I am obsessed with my roommate’s cock. If he knew this, I would have to repost my Craigslist ad:
“Male roommate wanted. No previous experience required.”
He emailed me a day later asking, “No previous experience as a male or a roommate?” and, confused by his message, I’d written back, “Yes.” He toured the place and mentioned that the rooftop pool would be a great way to bring girls home. I nodded and wordlessly pointed to a photograph of my girlfriend that I’d put on the refrigerator using a magnet from my mother that said, “Your prefrontal cortex is overrated.” She’d sent it to me during the week in 1998 when I’d wanted to be a neurologist but then my pet turtles died and my sister cornered me in the basement, demanding that I perform a brain autopsy on them to practice for my future. I cried then buried Kiko and Josie in the garden, placing a do-it-yourself tombstone above them.
“Is that your girl?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. I gave him a head nod to communicate that I was cool and nonchalant then shoveled a handful of Xanax in my mouth when he wasn’t looking.
He was moved in by the end of the week. His boxes mostly consisted of video game consoles and their respective game cartridges. I was happy to know that I’d be left alone.
The first time I saw his cock he had brought home a girl from the bar and he hadn’t yet learned that the wee hours of Sunday night were reserved for peeling all of my apples for the week. He’d stumbled out naked into the kitchen for a beer and when he saw me he grumbled and nodded because, as I was once informed by a jock friend, it is completely normal for two men to see each other’s penises. I’ve never been in a locker room but I imagine it to be a water park of sweat, overcompensation, and barking.
The girl came out of his room about thirty minutes later. Her makeup was smeared and her cheeks were wet. I asked if she had a good time and she told me he smells like old pepperoni and I made it a point to say that even new pepperoni doesn’t smell very appetizing. She looked at me strangely then shifted her weight back and forth and it registered that she wanted me to say something else but I couldn’t figure out what. I took a pill and offered her one and she stared at me as if I’d asked her to translate a book into Arabic. Now I know that she needed a ride home and didn’t want to ask Micah. She walked fifteen blocks in flats. It’s not like she was wearing heels or anything. Days later he told me she gave him crabs and my crotch started to itch. My girlfriend chalked this up to empathy but made me get tested anyway. I went to my tarot card reader instead. She is at the farmer’s market every Wednesday and I make a habit of going straight to her table after spin class lets out. She sighs whenever she sees me.
“I need help,” I said, bending over and catching my breath.
“What do you need, Benjamin?”
My tarot card reader is an older, attractive Indian woman who wears a large, multi-color headband. Her nails are always painted blood-red. She doesn’t make a big production out of the whole thing, just gets down to business.
“I need to know if I have crabs.”
She stared at me blankly.
“You know, like, the STD.”
“Yes, I’m familiar. Have you had unprotected sex with anyone?”
“No, not that I know of.”
“Nothing, it’s just something I say,” I mumbled.
“You don’t need a tarot card reading, Benjamin. Go to a clinic.”
“You’re cheaper than a clinic and I respect you more.”
She laughed and began to shuffle her cards. She asked me to cut the deck then laid three cards out on the table. I bounced my leg underneath the plastic, fold-out table.
“I’m not even going to say that this is interesting because it’s not.”
“What is it then?”
“Are you going to tell me what the cards say?”
She sighed and looked at the hippie man selling hemp backpacks at the stand across the way. I think she was checking him out. He looked like my beer-soaked art professor had been stuck with a needle and deflated. I felt a prick on my thigh at the thought.
“You’re going to get pink eye soon.”
“How do I stop it?”
“Stay away from pillows.”
“I sleep standing up in the corner of my room anyway, Judith. Like an elephant.”
“I know that you know that my name is Rain,” she said, reaching across the table to gather up the cards.
“Wait, what else do the cards say?”
I felt the threads of my being unraveling. I wanted to spin like a tornado to wrap myself back up.
Judith or Rain sighed again.
I slid a twenty dollar bill across the table like I had just been charmed into buying black market goods and she shook her head. I thought I detected a slight look of tenderness on her face.
“See you next week.”
“You don’t know that.”
“If you say so,” she smiled again.
After I saw Micah’s cock, I couldn’t think about anything else. It was so beautiful, I wanted to have a plaster mold made of it to place in a glass case in my bedroom. I knew that wasn’t reasonable to ask so I settled for a trip to Walmart to buy some play-dough. The first model looked like a pineapple. The second resembled a dolphin—an improvement.
One morning I was chopping onions in the kitchen and crying but trying not to rub my eyes because of what the tarot card reader had said and Micah came in wearing just his white briefs. I felt like I was in a car going through the automatic car wash. Without thinking, I lifted my windshield wiper fingers to my eyes so I could get a better view of his bulge. My eyes burned and I yelled “Fuck” or “Ouch” or “Help” or something.
