It started around age ten or eleven. Or maybe a bit later at sixteen, it’s hard to recall. Despite all you felt and heard about its wrongness you reasoned giving it a go couldn’t be so bad. You had seen your mates do it so casually within the high walls that protected your boarding school from the rest of the world. One go. That would be it. No harm would come from experimenting. So when you arrived at a place you thought was most private, your room at home, you let down your pants and began to pump until a creamy goo brought with it an undescribable pleasure.
As the pleasure began to slip away a drowsiness pulled you to sleep. The sleep was the most peaceful sleep you ever had. When you woke up you met a different you. A you that made you think of the color green, and vomit. It spat hatred and disgust. So you reasoned it was because you had touched yourself, done an act detestable to God. You swore to never do it again. You prayed. You asked God for forgiveness, adding that he forgave you for your decision to never tell what you had done to any priest at confession.
A few weeks went by. You began to regain the normal you. Until you saw Peter, that boy who treated you with a certain kind of care, running. It aroused you in ways that were new. So you slipped into a classroom and pumped, pushing away the disgust and hatred that came afterwords. They pushed back with the help of their new sister, shame. You began to avoid Peter because shame had created a mask for you to wear. And even though you didn’t want to wear the mask it forced over your face whenever Peter came to you with his smile. Looking into his eyes became a burden. All his questions about what was wrong and what he had done and what was happening tasted like chalk. It made you want to spit and to describe all you felt as nothing. You had betrayed him, thought about him in ways that were sinful. It was best to push him away.
You pushed everyone away. But those who didn’t matter stayed. You met them behind screens where they let you see their naked bodies join in ways that made them make awkward noises. Awkward as they were they always brought the desire to pump. It was better to have this as the source of your desire than to have Peter and all the other men who stirred you as the source. Of the two sins, touching yourself or longing for real men, touching yourself seemed the lesser sin. You did it alone and God would be more merciful knowing you tried to avoid others in committing a sin. You chose this even though you had heard that all sins were weighed equal.
You were surrounded by saints, as least that’s what you believed from what others made you see about themselves. You believed this despite sensing how some wore their sins like jewelry one wore casually. Some even celebrated their sins speaking of how many girls they had “nixed”. When one of them asked you, with suggestive eyebrows, how many girls you had nixed another answered on your behalf saying you were a pastor and were too innocent to do such things. It filled you with dilute doses of delight, being called innocent. You smiled and went on doing what it was you were doing. You liked the bubble of innocence that enveloped you. It kept you safe, away from the judgment of interested eyes. There were features about your self you wanted unseen. The bubble provided the perfect oasis to keep them invisible.
You wondered if real pastors like Mark pumped. It seemed unlikely. It seemed even unlikely that his mind could harbour thoughts that would stir an erection, yet alone invite him to use his hand to stroke it back to softness. He spoke too much of God. The moaning of a climax and his preachings of spiritual purity couldn’t as a matter of possibility come out from the same mouth. Everything about Mark pointed to the unlikelihood. The air about him hummed a tune that sang i’m too busy with my life and God’s work to think about petty unholy things. Though he lacked the cloud of high-handed self righteousness that hung over Dubem. Dubem who said string of words like if only you would open your head you would see that whatever problem is troubling you has a simple solution. As if to suggest he had the solution to all problems. And even though he didn’t he went, unlike everyone else, through the trouble of thinking. It never occurred to you to be offended by what Dubem said in the way others were. What occurred to you was this: people stayed within different kinds of bubbles. They all had a self to preserve. And they spent their lives maintaining their bubble to achieve this.
Later, on the day you took a shower with the man, that man who pushed you to the wall and put himself into you, you got a front seat t watching how a person protected self. The cool of wall tile against your face and the painful pleasure that shot through you had become non-existent for a moment as all of you jerked in uncontrolled sporadic movement to what signalled the end of sharing a oneness with the man. It occured to you. People kept a portion of self to preserve the totality of it. You knew it at this moment because you knew you would eat and dine with the man’s wife later that night. When he would put his hands on your shoulder in the manly way he did everything and remind his wife that you were his “special” friend. Of course what he shared with you had to stay a secret, it was what made you special. You wondered what made everyone else special. Not in terms of how symmetrical their faces were or in terms of how well they wrote poetry or sang a duet but in terms of who they could become and what they could do behind a closed toilet door.
Hypocrites. That’s what you called them at first. But as time progressed you began to call them for what they are: human. Flawed creatures who soemtimes failed to acknowledge they were flawed. Mark was human, Dubem was human, even the man was human. And so were you. So you decided to create enough space within yourself to be just that: human.