The practice eventually came to dominate Timothy’s life. He was ten when he discovered it while sliding to look over the edge of his bed. At first it produced a continuous pleasant tingling followed by a watery precipitation. The sliding technique was the only way that Timothy knew for a long time.
In the beginning there was no object of desire other than the process itself. Soon contemplation of the organ of pleasure progressed to events surrounding it. He would think about the babysitter bathing him, hitching her steamy hornrimmed glasses. She squirted cold water onto his back from a small plastic bottle, singing Catch a Perry Como / Wash his face in Omo / Hang him on the line to dry. Then it was the big towel, over and under, and all around. When he’s stiff and starchy / Call him Liberace.
‘Is it always like that, your little thing?’
He had to maintain a state of semi-arousal to keep crushing the penis without starting to tear the foreskin, and he found there was most pleasure in a gradually increasing engorgement. If he became too erect, he would put away the memory until he subsided enough to start pressing again.
Soon they would be in sixth class, the last year of Primary, so Brother Francis said it was time for their parents to tell them the Facts of Life. Lying in bed that night, he heard his father coming up the stairs, and called him to tell him what Brother Francis had said. His father sat on the edge of the bed, with just a little light from the doorway coming through. The Facts of Life, well it’s the way that men and women make little babies, his father said. You know the thing that you pee-pee with, and girls have a different one, well the boy puts his thing into the girl’s and that’s how they make a baby. That’s about all there was to it.
Timothy wished he could have stayed ten forever, but his days of running in the street would have to end, days of clanging tireless bicycle wheels along with a stick, catching bees, tying knots in the grass to trip up other kids. People would be telling him now that it was no longer sensible to go out in the rain and sail ice-pop sticks along new rivers in spate beside the kerb, even in a raincoat and sou’wester; that it was a waste of his time standing in the porch to watch pennies from heaven bouncing off concrete. He would never again be famous in soccer exploits with Latinate writhing on the ground when tripped, imagining agony like a hero tied up and lashed in a Roman epic.
Already the first tiresome school exam was on the horizon. The blonde girl down the street became shrill and scratchy when he touched her accidentally, and she made it clear he was not for her. Even the girl next door moved away when he sat beside her on the back doorstep, and said she didn’t want to get pregnant. On a street corner the boys were having discussions about whether oriental women’s things were sideways; the place to squeeze a woman to get your way with her –the back of the knees some said –and other tenets of popular biology. They agreed a secret language, in case anyone approached while they talked, in which cinerama meant sex, and what a girl had between her legs was a plaza. The worst words they knew not to say if adults were around were ‘sex’ and ‘virgin.’
Timothy was allowed to wear longers, jeans brought from England, by visiting friends. On his wall he put a picture that he got from a newspaper, of a showband singer with shirt open to the waist, surrounded by adoring women. He heard his parents muttering about it. His mother came in and told him to take it down.
‘Because it is unsuitable.’
At the barbers, Timothy waited, and watched the goldfishes in the aquarium swimming around their green castle and in and out of caves, checking pebbles with their lips. One of them was trailing a little banner of fish shit. It was wonderful the way bubbles zhooshed up from under a rock. He would have liked to wait longer to look at them more, but there was no one else ahead of him.
‘Can I have a Beatles haircut please.’
‘You haven’t got enough hair for that.’
He lived alone in his imagination, dreaming by the fireplace, where the coal was always forming little volcanoes with tarry lava oozing, in marvellous canyons of red and orange flame. He liked to heat the poker till it was red-hot and burn holes into the lino with it. Only when his legs got so hot that they developed little lines called ABC’s, would he move away from the fire, and then back when they disappeared. One time he skipped school by pretending to go out and just hid behind a chair in the parlour till lunchtime, and then pretended to come in the front door and went out wandering after lunch.
He had still not made the connection between the secret pleasure he was obtaining, and anything else he had ever heard of. He was peeping through the window, lying on his bed one evening when he saw a girl being whirled around by somebody in one of the neighbouring gardens. As her feet rose from the ground and her dress billowed, he could see that she had no knickers on. It seemed somehow disgusting, exciting and fascinating all at once. Later the memory could be used to intensify the pleasure as he rubbed himself against the sheets. But it did not make him want her at all, just the memory.
By the time he started secondary school, Timothy had progressed beyond the watery stage and it was getting more difficult to continue the sliding technique, with his ever increasing rigor and growing body. He still used the old method to get started. Sometimes he could eke out the fantasy to finish this way-still the best. He had to rack his memory for erotic incidents to enhance the experience but soon exhausted them all and had to turn to books for more inspiration. He knew there was a Harold Robbins somewhere in the house and he could find it, with a picture of a naked woman viewed from behind, seated at her dressing table. Harold Robbins was a celebrity in The News of The World, which was brought into the house on Sundays, with its blacked out sections for the Irish edition.
The picture was enough in itself, but there were also parts of the text where a rape might be described; or anything referring to woman’s anatomy would set him off, even a horrific reference to a squaw’s breast turned into a tobacco pouch. If his penis got too hard for sliding, he would turn over and switch to the hand method. Then he would turn sideways and let the semen spill into the white cotton sheet. He was now up to two or three times a day, and still reaching new highs regularly. The problem became folding the sheets to avoid the sodden patch. It would be starched dry in the morning, and could be passed off as the result of a wet dream if necessary. When he heard the other boys talking in the locker room about wet dreams, Timothy wondered what it would be like to have one.
The only embarrassing thing was the creaking of the bed. The quieter he tried to be, the more little noises it seemed to make. He always imagined his family all lying there awake-hearing every creak and knowing exactly what it meant. But nothing was going to stop him now. Not even the acne, that the advice books said was nothing to do with masturbation, even though the evidence of his eyes showed him that the number of pimples was directly proportional to the amount of wanking.
There was only so much mileage in memories of self-exposure and glimpses under girls’ skirts; and there was a limited supply of suitable books, though some champion ones provided months of hand-galloping material. Timothy’s first favourite was ‘And Not As A Stranger’ by Morton Thomson. He felt a sense of achievement after reading it, because it was long and serious, a ‘real’ book. There was a scene where the doctor examined a woman to determine pregnancy and knew partly by the brownish tinge in the areolas around her nipples. The idea of this examination took a long time to exhaust as a fantasy.
He found that the book ‘In Praise of Older Women’ contained plentiful resources for his purpose. To feed the ever increasing demands of fantasy, he then began to imagine a neighbour’s wife who had some kind words for him, behaving like one of the women in the book. Any woman who made contact and had a conversation with him, could be imagined opening her legs and wanting Timothy’s hands on her, rustling the nylon between her thighs and in under her pants. She would want him to penetrate her, and it was on the moment of entering that he would come, not after the boring, laborious grind that might follow. He compared each new orgasm, and often afterwards repeated to himself that the latest one was the best ever.
There had to be plausibility for the fantasy to work, and it had to be timed to perfection. New record-breaking orgasms were becoming harder to obtain. A little distraction, such as the sheet slipping at the last minute, could ruin it. Any idea of implausibility that entered his mind would be even worse. After exhausting believable scenarios with Mrs A, he would switch to imagining what could happen with Mrs B. Only one or two of them offered any hint of realism. Some of them required too great a suspension of disbelief to be much use, and could not be made attractive. The only element of appeal that really mattered, though, was sheer availability. It helped if they were not completely gross, but that could be outweighed by seeming availability or apparent interest in sensual pleasure.
When Timothy was fifteen, he took a summer job helping the local breadman with deliveries. The breadman liked women who giggled, it was so feminine he thought. So the breadman was more than fond of Mrs C in the last block, who always came to the door in her very negligible negligee and who giggled continuously. He would spend quite a while there at the end of their rounds while Timothy did the last few flats. In the middle of their rounds there was another woman that he lunched with, in the eight-storey blocks, while Timothy worked. But the days began at Mrs Bacon’s place in the flats on the other side of the estate. That was where they would meet up before starting their rounds. The breadman would usually be frying eggs, flipping oil onto them with the fishslice. Mrs Bacon would be sitting at the table, eating one of their Viennese fingers or coffee slices. By night, in his mind, Timothy pleasured all the lonely housewives of the bread round, one by one, the way that Yeats favoured wine –just the vapour, the angels’ share.
Carrying panniers of bread and cakes, one on each arm up, and down stairwells made him strong. He was allowed to have his first go at driving the bread van, ran it up onto the kerb and nearly crashed it, but the breadman only laughed. At the end of the week, Timothy would make the payment collections in his local area. One or two of his friends began to accompany him, and as soon as they had enough money they bought cigarettes and yoghurt or bottles of cream to drink, from the broken down van that served as the local shop.
‘There’s nothing like the real thing,’ one of them called Jack said. Jack claimed he had been staying at his older married brother’s house, and walked into the wrong bedroom one night after a few drinks. When he got into the bed in the dark his sister-in-law mistook him for his brother. So he shagged her and crept out again, leaving nobody any the wiser. The story was too good to question, it was followed by a long silence. Nobody really believed Jack, but they were seized by a mystical fervour for ‘the real thing.’
It was a time when girls were paired with boys in some instinctive way by the neighbourhood friends, after try-outs of kissing in party games, or along anonymous lines in the unlit, leaky garages under the flats. It was like picking teams for football, or seeding a tennis tournament. They assigned Timothy a girl called Joanna, a prize because she was said to be the only one who French-kissed. She was a ballet dancer, with straight brown hair in a pageboy style, and dark brown eyes. Timothy had long hair, and pale blue eyes. He fell for her one day when he and she were talking on the corner. There was something in the way her eyes met his, and he said, ‘Do you feel we have a certain rapport?’ She was a little surprised, but not embarrassed. ‘Yes, I feel that,’ she said.
The Sunday the girls decided to go with the boys to stock car racing was a day of full summer sun. The boys led the way over a stone wall and through a woodland demesne. They walked all the way through the trees till they entered a field of tall golden wheat, where the girls lagged behind whispering and laughing. A wooden bridge over a drainage ditch led into another huge field. Through a gap in the hedgerow on the far side, they reached the back of the crude stock car racing track and bunked in under a wire fence. They dispersed and regrouped again, bought ice pops and watched while the numbered and painted shells of cars raced, and wrecked. All the time there was loud and mostly unintelligible commentary from a three-horned public address system on the grass in the middle of the track.
After the intensity and noise of the racing, on their way back some of the couples lay down in the hayfield. The sun was still high and hot. Timothy and Joanna kept walking till they were on their own in the woods. ‘Do you want to stay here for a while?’ he said. They sat down under a tree together, where easily and naturally he kissed her. It was true, her mouth was a cave, so he made his mouth like a cave too. They joined their caves for a while then followed their friends along the track and back over the stone wall.
That night on his own, her tongue met his. Her left hand went to his
trousers and rubbed there. He turned and straightened to make himself feel bigger to her. His right hand slipped under her dress, between her thighs till his fingers found the boundary of nylon. She pressed and pressed on him through the jeans, and the more she pressed the more he felt the way he always wanted to feel; and the harder she pressed the more he thought to himself, truly, there is nothing like the real thing.