I’ve got crabs.
The thought ran through my head while I sat on a plastic folding chair at UCLA’s Student Health Services.
I’d noticed the itching two days before, but thought it was soap residue from rush-showering before my Milton class. Then I noticed the dark spots on my white Calvin Kleins, moving about like tiny invaders from a horror movie.
I looked around the white, sterile examination room decorated with posters for preventing STDs. My first college trick, and I get crabs.
Growing up before the internet and smartphones, I spent many days praying I could escape my suburban San Diego life. I wanted friends and parties, wild car rides, late night conversations while drinking Manhattans, and hours writing scripts, novels, and comics.
I also wanted to meet men — real, muscular, sexy men who didn’t know about the awkward, scared kid who sometimes spent his nights at home crying, worried he’d always be alone. I wanted to make out, suck cock, and fuck. A lot.
None of my family or church friends knew about that life; it was covered by lies.
I wasn’t a virgin. By age 21 when my UCLA acceptance letter arrived, I’d had some tricks and gone clubbing. But none of my family or church friends knew about that life; it was covered by lies. College, I knew, would change that.
And so, with a new wardrobe and gym membership, I became Rick! Shorter to write, butcher to say, and the perfect completion to my new, confident, queer identity.
I just never imagined the new me would include a social disease.
One month after school began, while exiting TenPercent, UCLA’s gay newsmagazine, I passed a tall, muscular guy with soft brown hair and a cute smile…
CONTACT! Point-five seconds; we both knew we were gay and interested!
Three minutes later, Mack — which isn’t his real name, but he gave me crabs, and I’m over it now, so I’m going to call him that — pinned me against the men’s restroom wall in Ackerman Union. His body was heavy, his kisses deep, powerful. I was instantly rock hard until some dude came in to piss and we had to stop.
However, a date was made: Mack’s studio apartment, and I’d bring the entertainment.
“These are my favorite Wonder Woman episodes,” I said, sliding the Columbia House VHS tape into Mack’s dusty black TV / VCR. “‘The Feminum Mystique,’ guest starring a then-unknown Debra Winger.”
“These are my favorite Wonder Woman episodes,” I said, sliding the Columbia House VHS tape into Mack’s dusty black TV / VCR.
Mack nodded, but he was focused on packing weed into my beautiful new pipe: the blue and white porcelain head of Shri Ganesh attached to a long, thin, ornately decorated aluminum mouthpiece. I’d bought it just before leaving San Diego, both to honor my religious studies background and because it felt like something you did when moving out. When Mack mentioned having pot, I brought it along.
After all, this night felt special.
“Wonder Woman’s got so many fun moments,” I continued, now realizing Mack’s tan room only housed a futon, coffee table, random brown loveseat, and a table for the TV. “Like when Lynda Carter literally pushes a plane so the Nazis can’t steal it — and pulls her hair out of her mouth while doing it! How awesome is that?” No response. “You’ve seen the show, right?”
“Bowl’s really small…” Mack observed, missing my question.
“It’s Shri Ganesh,” I explained helpfully. “The Hindu God.”
Mack tossed the pipe, grabbed a blue plastic bong from behind his futon and loaded it. Dirty bong water and all.
My heart sank slightly. That was my pipe. I filled our mugs with Charles Shaw merlot. Just as I finished, bubbling pops of pot smoke traveled through the bong. I should have gotten the first toke, and Mack should have insisted I take it.
As if sensing my sadness, Mack kissed me and cannonballed the smoke into my mouth. I inhaled deeply, loving the mix of pot and wine-stained breath. Excited tingling shot from my crotch to my skull. He took another hit and blew it into me again.
“You know, I never got into Wonder Woman,” he said offhandedly, then kissed me again.
She had secrets, like me, and we both knew that when we unleashed our real selves nothing could stop us.
I froze. Wonder Woman was my escape growing up, Diana Prince my wise, powerful sister. She had secrets, like me, and we both knew that when we unleashed our real selves nothing could stop us.
But there was one thing more powerful than my love of Wonder Woman — my 21-year-old dick — so we fucked.
Sadly, the sex sucked. Mack’s futon was lumpy and scratchy, wine spilled on my new UCLA t-shirt, and he used his teeth during the blowjob. This “stud” was horrible in bed or really inexperienced, so a half hour later I left — video tapes and Shri Ganesh in hand.
A week later I waited in the exam room, pissed I’d given in to the urge.
Never trust a guy who doesn’t like Wonder Woman, I thought as the doctor entered…
CONTACT! Point-five seconds and we both knew we were gay.
It wasn’t a cruise, just the gay visual handshake. I immediately relaxed.
“Okay, says here you’ve got crabs,” the doctor said. I nodded energetically, like I was excited about them or something. “Anything else?”’
“Not that I know of,” I said, suddenly worried other things could be crawling down there.
“All right, drop your trousers and let’s have a look.” He put down my file and washed his hands.
I pulled off my shoes, pants and, as the doctor grabbed his white latex gloves, whooshed off my Calvins. There I stood, in socks, butt barely visible under the hem of my shirt. I felt stupid.
These were the eyes of a man who’d seen too many people die of AIDS or have their lives encumbered by genital warts, herpes, and worse.
“On the table?” he said, so I hopped up, trying to look casual-yet-helpful. The exam went quickly, all was normal, and as the doctor wrote down the name for lice-killing shampoo, I dressed.
“Are you aware of the gay outreach programs on campus?” he asked.
“Oh, Sweetie,” I said without thinking, “I am the gay outreach on campus.”
The doctor looked at me over the top of his glasses. I froze. These were the eyes of a man who’d seen too many people die of AIDS or have their lives encumbered by genital warts, herpes, and worse.
He didn’t give a fuck who I was or who I pretended to be, and I knew it.
And then they came.
Burning tears rolled from my eyes. I may have felt cool, confident, and the name “Rick” fit the picture, but only in that moment did I see the truth: I was still nothing more than that same scared boy from San Diego, crying alone.