Per Mergan's instructions, I arranged for a room at a charming bed & breakfast in Poughkeepsie, a compact town; more like a village, about two hours north of New York City by train. The town was completely rural, inhabiting blue-collar workers and most of them spent Saturday evenings at a single pool hall. Hard to believe that only a short distance away from one of the largest and polluted cities in the world, a complete contrasting of a place existed. It reminded me of the small towns I've been in, lived in, got stuck in for long arduous years.
Drained from the urban jungle, and depressed in the aftermath of September 11th, Mergan needed relief. We stayed at the Copper Room of the quaint Copper Inn, situated by a large body of blue-green water, a quiet river carrying ducks and geese softly down stream.
In our master suite, Mergan sat on the brass bed, nude. With her ankles tucked beneath her, she looked like a mermaid resting on a solitary rock in the middle of the sea. Her torso erect, her small breasts firm, her abdomen slightly round. There she sat with waves of hair draped onto one side — the same soft curls prominent in Persians having been exaggerated in the ancient figures carved on stone, where the hair and the beards are immaculately twisted into perfection.
Mergan was bleeding profusely onto a snow-white hotel towel strategically placed beneath her. While gazing at me she said: “You don't have to make love to me if you don't want to.” I wanted to say “HIV”, and how much more at risk one was with direct exposure to blood, but I didn't. I said, “I love you,” instead.
In that moment, where the contrast of red on white seemed so vivid, I felt as though I were in bliss and drew Mergan's splendor into the depths of my soul. I was not the least revolted by the sight of blood, quite the contrary; it felt as though a curse had been lifted from me. The warm fluid flowed from her like a message, like pomegranate seeds falling softly onto white linen. It was as if I were directing a film, creating something beautiful, carefully setting up my most critical shot, perfecting my camera's viewpoint.
“I've never had sex with a woman in her period,” I said. She looked surprised, and expressed deep sympathy not so much by words but by a sigh, and by the way she looked up at me with penetrating dark eyes.
Mergan made all my inhibitions seem frivolous. She was just the opposite of me; had had many experiences I will never know and wouldn't want to know. I envisioned that many things happened in Mergan's life without much thought before they actually happened. But despite my ambivalence, I surrendered to feelings that seemed poignantly real; love, passion, and strong sense of belonging intertwined in a single setting and for one person.
“I want you,” I said.