Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crab Walk

People win medals and awards for walking across the country. This may seem like a great distance, but I’m here to tell you the longest journey a single person can take is from the crab lice remedy section of the drugstore up to the cashier. And then, should there be a line, navigating it will feel even twice the unbearable eternity. Especially with people glancing at the product in your hands and doing their best to put some distance between you.

My first encounter (one of only two, I hasten to add) with the flesh-hungry critters was simply insult to injury, given that I got them off someone’s couch and didn’t even get to do the nasty. I was either 17 or 18 and my sexuality was stuck in some peculiar, no-man’s-land of denial I can barely access today. I remember the facts, I remember the behavior, but I just can’t remember how it all connected. I’d been getting it on with guys for half a decade, but I always rationalized it away and couldn’t bring myself to use the G-word because I didn’t act or dress like the swishy guys on TV. My access to information was nil and the scrambled signals in my brain had me convinced I’d been getting it on with guys as a means of release, simply because I hadn’t met the right girl. Of course my efforts at locating said girl came to nothing, whereas my attempts to seduce guys were as complex as a Rube Goldberg cartoon, not that my brain ever noticed.

My friend Richard used to tell me stories about a gay guy he worked with. “Billy passed a Perrier bottle today and broke the men’s toilet.” So I started dropping by the photo lab where Richard worked, ostensibly for a visit, but mainly in hopes of getting a glimpse of this guy who liked penises. Not, of course, that I liked them, but was merely familiar with how they operated in the sack when the right girl wasn’t around.

At that point, taste didn’t enter the picture. No, wait, that’s probably not the word I should be using, given the subject matter. Aesthetics, yes, that’s it, aesthetics didn’t enter the picture. Pretty much any guy, no matter what he looked like, would do in that he was life support for a tallywhacker. Today I would consider Billy an overly-processed freak, meaning he was pretty average for the late seventies.

Most of my usual contacts were starting to wise up to the fact that there was a word for what we’d been doing together and they didn’t want to be one, a conclusion utterly lost on me. I think it was easier for me to envision that, while there was a word for that, I wasn’t one, so therefore I could go on engaging in the behavior. Like I said, my reasoning was short-circuited when it came to this particular topic. So I figured I could get it on with this Billy and I’d ignore the fact that he was one of those and we’d both go home happy.

I managed to pry Billy’s last name from Richard and waited until my parents weren’t home. I looked up his number in the phone book and rang him up.

Note: This is the LAST thing you should ever do if you are conflicted and trying to land a gay encounter:

“HI THERE!” I screamed, suddenly evoking a lisp and speaking like the worst stereotype imaginable. “IS THITH BILLY?”
“Who is this?”
I would have hung up.
“Really, who is this?”
“Okay, Bruce, what is this about?”
“Well if you’ve seen me around isn’t it fucking obvious?”
“So what’s your story?”
“Are you gay, too? You sound it. Although in an entirely fake kind of way.”

So I reverted to my normal voice and explained, ha ha, I was a friend of Richard’s and was just playing a joke.

“You still didn’t answer my question.”

Silence for a bit and then a little light began to shine on the darkened parts of my brain.

“I don’t know.”

I explained how I was still in high school and had done stuff but didn’t think I was gay.

“Do you want to come over and talk about it?”

I did.

I drove to his place, sat down, and talked. And talked. Many, many questions were answered that afternoon. He didn’t make a move on me, but I was damn sure about to make one on him.

The phone rang. It was a very recent ex, wanting to know if he could come over and try talking things out. “You should go,” Billy explained. “It wouldn’t look good if he showed up and you were here.” I hugged him goodbye and thanked him for the chat, which really undid a lot of the knots into which my reasoning ability was tied.

This sensitive, Lifetime Movie of the Week moment, however, was marred by the fact THAT I LEFT HIS APARTMENT WITH MOTHERFUCKING CRABS!

I noticed an itch around my groin a few days later. It got worse and worse. Dinner with the parents became an ordeal, as it was a half hour I had to hide my discomfort, my legs squirming and rubbing together under the table in such a way that my upper body didn’t give away the game. After supper, I ran to the bathroom, yanked down my pants and finally saw them. Tiny insect-like beings, scampering around in my pubes like kids at a playground.

I freaked right the fuck out. I had heard of crabs, but it was not the sort of thing about which my Christian school was going to provide any useful information. I truly thought this was the exact same thing as an STD and I was going to have it forever and ever, amen.

I came so close to calling my older brother and telling him everything, just to find out what the fuck I should do. I had the phone in my hands at one point. But instead I decided that further information might be prudent.

I called my friend Richard. “Ha ha,” I laughed. “Have you ever heard of this thing called crabs?”
“Sure,” he said. “There’s a foolproof cure.”
“Really?” I asked, trying not to sound too anxious.
“You mix one part turpentine to two parts gasoline, then pour the mixture over the affected area.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. Then you drop a lit match on it and when they come running out of the blaze you stab ‘em with a fork.”

I decided to do some experimenting on my own. I experimented with various products under the sink. The first was my dad’s cologne. I was immediately caught out on using his stuff without permission, but thankfully no one noticed it was emanating from my crotch. I tried zit cream, hair tonic, toothpaste, Preparation H, baby oil, mercurochrome (which did nothing for the infestation situation but left my dick a jaunty shade of orange,) smelling salts ; the entire contents of the medicine cabinet and family first aid kit.

But then I found the magic substance. Desenex foot powder. Worked like a charm. I kept the application up for several days and dead larvae began dropping off my bush so fast that wherever I walked I left a trail of dead crustaceans in my wake. Important consumer tip here: should you find yourself in this mortifying situation, buy yourself some Desenex foot powder and apply liberally until the critters are dead. Better your fellow drugstore patrons think you have athlete’s feet than the actual state of affairs.

But I got off easy. Someone told me of their friend, who after bathing saw a crab louse in the tub. They freaked, made a doctor’s appointment, explained their recent sexual history, got a prescription filled and paid for it, then went back home and checked the tub.

It was a sesame seed.

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