Paused

@theo

In which junk is stuffed back into underwear and blankets are yanked up to quivering chins and ZOMFGs are huffed over and over inside short-circuited heads overwhelmed by going from one kind of excitement to another in mere milliseconds—

—CBT, Theo.

Remember to breathe.

What just happened?

Did he see me?

So what if he did?

Does he know what I was doing?

So what if he does?

He does it, too.

Everyone does it.

What if he tells the others?

So what if he does? Nobody believes his shit anyway, why would they start now?

Everyone does it!

I huddle without moving a muscle, the blood that had heretofore been allocated to my groin now pounding in my ears, a daydreamed image of Eva in her birthday bikini now as forgotten as the theme song from Pompidou.

Mini pops his head out from underneath the blanket. “Hey, why’d you hit pause?”

I bite my lip. “Ernie was here.”

“I thought I smelled cookie crumbs.”

“He saw me, uh…with myself.”

Mini climbs out, settles on one of my knees. “Oh, is that all?”

I try to laugh; the sound dies at the back of my throat.

“So what?”

“He saw me.”

“Yeah, yeah, your best bud caught you jerking off. Again, I ask you, so what?”

“He saw it.”

Mini waves one of his mitts. “Milestones. You’ve made several this weekend. You took your shirt off in front of a crowd of cute girls, selfied with a naked blood metal singer babe, and revealed your magnificent wang to your best friend. All completely normal and unavoidable tendencies of adolescence.”

“Firstly, you took my shirt off.”

“And you could’ve tried harder to get it back. But you didn’t.”

“I didn’t want to draw even more attention to myself!”

“Says you.” Mini looks me in the eye. “Why are you really upset?”

As usual, it occurs to me that I’m talking to a plush doll, but I do want to answer the question—if only to get it off my chest. “I guess I don’t want people to think differently of me because of the way I, um, look.”

“What people?”

“I don’t know. People.”

“What, the rest of the Runt Squad? Kids at school? Random strangers you pass on the street?”

“Anyone. Everyone. I don’t want people to know that I’m…I’m…”

“That you’re growing up?” Mini scoffs. “We all do it, Theo. We all get caught doing it. No big deal.”

“Um, huge deal.”

Mini smiles proudly at my crotch. “Preaching to the choir.”

“I’m being serious.”

“Sorry. Continue.”

It takes me a sec to find the right words. “I guess it’s all the attention. As a kid you’re pretty much ignored and free to do as you please. But as a teenager, people start…judging you. Expecting things from you.”

“Peter Pan never grew up, and look where it’s gotten him. Creepy little sprite who flies through kids’ bedroom windows, and who hasn’t had a single Hollywood reboot since Hook in 1991. And don’t say Finding Neverland, because that doesn’t count.”

I frown at Mini. “I don’t want to physically remain a child. That’s silly. I just don’t know how I’m going to handle all the complexities of being an adult.”

“Complexities, sure, but good stuff, too. Driving. Booze. Sex.”

“I’m not interested in any of those things.”

“Oh, you’re very interested in at least one of them.” Another acknowledgment of my crotch.

I say, “I guess I don’t like how society treats its adults. Everyone cares for you when you’re a kid. They like you, they love you, they want to help you any way they can. Then you turn eighteen and all of the sudden you’re on your own. Nobody gives a crap if you live or die. You see a homeless guy on the street, and you assume it’s his own fault he’s where he’s at. You don’t give him any money or ask if he’s okay—you shake your head and move on. But a homeless child, oh, my God, get them food and shelter and school supplies, shower them with love and affection. If adults treated each other like they treat kids, the world would be a much better place. But they don’t, and it isn’t, and I feel like I have no choice. I’m growing up, and once it becomes obvious to everyone, I’ll be…lost forever.”

“The world’s a crazy place,” Mini says. “The one-percenters reap the bounty while the ninety-nine fight over table scraps. Hitler gets immortalized in history books, but the inner-city schoolteacher lives and dies with little more than some photos in a few yearbooks lost in the backs of dusty closets. The world cares about its monsters, its dictators, mass murderers, psychopaths, martyrs. Nobody gives a watery shit about what you do with your dick on a Monday morning.”

I laugh. “That’s…good to know.”

We both laugh.

And I’m actually relaxing a bit. I’m actually…okay with myself for the time being. “Thanks, Mini.”

“You’re welcome. Now…Eva skinny-dipping.”

“Huh?”

Mini nods at my crotch. “A little prompt that you might finish what you started.”

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Jesse Gordon

Geek. Writer. Supreme overlord of the SUPERMEGANET pseudoverse. Author of THE OATMEAL MAN, DOOKIE, and other such wasteful nonsense.