When he is in kindergarten, his best friend Bethany Erwin leans across the aisle of the bus on a dare and kisses him square on the lips. There is a small smear of grape jelly on her upper lip, and she tastes like store brand peanut butter. As she kisses him, her hand comes to rest briefly between his legs and he feels a shift in the nerve endings in his stomach, as if the bus had driven over a dip in the road and his guts have shifted downwards sharply in response. The seats around him shudder with laughter and Bethany runs to the back of the bus. After that, he is unable to bring himself to speak to her. Within three months, she has moved away.
Millenium Park Grand Rapids, Michigan
"Hey, look at that."
"What is it?""
"Look at the sunset through the trees over there."
"It sure looks beautiful, doesn't it?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Just the...you know, the colors and shit, I guess. I don't know."
"It's kind of purple and orange."
"Yeah, but look at the way they bleed into each other like that."
"What would you even call a mixture of purple and orange?"
"I'm not really good with colors..."
"Everything looks so crisp and clean right now. Why is that?"
"I don't know, orange and purple. Porange?"
"Oh, I thought that was some sort of art term for this type of light, or something."
"I don't know any art terms. Hey, look out - you almost ran into that dog."
"Oh shit, sorry...It's just so...pretty."
"You know what, I'm going to go ahead and take half of your man card from you. I'll return it once you earn it back."
He leads his sister straight to the cosmetics aisle, wearing a pair of her shoes. They begin excitedly essaying and comparing merits of the various brands of press-on nails. Their grandfather shambles behind them, looking both ways before stopping a few paces back. As his only grandson, the last namesake of his family, holds his finger up behind the clear plastic casing of the Lee Kwik-Laquers and asks his sister if she thinks they will be a good fit, a yawning stock boy crosses at the opposite end of the aisle, glancing over as he passes.
"He likes to play monster...!" the grandfather loudly insists to the now-empty space.
Office of Dr. Benjamin Schwab, GP Chicago, Illinois
"I read online that it could be because of vascular diseases, like artherosclerosis, or--"
"That's true, but I think we should look at some of the more common factors before we--"
"-diabetes or a stroke."
"Have you had a stroke?"
"Wouldn't you know if I'd had a stroke?"
"Why would you mention it, then?"
"I don't know. How obvious would it be?"
"It's probably not a stroke."
"What about medications?"
"Is it that serious?"
"No, I mean, medications that I'm taking that could cause it."
"Are you taking any antidepressants or muscle relaxers?"
"No. Why, should I be?"
"Are you epileptic? Have you ever taken medication for Parkinson's disease?"
"Christ, you think it's Parkinsons?"
"I think we need to consider any potential psychological causes before we worry about any of the physical--"
"What about prostate cancer?"
"It would be very rare in someone your age. Have you been under a lot of stress lately?"
"Work, home life, family?"
"I just want to be able to tell my girlfriend what it is so that she doesn't...make any assumptions, you know? Whatever it is that's causing it, once it happens, I can't stop thinking about it, and I feel like I should say something to contextualize it rather than just wait for it to sort itself out because what if it never does?"
"Well, at some point--"
"Or do you think that maybe I should talk about how I don't know whether I should talk about it? That way I can maybe say everything I want to say about it without really saying anything about it, you know?"
"I think there may be other people who are more qualified to help you with that. Maybe a therapist, or even your friends or family if you feel comfortable enough talking to them about this kind of thing."
"How much is a Parkinson's test?"
For three months in high school, he keeps a daily record of each erection in the hopes of tracking all of the sources. While he misses some, his records are fairly exhaustive. One day he senses a slight variation when he sees Drew Holland sitting cross-legged in gym shorts untying his shoes. He records that one with a note to go back to it and possibly trace it to any potential corresponding feminine images that he has mentally stored away. He does not record the time that the nerves in his stomach tightened ever so slightly when Andrew Hilton brushed against him on the way out of biology class, the formaldehyde stink of the freshly dissected squid stinging sharply in his nostrils .
Studio Apartment Chicago, Illinois 2005
"Liking it doesn't make you gay, you know."
"I know that."
"I'm not even going to penetrate you."
"I'm not worried about that."
"Then what are you worried about?"
"Nothing. I don't know, it's just..."
"It's a pleasure center, just like any other. What's the big deal? I'm just going to graze the edge of it. You'll see."
She moistens her index finger and does so, gently and with great consideration for his sensitivity, gauging his reaction and adjusting accordingly so that he may receive the maximum amount of possible pleasure from the experience. He feels a rush of excitement shoot though his bones, an explosion of sensation so deep-rooted, simple, and pure that he instantly feels guilty. He begins to think about how well he wiped himself that day, and whether her finger is going to come out smelling like excrement, and as he does so the sphincter begins to tighten and the tingling sensation that has been racing back and forth along the surface of his skin begins to fade, and he once again hears the hiss from the gas furnace from across the apartment, the tap of the water droplets that fall steadily from the hose of the air conditioner sealed into his bedroom window, and the light scraping of his unframed posters as they rustle in the slight draft against his wall. She notices his self-consciousness and probes a little deeper, and this time rather than gasp with unexpected pleasure he bursts in to a fit of uncontrollable laughter and immediately begins to writhe away from her.
"Shh, take it easy.." she tries to assure him.
"I c-c-c-c-an't..." he barely gets out before tumbling even further into hysteria.
He tries to get up but she grabs him, playfully forces him back down and refuses to let him back up.
"Trust me," she threatens, flirtatiously. With her other hand she begins to gently trace the area between his underarm and his shoulder blade.
"Stop it...stop it-stop it-stop it--stop--!"
He finally pulls away from her, rolling off of the bed and hitting his head on the nightstand. She jumps down to help him, cradling his head in her arms and checking for blood.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry...are you okay?"
Within three months, she has moved out.