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My Sweet Tracer

I woke in the trunk of my car on a cold Minneapolis morning. It was the first of December and once more this vehicle acted as home. The Mercury Tracer. A plain but steady car that’d been my off-and-on sleep spot for years. I bought it my freshman year of college. I was an aimless kid who saved three grand from a low wage job to snap it up. The Tracer was my third ride. My first was a money pit, the second a $300 shit show that friends and I spray painted then beat with baseball bats. It died and so I biked five miles each way to work. Long hauls down dark roads acted as a great motivator to save for a car. When I bought the Tracer I just wanted something to schlep me to college. I never expected it’d last twelve years. Never knew that over a decade later I’d be an honors grad but somehow living in the thing.

In the Minneapolis cold I wasn’t living in my car by intent. But in the past it was just that. It’d been my home the previous winter in Texas. I spent my summer in Oregon then worked a fall in North Dakota. After that I scooted ’round the Midwest in search of money, sleeping in my car as I tried out for drug studies. Then a girl invited me to Minneapolis. An old girlfriend from my years living there. I showed up and had some fun but she was depressed and shut me out. When that fell apart I had nowhere to go and nothing to do so once more moved into the Tracer. It was the end of November and the world was cold but I made do.

I spent my days in the library, walking the lake, and catching cheap flicks that let out at midnight. November rolled into December. On the first of the month I crawled out the trunk and into the driver’s seat. The air was cold and snow covered the ground of the park beside me. I brushed my teeth, wiped my face, then went to start my car. I twisted the key but it didn’t turn over. Instead I was greeted with a horrible roar. A blender choking on metal. I tried again and again. Then the car snapped to life but sounded like shit. Each step on the gas evoked a death scream.

I called an auto shop who recommended a tow truck. There’d been problems with the battery and I told myself this was something to do with that. I couldn’t account for the roar but a bad bat would explain why the Tracer drew no power. So that’s what it had to be. After all, this car was the key to my rambling life. Four wheels of rubber carrying me across America. So many ambling, aimless road trips that I’ve lost count. A couple dozen adventures. A couple hundred thousand miles. The facilitator of fun. I drove it all over the country: both coasts, both borders, dozens of states, cities, and national parks. I slept in this car hundreds of nights and lived out of it for months at a time. The Tracer wasn’t dead. Couldn’t be. It just needed a Band-Aid.

I packed what I could to the trunk so the tow operator wouldn’t know I was homeless. I sat in the Tracer’s passenger seat and opened its door. With water and Dr. Bronner’s I scrubbed my hair and shaved off stubble. This was just a setback. The car would be running at the end of the day and I’d make my next move — driving down to Texas. There I’d once more avoid the cold and live in my trunk all winter. I was doing great for money but still made deals with myself. “As long as the bill is under 500 bucks it’s no big deal.” I took this as a sign to exit Minneapolis. Things hadn’t worked with the girl so I knew no reason to stay longer. Today was Friday. I’d get fixed up and hit the South once the weekend was over.

The tow man hauled my car and I to the mechanic. They couldn’t get to it today but would come morning. My car was in their lot aside a busy street. I’d trunk sleep at night then slip out before they opened up shop on Saturday. They’d never know I’m homeless. I walked to the library a couple blocks off and browsed the internet. After the library closed I walked to the car to drop some shit. It wasn’t in the lot. They parked it inside and there it sat behind a locked door. I could see it but not touch it. My car. My bedroom. Well fuck. I knew this might happen so before the library grabbed my sleeping bag and winter gear. Perhaps I’d have to cold camp.

The Midwest is fucked come December. Night comes early and nature is unforgiving. The forecast for this night wasn’t great. Temps dialed down to 31 Fahrenheit. That straddled the borders of acceptability. I texted my ex explaining my car was broke and could I crash on her floor. I said I could get a hotel so no worries if not. We hadn’t ended on bad terms, she just needed to be alone at this point in her life. I still felt sour she beckoned me to Minneapolis without telling me this beforehand but that was fine. I’d come to expect her rapid shifts and repeated disappearances. They’d been a consistent piece of the six years I’d known her. She texted that she was happy to help but it’d be a few hours as she was at work. I didn’t get a hotel as now I had a place to crash for the night.

