i let myself go, and keeled over toward her.
i lay on my back, with my head on her lap, the
way i had known i would do. She let her left
hand lie on my chest, the thumb and forefinger
holding, and revolving back and forth, a button
on my shirt, and her right hand on my forehead. Then she put it over my eyes, and moved
it slowly upward over my forehead. Her hands
were always cool. it was one of the first things
i remembered ever knowing.
for a long time she didn’t talk any. She just
moved the hand over my eyes and forehead. i
had known how it would be and knew how it
had been before and how it would be after. But
she had the trick of making a little island right
in the middle of time, and of your knowing,
which is what time does to you.
Then she said, “you’re tired, Son.”
Well, i wasn’t tired, but i wasn’t not tired,
either, and tiredness didn’t have anything to do
with the way things were.
Then, after a while, “are you working hard,
Then, after another while, “That man—
that man you work for—”
“What about it?” i said. The hand stopped
on my forehead, and i knew it was my voice
that stopped it.
“nothing,” she said. “Only you don’t have to
work for that man. Theodore could get you a—”
“i don’t want any job Theodore would get
for me,” i said, and tried to heave myself up, but
have you ever tried to heave yourself up when
you’re flat on your back on a deep couch and
somebody has a hand on your forehead?
She held her hand firm on my forehead
and leaned over and said, “don’t now, don’t.
Theodore is my husband, he’s your stepfather,
don’t talk that way, he’d like to—”
“look here,” i said, “i told you i—”
But she said, “Hush, Son, hush,” and put
her hand over my eyes, and began to move it
again upward over my forehead.
She didn’t say anything else. But she had
already said what she had said, and she had to
start the island trick all over again. Perhaps she
c. 1185: Egypt
root and branch
The female relatives whom a man may not
marry are alike in this respect—that as a rule
they are constantly together with him in his
house; they would easily listen to him, and do
what he desires; they are near at hand, and he
would have no difficulty in procuring them. if
to these relatives the same law applied as to all
other unmarried women, if we were allowed
to marry any of them, and were only precluded from sexual intercourse with them without
marriage, most people would constantly have
become guilty of misconduct with them. But
as they are entirely forbidden to us, and sexual
intercourse with them is most emphatically
denounced unto us as a capital crime or a sin
punishable with extinction, and as there is
no means of ever legalizing such intercourse,
there is reason to expect that people will not
seek it, and will not think of it. That the persons included in that prohibition are, as we
have stated, at hand and easily accessible, is
evident. for as a rule, the mother of the wife,
the grandmother, the daughter, the granddaughter, and the sister-in-law, are mostly
with her; the husband meets them always
when he goes out, when he comes in, and
when he is at his work. The wife stays also frequently in the house of her husband’s brother,
father, or son. it is also well-known that we are
often in the company of our sisters, our aunts,
and the wife of our uncle, and are frequently
brought up together with them. These are all
the relatives which we must not marry. This is
one of the reasons why intermarriage with a
near relative is forbidden. But according to my
opinion, the prohibition serves another object,
namely, to inculcate chastity into our hearts.
license between the root and the branch, between a man and his mother, or his daughter,
is outrageous. The intercourse between root
and branch is forbidden, and it makes no difference whether the male element is the root
or the branch, or both root and branch combine in the intercourse with a third person,
so that the same individual cohabits with the
root and with the branch.
Moses Maimonides, from The Guide for the
Perplexed. Born to a distinguished Jewish family in
Córdoba, Spain, in 1135, Maimonides in 1159 fled
from the city’s ruling Islamic sect, called the Almohads,
to Morocco and then Palestine to avoid persecution.
He eventually settled in Egypt, where he became the
court physician to Sultan Saladin and worked on his
theological and philosophical masterwork.