Alex lived in one of those weird commune-type houses where each time you go over you're introduced to a different boy you somehow never noticed before, but who'd been living there all along. They had all been friends since childhood, and after you dated one of them (or in my case a couple of them) you became friends with the lot. That's why Alex asked me to go see this Wagner opera with him?well, that, and because I was the only other person he knew who spoke German.
Alex was fairly attractive, although I'd heard he was much better looking when he was younger. You know, back when he was still pumping his old girlfriend and all. Now not only had he let himself go, but he refused to drink anything except port. I never found Alex attractive. What I mean to say is, I never considered our opera appointment a date.
Yet I found Alex's celibacy fairly intriguing, probably because no one (including the pack of wild boys he lived with in that tree house) was able to give an adequate explanation for it. Had something horrible happened during Alex's last sexual encounter? Had the babysitter walked in? Had she joined in? Or was he, like all the other men I knew in school who'd gone through long stages of enforced celibacy, going to hang Marky Mark posters on his bedroom wall, emerge one day singing the praises of Evelyn Waugh and suddenly announce that he was moving to San Francisco? From the moment he asked me to the opera, these thoughts consumed me, interrupting my normal routine of going to class, getting high and listening to Neil Young. It was this weeklong obsession with Alex's libido that culminated in one of the most psychic, bizarre dreams I ever recall having:
Alex and I were making out in his room and somehow it came to be understood between us that we were going to have sex. I asked if he had a condom, to which he replied in a shocked and distressed tone, "Why, no. No! I don't have a condom!" We made the decision to drive to the nearest 7-Eleven to get a pack. Alex seemed embarrassed to go in and buy them, so I offered to do it. He waited in the car until he saw me go in, grab the condoms and get on line, at which point he threw it in reverse and tore out of the parking lot. I was livid. After cursing him out in the store, I woke up.
The whole next day I walked around with that awful, dirty feeling, like the first time you dream about having sex with a priest or a blood relative. I certainly wasn't looking forward to the Wagner now. I had somehow violated not only a friend, but one who had chosen a somewhat purer, nay, even nobler path than most. In the end I chalked the dream up to my curiosity about Alex's celibacy and got ready for our night out.
Nobody in college did anything until they were good and loaded, so I was relieved when Alex suggested that we meet at his place and have drinks before the opera. When I arrived I noticed that he smelled different. After a few minutes I realized he smelled just like a boy I had gone out with named Kirk, who also lived in the house. I thought, "How sweet that Alex used Kirk's cologne for our little date!"
"You smell just like Kirk tonight," I said as he went to the kitchen for drinks.
"Oh yeah, that must be because I borrowed his Right Guard. Normally I don't wear deodorant, but I figured since we were going to the opera, and since I had a button-up shirt on and all..."
We smoked a bowl. I drank beer while Alex had the inevitable glass of port and a few lines of blow. Once we had a decent buzz going, I summoned up the courage to ask:
"So Alex, why haven't you had sex in, what has it been now? Six or seven years?"
He chuckled, then sighed. "Honestly, I don't know."
"But you must have a reason. I mean surely it's a conscious decision you've made, not to have sex. Or is there some kind of problem..."
"No, no," he interrupted. "everything is in working order down there, if that's what you mean. It's more like, it hasn't ever occurred to me... There just hasn't been an occasion over the past seven years when I wanted to have sex."
"You're telling me that there was never a time, over the past seven years, when you thought about doing it? Frankly I think that's a lie."
Alex sat there still for a second, then a smile crept across his face and he began loading another bowl. "It's funny that you should put it that way, because there was this one time...I mean there was this one girl last year...and we were about to have sex. Like we'd been making out in my room, which you know I don't even do anymore, and it wasn't like a conscious decision, but I just knew we were going to have sex. And I thought, hey, why not? It's been long enough! Then out of nowhere she asks me if I have a condom. I started laughing, because it's like, I haven't had sex in seven years, so no, of course I don't have a goddamn condom. So we sat there for about a half an hour and talked about going out to the store and getting some. I think we even got dressed. Then out of nowhere I just thought, this is a sign. The fact that we don't have a condom is a sign that this isn't supposed to happen. So we didn't have sex."
He took a hit and held it in as he continued. "She was pretty pissed off about it, and I haven't really hung out with her since," he said, releasing and watching the smoke above our heads.
Well thank God I turned down the bump Alex offered me before he launched into that monologue, or I would've been midline while he was talking and blown the shit all over the kitchen table. Never in my life have I wanted to tell someone something so badly as after Alex finished his story. But it's not the kind of thing you tell someone, is it? Unless, that is, you then plan on knocking everything off that kitchen table with one great sweeping gesture of the arm and throwing them on top of it. Well, I didn't plan on doing that with Alex.
Recently I dated a guy who, like Alex, lived in a tree house full of wild boys. It began well enough, but then again, doesn't it always? Now that it's over and I have only the memory of the way he pushes the hair out of his eyes and over to the side of his face, or how whenever he knows what you are going to say he will always interrupt by saying, "Yeah," or "I know" three times in a row really fast. And I, too, feel myself embarking, like Alex, on a journey through the murky and introspective waters that are celibacy. I get the strange sense that an abnormally long sexual winter is coming on, as if I won't see spring again for quite some time.
I always think of sex, for single people at least, as a train that you don't have a proper ticket for. You kind of run alongside the tracks most of your life, and every once in a while you manage, through a combination of agility, luck and timing, to grab hold of the thing and fling yourself on board. Once inside, it's only a matter of time before someone realizes you are an impostor. Furthermore, you never know how long the ride will last.
At the time I thought Alex's explanation of his celibacy was full of shit. I now genuinely believe him when he said that his celibacy wasn't a choice. Perhaps the girl he'd dated all those years ago was someone very special, and ever since her it just hasn't felt, as he so definitively phrased it, right. I lost touch with Alex years ago, and for all I know he might be having mind-boggling, life-altering sex with someone as I write these lines. All I can say is that when my tour of duty is up (and let's pray it's not a seven-year sentence) I'll be ready. I'm going to have boxes of fucking condoms around.