I walked to stay warm then caught Blade Runner 2049 in a second run theater. As the credits rolled I checked my texts. One had come in just before 11 saying her work went long but she’d be done at midnight. Would let me know when she was ready. Despite her history of disappearing off the map she knew my car was in the shop. She enthusiastically agreed to let me crash so I didn’t worry. I walked the cold, snowy streets with my backpack awaiting her text. Kept my hand on the phone that’d buzz and bring words from warm places. I texted queries but received no reply.

I walked to a McDonald’s for coffee but it was close to midnight and closed. I wore my bomber hat, ski gloves, and down coat. I stayed warm so long as I kept moving. By now the temps dipped to low 30s. I flicked my phone on and off from airplane as the battery drained. I still expected a text from my ex. There’s no way she’d just leave me in the cold after making a plan. I knew she had a penchant for weird, convoluted lies but nothing like this. We weren’t on bad terms. She wouldn’t leave me stranded. Wouldn’t slip off with no word. But she did. I was on my own.

By now it was well after midnight. I was hesitant to snag a hotel as I felt I’d be ripped off. I’d only be there a few hours. A few hours of warmth and comfort. But in this moment money trumped logic. I faced an uncertain car bill so pulled the purse strings tight. I’m cheap and that often acts as a detriment to my well-being. Here I was living the life of a bum instead of a normal one. That’s what really put me in this situation. Not the girl. Not even my car breaking down. It was my years of choices to live cheap and dirty. They led me here. Would keep me going. I live close to the bone and am used to discomfort. I could pull through this. So no hotel. I decided to try my luck on the banks of the Mississippi. I headed east to the tree line then scanned for a path to water.

I found a dirt rut that led to river’s edge. I walked its steep and rugged course, using my phone as a flash light. Made way through trees and down the embankment. I’ve slept in my car a million times in sub-zero weather. Camped along rivers on long kayak trips. So I figured one night here with a low of 31 was doable. Not fun but no biggie. I found a clearing just feet from the flow with a fallen log. I made camp between it and the water so come morning I’d sleep unseen. I bundled up, slipped to my sleeping bag, then closed my eyes to the world. The heat from my walk fucked off in an instant. Night air nipped my unprotected face. The deep cold of bare dirt disarmed the layers meant to protect me. Bag. Coat. Wool. Skin. Old Man Winter slipped in and fucked me with a frozen dick.

I tried adjustments and jumping jacks but nothing worked. Covered my face and breathed to my shirt for warmth but that only left me coated in condensation. Breaths outside the shirt formed little clouds from battling cold air. Off in the distance I watched a trickle of cars crossing a bridge over the Mississippi. I thought of their heated interiors and drivers headed to home. To partners and comfort. Things I’d have if this wasn’t the life I was living. A beaver patrolled the river just offshore, keeping watch and slapping its tail. Twenty feet away he’d constructed his hut. The cold soaked deep as I lay on frozen ground. My phone reported a temp of 25. So much for 31. At two in the morning, desperate, I called the girl. She’d turned off her phone. Ignored my texts. I cursed her fucking name and swore to never speak to her again. What a shitty thing to do. This wasn’t working. I packed my sleeping bag and headed back up the hill.

I walked the jogging path to generate heat. Laid on a park bench overlooking the river. Cold air shot through its slats. I tossed and turned and after an hour received no rest. I walked to build my heat then tried the bench again. It was a no go. I tramped twenty minutes to the nearest McDonald’s to see when they opened. They flicked the lights at five, the lobby at six. So six a.m. would be my savior. I’d walk these gates of golden arches in just a few hours. I paced up and down the main strip, E Lake Street, to build warmth. Then I turned back to the bench and lay in cold misery. I cursed the girl. Chastised my cheapness.

I rubbed my legs and torso to warm me. Felt thankful the earth only dipped to 25. A few days from now the weather was showing an overnight low of six. This wasn’t fun. Wasn’t some adventure or neat night to look back on. It was just fucking miserable. My nose, fingers, and toes burned with tingles and pain. If it were any colder I’d have to get a hotel for fear of damaging them forever. I grew up in a land of blizzards and forty below. Lost chunks of skin off feet after boots filled with snow. I knew the danger of cold and yet here I was testing its limits. I lay on the bench in a curled ball, eyes closed, digging in my pocket to check the time. Six came and went. I felt too gone to move. I rose at 6:30 and started my trek to McDonald’s. There I’d drink hot coffee and await news of my car. I stopped to piss under dawn light. As I peed two joggers blazed past me.

