A true story about what happens when words lose their meaning.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see The Kid is stalking me, looking to talk to me, to anyone. I see this everywhere, people like a bomb on a hair trigger, the slightest contact explodes a full attempt at connection. I sympathize with women on this, they have it particularly bad. If they even let on that they are aware the guy is in the room, he takes it as a strong invitation to come over and talk about himself. They're everywhere, bookstore stalkers and coffeehouse predators, empty, hollow, looking for something to fill them up, that something is almost always a woman. At 24 it's sad but normali, at 34 it's sad but dangerous.
So there he is, weaving and hovering, looking for an in with me. I don't like people, I don't like being approached by peopleii and truthfully I look like someone you'd never approach without air cover.iii I look like a mugshot, I look like I relapsed a week ago, when I walk past a church unseen dogs bark at me and when I walk into a store they call Homeland Security.iv Yet still, everywhere I go, strangers cross freeways or walk through glass to get to me, for what? To inform me that Karl Rovev wants to destroy welfare or all these bitches care about is money or "oh my God, you look just like my ex-boyfriend's Dad!" Broken people have a 6th sense for other broken people, I guess.
I finish what I'm doing, which is nothing, and he pounces. "That guy..."
"What guy?" I say it to make sure that the only guy he could be asking about is not standing behind me.
"The big guy. The big...big guy." So much for new post-election open dialogue about race. "He was huge--"
He puts his hands out, palms facing each other, and uses it to italicize each word. "Biggest dick ever."
"Oh," I say.
"Huge. The biggest dick ever."
So now I have half an instant to decide whether this guy made an assessment of Devastator's character based on some personal experience; or whether he is falling back on stereotypes about narcissistic weightlifters and is asking me to bond with him over a shared worldview? Or is he going with a racist perspective?--
Or, did the The Kid see Devastator in the locker room and is now compelled as an instrument of natural selection to tell me that he has the biggest dick ever? And if so, then I'd have to figure whether The Kid has not seen many dicks and is just mystified that dicks can get so big, or if he isn't in fact gay -- or thinks I'm gay -- and this is the best he could come up with as an opening line? Or is he so charged by the guy's overall size that he is imagining that because he's huge and black that he must have a gigantic penis?
So I don't know which one he means. Whichever I guess only indicates my own prejudices about guys, black guys, and dicks. No matter what I guess, if it's wrong he's going to think I'm a dick.vi
Big dick. Why is dick a preferred insult? I get what pussy means, and at least asshole is anatomically logical, but calling a guy his most precious organ -- what? A girl calls you a dick when you're overly sexually aggressive, ok, I'm copilotvii, but what do you say when a guy calls you a dick? "You don't know the half of it!"
He spares me. "All I did was ask him how long he'd been training, you know, to get that big, and he blows me off! 'Don't talk to me, not when I'm lifting.' "
"Don't take it personally," I say, "some of these powerlifter guys are overly focused. I don't know that guy, but I know what you're talking about, I know the mentality." Then, to discharge the anxiety he's feeling about it all, I smile at him and joke, "now get away from me, I'm lifting."
He laughs, but I instantly regret saying it. Now he probably thinks I'm a big dick. Which is good or bad for me depending on who he tells next.
Twenty minutes later I am in the locker room, and it happens: Devastator comes towards me. Completely naked.
"Big dick, huh?"
He stops inches from me. "Big dick?" He's pissed off, and I realize immediately the Kid was right all around. I've only ever been assaulted with one other gigantic penis in my life, when I worked at the VA and a schizophrenic on the cardiology unit came at us firing in semi-automatic mode. How that nut got hold of a Do Not Resuscitate form I'll never know, how he got hold of a stapler is less of a mystery, but he was walking and ejaculating and stapling the form to his bare chest, "I'm DNR-C, I'm DNR-C!"
So now I'm back at the same question with different assumptions, is he angry because we talked about him being a dick or talked about his dick? Surely both have happened to him before. Is he a narcissist or a homophobe?
I guess the former. I take my right hand and rub my left ear, I do this to get it up in case something happens.
Something happens. He suddenly slams into my chest, pushing me back, I'm already against the lockers so there isn't much room for me to go but I hit it hard. The wind gets knocked out of me. Oh, great, I think, I'm back in 9th grade. I hammer my fist into the side of his head above his ear.
To my amazement, he drops to the floor, out cold.viii
Now what, I think.
There are soon/instantly six other people in the locker room, tending to and restraining Devastator, and through a process of semi-apologies, semi-praise for my strength, semi-acknowledgment of his prior neck injury and current self-respect, everyone agrees that everything is cool. We shake hands, he pulls me in for a hug. He is still naked. Everyone grabs their clothes. Two trainers and I head out.
When we are well out of the locker room, one of the trainers glances behind and snickers. "What a dick," he says.ix———
- Absolutely abnormal. I never knew anyone like that at twenty-four. [↩]
- So get a ring of women to play interference, like WW2 aircraft carriers. [↩]
- Somehow I have my doubts, but whatever. [↩]
- Why is this self-fantasy so common, anyways ? Erryone's emo now or something ? [↩]
- It's been ten years by now, give or take, can you even distinguish Karl Rove from Dick Cheney ? Two fatty eggheads, which was which and who did what again ? [↩]
- Dude who the fuck cares omfg. [↩]
- FWIS a girl will use "dick" and "jerk" interchangeably, with the former being possibly more acute and/or less easily documented. Or maybe just less economically justified -- if her room-mate leaves shit all over the shared livingroom then he's being a jerk, but if he uses up most of the toilet paper and then leaves a smiley face painted on the last available square he's just being a dick. I never heard a female complain of sexual aggression ; I have heard frequent complaints of sexual ineptitude, but that's usually going from dweeby to creepy. [↩]
- Aaahahahaha. No, really ?
Good thing they don't have desks in locker rooms, I guess. [↩]
- The gift for fiction develops slowly. [↩]