Tuesday, January 5, 2010

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Boob Rock was two miles from my grandmothers’ house. I was 11-years-old. There was no sidewalk on Provo’s Center Street, just two graying lanes with black ribbons patching cracks in the asphalt. I walked to the side of the road, in the gravel and the weeds. After the farms stopped but before the houses began there lived a stonemason. He specialized in sculptures of lions, Christ, Joseph Smith and mermaids.
Past his steel fence and near a dirt lane sat what I assumed was the reject pile. A lion with a chipped nose and a Joseph Smith statue with no right hand sat in the dirt. Leaning against the fence was a topless mermaid with half a flipper and no arms. I called it Boob Rock because that’s all it was: two misshapen boobs and a head. I leaned down and caressed her coarse breasts. The left boob had no nipple so I favored the right. My senses heightened while feeling up the mermaid’s torso. I could feel Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church and a prophet of God, watching me through stone eyes. Sometimes I jerked my head around and looked at him. Joseph Smith’s thoughts came into my head: Is that how you’d treat a daughter of God? His eyebrows lifted. My hands became calloused, red, and gloved in fine yellow sand. I hurried home to masturbate.
***
Shortly after my twelfth birthday I was allowed to attend my first LDS Youth Fireside – Sunday evening activities for Latter Day Saints girls and boys ages 12-18. They consist of two speakers from the bishopric or stake presidency and are held at the chapel. This Fireside was different, though; it was for young men only.
“Brethren,” the bishop said from the oak podium. He was a fat man, clean-shaven, and wearing a black suit with a red tie. “I would like to talk tonight about a need for a self-inflicted purging in every young man. If you are pure in heart then you may sleep through my talk because my talk is directed to those who are not pure in heart.”
The bishop waddled from the podium. He returned with a large blank chalkboard on wheels. “I am going to use a visual aid tonight,” he said. “I want every soul in this room to stare at this board.” He tapped the chalkboard with his knuckle. “Get the image in your head and then close your eyes. Can you see the chalkboard?”
The lights dimmed and I closed my eyes. The air of the room felt cool and I folded my arms. I thought about Boob Rock and the mermaid’s one nipple, how it felt pointy like a pencil eraser. Perhaps the other nipple was intact somewhere and felt just as nice. I wanted to find the other nipple and roll it between my fingers, carry it in my pocket and show it to my friends. My dick began to swell, and I tried to think about the chalkboard, to find it in my mind. But it was lost, hidden in a sea of one-nippled mermaids. If a group of tadpoles is known as a cloud and a group of geese is called a gaggle, what is the collective noun for one-nippled mermaids? Orgasmic. My inability to focus on anything other than aquatic eroticism caused me to question my sanity. One of the reasons I lived with Grandma was because my mother suffered from mental illness; perhaps this is how she started, being controlled by thoughts.
“On the chalkboard are listed the names of those who view pornographic literature,” the bishop continued. “The list is large enough so that all may see. Is your name on the list? Now suppose those names are removed and those with a masturbation problem are presented so that all who are in the congregation may see. Again, is your name on the list?”
The chalkboard appeared in my head and my name was on the list. Yes, there were others listed. My older brother, Ryan, for example. He admitted to masturbating about a year ago. And there was that smelly kid, Scott, who tugged his crotch in the lunch line. But my name was the largest and in fancy cursive. I wondered if everyone else saw it, too. I opened one eye to see if people were looking at me. Perhaps someone was about to jump from one of the pews, point at me, and cry “Masturbator!” Instead everyone sat with their eyes closed, seeing their own chalkboard.
***
I had been masturbating to underwear models for a year. Scrambling through the Sunday paper, I searched for JCPenny or Shopko ads in hope for a sale on Fruit of the Loom thong panties or Hanes sports bras. Ink darkened the tips of my fingers as I squinted close to see the outline of a nipple or the curl of a stray pubic hair. The ads were scattered about my bedroom: two under the dresser, one under the bed, and three behind the stereo. My Dad had a substance abuse problem and similarly hid booze and pills around his home. I was thirteen and addicted to images of women in full-butt, high-cut cotton panties.
My neighbor Jim and I exchanged underwear ads. He was built heavy with jagged teeth and a long curly mullet. His home had blue aluminum siding with a tan carport. We bartered beneath his basement steps between the water heater and the deep freezer. There was no carpet, just cold cement that left bruises on our knees. The air tasted dusty and we could hear the movements of the people upstairs. Jim and his family were not members of the LDS faith. He lived with his grandparents, and neither one would have been concerned over what we were doing. To them, exchanging underwear ads was in the same class as swapping baseball cards or painting pet rocks. We could have easily handled our negotiations upstairs in his bedroom; Jim even suggested it. But my fear of community backlash and God’s judgment kept us in the basement.
