He showered first. He brushed his teeth. He combed his hair. After that, he would give himself a shave. He would feel more relaxed with a smooth face. He would feel safer with neatly combed hair. He would feel hopeful with freshly brushed teeth.
Now that the cleaning was done, he sat. He sat on the bed in his room. The sun was bright, shining through the window. There were yellow crystals glimmering. He had created them with jars. Jars that he filled with his own urine. Kaleidoscope images he liked making without a mess to clean. They sat on the floor and he stared at them. All he needed to do was sit.
He always adhered to the routine. For safety. Socks first, then the rest of his clothes. Getting dressed was the last step. He put on his socks. They were white, bleached, and clean. Socks without smells. Not even a scent from the dryer. Blank cleanliness. That was the kind that would do. Anything else reminded him of germs. Of disease. Of infection. Of himself. He disliked nothing more than himself. He hated being reminded of that. Of his flaws. Being alive and well wasn’t enough. He thought about that. Thought about the imaginary smells. He felt the idea’s cold hand wiggle up his spine. It grabbed onto his neck and squeezed. That sensation would last all day. The memory soiled the socks. He bent over and took them off. He wanted them to be folded for disposal.
He stood up naked.
He exited his room, socks in hand. He passed the living room. Went down the hallway and entered his kitchen. He grabbed a yellow dishwashing glove placed by the sink. He opened a cabinet and grabbed a bag. One of many in a box on the bottom shelf. He placed the neatly folded socks into it. He would have to buy more and wash them. Later though, disposal first. He couldn’t think further beyond that. Not without complications.
He walked over to the garbage. He tossed the socks into the bin. He stared at the bin, noticed its gleam. His heart began to pound. Knowing the socks were there was trouble. Something he needed to get past. Those socks made him think of his problems. All his problems. They were totems. They were burdens on his mentality. Complete removal would now be phase two of step one.
He used his gloved hand to open the bin. Reaching in would present difficulties. He did it anyway. Pulling them out was a problem as well. His hand sat in the bin. The action was paralyzing. He couldn’t go into work today. That was a certainty. It would have to be a no-call, no-show. No way out of this. Can’t stand the sound of the ringer. He thought of the spitty mouth that would answer. The people coughing in the background. The memories of their kids. Stories. They would be telling stories he didn’t want to hear. Constant stories over telephone sounds. Stories and coughing. Coughing and stories. And sneezing. The sniffling and coughing. The sneezing and the stories. The story of him. His bathroom. How he vomited three times at work. At least it was on a Friday, he thought. What day is it now?
It was Tuesday. Tuesday morning.
He was naked in the kitchen. In the Kitchen, stuck in a trash bin. Naked. A quick call would not be possible. A piercing sound hit his ears. The sound of wasting time. Time spent clutching socks. He squeezed them and began to sweat. He could not let them go.
An hour had gone by. His legs were tired. His back hurt.
The phone rang. He ignored it.
The kitchen was so clean. He controlled his breathing. In and out. Longer out than in.
He began to stand up. He kept his arm from touching the bin. Slow. In and out. Slow. In and out. Slow. Deep on the in, longer on the out. Finally, he had removed the bag. There was moisture on it, making him sick. Sick from the time wasted. Disgusted by the socks. They can’t be in the house anymore.
He went to the closest window. He trusted its disposition. He opened it with his non-gloved hand. He opened the screen to toss out the bag. He closed the window. He slipped his fingers into the glove. From the cuff, he turned it inside out. He walked over and placed it in the sink. In the sink it sat, inside out. He felt good leaving it there. He walked out of the kitchen. He walked down the hall past the living room.
He made it back into his room. The bed was made perfectly. There was, however, a slight wrinkle. It was right where he sat before. He stared at it and thought of the socks. He shuddered and went into the bathroom. In the corner was a toilet wrapped in trash bags. He had sanctioned the whole thing off. He had socks on his mind and couldn’t stop. Sweat formed in his armpits. His penis shrank into an acorn shape. His testicles ascended. He reached into the shower. The faucet labeled H was cool to the touch. It was hard and unforgiving. But it was clean.
The morning needed to be redone. He tapped the faucet three times. On the third tap he turned it on. It hissed its water. The comfort hung in the air. He began to feel better. One leg was lifted into the tub. “Careful, now, careful.”
It was perfect and in the middle. The same spot as always. The alignment calmed his nerves. He put the other one in. The water splattered his legs. Tiny beads formed on their hairs. It was warm and he smiled. It felt like Spring. In the water’s heat, he was himself. In there, he found himself breathing. On his dresser the phone rang two more times. They’ll be sniffling, he thought and he chose not to hear it.
His eyes closed. There was rhythm in the shower’s noise. He tried to count the drops. There were too many. It bothered him to know that. He stopped shortly thereafter.
An hour or so passed. The water went cold. He shut off the shower. He lifted one leg out. “Careful, now, careful.” The alignment was perfect. He brought the other one out to join it. Steam moisture was on the trash bag. He looked away. He would have to count his socks later to sleep. Tonight. Tonight I’ll do that.
He went to the mirror. He brushed his teeth. Hard. His gums ached.
He combed his hair. Hard. Strands got stuck in the bristles.
He shaved his face. Hard. It became agitated until he cut himself.
