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Jirka is tall and tlusty, a Czech word which translates roughly into “thick” and is equally useful for describing people who weigh over two hundred pounds and books that clock in at over one thousand pages. He used to hunch over to go through the doors in my apartment without hitting his forehead. His nose, chin and fingers are all fleshy and full of life. The only subtle thing about his appearance is his smile, which curls up in one corner of his heavy lips as if he’s winking at you. The smile spreads slowly, lighting up the whole of his broad face.


The faucets in his apartment all have gold handles, as he points out to me with pride. Jirka turns them all on for me, then

shows me to the toilet and stands in front of it with his lips pressed together as if he’s bewildered. Finally he says, “You want use toilet maybe?”


“No thanks. And we don’t say toilet in English. We say bathroom. It’s more polite.” He shakes his head to tell me he doesn’t understand. “Zdvorily.


He shows me into his room. There are two mattresses next to each other on the floor, one for each of us. Jirka turns on his lamp, and then stares at my face and grins, “I like your nose. I like your nose for long time. It is Judish nose, no?”


“Yes.” I cringe and brace myself for what comes next.


“I like it.” He smiles as if he’s ready to offer me anything, then steps back and spreads out his palms to frame my nose. I can smell his body odor, spiky and warm. “Tomorrow I want take good photo of your nose. Yes?”


After I promise him he can take a picture of my nose, Jirka lies back on his double bed and stretches his legs. He has a massive chest and thighs like horse flanks. There is so much of him, it’s impressive. I creep over to the edge of my mattress, balanced on its edge as I stare up the folds of his shorts hanging loose.


“Hey,” Jirka says. “I meet nice girl in tramvaje yesterday who like girls. I say her, ‘Okay, I will watch,’ but she only make sex when she is alone with other girl. I say, ‘Why you no want at least try it?’ She is crazy, I think. You had sex with two girls some-when?”


I shake my head.


“Hey, you like girls?”


“I like them,” I say.


“Only girls? Or girls and boys?”


I swallow and search his eyes. Is this my cue? “Well,” I say, “girls and boys.”


He nods.


“Do you like girls and boys?” I say, but he doesn’t seem to hear the question.


He yawns. “I am tired. You?”


The pillow feels cool when I lay my head down. Just as I start to fall asleep, Jirka whispers from his mattress, “Hey.” I

say nothing and then I feel a rough pat on my shoulder. “Hey, you want maybe make sex with me?”


I roll over and open my eyes. “What? Are you serious?”


“What does it mean, serious?”


“Is this a joke? Je to vtip?”


Neni vtip.” And to prove he isn’t joking, he lifts his down comforter.

His “slip” has disappeared. He’s erect. “You don’t want?”


Of course I want. All year I wanted to taste that Paul Bunyan-sized teddy bear. But you don’t expect your teddy bear to grow a hard-on and invite you to play with it.


“I thought you liked girls.”


“I want try it.”


Like I’m a new American breakfast cereal.


I could make a list of reasons why I should roll over and close my eyes. Instead I crawl across the floor to his mattress. He takes off my T-shirt and pulls my boxers down.


He looks at my penis. “It is missing something!” he exclaims.


“It’s because I am Jewish,” I say and he nods as if he’s just remembered. For a second I’ve almost forgotten how to have sex, but then I think to kiss his thick neck. His mouth gapes open as if I’m hurting him. He shuts his eyes and shivers as I

spread my body over his stomach, press my erection against his, suck on his tight nipples, pull his hair, blow into his ears.


Jirka pushes me over so I’m lying on my back. He inches his way down to my waist, and sucks on my hard-on. It feels odd to be the one he’s satisfying and not the other way around. Strangely, he seems really to know what he’s doing.


“I’m going to come,” I say.


He takes my penis out of his mouth. “What does it mean, come?”


“Never mind. I won’t now.”


Jirka shrugs and I take my turn on him, then go back to making love to his prostrate body until I come all over his chest. He

immediately goes to the bathroom and wipes himself off. I wait, wet and naked. But Jirka comes back and puts on a pair of bikini briefs printed with Hawaiian masks.


“You didn’t have an orgasm,” I say.


“I no want.”


His body is warm. I rest my head above his heart, nestled against his arm. My skin sticks to his fur. I’m fantasizing wildly now: maybe it’s not too late to change everything. I know I should go to America, but why? Just because it’s my country? Does that mean that’s where I belong?


Then he says, “Can you sleep alone, in your bed?”


“Sure,” I say, pretending I’m not disappointed.


In the morning, I say I want to take a bath.


“I think is good idea for you,” he says. What is that supposed to mean?


I come out of the bathroom, dry and dressed.


“What you think of our sex?” he asks, still wearing the bikini underwear printed with Hawaiian masks. “I think is no so good idea.”


I grin as if I agree. It’s easier than trying to explain. I’m going home now.


“You want call taxi or take tramvaje?” he asks.


“The tram is fine. A taxi is too expensive.”


Jirka laughs. “You are really Jew,” he says.


“Jirka, that’s terrible. That’s a terrible thing to say.”


He shrugs. “I think is nice compliment for you.”


I tell him I think it’s time for me to go.


Jirka puts on a yellow T-shirt and red shorts, slings a camera around his neck, and walks me down to the tram I’ll take to the bus to the airport. He even carries my bag. We say nothing all the way down the hill, then cross to the middle of the street and stand at the tram stop.


“I want take photo,” he says, “of your nose.”


“No. I want to take your photo first,” I insist. So he submits, standing in the road to the airport with his subtle, Mona Lisa–constipated half-smile as if he’s the lord of all he surveys.


The tram pulls up and I get on it. There’s no time left for him to take my picture.

©2000 Aaron Hamburger and, Inc.