I stepped to the store and basked in its warmth. It didn’t feel so much good as it did a relief. I fixed my hair and bloodshot eyes then ordered breakfast. I wasn’t hungry but knew I needed something in my body. Slowly I warmed on coffee, bacon, and biscuits. The surrounding stimuli hurt my brain. When up all night the morning hits you hard. Lights bright. Noise amplified. Your brain opens its aperture and lets in more. Little sleep is the preamble to entering a hallucinogenic state. I’ve been through it before. Rotating between the real world and the one your sleep-starved brain shows you. I did my best to sip coffee and calm my senses. I took pleasure in eavesdropping on the crew of old men around me.

A group of five or six older guys sat at separate tables, carrying on disparate conversations. Utterances with no real drive or destination. They dressed in well-worn layers. I worked at a gas station in high school and knew these types well. Retired dudes who’re bored so gather out of habit. Not much to say but this is the morning routine. In my sleep-starved state I found their conversations funny:

“You know how much they sell these pants for at the Goodwill? Thirty bucks. I found these in a dumpster.”

“I never had hemorrhoids. My wife did. It runs in families. She had them cut out fifty years ago. It seemed to work for her as far as I can remember. They put a plug in you so the hole doesn’t seal shut when healing.”

I swallowed the last of my coffee then walked to the library awaiting the call for my car. It came. My engine was shot to shit and would cost $2300 to fix. That’s near what I paid for the whole car twelve years and over 200,000 miles ago. So that was that. The Tracer finally bit the dust. It didn’t even feel bad. I kind of knew this was coming. For years I told the car that if it just got me through one more trip I’d be thankful. It killed it every time, never breaking down, always firing up for me. At the end of a long drive I’d pat its dash and thank it for being so good. So I couldn’t complain that Death finally touched the Tracer. It was twenty years old and more than served its purpose. I felt it fitting that it died while acting as my home.

The auto shop left my car in the lot and said I could keep it there over the weekend. I’d live here ’til Monday then depart the city. I arranged for a tow and transport in two days. I had too much shit to take on the bus as my whole life was in that car. I’d have to go to my parents to regroup. The Tracer was my home, my transport, my everything. An airplane plodding across America at 80 miles per hour. I’d buy a new car as soon as I got home but for now this was a wake. A final 48 hours with my sweet old Tracer.

Over two days I packed and said goodbye. In the trunk I found a frozen banana flavored condom. Well there’s a load I’ll never blow. I passed the time with walks, reading, and watching movies on a laptop in my now dead car. Sometimes I twisted the key in hopes she’d roar back to life. This incident a hiccup. But the Tracer was dead and I knew it. Come the second night I crawled to the trunk for my last hours in there. I heard some guys outside my car commenting on the stuff inside it. They scoped the shit for a robbery. This put me on edge but they fucked off and didn’t return. So I went back to sleep for a final time. After hundreds of nights bedded down in the Tracer this was the end. I thought back on how much it’d given me. All the things it allowed me to do. I had so many memories tied to this car.

When I first bought it in college a group of friends and I went to the mall and came back with a dozen paper cologne samples. We stuck them in crevices and for years these paper tabs hung there. I drove the Tracer coast-to-coast countless times. It carried friends, family, and lovers. Brought me to crowded festivals and empty plains. I fucked in here a million times. Cried. Froze. Burnt up with Texas heat. But most importantly it was my home. I slept inside it at least five hundred times, its trunk an ever present cradle. It saved me thousands in lodging. Gave me the freedom to just pull over and sleep anywhere. To travel unencumbered. Whenever I took off on a long journey I never thought of its ability to carry me there. That was a given. It gave me its all and now I could ask of it no more.

