Eternal Flame

I wasn’t supposed to be kissing my stepsister. No, it was supposed to be one of her friends, The Twins. Which one I wasn’t sure, but, no matter, she chickened out and my stepsister suggested herself as a replacement. Thus, we lay in the basement making o

Exiled from Main Street XXXIII: for T.K.

I wasn’t supposed to be kissing my stepsister. No, it was supposed to be one of her friends, The Twins. Which one I wasn’t sure, but, no matter, she chickened out and my stepsister suggested herself as a replacement.

Thus, we lay in the basement making out, my head swimming with the absurdity of it all. I mean, it wasn’t but weeks ago that I practiced on my pillow and, suddenly, instinct was kicking in and taking care of the rest: hands on bodies, tongues circling mouths, clothes disrobed, flesh.

But maybe I had celebrated prematurely, because soon we were naked and — being a somewhat sheltered seventh-grader — I didn’t know what to do with what was in front of me. I didn’t realize anything went in there, let alone that, and before long my even younger stepsister ceased tonguing my ear to breathe, “Do you have a condom?”

Which reminded me of something from weeks before: My cousin and I were foraging through his father’s porn collection when I came across a matchbook-like thing with a shirtless, buxom woman on the cover. Not recognizing what it was, I palmed it.

Once home, I opened the cover — the package read French Tickler — and out fell a balloon reminiscent of a colorful blowfish with bumpy, soft fins. Despite my greenness, I knew what to do with it: I closed the cover and jerked off to the photograph, repeatedly.

Did I have a condom? I wasn’t sure; still ain’t. “Maybe,” I thought to answer, but didn’t. Because more important was the knowledge that I had none of that when it came to what I should do if in fact what I had was a condom. Thus, I simply said “No,” and we lay there looking at each other, me occasionally pawing at her pubic area as if I were a primate in the mood to groom.

Afterwards, I would do research. Thankful I had said “no” because the condoms I acquired looked nothing like blowfish. I then became forever mindful of having one on hand, because the next time a girl asked me if I was carrying, I wanted to say with confidence that I was.

Cut to a handful of years later. A senior in high school now, my line concerning dances is that I wouldn’t allow myself to show I cared enough to attend. But if someone were to ask me, how could I say no? I could roll my eyes to my friends, when secretly I loved that shit. Really, you want to go with me?

Tonya did. And Tonya was both hot and cool.

We were both in the goth scene — as far as 17-year olds can be part of a scene. All I needed now was something appropriate to wear. So, I went to where I bought all my shirts, pants, capes and the occasional skirt: the thrift store. And there I sifted through the suits — leisure, sharkskin, zoot — until I came across a simple black one three sizes too large with bounteous shoulder pads. From then on, I called it my David Byrne suit.

The big day arrived and as I was leaving the house I wondered, “Condom or no condom?”

Why, condom, of course. I had seen Footloose, too. And throwing it in one of my suit jacket’s inside pockets, I had visions of Travelodge rooms and buckets of PBR as I skipped to my car.

Tonya was readying herself when I arrived, so I made small talk with her parents. They eyed me sideways, while I had half a mind to take the father aside and show him that I was the responsible sort. But then Tonya flowed down the staircase and we ran out the door towards dinner.

“I love that jacket,” she said. “Me too,” I said, beaming. It was going to be a good night; just how good being left up largely to myself.

Once there, the night progressed swimmingly towards the dance floor. After awhile, the DJ slowed the tempo and Tonya and I stood toe to toe — my Robert Smith to her Siouxie Sioux — swaying to The Bangles balled pumping throughout the room.

We danced close, Tonya placing her hand inside my jacket while running her fingers across my chest suggestively. We got closer, peering into each other’s eyes, a prelude to a kiss as Susanna Hoffs cooed, “I don’t want to lose this feeling.” Then, abruptly, Tonya’s hand ran ashore something in my coat pocket. Curiosity flooded her eyes as she then mouthed, “Let me see.”

The jig was up, and I was hard-pressed to do anything but watch as she gave birth to my secret, that thing I had stolen away inside my jacket.

A pair of yellowed, slightly soapy false teeth?

I grinned while shrugging my shoulder pads, no less surprised than she was. Tonya held the teeth for a suspended moment before letting out a short scream, dropping the teeth and running off while whimpering.

The teeth looked out of place on the dance floor, so I picked them up and, for whatever reason, put them back inside my coat pocket. I stood there, alone — our flame snuffed out by a pair of impossibly-lost, suddenly-found false teeth left behind, presumably, by my jacket’s previous owner.

Of course, it would be awhile before I had an opportunity to use that other thing I had in my pocket. And when the time did come, I didn’t have one. But I still had my David Byrne suit — that, a French Tickler and someone’s misplaced false teeth.

Then again, I would always have those.

CONTACT MARK FLANIGAN: [email protected]

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