I had caught a glimpse of the first nipple that wasn’t my own when I had been very young, maybe six years old. She was a woman coming out of the ocean at Bethany Beach. At nine, I fell in love for the first time. I saw down Jen’s cotton v neck t-shirt. Jen’s chest was as flat as mine. If I had put any thought into it, I could have looked at my own chest in the mirror and pretended it was hers. She was eight. She hadn’t yet developed. She had a blond bob, a sprinkling of freckles across her nose, blue eyes and lips that looked soft. I never talked to her. Dangerous. Shyness came with the edge of puberty and it was dangerous to the development of my psyche. I didn’t like being ignored. Jen moved to another school and I never got to know her. I hit the next girl I had a crush on. I slapped on top of her head or kicked the back of her chair until she cried. When I hit a girl, she knew I existed. But Mother put an end to that and punished me by making me stay in my room. The girl switched schools, anyway.
I was shy with girls. At the Lab School, the classes were mixed, with different grades. They didn’t even call them grades; instead they were groups, so kids of different ages were lumped together. It was a simple trick so you couldn’t be compared with the kids in normal schools. It was in one of the mixed classes that I first saw Gigi. She walked into the room, her ponytail swinging back and forth, sweeping against the back of her neck like an obsessed old woman keeping her sidewalk free of leaves in the fall. Gigi smiled and shyly looked away. Even though the smile wasn’t for me, it made the butterflies in my belly erupt in a frenzy. She was older by a few years and more developed than the girls my age.
“She has boobs,” said Larry. He was my age, too, and had just started to notice. But for him it was easy, even though he still had baby fat,girls liked him.
I was fifteen, in the basement of Ted’s house in Glover Park, when I came across his father’s old comic books. Crumb toons from the ‘60s. I’d never seen anything like them, full of big-breasted cartoon women having sex. I flipped the pages and got hard without even knowing it. “Would it be so bad if I took it out and let it breathe a little air? It can’t be healthy being locked behind a zipper.” I took it out, but first made sure that my friend was sleeping in the next room and that his parents weren’t going to catch me. I even walked upstairs to make sure, then went back down and locked myself in the bathroom. I was alone with my dick out and a comic book in my lap. Thumbing through the pages, I was cautious not to get a paper cut. It was so hard that it was throbbing. I had to touch it, but felt bad at the moment, even before I came. I hadn’t done it before and felt I was losing a part of my innocence. I was afraid of change. When I finished, I made a promise to myself never to do it again. I held out for three days. My parents were agnostic and never preached the sins of masturbation, so there was nothing wrong with what I was doing but I was still ashamed.
I have been enslaved, chained to my sex drive for seemingly my entire life by women, the slave drivers, the masters, and my keepers. Maybe it was an addiction? But didn’t everyone like sex? Maybe it just meant I was normal.
-Ethan H. Minsker