He was now on Wednesday’s routine. It was Tuesday. He felt sick thinking about it. He stared at himself in the mirror. Thoughts of his old female lingered. She would sit in bed, naked. He would do this, and she would wait, naked. He wanted to feel her breasts. He imagined her being fucked. Her face when she moaned. He felt aroused. His penis started to grow. He began to question the source. Had he been aroused by her moaning? By her breasts, their memory? Her hard nipples? Or did that imaginary man’s body arouse him? The sleek back, the hairy butt. The pounding of it. That man’s testicles swaying with the motion. That man’s penis going all the way in. The hardness of it. Was that what aroused him?
Am I gay? His own penis ached now. It was tired of the confusion. Should I try masturbating to men? He looked at the mirror, at himself. His razor burned face. He thought of a hard penis. Is that what I want?
He started to masturbate. His exhausted penis began to shrink. He imagined sucking on a phantom dick. Have I been in the closet? Has that made me this way? He began to sweat. He felt ill thinking about this scenario. Thinking about himself with a penis in his mouth.
He couldn’t do it.
Again, he thought of her breasts. Her face as she moaned. Her breasts. Their bouncing. Her closed eyes. He began to smell her vagina, its memory. Before she had left him. The sweetness of it. The hard penis going into it. The balls slapping her butt with each thrust. Who was having sex with her?
Her vagina made him sick now. It had the putrid stench of penis. Of one-night-stand condoms. Of other people’s cum. Of someone else’s bed. Of sheets dried with dryer sheets. The awful fabricated scent of spring mist. She slept there. Ball-ached thighs. Cum. Condoms. Her vagina was ruined.
His penis again became tired. He stopped masturbating.
“I’m not gay.”He looked down. His penis was flaccid. But then why would I try?
His penis seemed to move at its own sight. Perhaps his own penis turned him on; he couldn’t tell. He noticed a small bump. Raised skin on the shaft. Right by the head. Genital warts. It has to be. It was right in front of him: disease. He must have contracted it from the blowjob he just gave. His body got hot and prickly. The back of his scalp became itchy. He opened the medicine cabinet and removed nail clippers. I’ll get rid of it. He put the clipping end on the bump. The phone rang. He pinched it and his penis started to bleed. He dropped the clippers. Both hands went onto the sink. This is ridiculous, he thought. I haven’t had sex in years.
He looked at himself in the mirror. He was sick to his stomach. It was pathetic to be this way. Bleeding penis and all. A relief came over him. There was pain, but he couldn’t feel it. He only knew it was there. The phone was ringing again. He went to answer it. He’d have to.
In his room, the yellow crystals dimmed. Time was wasting. He paced by the phone. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. The coughing. The sniffling. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. He paced as it rang five more times. Five additional calls, missed. His penis hurt. He was crying and sniffling, disgusted by the sound. The heat was unbearable. He paced until he realized he was going to wake up one day and the past nine years will have been a nightmare. He had to stop it. He had to stop this whole ordeal. The phone kept ringing. He couldn’t stand it.
He left the room.
He went down the hallway.
He went into the kitchen and stood there. He saw the bin and thought of the socks. He picked it up and threw it against the wall.
The phone was ringing
He put his hand in his hair and pulled. He pulled as hard as he could. He thought he heard screaming. There was a knife in one of the drawers. It was serrated for cutting bread. Maybe if I focused hard enough. Yes. I could do it. I could try. Get rid of the hand. It’s the only way. Before he knew it, the knife was grasped. Nice and clean. Sharp. Maintained.
He placed his right hand on the counter. He focused on the hand. Focused everything to it. He thought about socks. About the toilet. About last Friday. About vomiting. About penis-stenched vaginas. About her face. About those balls. About that penis he just sucked. About the stories. About dryer sheets. About the coughing. About the sniffling.
The phone was ringing.
“I wish I didn’t feel this way.” He took a deep breath. He placed the blade on his wrist and cut. He hacked and sawed. It was excruciating. The worst pain he knew he should feel.
His penis was still bleeding.
The phone was still ringing.
I won’t feel this way forever.
Back and forth. Further back than forward. His skin tore, the bone raddled. He cut ligaments. He cut veins. The blood spilled from the wound. It was all over the counter.
The phone was ringing.
He was sweating. The blood was making a mess. He wanted to stop and clean. No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No. I can’t stop or it won’t work. I can’t clean every thing. Not anymore. It was working. The hand was almost off. He didn’t want to clean. He could wear socks again. She could touch him again. She could love him. When I’m done, I’ll call her. She’ll be happy to know I’m better.
The phone was ringing.
Almost there. He felt tired and woozy. His head was light. Almost done.
With rigorous strokes he persisted. He could feel himself crying. He knew this was the only way. And just like that, he made his way through. He dropped the knife. He took two steps back. The hand stayed on the counter. He hated looking at it. Blood spurted from the nub. He took two more steps back. He sat down on the floor, still naked.
The kitchen was a mess. He didn’t want to clean it. Instead, he felt like napping. It’ll be here when I wake up, he thought and he felt good letting go. He stared at his hand on the counter. He looked at his bloody nub. He sighed. He shut his eyes and took his nap.
The phone was ringing.
About the AuthorChristopher Ayala is from Milford, MA.