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Friday, June 06, 2014

The Facts are Strife

Memory Lane Dept.: Asked to contribute a short essay about an outdoor adventure for Metroland’s current issue, I was pleased to recall the summer I learned that sex really was as disturbing-looking as I’d feared.


WHEN I WAS AROUND 12, a fellow Boy Scout named Billy enlightened me as to what my parents did several months before I was born, and the fact of my own life, which I’d by then learned to take for granted, couldn’t obscure the horror of the act thus described. Like all boys who wax eloquently about sex, he was a poet, drawing terms from what we understood to be a Forbidden Words list and giving them added color merely by the lively associations he created among them.

He was also, I learned, an avid onanist, a process he limned with similar enthusiasm. In fact, he was going to give it a shot then and there and hoped I’d join in. I fled the tent and spent the next couple of hours brooding in a nearby forest, the carnage of relentless mosquitos a suitable punishment for having allowed myself to be wrenched from my bower of innocence.

Ah, but the fever took hold. I was launched into that period of every young man’s life during which he sports a nonstop erection for six or seven years, an embarrassing appurtenance that no amount of wanking can quell. Which explains why boys back then went through middle school with a hand in one pocket for camouflage.

It was a challenge, in those pre-Internet days, to find suitably inspiring material, but I suddenly felt the power of the lingerie ads in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, ads I would clip and horde until the creases rendered the subject unseeable.

Houses were built in my home town at a frantic speed, and sand was mined from a quarry at the end of my street, where my neighbor Kenny and I spent weekends pretending to drive the trucks left parked there. On one warm summer afternoon, as I climbed into the smelly cab of a dull yellow frontloader, I discovered a stash of paper at my feet. I recall feeling a chill even before I had my hand around what proved to be a stack of old magazines. Used magazines. Porn magazines.

And not your softcore Playboy stuff. These were ugly newsprint pages that showed everything. Everything tentmate Billy had so lovingly described now sprawled before my eyes. “What is it?” asked Kenny. “Holy shit!” For he now also goggled at the spectacle of sex so rudely revealed. We contemplated the stash silently for a while, passing the books back and forth, and divided the haul with the promise that we’d soon swap.

It hadn’t been real as described by Billy. I hadn’t wanted it to be real. But now that it was, I intended to do something about it. These pictures would help.

Metroland Magazine, 5 June 2014

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