Come morning the Tracer sat empty after I loaded my life into another car. I examined it a final time. The floor and interior sat stained and dirty. Black tape batted down threadbare seat springs. The tip of a coil spilled through. So many times it ripped the ass of my pants as I rose. That wasn’t all that was beat up on the Tracer. It sprouted rust, the driver’s seat was broken, back doors wouldn’t open, tape deck long gone, and some vandal kicked in its door at a MAX stop in Portland. Still it drove like a champ. So many years. So many memories. The thousands of hours we spent together. I felt thankful for each one. So I patted the dash a final time. Locked the doors and bid adieu. Its era had come to a close.

 

 

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Planet Craigslist: Kill Yourself

Planet Craigslist recounts my years of trolling men with a series of depraved sex ads. The entry outlining the project can be found here: Planet Craigslist: Bang My Mom

From the age of 15 to my late 20s I met countless people off the internet. Now at 32 I still do though not as often. As a six foot male I spend near zero time thinking of their intentions. If they are who they claim to be. If they’re out to fuck with or hurt me. I’ve never come to a date carrying pepper spray. Never told a friend I was meeting someone and here’s their info. Not even when it was in a park after midnight. I once drove to a sketch hotel at three in the morning after just a few words with an internet stranger. I had an off feeling so stood back from the door in case it was an ambush. It wasn’t. All that waited inside was an awful hookup. That I can handle. The sole time I met a man for sex I took precautions I rarely do with women. I parked far off, carried nothing with my name, and came barefoot in case I needed to flee. Not that there is no danger in meeting women but I give it little thought. Despite sketchy nights I’ve never been hurt. I’ve had the privilege of ignoring my instincts. I’ve felt uncomfortable. Wanted to leave from the second I laid eyes on someone. But I’ve never felt scared for my safety.

In Portland I met a friend I’d known for years through Facebook. We went to school in the same town and had a clutch of mutual friends. When she moved to Oregon we finally got together in person. The first time we met was at a bookstore in daylight. The second a comedy show at midnight. As I drove her home I took a wrong turn and wound up in an industrial yard. It was vast, empty, and supa creepy at two in the morning. In no time I got us turned around and took her home. A long time later, after we’d hung many times, she told me of that night from her perspective. How she had the knife in her purse ready to go. How maybe I wasn’t really lost but rather was readying to rape her. Despite my carelessness with strangers I’ve never considered such things. The worst I’ve had is discomfort and disgust. Even that’s no biggie. It comes with the territory of rolling the dice on an internet stranger.

For years Craigslist acted as my site of choice for sex. I shifted through the country and into new cities. Craigslist gave me the skeleton key to someone new. For a long time it worked. I met cool folks and fucked a few of them. I never thought much about the risk other than swaddling my cock in a condom. I guess I trusted my gut. Still, I often ignored the warnings it sent me. I found myself in sketchy situations. The nineteen year old who after I banged her told me this was actually her neighbor’s house. The drugged-out Russian whose mom called at five in the morning to scream how her daughter’s a bitch. The old ass lesbian in Minneapolis. She contacted me off Craigslist and sent a single photo. It masked her face but showed a bare body wrapped in mesh. She asked if I was on FetLife. Told me of her shallow vagina but stated we could try penetration. She rarely took cock but wanted one now. I felt iffy about her photo. It was black and white and told me little. But she was near seventy and I like old ladies. I gave power of attorney to the man in my pants and he said go for it.

We met late in a grocery lot near her place. I parked down the road and walked up to someone in a rubber raincoat. It had to be her as this was the only person there. I felt disgust the second I saw her. I got why she masked her face in the photo. It was rough. Overtly masculine and tore down from the decades. I’m no beauty but at least I don’t hide who I am. It felt like deception but really I just didn’t do my due diligence. That was my fault not hers. My instinct was to flee at full speed. I knew she couldn’t catch me and I owed no allegiance. But that would be rude so I greeted her, the disgust inside now growing stronger. We hugged and it felt wrong. I felt no attraction. In fact I felt the opposite. She walked me back to her place. The doorway opened to a long, rectangular bedroom lit in blacklight. To the right sat a small bed. To the left crates of yipping dogs stacked on one another.