In Provo, Utah, pornography was difficult to find. It was illegal to sell hardcore porn magazines, like Jugs or Swank, within the state. Soft-core porn could only be acquired via mail order or through a handful of licensed distributors. These restrictions were what made underwear ads so appealing. Just because porn was not easy to acquire does not mean that young males stopped thinking about nude girls.
Jim and I took apart the leaflets and spread them out on the cement. There was one rule in our negotiations: No pages could be stuck together. Jim liked brunettes, so I knew that a full frontal of a dark-haired model would be worth two galleries of panties. Jim and I smiled at each other after a swap, and I felt anticipation grow in my groin as I walked home.
One Thursday afternoon I got off the bus at Jim’s house. We went in the basement and I spread out my stash. “Have you ever seen a bunny book?” Jim asked.
I shook my head. Jim reached in his backpack and pulled out a Playboy. He slapped it on the cement, scattering my underwear ads. Jim grinned. Small pieces of bread were crammed between his canines. I picked up the Playboy and felt the smooth gloss of the cover. It was thick and heavy with pages and pages of naked women. Perspiration rolled down my brow and I wiped the moisture before it fell. The issue was six years old, dated July 1987. I opened the magazine and the basement window reflected on the pages. I was shaking while flipping through “The Women of Moscow.” Images of firm nipples and close shots of ass crack washed over me. It was the only time in my life I was too aroused to produce an erection. I thought about sin and how looking at girls’ no-no-spots could cause God to withhold blessings. The problem was, I didn’t know what those blessing were. I had not received them so they appeared like a fuzzy carrot in the distance. My eyes rose to the light fixture on the ceiling and then they rolled down to the Playboy.
“Where did you get this?” I asked.
Jim told me his grandpa had a collection in the basement. He kept them in a cardboard box on a shelf near the small electronics equipment. Jim had stumbled across them last week while helping his grandfather fix the VCR. He led me down the hall to a desk next to three aluminum shelves. On the middle shelf sat a large brown box with a lid that slipped over the top.
“Is that it?” I asked.
Jim nodded, his curly mullet bouncing. “Go ahead,” he said. “Open it.” Jim lifted his shirt and dug lint from his belly button. I tugged the box to the floor and opened the lid. There were over one hundred Playboys—decades of naked women. We pulled them out like candy from a pillowcase. Flipping through the pages, we viewed a variety of vaginas from ones with thick curls to prepubescent lines.
Jim allowed me to borrow four Playboys as long as I promised not to soil them. I agreed and hurried home. I went directly to my room and hid the magazines in a glow-in-the-dark He-Man duffle bag. There was no lock on my bedroom door. My grandmother did not believe in locks. The bedrooms and bathrooms of our house were all free access. “I’ve seen ya naked for years,” she argued. “You haven’t got much to hide.” I felt it was best to wait for nightfall before I broke out a Playboy and then busted out of my pants.
I watched TV for about ten minutes. My palms got sweaty and I dried them on my jeans. Sunlight shined through the windows. Skeletor, He-Man’s evil fleshless enemy printed on the duffle bag, gazed at me. “Grandma’s in the kitchen,” he said, “way down the hall. You’ve got time.” I licked my lips with a dry tongue and Skeletor nodded.
I poked my head out the bedroom door. Grandma was in the kitchen talking on the phone. I went back in the room. Hidden beneath my socks were a roll of toilet paper and a small bottle of off-brand lotion. I placed an open Playboy, the lotion, and a wad of tissue on the bed. I had been aroused for nearly an hour. It was time. I undid my pants and lowered them to the top of my knees, that way they could be raised quickly. I started masturbating and the doorknob creaked.
“I gots to run down to the Wal-mart,” Grandma said opening the door.
I placed the open Playboy on my exposed wiener and then covered it with a decorative pillow. Grandma entered the room. She was 5’ 2” and wearing a sweater reading “I put the Grand in Grandma.” I was sitting up in bed with a large ruffled pillow over my crotch; my pants were bunched at the shins, and to the left of me, a bottle of lotion and a wad of toilet paper.
“H-e-y,” I said waving my right hand. White lotion was smeared between my fingers so I casually rubbed my hands together.
