Afterhour

@theo

“Why does this keep happening to me?” I ask as, back in my room, I lie in bed and stare into the darkness.

Mini crawls out from under my towel and sprawls himself on my stomach. “At this point it would probably be easier keeping track of people who haven’t seen your wang.”

Har-har.”

“It’s like there’s some kind of cosmic conspiracy to display the Great Theo Ivanovich Penis whenever, wherever, and however possible.”

I swallow. “There can’t really be a conspiracy.” Can there?

“Ever see The Truman Show?”

“I am not Truman Burbank.”

“Your dick might be.”

“Okay, Ernie.”

“No, really. Think about it. Modern-day TV is all about pushing limits, right? In the 1940s it was women baring ankle. In the 1970s it was drug use on Sesame Street. These days, the networks and streaming services have gone just about as far as they can with the violence, cussing, bare butts and boobs. Full-frontal nudity may be the next frontier, but a TV show starring live-action genitalia specifically? That’s the final frontier.”

“You sure like to think about dick a lot,” I say.

“I’m your spunk. I’m supposed to think about dick. And jane.”

“Jane?”

“Aka, pussy.”

“Ah.”

“Seriously, though. When was the last time you checked for hidden cameras?” Mini starts to lift my towel—

I slap him away. “What am I going to do?”

“Is that a wang-specific question, or a rhetorical?”

“Both.”

Mini sits up, nods gravely at me. “Call the universe’s bluff and go right to Jeff Bezos mode with some wang shots. Lay it all out there, make it a done deal, get it over with. Here, take out your phone…”

Which of course I do not. Instead, I continue to stare unblinking into the shadows. Sleep tonight will be nonexistent. I keep thinking of Dad slowly bleeding to death on his yoga mat with an afterimage of my junk burned into his retinas. I think of what Ernie said about father-and-son dicks, and wonder if Dad’s similarly hung—in which case I can stop worrying that he’ll be worried I’m inexplicably well-endowed while he’s perfectly average. Instead, we can focus on why exposure to my crotch seems to have the same effect on people as the Ark of the Covenant had on the Germans at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I think of Thrill-Kill’s insight in my nudist dream, about how I’m perfectly average, and my brain paraphrases: “Your dick’s not big. The rest of you is just small.”

I think…

…I think too much.

After tossing and turning for about an hour, I finally decide to send myself elsewhere. Late-night power hour’s up, but my phone’s still got plenty of juice left. I swipe through my friend list. Ernie would usually be my first choice (total night owl), except that right now he’s dealing with a hysterical pregnancy. Nothing against Beta, but talking to a grown man wearing a gay porn star skin has been getting steadily creepier the longer he’s lived in my bedroom. Eva’s likely fast asleep, judging by her darkened, motionless feed. There’s always the Semantic Web, bustling even at this hour, though I’m not necessarily in a communal mood. Mimi-Siku’s doing some teatime coding in the back of his van. I’ve kind of sort of come around to him since he helped me with my skin problem, and is into Star Trek—but he’s still a little too new for me to consider as kick-it material. That leaves Jan, who’s last on my list for no particular reason. His feed is livestreaming the wall behind his bed, but I don’t hear his usual snoring.

Hopeful, I text him:

l33t_master > jkounicova > Hey, what’s up?

I also post a status update to my SuperMegaFeed:

l33t_master > Late night. Anyone want to hang?

While waiting for a reply, I change into my loincloth and sit at my desk. I’ve taken to buying candles as of late, thank you very much, rolling power-ons, and have a small collection cluttering one corner of the desktop. I light Bookends, my favorite, then lean back with my hands clasped behind my head. It’s weird seeing ancient flame and modern tech mingle like this. I’m surrounded by civilization—computer, phone, TV, video game consoles, electricity and Internet (when they’re on), indoor plumbing—and yet me myself, relegated to fundoshi attire, I feel like George of the Jungle inside a Best Buy. How long is the Mandate going to continue? Social distancing and loincloths don’t seem to have done anything to stop the dosequisvirus epidemic. You keep hearing about second or third wave this, rogue embers that. “We’re all in this together!” Easy to say now, but what are we supposed to do when winter comes? Are skimpy Christmas crotch-rags going to be a thing?

Mini perches himself on my knee. “Do you have any playing cards handy?”

“Why?” I ask.

“I like having something to shuffle when I wait.”

“Check the closet.”

He scampers away.

I stare at my phone.

No response from Jan.

It’s such a social media generation kind of tendency, but I just have to know if he’s awake or asleep. Right now, this very instant. And so, tapping the “visit” button beside Jan’s name, I download into his parents’ living room.

Psst!” I hiss. “Jan! Are you up? It’s Theo. I, uh, need someone to talk to.” It’s nearly pitch-black, save for the glow of Jan’s phone, which lies plugged into a travel charger at the head of his bed (empty, I now realize). I pick up the phone; the touchscreen shows the inside of a…garden shed—?

Crap, is that the sound of the bedroom door opening?

Is that the flicker of a flashlight?

Is that one or both of Jan’s parents rounding the turn in the hallway, about to enter the living room and discover their son’s been replaced with an uninvited guest?

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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.