I’m up shit creek with a full complement of paddles, but only one arm with which to row: two days before deadline, three days removed from shoulder surgery, lost in a haze of Oxycodone while wearing a space-age sling and stockings sans garters for anti-embolism purposes.
Said surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered from too many years of playing through pain in softball, undertaken in an attempt to become the beer-league Bret Favre. Years ago, my dedication — or stupidity, depending upon whom you ask — was such that by season’s end I would ingest an opiate/speed cocktail that allowed me to throw relatively pain-free without feeling too loopy. This no longer an option, I took myself to a mechanic.
I was cognizant that it was probably in everyone’s best interest that I write my piece before the surgery, when I was certain of having two hands, but I deemed it too early to hand in my homework. As it is, I’m sitting on the couch, writing in a notepad with my left hand, the TV on but muted.
Too early, I thought, because in a few days I will celebrate my 40th birthday, not to mention my first decade as a columnist.
The latter simply can’t be true, but it is. I’ve never done anything for a decade. Nor anyone.
As for turning 40, I remember waking up one morning on Walkerton to find a banner stretched above my childhood home’s garage: “LORDY, LORDY, DANNY’S FORTY!” it read. Jesus, my dad’s getting old, I said to myself.
Now it is my turn.
On the positive side, Charles Bukowski’s first chapbook — Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail — was published in his 40th year. But I am not Bukowski.
In fact, on one occasion I had a performance wherein I read only his work; a play of sorts, with me in the title role. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of having drinks beforehand, a fact that caused me some anxiety if only because there was a refrigerator of High Life on stage that the script demanded I drink.
While I was waiting in the green room for word that it was time for me to go on, which was any moment, my then-girlfriend recognized the perfect opportunity to grace me with the first and only blowjob of our relationship. I shuffled through notes and looked out for production assistants as her head bobbed up and down. She gave it everything she had, but I was distracted. I tapped her on the shoulder and explained, “I’m sorry, but I’m really not into this right now.”
She then looked up at me and said, “Well, don’t you think Bukowski would have gotten it up?”
No, I am not Bukowski. As much as I enjoy smoking, I enjoy breathing more. As much as I enjoy drinking, I dislike that beer and liquor wipe me out on the two-day swing. The night of drinking, the day of recovery.
Yes, through the years I’ve treated my body only as something disposable, like a late-model car one can’t wait to rid oneself of, but one that continues to eat miles of blacktop in spite of its neglect.
Which reminds me of something an older, much more established, artist recently said to me: “Congratulations, you made it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You made it to where you can write from a more mature perspective.” Then, he added, “Plus you look good. You do realize that wasn’t always the case, don’t you?”
My instinct was to ask, I look better now that I’m 20 pounds heavier and 10 years older? But I understood his larger point. He was right; it is one (and perhaps the only) caveat of growing older, the fact that the maturation process is indeed interesting. There’s just something wonderful about watching one navigate one’s way through life in a manner that bespeaks of knowledge, if not wisdom.
Then, I glance up at the TV. The film Secretary is on, which always excites me. I decide to take a break while simultaneously pulling out my penis, my poor, beat-up 40-year-old penis.
This is the fourth time I’ve been without my dominant hand — the second this year — and each time it surprises me that I can’t figure out a way to get myself off. Perhaps you could equate it with writing left-handed, for things never seem to take flight, like a bird with broken wing flapping wildly in the corner, grounded.
Despite my best efforts, that’s where I am going — nowhere — and I become frustrated. Soon, it occurs to me that I could stick it into the folds of the couch, as I used to do in my youth. Thus, I clear the couch and, holding myself up with my good arm as if to do a one-arm pushup, while wearing stockings and a bondage-like black sling on my other arm no less, I stick my cock in-between the cushions and start pumping away.
As I do, I look to the TV — Busty Cops is on now — but before long, I notice I am only rubbing myself raw and so give up.
Afterwards, I straighten my stockings. Then, I calmly retrieve my pen and paper, thinking, now where was I? Oh, yeah, the maturation process. It’s good, something lovely, dark and deep. I am aware that I remain a present not fully opened, a promise hinted at but not kept.
But I am not Bukowski. Nor Ginsberg, Carroll or Corso, a fact for which I’m thankful. For one, this little prick, like the miles in front of me probably, is still hard.
CONTACT MARK FLANIGAN: email@example.com