Slut

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Age 11, Summer

In my last four months of college, I slept with ten different girls. I went out to hook up, and as president of a fraternity and director of an a capella group, I got very good at doing it. I swept through campus like an invading army, a wake of ruin between the bars and my bedroom.

Fuck it, I thought, I’d have some fun and then I’d graduate.  Find a pair of sheets to lie between, pillow talk from a comfortable distance, and then find a new pair. Once I’d left and regained enough of my mental faculties to count to ten, I discovered a transformation had happened.

I sometimes joke that I needed to graduate because I’d gotten too good at college. This statement is half true. By my final year, I’d perfected a weekly routine balancing straight A’s against three and a half nights of drinking. The full truth is that I had become the lifestyle. Graduation came and went and suddenly I see that these behaviors aren’t just things that I do anymore. They are my character.

My goal was to have sex. The language itself betrays me: as if sex is something you have, you collect, like you could stick your dick into enough naked bodies and suddenly you don’t have the drive anymore, you’re grown from the need, purged and free. New stranger, same story: an empty bed the morning after and that nagging feeling that I’m missing something. The midday sun streams through my blinds and warms the pillow next to my head. I wrap my arms around it and cradle it close, like a child.

Would you believe me if I told you that I was a romantic at heart? That I lie awake late, late at night with the hope of another lying awake and dreaming of me? In my 23 years, there is not a single pretty girl that I have met and let go without entertaining some fantasy. It might be the one waiting on the opposite side of the metro platform or the one who boards holding the book I’ve been reading: for a minute, an hour, a day, I have fallen for every single one of them. I catch the same mental scripts replaying, the same sad serenade of hopefulness echoing endlessly in the back of my head, yet for a laugh, a look, a smile, I fall.

Some corner of me understands I will always yearn for that perfect stranger. I know there is no counterpart chosen for us at birth. There are some 3 billion women on this planet at varying stages in their life cycles, and of these, there are some I will meet and there are others I won’t. I aim for certainty in recognizing the best one I’ve met, but I worry certainty doesn’t exist for me. How will I lie once I’ve found her? Will some other nagging feeling always lie restlessly next to me?

A burning for something perfect that I can never quite have. An infinite longing for the one lying awake, sleepless under some distant sky. The person standing in front of me, present in the flesh, is not the princess who will appear out of darkness to strip away this armor, so dull and scaly, and save my life.

Am I addicted to the chase? Will I only have eyes for those who will never have eyes for me?  Has the fantasy- the one, somewhere out there, growing and discovering until we meet as strangers on the street and know:  THIS! This is the one I have been searching for! – become the desire itself?

I haven’t always been like this.

In the 7th grade, I found my first girlfriend. We held hands, kissed after class, and went to movies on the weekends. After five months of dating, I grew insecure of her fidelity. Jealous, I broke up with her over the attention she was giving one of her friends. One day later, we were back together with a new shade of paranoia at the heels of our relationship.

We went to our first co-ed birthday party together at the end the school year. Like every gathering amongst the hormonal, the night culminated in Seven Minutes in Heaven. Sitting in a circle in the attic, a dozen waited patiently for their turn. When the bottle was placed in my hand, I turned to my girlfriend and asked, what’s the point? I wasn’t going to do anything. With a wry smile I can still feel today, live a little, she said.

The bottle spun and landed on one of her friends. This game is stupid, I thought aloud, as we emptied into the adjoining room. We turned on the TV and sat down for an interval that felt appropriate. We returned to a dozen silent witnesses that had just seen my girlfriend making out with the other boy. Straddling him in front of everyone, she sucked his face like the world was ending. My mom picked me up and drove me home.

I want connection so badly that having it is terrifying. The possibility of letting someone in- behind all the dance moves and the sarcasm and the smirks, letting someone close enough to see me, the whole fucking Me- and being rejected destroys me. When I get the ones that I want, hurdles of doubt begin stacking themselves in my way. Trains of thought that traverse the same worn tracks: she cheated on her last boyfriend so she will cheat again; she’s never single so her affections are fickle. If it doesn’t feel right now, how will it feel a decade? I catch myself thinking years down the line, imaging entire conversations that will never have the chance to happen. In time, I find I do not want her. I find ways not to expose myself.

I may be the first boy in history to make it through puberty without figuring out how to play with himself. Do not misunderstand me-there was no impotence of desire. How I tried! How badly I wanted to be like every other boy my age, masturbating furiously under the covers! Unable to orgasm, I became convinced there was something wrong with me. The problem was psychological, but I wouldn’t realize that until much later. I had become a head case about sex before I’d even been with a girl.

When I was 11, during my second summer at sleep away camp, I discovered a cyst above my right testicle. Known as a spermatocele, the condition is not uncommon. Yet the distress it caused me- lost in the woods without anyone to talk to- is incomprehensible today. I convinced my mother to take me to the urologist for consultation. Obviously, I was not a good candidate for surgery, but the doctor could say nothing to console me. It didn’t matter that the condition is inert (usually) and might go away with time (it hasn’t), or that its removal could only introduce complications. No one could know. I had to get rid of it.

I remember sneaking into my father’s tool room when no one was home. The way the old rusty pliers felt against my shriveled scrotum, and the way applying pressure to the cyst caused the blood running up and down my leg to boil. I squeezed and I squeezed, using just enough force not to destroy it, as I cried and I cried. I returned the next day and tried again, and when I failed, I tried once more. I was a freak, cursed to live with this terrible deformity, and anyone I ever fell for would reject my love upon discovery of the secret I was hiding. I put down the pliers and sat quietly for a long time.

My sexual identity was built around my anxiety with my genitals. The first time I ejaculated, I was an 11th grader, and it was in someone’s mouth. After 17 years of celibacy, cumming introduced my penis to Pandora’s box. The pursuit of new conquest is a way to avoid vulnerability. It never mattered that none of my partners even noticed the cyst. The possibility that one might was enough to cripple me. You spend enough time thinking there’s something wrong with you and it becomes you.  I wish I could reach across the years to grab that little boy, hold him tightly, and kiss away his fears. But I can’t.

It would kill me if you read this thinking I was writing off my failures to a handful of disturbing experiences from my childhood. There goes Wylie, exorcizing his darkness and learning how to accept himself. I know the “why?” behind a behavior is rarely useful; it is endlessly self-serving and masquerades understanding as progress. Yet as someone whose biggest weakness has been vulnerability, I share these words with you so that you might see my humanity as your own, and know them as brothers. Here I stand, naked and unashamed.

Vacancy: the instinct for dissatisfaction that keeps us wanting, working, waiting for something more. I know this longing isn’t mine, it’s part of being human, the insane faith keeping us certain that deep down inside, we were born differently, but someone out there is holding out with arms just for us anyways. This romantic martyr worships the idea of love so fanatically that it cannot exist. I cannot place my heart on the line every time I go out to a new bar or party, praying that I might be swept off my feet. Some nights will end in an empty bed after a quiet walk home in the rain, dreaming myself to sleep. There will always be an aching for some missing piece. There will always be another hole.

If I am not enough, no one else will ever be.