She lay on the bed and invited me to it. I delayed by asking about the dogs. She was a trainer but these were a mix of both her own and boarders. I went to her bed and lay on the open side. She wrapped herself around me. My body language screamed I didn’t want to be there. She either took no notice or didn’t care. I sat stiff and uncomfortable as she snuggled into me. She smelled of fake citrus. Her voice was gravelly as if pitched through tarred lungs. She wore the mesh shirt from her photo. At least that matched with what she’d sent me. I so wanted to leave but couldn’t find the courage to align my mind and feet. My brain blasted an SOS but I didn’t know how to exit without hurting her feelings or arousing anger. She asked for my astrology sign and rambled on about what it all meant. I told her I didn’t believe in that stuff but she gave an analysis anyway.

I traced fingers on her tits as she held me tight. Maybe I could just bang her to get it over with. She wasn’t a bad person. Just so not for me. But I couldn’t. I’m no actor and also doubted I’d ever get hard with her. As she grabbed my cock I took her hand back to my chest and said sorry but I’m not feeling it. That I’d like to go. She apologized that I wasn’t into things. That of course I could leave. I tried rising but she guilted me into staying longer. She said she never gets cuddles and asked if I’d hold her for just a few more. She brought my hand back to her tits so I resumed twisting her thick nipples. I stared off to the ceiling and caged dogs. Disconnected mind from body to burn through these last moments. Finally she let me go, once more saying sorry it wasn’t to be. I walked out of sight then sprinted to my car, wishing I’d followed this instinct an hour earlier. Later I wondered if any woman had ever felt the same with me. If someone simply stayed in my bed to avoid the awkward conversation. I didn’t think so but there was no way to know.

I’ve spent just as much time meeting people as I have trolling desperate dudes. Creating online personas to play act as someone I’m not. This started as a young teen when I made a man fall in love with a woman I created from whole cloth. We were to spend Thanksgiving together. After the day passed and she no showed I revealed he’d been had. It was an awful thing to do. He did nothing to deserve it. Over the next fifteen years I trolled a million men but almost never one so undeserving. I focused in on pedophiles and philanderers. I don’t know if they deserved it either but at least I didn’t feel like shit about it. Still, I’ve hurt a lot of men’s feelings. Made them think someone likes them or at the very least they’re about to get laid. It’s inevitable that over my near two decades of doing this there’d be backlash. I don’t believe in karma but I’ve been its recipient. Sometimes the internet bites back.

In Portland I posted a million ads looking for sex and snuggles. They conjured spambots and creepy dudes but on occasion a woman arose. A lot of times it was just to say they liked my goofy post and hey good luck. Sometimes they were curious enough to get together. Sometimes we banged. It was always fun or at least no worse than indifferent. Then I started getting awful emails. For months I received missives from a man calling me ugly, unfunny, and a fag. He poured through hundreds of ads to find my posts. For whatever reason they enraged him. I have no idea what made him target me. My ads were the dumbest things ever full of corny ass jokes and PG photos of myself. He often changed emails but the responses stayed the same. Fag. Stop posting. Kill yourself. At first I responded in good humor saying thanks for the kind words or wishing him well. But my lightness didn’t lessen his anger. Fag. Stop posting. Kill yourself. This wore me down and after a month or two I simply stopped replying. The messages still poured in but all I did was delete them.

I spent a late summer day hanging with my roomies and two women from Switzerland. They were traveling down the coast and were with us for a night. I hoped one would wanna bang but that wasn’t gonna happen so I renewed an old sex ad. I forgot about it until I got home at night and checked my email. In my inbox sat a response from a girl who wanted to meet. I messaged back and got a photo. It had black bars on top and bottom as if it were a screenshot off a phone. I should’ve asked for more but I didn’t. She wanted me to come to her place and fuck her. Rarely did a girl straight up proposition me for sex. Usually we had some dialogue or them telling me I was funny or whatever. We exchanged a couple more emails and she said “I see you’ve been posting a lot, big boy.” That response, coupled with the other signs, raised a million red flags. Yet I didn’t heed them. My time in Portland was coming to a close and I wanted to get in as many last bangs as I could. I’m as dumb as the dorks I troll. So I ignored gut instincts and went to meet her. All the years of fine and benign meetings left me unable to imagine that this would be anything but.

