No. 3: Joshua Ferris’ “The Unnamed”

The third-best sex scene of the year is a tender moment in a hospital room between a troubled couple

Topics: Good Sex Awards, Books,

No. 3: Joshua Ferris' "The Unnamed"

He came into the room and pulled the chair close and sat down next to her.

“I saw a dog in a purse. I saw bread being delivered, loaves of bread in paper sacks, dropped off in front of an Italian restaurant. Later in the morning I saw a body builder in nothing but a T- shirt and sweatpants, such an enormous pair of arms, leave a health club and trip over himself. He went down with his gym bag, and a woman with a baby stroller stopped to ask him if he was all right. I saw a quiet street where I thought you and I could live very happily, a street of brownstones with good little yards. I saw a man chipping the ice off his windshield with a butter knife. And it was working! I saw the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even at this time of year, people are sitting on the steps out front like it’s the Fourth of July. I saw the last of the last of the light. Should I go on?”

She had her eyes closed. “Close the door,” she said.

He stood up and closed the door. She took down her pajama bottoms. He saw what she was doing and reached out for a chair and placed it in front of the door. He turned off the light and walked back to her as shadows began to assert themselves in the room. He climbed on from the foot of the bed and pulled her to him until her head left the pillow. A small spray of hair still clung there. She began to unzip him. He wasn’t sure what to expect. He couldn’t rule out one final treachery of the body, which if it had its way, he thought, would crown its triumph of cruelty by depriving him — them — of this too. But he overestimated its power, or underestimated his own. Or did they both want the same thing? Now was not the time to wonder. Now was the time to forget his body and to look at her. He needed nothing but the look she returned. Then she shut her eyes, and he shut his, and they began to concentrate. He found more strength in her than he expected. She moved under him with an old authority. He listened as she began to come, as she was coming, as the coming wound down to a long final sigh that accompanied a burst of static from the nurse’s intercom above the bed. He used the pillow to muffle himself. It was a two-minute triumph for both of them, and afterward they calmly restored respectability to the room.

You Might Also Like

Excerpted from “The Unnamed” by Joshua Ferris. Copyright © 2010 by Joshua Ferris. Reprinted with permission of Reagan Arthur Books.

Joshua Ferris is the author of “Then We Came to the End,” which won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and was a National Book Award finalist. “The Unnamed” is his latest novel.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>