I admired Sam’s casualness and candour when I asked him to read the fictionalised (my best guess) version of what thinking about sex and masturbation might have been like after going through chemo and trying to come to terms with one testicle. I said that it was really a way of asking him some of the tough questions – had hair grown back? How had sex been? What did he feel like at the time?
He took it in his stride, especially since we were in a food court at our local shopping centre at the time. He gave me some straightforward comments during reading –
“We haven’t. Ever.”
“I only threw up once during chemo.”
“We couldn’t kiss while I was having chemo, my white cell count was too low and I could’ve caught anything.”
“Is this supposed to be me masturbating?”
“Nah, couldn’t do that either during chemo, all the chemicals going down there and everything.”
So I haven’t changed it, cause apart from those comments, the ideas are right and the fears are very true. Just so you know, this 5th part, then, is fiction, for story sharing and understanding of emotions. Sometimes it’s hard to put words to the exact truth, especially when your general description of emotions is, “Like crying and stuff.”
On his better days, he wanted more than to just hold her. On his better days, his mind was clear enough to let him think at all. Ordinarily this would have been a good thing. Any thing to get out of the cloudy fog of the drug haze he was in much of the time. But right about now the only thing clarity was good for was helping him see what he was missing.
As the hours drifted by and his mind cleared, he could see her face. She was so pretty, all blue eyes and beautiful smile. She was more than pretty and she wanted to be with him! Bit unbelievable sometimes. During the chemo – when he was feeling his worst, he couldn’t think of why that was. Why would she want him? Useless body couldn’t even keep itself together, wasting from these foul chemicals, not much to look at. And that was on the good days. On the worst, he was too weak to hold his own head up while he threw up. Over and over. Hadn’t eaten a damned thing but it didn’t make any difference – he’d vomit til he felt like he was about to turn inside out.
But still, when he returned to school, she was still there, still his. He could barely believe it when she’d let him kiss her; when she’d linked her hand with his and kept it there even as the duty teacher walked by. He’d known they’d been seen; he could see it on the teacher’s face and was torn between jumping up from the bench and shouting that he didn’t need the pity, and closing his eyes and hoping they wouldn’t be reminded of the ‘daylight’ rule. Didn’t want pity, but he didn’t want to let her hand go either. Her hand was so different to his. Long, slim fingers as opposed to his shorter, thicker ones. Beautiful clean nails, beautifully soft skin.
On the bad days he imagined holding her hand even as the needle pierced his skin. It was almost enough to make him forget about the chemicals that would push him over the sick/well border line. On those days, he rested his own hand on the sheet draped over his own thigh, wishing, imagining it was hers. It had to be above the sheet, not only cause it would look suss – not that he could imagine doing that in a shared room; let alone with that damned cannula in the back of his hand. Not only because of what it would look like, but because if he touched his own softness, lack of muscle, lack of hair. Shit, he hoped that grew back! Wasn’t so bad on his head – lots of guys got around skin head and no one cared. Josh was doing it even now and he was getting along ok. No, but most other places, where there was meant to be hair, no one would think that was normal. If he touched his own hairless, smooth skin he could no longer imagine her touching him. Why would she want to? He certainly didn’t. He had. Before. Not that he’d readily admit it.
He’d been home on his own. More out of boredom than real need, he’d tried to imagine her there. He could manage that bit ok, she was easy enough to picture, even though she’d been in her school uniform in his imagination – weird! Oh yeah, he could definitely imagine her there. He’d run it through in his mind a time or two; he’d seen enough to know what it was supposed to be like. In his mind, she put her hand on his and he’d pulled her gently towards him and kissed her. That bit he knew. That bit was true. But in his mind, that wasn’t the end. At home, by himself, he felt her lean over him, push him back on his pillows and stretch out on her side beside him. He closed his eyes and felt her hand (his) run down his chest and onto his stomach. Even as he felt the satin of his boxers, he knew that she wouldn’t have done that, not yet anyway, but hell it was his fantasy, so why not? So he continued, willing himself to believe she was really there. It was easy at first, the satin slid under his hand so easily. He closed his eyes and felt her fingers stroke him. He pressed up and felt himself stiffen against the satin fabric. In a very short time that wasn’t enough. He pressed up again and breathed in hard as he felt skin against skin under his boxers. Just thinking about her hand on him made him harder and his grip tightened. Ah, if only. If only she was here. If only it was her hand on him right now. If only she could be moving against him like this, just like this, and like this…ah.
It was only afterwards, eyes open, frustratedly aware that she wasn’t there and wasn’t going to be any time soon. It was only then, as he washed, that he could see it clearly. He’d heard the expression, “In the cold light of day” but suddenly for him it was, “By the cold dampness of a washcloth.” She’d never be there. Her hand would never hold him like he wanted her to. You needed to be normal for that sort of thing to happen and he wasn’t, not at the moment, not anymore, maybe not ever. He looked down at himself. Friggin’ chemo – meant to kill off the sick cells – killing off his body hair as well. Smooth as a little boy. Smooth and hairless. What the hell would she want with a little boy? Fuck it, she wasn’t going to be holding someone there. If she did, it wasn’t going to be him, smooth and hairless.
It wasn’t that he never got hard at the thought of her again. That did happen and how! But he couldn’t even bring himself pretend it was her, skin on skin – and it wasn’t even easy in the dark, under cover.
Not long after, he’d been back at school and she noticed his flinch when she put her hand on his thigh,
“What? Ticklish?” she laughed, bright eyes lit up as she danced her fingers down his leg. Her pretty fingers walked over the bare skin of his knee. He couldn’t breathe – did she notice? That he was hairless there, too?
“So soft,” she flicked a glance at him, cheeky. She couldn’t know what she was putting him through. Not soft, nuh uh. Don’t say it, he silently begged, don’t ask me if this goes all the way up. Just keep dancing your fingers over me. Don’t say soft. She obliged unknowingly, circling his knee cap with her nails,
“Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear….”
He breathed in slowly, don’t say soft, don’t say I’m soft…
“One step…” Her fingers left his bare knee as she goose stepped them along his thigh and he could breathe out again, for the moment.
“Two step…” She looked up at him as he drew in another breath, her eyes showing a teasing light. His eyes locked on hers, his breath held now. What if she stopped? What if she didn’t?
He knew the exact moment that she remembered where they were – in public, at school – and where her teasing, dancing fingers were headed. He knew exactly where her thoughts went as she laughingly began the next line,
“Tickle you under…oh…”
It was her breath that left in a rush then, her face flushing as she drew her now still fingers up to her mouth. Her eyes squeezed tightly shut and then opened just as quickly as he repeated her last word,
“‘Oh’ Yeah, I reckon.”
Neither of them spoke again for a moment. What was there to say? Too soon the bell sounded, signalling the start of afternoon classes and they were surrounded by classmates. Now what? Some invisible line had been crossed, now there was THAT between them.
She couldn’t believe her own stupidity! Now what? What if he thought she’d meant to say it? What a ridiculous come on would that be? Tickling! Yeah, that was exactly what guys wanted. Actually, how would she know what guys wanted? But she was pretty sure nursery rhymes weren’t high on the list.