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Domestic Violets(9)
Matthew Norman

“Twice a day? But I only took the other ones once a day. I don’t like all the pills. I’d prefer just one.”

“I’d prefer to have more hair and a Bentley, Mr. Halgas. But sometimes we can’t get everything we want. Those last pills weren’t working, that’s why you’re here now. You’ll feel better, OK? I promise!”

“Well fine then,” he says. He’s wearing a green cardigan sweater and Velcro sneakers. As he shuffles down the hallway toward reception, he puts on one of those hats that only old men and Samuel L. