When the towers fall I want my husband all over me, an encasing presence like one of those dense, protective rolls of fat and felt that Joseph Beuys puts on sleds and calls art. What I do not want is to be standing up here on the roof watching thousands of innocents go up in flames while he’s off shooting the death of Fashion Week and I can’t get through to him on my cell for hours, after which he shows up freaked, drunk and wanting a quickie. Nor do I particularly need to hear, before the dead are even identified by their body parts, how brutally mean and hegemonic the United States has been to a lot of poor souls who ask for nothing in life but to be rid of Jews and naked women, both of which I, to some extent, happen to be.
Which is why, lying here on what was once a pretty modern red sofa and is now a symbol of paradise lost, I, Kitty Lyons, half-Jewish and half-naked, find myself yearning for General Colin Luther Powell, my Secretary of State. I want him to do what my husband apparently can’t: shield me from the unforseen sexual consequences of globalism.
On the Internet, it says that one of Colin’s many rules of Life is: “Remain calm. Be kind.”
Calm and kind! From a man who grew up in the South Bronx! If I can somehow inject my body with this essence of Powell, maybe I’ll stop feeling so furious at Max, so abandoned, so vulnerable, and then maybe I can shake this erotically dismembered feeling I’ve been having, where I can’t feel enough courage and power to be sure that I’ll end up back in control if I give it all up when I come.
I throw myself into Colin’s courage-inducing arms, but he holds me off with the gentle deftness with which he handled that downed spy plane in China. “Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most,” he says. Alone among Bush’s advisors, Colin has made this epigram of Thucydides’ his personal motto. The New York Times is right: “deliberate,” “patient” and “careful” is what he is, a man who restores, not Jags or T-birds, but old Volvos. No quickies for Colin. A man with a slow hand a strong, large, firm one. As I clasp it, the General’s masterful reserve, his banked fire, awakens something in me more powerful than fear and more enduring than a Barbie doll in a landfill: hope.
“Colin,” I tell him, letting my star-spangled dress fall open with all the dignity that national defense can inspire in a patriot. “If you’re building a multilateral coalition against terrorism, let me be the first to coalesce with you.”
He smiles a little sadly and catches my hand in his as I reach for his belt.
No can do, he sighs, pressing my palm to his lips as he gazes into my widening eyes. The unilateralists have already circled their wagons around Bush. They’ll accept nothing resembling world government. The best we can do for now he says, running his hands down my rear flanks, is to form a loose and shifting series of diplomatic coalitions, bombing country after country, incurring the wrath of increasing numbers of Muslim sects and their hidden stateside terrorist cells.
The best we can do? Surely not! I grab his hand and slap it to my inner thigh. I get an incredible volley of sensation as his hand banks and rises, circling in on my remote rebel valley where illiterate desires tunnel in secret caves, defying invaders to blow them away.
“Restrain us,” I beg him, meaning all of us Islamic terrorists, Christian unilateralists, Israeli expansionists and Max. Please make Max understand that I’m barely coping and it’s his love I need at this moment, not his fucking analysis of the politics of holy war!
In the utter confusion of this situation where all sides are over-reaching and even my own body can’t be trusted, what I have isn’t a sexual moment so much as a meltdown. Out of the blue, I am shaken from my financial center to my capitol, a desperate, convulsive fibrillation that takes in an entire fist. It’s a kind of pleasure, I can’t deny it, some expression of vitality, some tattered flag in the rocket’s red glare, but much as it feels like a surge of pure patriotic fervor it also feels like a trick being played on me.
God, Colin, I gasp, you’ve always insisted that every military engagement have an exit strategy. Was that tortured orgasm the only exit strategy we’ve got?
Could be, he says, calmly and kindly, kissing my nose a cool goodbye.