It was late, at least midnight, when I drove downtown. I had the address and parked a couple blocks away. This was my standard practice but was more about anonymity than anything. The girl now had my number and texted to get a window for my arrival. I felt iffy about all this. I wondered if she was fucking around or a troll sending me off on an errant mission. When I walked up to her place and double checked the addy that iffiness turned to something worse. She lived in a flop hotel. From the sidewalk I could see the clerk behind a safety window. Bums and junkies ambled by. It didn’t look like the kind of place a pretty girl lived at. I crouched under the awning and texted I was here. Prior to arrival my phone buzzed with every incoming message. Now it sat still and silent.

I waited under the awning to see what came next. A young man walked out of the building and off to shadows as he ducked to a recess not far from me. After a few he went inside. A little later he returned. He enacted the same routine of slipping to shadows. He wasn’t out for a smoke or to meet someone. He looked different than the others I’d seen here. He was in his early twenties, pretty good looking, and dressed in decent clothes. In the normal world nothing about him would’ve registered but here he stood out. Still, I didn’t pay much mind. I gripped my phone waiting for the feel of a familiar buzz. Is this girl gonna get me or not?

I texted asking if she changed her mind. To be stood up was pretty standard and so wouldn’t surprise me. I usually give someone a few before saying fuck it. She texted that she was getting ready and I could wait in the lobby. I wasn’t comfortable with that so kept in my crouch outside. When the wait time was almost up my phone buzzed with a flurry of texts. They described exactly what I was wearing. Said I looked gross. That she changed her mind and wouldn’t fuck me. She claimed she spotted me out her window but that was physically impossible. I was hugged against the building and under the awning.

I hustled away. Holy fuck. This person was watching me and I didn’t know from where. I couldn’t see anyone but maybe they were across the street or in a parked car. I don’t know if I was scared but I needed to flee. I sprinted to my car, so thankful I’d parked far away and hadn’t given her my address. I put two and two together and sent a text. “I bet you’re the dude who kept coming in and out.” The person on the other end didn’t deny this. Instead they sieged my phone with a volley of vile messages calling me a faggot, telling me to kill myself. Holy shit. This was the psycho that’d emailed me for months. Harassing me over Craigslist hadn’t been enough. He drew me offline and into the world. The ugly face of the internet opened its eyes and found me in its focus.

As over email I didn’t let on that his dumb shit bothered me. In the past it hadn’t. But unlike the emails this got my heart beating. The safety of the screen was no longer there. Even as I drove away I couldn’t calm down. In a rational sense I knew I was fine but still my adrenaline spiked. This was scary. A little too real. His words had been so hateful but I never thought he’d act on them. I wondered why he chose me or took it this far. I knew there was no rationale behind it, that it’s useless to parse through the thought process of a psycho. I’d trolled so many dudes but never out of hate. I did it to entertain myself and others. To get some laughs. For him it seemed to rise from a deep and seething disgust for anyone he made his target.

I told him nice trolling. That I wasn’t mad. That I’d fucked with men in the past and game recognizes game. My congratulatory texts didn’t tamp him down. As with the emails indifference only made him angrier. He seemed determined to have the last word. To tell me what a worthless piece of shit I was. That I was a faggot. That I should kill myself. I asked how could I be a faggot if I was there to fuck a girl? At this point logic was long gone. He operated on hate. I reminded him that I’d seen him too. That I knew he was the person who’d harassed me for months. He ignored these things but increased the unceasing stream of animus. I drove the the ninety odd blocks back to my place. All the while my phone buzzed like an angry bee. Fag. Kill yourself. Fag. Kill yourself. Fag. Kill yourself. I stopped responding. There was no winning with this one. Once home I texted that I was done and blocking his number. For a final time he told me to kill myself. Then I never heard from him again.

JCPenney

The first time I jacked off was an accident. I was a dork ass kid pummeled by an onset of pubescent hormones. So I sat on the edge of my bed with a wooden ruler pressed to my dick. I wanted to know how big it was. I’d never came as I wasn’t aware that was an option. Kids in class made jack-off jokes by imitating the act with their hand but I didn’t know what that meant. Still, I wanted to see how big my dick was. I used my hand to make it overtake more notches of the ruler. Transport blood from top to bottom. Push stick to skin to add more inches. It felt good. Really good. Then my penis discharged across my body. A hot shot of sprouting seed. I freaked out. Thought I was sick. That something bad had just happened. I wiped and flushed my secret. I didn’t know what this was but it wasn’t long before I tried again. Soon fear washed away. In its stead came a five times a day habit.

