I take off my clothes in front of other guys for the first time on a Tuesday afternoon. 7th grade PE—Mission Bay Middle School. Coach Dearden reminds us that it’s four demerits for those who don’t shower as he paces the locker room like a prison guard, polo shirt tucked into his tight gym shorts, knee-high socks hugging his veiny calf muscles. The only thing I can see as I wrap my towel around my bony hips is Jason Greene—7th grade and already a full bed of chest hair, dark brown, wiry, aggressive, and he struts naked around the sticky tile floor like he owns the whole goddamn world. Meanwhile, I peek down at my own chest—flat and slick as a ski slope.
I take off my clothes in front of a girl for the first time on a Thursday night. Melissa Elster—Wilkinson Dormitory. It’s freshman year and we’ve been dating for a month when she asks if I’m ready to go all the way because she did it once in high school but it was a horrible experience, something about a senior guy, a party, and empty promises, and she’s ready to wipe that memory away and replace it with me, who’s sweet and caring. Uhm, okay, no pressure, right? But I think I love her—not sure—but maybe it’s enough, so when I arrive at her dorm and there are candles and music and she’s trying so goddamned hard, I feel like I’m on stage or at a job interview as I wrap the sheet around my muscular hips and tell her that I brought protection and is she okay with missionary position? She laughs and kisses me aggressively, and I put my hands on her back, and her skin is so soft and electric and slick as a ski slope.
I take my clothes off in front of a nurse for the first time on a Monday morning. Or maybe Sunday, can’t remember. Nurse Kavern—Mountainview Senior Center. I don’t take them off so much as I let him take them off, as I grip the metal handrail and try to stave off the vertigo that hits me in tsunami waves. I do okay but my legs shake as he slides my underwear off my arthritic hips and asks me if I’m ready to turn the water on. He could do it if I want because all I have to do is stay still and there’s a seat in the shower if I would rather sit but I’m doing so good, so good, he keeps telling me, and then I’m sitting though I don’t remember deciding to sit and the water hits me, warm and soft, and suddenly Nurse Kavern is gone, doesn’t exist, and Coach Dearden and Jason Greene and Melissa Elster and my wife and my kids and everyone I ever knew and anyone who ever saw me—naked, vulnerable, intimate—they are all gone. It’s just me and I’m alone and the warm water is running down my face, running through the creases and crevices and folds of my wrinkled skin that is now wet and slick and alive.
Eric Scot Tryon is a writer from San Francisco. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Willow Springs, Pithead Chapel, Los Angeles Review, Pidgeonholes, Monkeybicycle, Cease, Cows, Longleaf Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, and elsewhere. Eric is also the Founding Editor of Flash Frog. Find more information at www.ericscottryon.com or on Twitter @EricScotTryon.
Art by Dave Gregory