Grandma looked at me for a while, and then her eyes drifted down so she could see me through her bifocals. She was 78-years-old. Her hand, glistening with moisturizer, reached up to her brown curls. A cow in the field mooed and the air-conditioning kicked on. She didn’t say anything. She just looked at me, shook her head, then left the room.
For two weeks Grandma did not mention what happened. We lived our lives in a superficial dance. I was uncertain as to what she thought. We would see each other in the kitchen and she smiled like always, but the smile was forced. I could hear her lips strain as she dragged the corners of her mouth upward. The clicking of her jaw said, “You perverted little shit.”
Between Mom’s mental illness and Dad’s substance abuse, my options for a home were limited. If Grandma kicked me out, I would have been homeless and masturbating in the mountains. I developed real fear for the wrath of God. Living with Grandma was a blessing, and perhaps God not only withheld, He also took away. It was God’s still and small voice that told Grandma to enter my room. I grew fearful waiting for chastisement. Regularly, I examined my genitals for growths and lesions.
But I could not stop. I started masturbating more. During the moment, it felt dirty, sinful, and glorious. But once the lotion was washed away and the Playboy was tucked in the bag, I would kneel down and pray. Two, sometimes three times a day I did this. Masturbate; ask for forgiveness. Occasionally, I told God that I was trying, and that I wanted to stop. Other times I asked for him to intervene, to please stop me from committing sin.
***
I came home from school one afternoon and found Playboys in the garage garbage can next to the Buick. Jim’s Playboys. Grandma was sitting in a white vinyl rocker near the refrigerator. Her back was to me as I entered the kitchen.
“Sit down,” she said.
I took a seat in a wooden chair next to the dinner table. Grandma looked at me through the fingerprints on her glasses, her lips twisted to the right. A breeze blew, and wind chimes jangled from the porch. We didn’t say anything for a while, and I knew she was waiting for me to start the conversation.
“Sounds like the wind’s blowing,” I said. “I better check on the cat’s water dish.”
I stood and Grandma pointed an arthritic finger at the chair. I sat.
“Do you got something ya want to tell me?” Grandma said. She weaved her hands and placed them near the elastic waistband of her turquoise sweat pants. Her toes wiggled in bulges beneath small white shoes.
“Nope,” I said.
“What about those damn magazines?” she said, slapping her palms against the arm rests of the rocker.
“What magazines?” I gripped the seat of the chair.
“You know damn well what magazines,” Grandma leaned forward and extended her neck. Her double chin subsided. “The ones I found in the skull bag. The ones full’a nudes.”
“Oh, those,” I said and forced a laugh.
Grandma nodded. “Were you touching your pecker last week?”
“No.” I said. “I was putting lotion on my hands while getting dressed. I didn’t want you to see me naked.”
“Horse shit!” she exclaimed. We sat in silence. The wind chimes started again.
“Clint, there was a time when a man could go to the whores. Back then we didn’t have problems with naked magazines and men fooling around on their wives. The devil stayed where he belonged… with the whores.” She paused as I gave a look of confusion. I thought that the prospect of easy women was the cause of my problem, not the solution. Grandma rolled her jaw and continued. “Now we don’t have the whores, so men sneak around in the back seats a cars with other people’s wives, or they sit on their bedspreads and masturbate.” She rubbed her hand across her forehead and leaned into the chair. “You’re young and you’re still figuring yourself out. Til you do, keep the devil outta my house.” She pointed to the door.
I didn’t get up for a moment. My mind tossed around what she said. Perhaps she was saying there was an appropriate place for sin, and I had not found that proper outlet. Maybe she wanted me to find a whore. Either way, I could tell by the way she gripped the rocker and sagged into the cushion that she was disappointed. I went to the garbage can and dug out the Playboys. They were dusty and one was wet from leaning against a grapefruit. My fingers caressed the covers, removing the dust. I climbed the steps to the treehouse in our back yard. The Playboys were in the hook of my elbow. Carefully, I tore out my favorite pages and started stuffing them beneath the cover of my school binder. I should have thought about God’s wrath, but instead I thought about Grandma.
I kept tearing pages. I took the remainders of the Playboys to the trash next to the street and I shoved the binder under my dresser. Occasionally, I took the binder out when it was dark, but it did not feel the same. My focus was not on the images. It was on my grandmother. After two months, I threw the binder away and reverted to underwear ads. It was the best compromise I could make.

1 comments:

Dickson Family of 4 said...

Clint, I honestly miss your grandma. I am thankful for your courage and flavor. Keep up the good work. However, I can't believe that one day I am going to have this conversation with my son. SHit!