I never told my friends what I was thinking about women. They pretty much figured out at some point that I just didn’t seem that interested. They knew that even if something started, it wouldn’t end up going anywhere. And I knew what they thought they knew. What did they know? They’d look at me and, because we were supposed to be different than the football pricks and their friends, they would try to send me these subtle signals that they were aware that it was supposed to be OK for me to be gay, even though I could tell it made them uncomfortable. So what did they know?
Derrick, one of my best friends when I was a kid and, by the time I was in high school, more of a moderately friendly acquaintance, once kissed me when we were hanging out at his place smoking pot. I felt sorry for him, Believing he had a chance because at that point everyone was pretty much convinced I was a fag anyway, so I let him press his lips onto mine and move them around, then stick his tongue into my mouth. Our tongues were dried out from the pot, and we had no energy, so we just sat there for a few seconds, disinterestedly rubbing our spongy, felt-covered tongues together. Powerfully unsexy, that.
A few years later, Derrick came out of the closet while he was a third year student at the art college. We were pretty much entirely out of touch at that point, but I still saw him around occasionally and said hi. I heard that when he came out, he basically made it a mission to make up for the years he’d wasted pretending he was interested in women by sleeping with every man he could get his hands on. I saw him in bars occasionally, and not the city’s openly gay bars either. He’d walk up to anyone, any guy who caught his fancy. And more than once, I remember seeing him leave with someone who ten minutes before had been crouching to get a view up the skirt of one of the girls on the dance floor.
Then one of those times- I wasn’t around when this happened- he predictably got too bold and made a very overt pass at a guy who really wasn’t up to considering the possible benefits of homosexuality. This guy grabbed him and beat his face repeatedly into a brick wall. There was a stain for months, which I can remember seeing, although it was only later that I found out what it came from. Derrick had all the molars in his lower right jaw smashed to pretty much nothing, shards of them embedded in his tongue. His cheekbone was so badly crushed that doctors couldn’t do anything to repair it. So now his right cheekbone is a metal plate. You can feel it, hard and immovable underneath his skin. He showed me once when I ran into him, got me to press my fingers against the flash over his robot’s skull.
We hadn’t talked in a long while, but as soon as he told me that story, told me about the feeling of his face swelling up to a gelatinous mass and of his lacerated tongue pressing against the pulpy stubs of teeth, I felt like we had always been close. So he became the person I trusted, at least for the time it took me to explain it all to him. I wanted someone to understand what I had gone through, even if he couldn’t do anything about it.
Like I said, we weren’t really close in high school. We had hung around vaguely in the same crowd, wannabe punk kids in ripped pants with architectural hair. We stayed out late at the video arcade, which was the only place that would let us hang around in groups. We drank and smoked and had a lot of fights with our parents. The most hardcore had big fights with their parents and ran away, sometimes for four or five days at a time. So during that period, I knew him mostly as a face from my past who also hung around at the arcade.
I knew a lot of people through that place. It was my whole social network. That was where I met Emily, my first girlfriend. We never did anything much, although I wanted to. We kissed a lot and gave each other hickeys. She was amazing at giving hickeys that would last for days and, for some reason, I was convinced that this would translate to her being great at giving head (which, I suppose I don’t need to mention, was something I hadn’t experienced). I asked her for it a couple of times, which is, I guess, why she dumped me.
It didn’t really matter, because by the time that she left me, I already had my eye on Marisa. Marisa with her gypsy face and her tough attitude and her reticent but perfect smile. She was the kind of girl we were all after, that kind of girl who can hang out with you and then all of a sudden it can get to be more. She’d drink with us, she’d flirt, she’d go home, but I could feel it right in my gut, that she liked me. So why should I care about losing Emily?
Every time I jerked off, I thought about Marisa. I thought about what it would feel like to get inside her. I hadn’t done that with anyone yet, either, so I had to go on my theory as to what it was going to feel like. In theory, it was pretty fucking amazing. I thought about it a lot.
All teenaged boys are horny, everybody knows that, but I think I might have qualified for some sort of medal in the horny Olympics. I can’t count the number of times I got off thinking about what it was going to be like to fuck Marisa, thinking about how her pussy would feel wet and muscular, like a piece of meat closing around me, which isn’t how it feels, but it was the only theory I had to go on. I figured there was no way that I could ever say anything like this to any of my friends, because there was no way they were anywhere near as bad as I was.
I was on my way to dropping out of school at that point, so I was working part-time as a short order cook in a family restaurant. I would be there in the bathroom, praying no one would be able to figure out what I was doing and trying to keep from making any of those telltale grunting noises. Your aim isn’t that good when you’re young, so I remember hoping that the people assigned to clean the bathrooms did a decent job, because there was no way I managed to wipe up everything.
