“Calamities and Celibacy, or How I Continued Not Having Sex in University,” by Zachary Abram

Oct 24th, 2012 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

On January 1 2003, I made my first and only New Year’s resolution. I resolved that this would be the year that I lost my virginity. It wasn’t an American Pie-esque pact with friends. I didn’t tell anyone or write it down. It was just a solemn vow I whispered to myself. I was seventeen years old and my interactions with girls had been pretty limited. This was largely due to the lifestyle my high school friends and I had fallen into, which was not entirely conducive to sexual conquests. It was more conducive to the life of a eunuch. Every lunch, instead of flirting in the hallways, we would go to my friend Jeff’s house to play street hockey. This ritual not only meant we were absent for the most important hour of high school intersex socialization but it also meant that we would all spend at least half the day smelling like the inside of a hockey glove. Weekends weren’t much better. Every Friday, we would return to Jeff’s to each drink two liters of Coke and watch movies about war. I think that up until that point I hadn’t exchanged more than a dozen words with any woman outside my family. When we returned from Christmas break, I resolved that this year would be different. I would talk to girls.

My first forays into talking to girls went predictably poorly but I quickly figured out that consuming alcohol made things a lot easier for everyone involved. Everything was going according to plan. I left Jeff’s basement and put down the hockey stick in favour of makeout sessions fueled by the liquor cabinets of our parents or a particularly generous older brother. I quickly learned to use nebulous terms like “hook up” which could mean anything from kissing to the sort of deviant things that would make Caligula blush. By March of that year, I had already made out with several girls and was certain that I would not begin university in the fall as a virgin. I would be the cosmopolitan urban sophisticate I had always imagined myself to be.

Just as I had acquired approximately two hundred condoms from the sexual health clinic, however, calamity struck. In an attempt to make myself appear rugged and manly, I had joined my high school rugby team. In the last game of the season, I badly dislocated my shoulder and would have to wear a sling for six weeks. As the doctor wrenched my arm back into place, I didn’t cry out in pain but rather wept inside for what was sure to mean the extension of a dry spell that was beginning to take on Saharan proportions. My mother let me take off my sling for Prom but the damage was done. Needless to say, I remained firmly ensconced in my rented tux that night.

Once you’ve dislocated your shoulder once, there’s an eighty percent chance you’ll do it again. And, boy, did I ever. The most embarrassing subsequent dislocation came at the hands of a rogue beach ball I tried to bat out of the air. Each shoulder separation felt more and more as though parts my body were rebelling and trying to escape my pathetic, virginal self. One time, after dislocating my shoulder again, the doctor couldn’t get my arm back into its socket. He asked me lay down on my stomach with my lame arm dangling off the gurney. The doctor returned a moment later with a pillowcase and some dumbbell weights. Without speaking, he put the weights in the pillowcase, tied it around my wrist and dropped it. My arm returned to the socket with a thwock sound. Thank goodness it did because I can’t help but think bloodletting and leeches were next on the menu.

Given my left arm’s inability or unwillingness to stay put, it was obvious I would need surgery. The surgery was scheduled for August. Although I recognized it as a necessity, I was somewhat dismayed to learn that I would be in a sling for the duration of Frosh Week. It became increasingly obvious that my body had betrayed me and was actually the biggest god damned cockblock in the world. I was my own worst wingman. This was devastating because all romantically disadvantaged young men are told time and again that university will be their sexual Arcadia. Teachers, parents, and even Dan Savage assured me that once out of high school, free from its obsession with popularity and social status, the proverbial floodgates (not to mention legs) would open. Besides, I wouldn’t be saddled with the gangly and awkward persona I had in high school. I could reinvent myself and be whatever I wanted. I pictured Robert Redford in “Three Days of the Condor.” Now though, I would be “that guy in the sling” or “the man who was felled by a beach ball.” Hookups happened so frequently around me, I was certain I would at least get some by proximity but this was not to be the case. I can’t believe Dan Savage lied to me.