“Brutal,” he said. He dug around in the refrigerator while I paced around the kitchen, blinking rapidly. I thought of a million things to say to him that didn’t concern his man meat.
“How many turtles have you known personally?” “Are dreams just parallel universes we travel to each night?” “Who is your favorite B-list actor?” “Which type of degenerative disease would you prefer to die from?”
Eventually my eyes cleared up enough to see Micah shoveling handfuls of onions into his mouth and laughing at his phone.
“What is it?” I asked.
“A girl on this dating app just asked me to be her puppy.”
“What exactly does that entail?” I patted my pockets in search for some pills.
“I don’t know but I want to find out.”
I thought of chihuahuas in chihuahua-sized rain jackets. I imagined taking Micah for a walk down Broad Street and everyone stopping to ask if they could pet him. “Yes, of course. He’s 23-years-old,” I’d say. It would take weeks to make it around the block and I would return home, let him off his leash, and reward him with whatever treats he wanted.
“Did you hear what I said?” Micah asked, sounding a bit annoyed.
“What did I say?”
“You’re having trouble beating Rainbow Road.”
He stared at me then went into his room. I could hear the faint sounds of a woman moaning.
That night I had dreams of Mario and Luigi dressed as puppies and crawling on all fours. Princess Peach put leashes on them and they looked sad. The more I thought about Micah’s penis, the more I began to seriously question my sexuality.
A few weeks after the dream, my girlfriend packed up her measly drawer of clothes when she came over earlier than expected and caught me furiously masturbating to gay porn. What she didn’t see was my limp dick in my hand and nothing to show for my efforts except for a hand cramp. The next day she texted me while I was doing abs in the living room.
“He is chubby, has an eye twitch, and wears a creepy pendant for god’s sake.”
“Micah. Who do you think?”
“What’s a pendant?”
“You’re more insane than I thought. I know that Micah is the one you want.”
I considered this idea for a few minutes, imagining that repulsive pendant laying across the gross curls on his chest, but I couldn’t bring myself to kiss him, not even in my head.
“His penis is beautiful to look at. You wouldn’t understand,” I typed then returned to doing toe touches. It took me about fifty toe touches to realize that I’d just insulted myself. I guess it saved her the trouble. The screen showed that she had read the message but hadn’t bothered to reply. I thought that was as close to agreeing with me as a non-answer could get.
She’d always been a strong advocate of turning on read receipts. When we first started dating I thought it was a sweet gesture in the romantic wasteland in which we millennials find ourselves atrophying.
Sometimes I do burpees in the living room in hopes that Micah will strip down to his boxers and join me but he never does. A burpee is when you hurl your body at the ground without managing to smack your face, then you jump up to your feet only to repeat the process all over again. Micah usually sees me doing burpees on his way to grab a beer or one of the many leftover McDonald’s cheeseburgers he hoards in our fridge. Depending on his mood he either gives me a head nod and says, “Hey man” or he glues his eyes to the floor as if I were Medusa and he’d be turned to stone if we locked eyes.
I am doing burpees one Sunday morning when someone knocks on our front door. I wipe the sweat from my eyes and walk over to answer it but stop short when I see a piece of paper has been slipped under the door. It’s pale green and smells like a grandmother. It is an invitation to a memorial service for someone in our apartment complex who recently killed himself. The service will be held at the rooftop pool in two hours and thirty-seven minutes. I wonder if Micah, who is American but spent a semester abroad in one of those countries that convinces people they’re cultured, will wear his Speedo again like last time we went to the pool. The memorial may run into my apple peeling time. I fold the paper as many times as I can before it says “no” and then set it on the counter. It begins to unfold like an accordion.
I pour coffee grounds into a bowl then crack an egg and tossing the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the shell, I allow the egg white to seep out into the bowl. I mix the two ingredients until it is a creamy, thick mixture and carry it over to the couch. I lie down on my back and paint the coffee mask on my face until it is covered. This will remove the bloating inevitably caused by salt intake and the terror of being alive. I close my eyes and try to decide on a location in which to dream. An old man at a bus stop once taught me how to lucid dream. We had enough time to practice because it turns out we were waiting for a bus that no longer ran. My girlfriend at the time had to come pick me up in the middle of nowhere outside an abandoned western town. I don’t remember how I wound up there but I do remember that she wouldn’t let me bring the old man home with us.
After carefully considering the five locations that I’ve built in my lucid dreams, I eventually decide on the nude beach by the sea. The water is a brilliant turquoise that threatens to put the gem to shame. We are the only ones on the beach. Micah strips off his shirt, then his bottoms and looks down at his penis, smiles a little, and looks up at me. I smile back and take off my own clothes. We dive into the sea, playing like otters. I’ve never swum in the sea before but in my dream I feel so light, so buoyant. I’m terrified of buoys in real life—something about the way they seem to have minds of their own—but I’m not scared of myself.
Not in my lucid dream.