Once, this old man was in the stall next to me the whole time. I started to get paranoid that he was staying because he knew what I was doing, that he was going to rat me out. I was scared, because I needed the money from the job if I was ever going to be able to move out of my parents’ house. But as scared as I was, I still finished the job. What was the point in stopping if I was going to get fired anyway? It didn’t occur to me until afterward that he might have been staying in the adjacent stall for an entirely different reason.
There were other stories from that place, which are probably best forgotten. Just let me give you one piece of advice: don’t ever order a Caesar salad in a restaurant.
Marisa and I had been dating a couple of weeks and things were getting farther each time. Each time, we’d cross one more little line in the sand, get that much closer. We both wanted things to go faster, but they couldn’t. It was a logistical thing. We both lived with our parents. I had a younger sister who was usually around. She had ten year-old twin brothers who were always around. She’d even told me that they had found a way to sneak into her closet by moving aside some of the boards in the back and that they used to hide in there with the door slightly ajar to watch her change. Privacy was at a premium.
We went to the arcade on Saturday, just to hang out and drink and be together. We had a few beers, but then a couple of guys from school showed up with a bottle of rum they’d stolen from one of their parents. So we hung out and we kept drinking. They had more besides the bottle of rum it turned out, but I can’t really remember what else. I remember kissing Marisa a lot, how sloppy and saliva-drenched those kisses got, because we were both so wasted. I remember feeling a spot on my face getting sore from the wet and the way her hair kept chafing against me.
“Let’s go, come on.” She was standing unsteadily, pulling at my arm, pulling me to my feet while I asked where we were going. “Back to my place. My folks are asleep, they won’t hear us.”
I figured I knew how bad it would be if we got caught, because she’d told me how insane her father could get, but I also knew that the kids- she and her nearly retarded twin brothers- slept in the basement and that her parents slept upstairs, two floors away. And besides, if I had been able to get off with an old man in the stall next to me while I was at work, what chance was there that I was going to resist the woman I had been fantasizing about a dozen times a day for weeks?
Her bedroom was small and claustrophobic and it made me way too conscious of how hard the mix of alcohol was hitting me. I felt her hands on me, under my shirt, pulling my shirt off with the grace of someone in the midst of a seizure. When it finally came off, I didn’t know if it was even still in one piece. But here was this gorgeous thing underneath me and finally it was happening. I wasn’t going to be another pathetic pimply virgin whacking off alone.
Just in case her parents had been disturbed, she turned on her stereo, not too loud, but enough so that they’d think she was down here by herself listening to music. The stereo was this lurid baby pink thing that her father got her, because he was hoping that the big boots and dark eye make-up and ripped clothes were just a phase. Coming out of it was the Dead Kennedys’ Too Drunk to Fuck and we were laughing about that... But I wasn’t too drunk. I was wasted, but I had never been as ready to fuck as I was at that moment. I can’t even imagine how drunk I’d have to be not to be able to fuck. I used to love that song.
At the same time, I was suddenly aware of the fact that I needed to go to the bathroom. I needed to go badly. My bladder was so swollen it hurt a lot when I pressed against her. What’s worse, it seemed to be keeping me from getting hard. At no point since I had hit puberty had I ever found it difficult to get hard, but every time I started to get excited, my bladder felt like it was going to burst, a horrible, swelling, stabbing pain. I wanted to ignore it, I wanted it to just go away, but I didn’t want my first time to be the one where I unexpectedly pissed on the girl in the middle of everything. We were half undressed and I knew: before it goes any farther, I have to ask her.
I asked cringingly, like she’d be so offended that she’d kick me out, because no man in history would ever have been so stupid as to need to go to the bathroom when he was about to have sex, but she just laughed and patted my head and told me “it’s the first door on the left”. I saw her head fall back on the pillow and I was a little worried she wouldn’t still be conscious when I got back, but I felt better when I heard her laughing softly and singing along with the lyrics
You’re out of luck
I’m rolling down the stairs
Too drunk to fuck
I stumbled a bit, but I grabbed the first doorknob on the left an walked in. It was a tiny fucking room and I couldn’t find the light. I was so desperate, I gave up looking. I was so eager to be done and get back there, that I didn’t think that aiming in the dark while wasted might have some unforeseen consequences. So I just let it happen. No orgasm ever felt as good as the feeling of being able to piss at that moment.
Still, in the background, I could hear Marisa singing along
It’s all I need right now
Too drunk to fuck
Loved that song.
That’s where it gets fucked up. I’m standing there, taking a leak, listening to Marisa singing and then there’s this weird, shrill, animal noise, a loud noise in front of me. It made me step back, but I’m still trying to hold on to myself, trying to stay in control. Then Marisa isn’t singing along any more, she’s yelling, she’s screaming at me
“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?”