I grew up in the country. Gravel roads, woods, and a mud-fucked river. Our farm was fun but also isolating. No girls lived near. I had few chances to see them outside class or Sunday school. Instead I played with male cousins that lived close by. With them I’d bike five miles to the nearest town of 300. There we’d knock doors to see which friends were home. With them we’d play outdoors or ride to the gas station for junk food. If we bumped into girls it was exciting but made me nervous. Even if they’d been a classmate since kindergarten I felt an unease not present with males. In class I could be funny or blend into the group. In the wild it was different. No longer in the neutral zone.

We were a class of thirty. The girls were my friends insomuch as friendships across sex lines existed. But boys played with boys. Girls with girls. School dances and one-on-one convos made me anxious. Still, I pulled through in fair order. Deflected with jokes and stowing away. But my sexual awakening added another dimension. I’d always liked girls but now attached to that sat a bubbling pubescence. I had no guidance in this regard. Didn’t know how to tamp it down nor fit this new thing into my being. As exciting as it was to fantasize and fuck myself these feelings filled me with confusion and fear. I could blow loads alone but didn’t know how to move past that.

I held an oceanic crush on a classmate. She also lived in the country, just a few miles away. In retrospect I could’ve walked to her house in an hour. Biked in a fraction of that. Moonlight meetings made easy. A trot down farm roads planted thick with soybeans and sugar beets. But I had no idea how to take action. Held no adult perspective saying we could have something if she’d have me. A stumbling, first time romance. Sharing pop and awkward kisses. Had she proposed it I would’ve shot to the moon. Cum my pants a hundred times. Had I said it to her perhaps the same. But I was shy. Scared and anxious. All I could do was stick pencils in her hair in Civics class. That’s the cruelty of puberty. It floods your body with desires before you know how to sate them. How to transition from jacking it alone to sharing yourself with another. So instead of with her I’d save my pubescent loads for the free ads sent in Sunday papers.

Sunday was sin day. Church and religious ed then home to the waiting paper stuffed thick with women. Glossy ads full of models in various states of undress. I had no sexual outlet beyond the JCPenney weeklies. There was my imagination but it couldn’t fill in the female form. We only had four channels and no computer. No access to porn or pictures of women that weren’t related to me or fifty years my senior. So I awaited each week for the new ads, new faces to inspire onanistic abuse.

I loved looking through them. At the beautiful brunettes donning bras and panties. If I was lucky both were displayed in a single shot. I’d sneak ads to my room and get lost in elation. Shoot loads to every visage. Then I’d step to the woods and burn these cum covered pages. Dead babies disappeared to smoke.

During this era of discovery some friends stayed the night for my birthday. It comes in spring, a passing of the torch time of year. Sodden leaves show their face as snow slinks away. Trees sprout cover for the coming season. The river melts and cracks apart, forming huge ice floes that thunder as they dissipate or smack into trees. For my party we decided to burn a fire. So we decamped to the trees.

I brought the glossies thinking my friends would like them. Illicit pictures that taught the female form. But they didn’t seem to notice. So I burnt the beautiful pages. They lit the wood that’d warm us. As the fire crackled I felt disappointed my friends didn’t take to the photos as I had. But we all came to sex in our own way. It’s a personal journey with quirks but also commonalities. I’m sure they had their own secret stashes. Later I learned porn had already seeped into their lives. Soon it’d enter mine.

Porn acted as a portent to the future. Bra laden pages its progenitor. Earth’s order states thought then action. For me that felt best. Learning my body was the necessary precursor to sex, an act that felt foreign and far away. I needed that slow rolling evolution, the endless hours in my bedroom alone. Back then I wouldn’t have known what to do with a girl even if one would have me. Better to first fumble through ads and imagination. I needed these years to overcome anxiety and awkwardness. To feel even semi-comfortable in my own skin. Still, my body screamed for the touch of another. In its stead I settled for my own. For the women that arrived each week in the paper. The ones who helped me take my first steps into sex. They came slow and unsteady. I’d walk a long path before going further.