Vas Deferens, Bears & Jacob:
Why I Listen To My Children Breathe

Photo by Seniju
Vas Deferens, Bears & Jacob:
Why I Listen To My Children Breathe by Jesse Goolsby

The cauterizing machine makes a beep about two seconds before each hot pulse to my testicles, and after a couple of jolts I fight the battle of my life in repeating two-second increments. I close my eyes and beg my body to calm down, to forget the timing, to think of a white beach, the Rocky Mountains in autumn, anything to take me away from here. It’s in this pleading moment that my devil mind flashes me an image of a naked Rebecca De Mornay in Risky Business (blonde, healthy, Nordic-looking goddess), the effect of which triggers some sort of apocalyptic irony/coincidence/confusion mash-up within my now melting brain and body-rushing blood. Simultaneously, I fear the cauterizing pain and the possibility of a mid-operation erection. Amidst the chaos I open my eyes and tilt my head up to make sure my taped-to-my-belly penis is still there. It is. Small and scared, thank God.

Then, I hear the cauterizing machine beep—one Mississippi, two Mississippi—and I feel my hips and butt tense and lift as the machine pulses me with fire.

“That doesn’t help,” the doc says.

Finally, an hour after walking into the room on not enough Valium, I’m all sewed up and lightheaded, starting to find my legs. I carefully step into a gauze diaper. I’m offered a wheelchair, which I accept. They all appear surprised. Apparently, most men walk out on their own. But I don’t care. I’m way past pride.

Once seated, I’m told to masturbate as soon as I’m ready.

“But I can wait a few days, right?”

“You’ll know when you’re ready, but don’t wait too long.”

My chest tightens.

The doc adds, “You’ll need to masturbate at least twenty times in the next month and a half.” She hands me a clear, plastic cup with lid. “Bring a sample in at the end to make sure there’s no more swimmers.”

I cringe and place my hands on the top of my head.

The doc throws me a tired, half-smile.

“Sorry for the twitching,” I say. “Just not used to sharp things near that area I guess.“

It’s an earnest offering because I do feel bad about moving around so much. Still, I can’t be the only twitcher she’s encountered in her line of business.

“Yep,” the doc says.

Sarah stands up with Abby and thanks everyone. The intern cleans something in the sink and keeps his back to us. I wait for him to turn around, but a new silence lingers long enough to signal our exit, so we start for the door.

“You know,” says the doctor, reaching for Sarah’s shoulder and nodding at me. “He’s the type of person that would faint in a bear attack. The bear would eat him.”

We wait for the doctor to laugh, but there’s nothing. No tonal meanness or levity or smirk or head nod or pat on the back or middle finger.

“Oh,” Sarah says.

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Jesse Goolsby is the author of the novel I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His work has appeared in Narrative, Epoch, The Literary Review, The Greensboro Review, Redivider, and the Best American series. He is the nonfiction editor at The Southeast Review.