And I hear a crash, her falling as she’s coming for me and she’s still yelling. I don’t even know what I’m doing, but this awful, screeching sound in front of me won’t stop. I think it’s the pipes or something and she’s mad because the sound is going to wake everyone up. I grab at the wall, desperate to find the light switch, but it isn’t there, and I fall backwards. I can feel the last hot splashes of urine on my pant leg, soaking through.
Then the lights are on. The lights are on and I’m no longer in a bathroom. I’m standing in a closet, hanging on to the door frame looking around at my half naked girlfriend, who’s yelling at me and at others. Looking at the two young boys in front of me, covered in something wet, crying, screaming, that awful shrill sound. Looking at the man who’s yelling at me and at my girlfriend, waving something, waving three arms at me.
You think it’s funny. What would you do?
You’re standing in a room with your dick still in your hand and you’re looking at a man with a baseball bat. His daughter is screaming something unintelligible at the top of her lungs and her clothes are half torn off. His two sons are on the floor in front of you covered in your piss. So go ahead, think of an explanation.
Derrick told me he went through the same thing, getting beaten. You don’t remember much of it. You remember these weird, still photo moments. I remember hitting the floor. And seeing spots of blood around me. I remember how loud it was all around me, all these voices shrieking nothing. The nausea that ripped right through me when he hit me in the stomach. And again. And again. And again. Seeing a strip of torn clothing, bloody torn clothing, hanging off my head of all places. Realising later that it was a strip of my own skin. And I remember for whatever reason, the horrible vulnerability that I felt, the desperate need I had, to try to get my exposed dick back in my pants to protect it.
I woke up in the alley behind their house. I won’t describe the pain, because it would be pointless. I had to walk home, through the streets, with people staring at me, trying to hold my pants up, because my hands were too swollen to be able to do up the fly. I told my parents I’d been beaten up by a gang. They’d surprised me. It had been too quick. I hadn’t seen them. They’d robbed me.
My parents took me to the emergency ward and they repeated my lie for the nurses.
I had broken bones in both my hands. Defensive wounds, from trying to ward off blows. They would have been among the first injuries I’d received. My ribs were dislocated. I had internal bleeding from blows to my stomach and kidneys. To this day, I keep my head shaved, because there is a patch, where the strip of skin came off, where hair won’t grow beyond a pre-pubescent peach fuzz.
Because of the broken hands, I missed enough school to fail my grade, completing the process flunking out my adolescent angst had begun some months before. Because of the broken hands, I lost my job.
When I got out of the hospital, I made a big pile out of the clothes I’d been wearing that night, even my boots. I took them out to our backyard when my parents were out and stuffed them in a garbage can, along with my Dead Kennedys records and set the whole lot on fire. I stood and watched everything contorting and disappearing and rising in smoke or sinking to carbon until it was out of existence.
This is the stuff I could deal with.
Derrick asked me if I ever wanted to ask the guy who did this to me what made him so angry. He said that he’s always wanted to find the guy who hurt him and ask him what the big deal was. Why would something so common make someone so angry? I mean, everyone knows about guys and their dicks. You’ll do anything to get it what it wants, take any risk. Any man, any man at all, should understand that.
Not anymore. Not me.
After that, I pretty much stopped getting hard-ons, ever, except those ones in the morning that no one can avoid. I just wait for those to go away on their own. I was twenty-five before I even tried to touch myself again and even then, it didn’t work. Every time I think about going there, it goes limp. Every time, I get the picture of this furious sweaty man in his bathrobe. Every time, I feel the blows on me, I am in that primal terror again. That’s what feeling aroused means to me. That’s what getting an erection means to me. Powerfully unsexy, that.
I let people think I was gay, because at least my friends, who weren’t gay, wouldn’t be trying to fix me up with girls.
I didn’t bother telling Derrick that my reticence never went away. He told me about his boyfriend and their dog and their life together and I realised I couldn’t tell him any more. I am no longer a pathetic, pimply virgin jerking off alone. I’m a virgin not doing anything. If a woman comes near me, I panic, I start counting the exits and thinking of those still images that have stayed with me. Everything in me starts to shut down and, as those images roll through my head, one at a time, slow like a slide show, I can feel my life being that much closer to ending.
I turned twenty-nine the week that Derrick and I were talking. I did tell him that I read a lot. That I was doing a doctoral dissertation. That I had gone to Europe for two years to study. That’s the stuff that sounds good. That’s the stuff in my life that is good.
It isn’t what I expected.
originally published in paraphilia magazine, issue 8.