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Are You Okay?

by Tamara Faith Berger

edited by Emily M. Keeler

An excerpt from “The Way of the Whore,” revised and newly collected beside Believer Book Award winner Tamara Faith Berger's first novel,“Lie With Me,” in Little Cat, from Coach House Books.


“Are you okay?”


I remember the way John stroked my forehead after we’d had sex for the first time. It felt repetitive, insistent.


I wanted to hide.


“Mira. C’mon, baby, open your eyes.”


There was a candle making shadows on the ceiling. My back was glued to the couch. John was squeezed in beside me.


“What time is it?” I asked.


“It’s okay, Mira. It’s not late at all.”


I was covering myself with my arms.


“Why don’t you say something?”


“I have to go home.” The whole room was flickering.


“Stay just a few more minutes,” John said. He started drawing circles around my breasts. “You never finished telling me about your cousin, what’s his name?”




“Your cousin?”








John dipped a finger in me. “Wow, you’re still wet.”




“You want me to stop?”


I felt buzzing in my body. Buzzing through my nipples and all down my legs.


“Okay, baby, okay.”


John reached over me to open a drawer under the coffee table. He took out a thin cigarette and lit it from the candle. He started taking deep puffs. Then he put it between my lips.


I shook my head.


“Trust me, baby, it’ll make you feel good.”


I breathed in a bit but started to cough.


“Come on. Just a little more,” he laughed.


I tried but it still wouldn’t go all the way down my throat.


“Let me do something to you, Mira.”


John looked up to the ceiling and took a deep suck of the joint. Then with his cheeks all puffed out he put his lips over mine. He blew such a huge blast of smoke down my throat that it inflated my stomach and went all the way to my vagina.


“Feel good?” John asked, sounding proud.


It smelled like him inside me.


“God, you look beautiful.”


My mouth gaped wide. My eyelids were boiling.


“I mean it, baby. You look like a princess.”


I started laughing. A Jewish American Princess!


“Shhh… Mira, tell me about your cousin. What was his name again?”


“Ezrah.” I was dizzy.


“Ezzzzraaaaah,” John yawned. “What kind of name is that? Hey, baby, you okay? What kind of name is that?”




“You’re Jewish?”


Tiny sharp prickling erupted in my wrists.


“My family.”


“So you grew up that way?”


I nodded my head up and down too fast. It made me feel sick.


“Wow. Are you religious?”




“Hey, hey sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable…”


I shifted around on the couch. I thought I might vomit.


“Hey, come on baby,” John whispered. “I’ve just never met anyone Jewish before.”


My body felt like it was buzzing full of bees. They were swarming inside the veins of my wrists, making my skin balloon out all red. I was biting the inside of my mouth to make it stop. Sour stuff coated the walls of my cheeks.


“Hey. Hey, Mira! I said I was sorry.”


John was trying to turn me towards him. I didn’t want to move. I shut my lips tight. But then he started stroking my arms softly and I felt a too-loud laughter coming on. It was like he was skinning me.


“What happened to you?” My nipples were raw. “When was the first time? Come on, forget about it, you’re so wet, it’s all good…”


My skin was breaking apart like a net. Each time he touched me the holes got so wide. It was hard to breathe right.


“Six. I was six.”


“Really, six?”


“Yeah, six. I was sicks!” I started laughing and laughing. I was all made of holes.


“What happened? God, mmmmbabe, you’re so wet.”


John’s big hand was a cup under my vagina. His other hand squeezed and squeezed on my tit.


“He and his friends made me go down like their doggy.”


God, it was funny! Did I really say that?


John dropped his mouth to my mouth and pushed his tongue in me. I tightened. I sucked it. Sicks, I was sicks.


“Like the woman on her hands and knees in the pictures…”


John’s fingers went up me.


The Joy of Sex!


“Shhh, babe, what’s so funny?”


“All the guys stood around her in a circle.”


John’s fingers wiggled. I bucked up my hips.


“Four of them were there.”


Another finger inside.


“Ezrah went first.”


John’s hands slid under my ass.


“He did something from behind.”


More. Do it more!


“He felt my tits up under my shirt.”


“Wish I didn’t need a fucking rubber here.”


“They all did it after.”


“Mira, spread wider.”


John started moaning. His cock was so hard. He put something on it. My hand was around it – it felt like a doll’s leg. The heat split me open. John lifted my hips and turned me over like that. My stomach was down, my ass high behind me.


“How many, baby? How far did they go?”


I heard myself moaning. I felt myself wanting. Something to stop myself from being spread empty wide. Ezrah loved The Joy of Sex. He stole it from his parents and hid it in the couch.


“Hey, come on, what’s so funny?”


“They go: ‘Mira, are you a doggy?’”


In the picture for ‘orgy,’ the woman was drawn on her hands and knees and four guys around her were squeezing her tits, holding her hips, pushing her ass. Ezrah called the woman a doggy. Like I want it now. Doggy! Doggy!


“You love getting fucked on your hands and knees.”


More. Push it more. I want it harder, more! I don’t care if it hurts!


“Shit, you know how to move. Sexy little girl. How’d you learn how to move?”


John was splitting my ass, watching me jiggle. Wind screamed through the window screen.


“Yeah, fuck, baby, fuck it.”


Fast up and down. There was thunder behind me. I felt my own body shoot out of my body.