Sadie.

A brief aside.…

After high school Wilbur joined the Peace Corps applying for a post anywhere a hundred miles north or south of the equator. Sadie studied animal science, investigating frost tolerant butterflies with a research team in Tierra del Fuego, and tagging timber wolves in Siberia while she learned Russian and how to cross country ski. They married at the top of Mount Washington on New Year’s Day, after his return from the Maldives, and honeymooned in the Everglades at the end of July.

Now back to our lovers on a get-away weekend.…

While Wilbur preferred a slow, measured exploration of Sadie’s oiled body in a darkened sauna, cranked up to just below the boiling temperature of blood, she imagined how good it would feel afterwards to roll around with Wilbur in the snow. Wilbur enjoyed sitting with Sadie, naked, in front of a huge, roaring fire savoring the memory of her oily perspiration over a glass of port. With her head nestled in his arm pit, Sadie closed her eyes and thought about the other possibilities that ice fishing might offer in the morning. Was the narrow, plywood shack they had to push out onto the frozen surface of the lake too narrow? Or, could they could do it standing up? she wondered. “It could be done!” she said out loud, as if planning an expedition to the Pole. The Pole? she laughed, and Wilbur asked her quietly what was so funny.

“You had to be there,” she said and made a mental note to bring along an extra pair of socks and one for Wilbur. But they decided to leave their boots on after all and go at with their pants and long-johns down around their knees.


Wilbur’s recollection of Sadie taking him inside her on the smooth, cedar slats of the sauna would occasion his wanting to massage her before the fire. And so, he caressed her face with both hands, then her arms and her fingers; he circled her breasts and gently pinched her nipples, moved down to the docile rise of her belly, into the deep well of her navel, along the length of her legs, onto her feet, spreading her toes and then walking his hands back up to the wild tangle of blue-black hair at the cross roads of her body and he rested there.

But he could feel her stir.…

And so, he moved two of his fingers up and down the way she liked, feeling her swell and moisten and gush between the fabric of her skin, slipping one finger then two inside her—into that warm, wet enigma he hoped he would never fully understand, afraid if he did the wonderment of lovemaking might be lost forever in the comprehension of it. Watching the flame shadows dance along the curves and bends of her body, he whispered, “It’s time to go to bed.” They slid in under the goose down blankets and woolen afghans with the window wide open behind them. Sadie reached over her head and made a snow ball off the window sill, asking Wilbur to run it over her back and buttocks while he took her from behind. Drifting high above themselves in post orgasmic sadness and bliss, they looked into each other’s eyes and said, “Good night.” Sadie covered Wilbur who soon fell asleep and she lay there with the blankets tossed aside watching the snow blow in and melt on her body.

Thinking back at the end of the lives.…

Each of them had to admit that the fondest recollection of their physical intimacy was drifting off to sleep together one night in July, three hundred miles into the Thar Desert, a short camel ride from the Pakistan border. It was the hottest summer in India’s recent history and the monsoon was a month late. Awash in sweat, but chilled by an unexpected breeze, Wilbur kissed her on the lips tenderly after a failed attempt at making love, and from the roof of the old havali where they had dragged their mattress to sleep, they watched the moon set, renewed their marriage vows of thirty-two years and forgave themselves for growing old. Huddled in each other’s arms Wilbur shivered under his blanket and she sighed with pleasure as the desert night turned cold and the breeze left a fine dusting of sand in every crack and crevice of her body. Later, in the dead silence before dawn, a dog barked and it started to rain.

Author’s Note: This story was inspired by real events that no one would have believed outside the realms of fiction.


Jim Savio

Jim Savio teaches at City College and lives in Tribeca. He is the author of The Fairy Flag (Spuyten Duyvil).


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2004

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