I was able to ditch the sling in the second month of my freshman year. I began attending parties regularly and was beginning to get back into the swing of things. I was like a transfer student to the sexual marketplace. What I lacked in familiarity with the coeds, I more than made up for in novelty. There were still three months left in the year and I felt confident I could seal the deal before the year was out and fulfill my resolution.

My body, however, would prove again to be a most dastardly traitor.

In October, I would develop, out of nowhere, a cyst on the side of my face. At first, it was small and barely noticeable. Then, it got bigger. And bigger. A doctor will tell you that a cyst is a closed, bladder-like sac formed in animal tissues, containing fluid or semifluid matter. I believed my persistent virginity had formed a tumor on my face to remind me of my inadequacies. Once again, ball hockey would make matters worse. While playing in a tournament, I took an elbow to the cyst, which caused it to become infected. My teammates refused to meet my eye on the subway ride home so I didn’t fully grasp the extent of my grotesquerie until I got home. When my mother and I arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by the triage nurse who I’m certain gets to see gunshot victims and all manner of human misery. One look at my face and she audibly gagged. The cyst was the size of a tennis ball.

My treatment involved returning to the hospital every eight hours to receive I.V. antibiotics. I became friends with all the nurses and could accurately anticipate their schedules. After about two weeks of this, I was granted what was generously referred to as a “home nurse.” My “home nurse,” far from the pornographic fantasies I had imagined, was a 50-year-old Arab man named Sayid. He would come to my parent’s place every day to hook up my antibiotics. The medicine was attached to my wrist and controlled by a pump in a fanny pack that was affixed to my hip. I began to refer to this fanny pack as my “chick magnet.” It all felt like a cruel joke. Making matters worse was the fact that, in the two glorious weeks between injuries, a girl had asked me to be her date to the fall dance at our university. Even though she let it slip that I was not her first or even second choice, I agreed to take her to the dance because, hey, one-armed lepers can’t be choosers. She had heard of my recent misfortunes and gave me a call:

Her – Hey, are you okay? I heard you’re hooked up to an I.V.

Me – No. Well, yes, technically. But don’t worry. I’ll be fine by next Friday. Don’t worry.

Her – Good because I don’t want everyone thinking I brought a Make-a-Wish Kid.

She might not have been my ideal partner but I began thinking of her as my last chance to make good on the resolution I whispered to myself on New Year’s.

At the dance, she was withdrawn all night and would often go off with her friends to avoid speaking with me. When I finally tracked her down and tried to flirt with her a little, she told me, “Zac, I would feel a lot more comfortable if you would just stop looking at me.” I knew she meant that she would feel a lot more comfortable if she could stop looking at me, her ill-chosen Quasimodo of a date. I was only too happy to oblige her and left the dance as soon as I could. I believe the DJ had just put on “One Thing” by Finger Eleven.

A couple weeks later, my Dad took me to the plastic surgeon’s office. My cyst had shrunk considerably but there was still a bit of a bump on my face that would have to be removed. When my Dad and I were admitted to the doctor’s office, an office absolutely strewn with breast implants greeted us. There must have been a breast augmentation consult before my appointment because all manner of breast were before us in different sizes and consistencies. We sat there in polite silence for a while before my father helpfully chimed in, “Well, we have to touch them.” And so we did. We groped, fondled, juggled and played catch like two kids who stumbled upon some great forbidden toy knowing full well they wouldn’t have much longer to enjoy it. We played with the breasts the way you drink alcohol when you’re teenager. You drink it fast because it’s new and you’re not sure when you’ll get the chance to do it again.

Yet, as my dad and I tossed the fake breasts around the office, I couldn’t help but feel a great melancholy come over me because the year was practically over and I knew this was as close to breasts as I was going to get. My year of finally chasing women could only be considered an abject failure.  It had taken me a year to learn that the only thing worse than being invisible to women is being entirely too visible and I began to see my calamitous year as punishment for the sin of presumption. Merely deciding to enter the game was no guarantee you would win it. Still, I tried to look on the bright side. All was not lost. I’d get my face fixed. It would soon be a new year. My father tossed me another breast.


Originally from Toronto, Zachary Abram is currently working towards a PhD. in English / Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa. He is no longer a virgin.

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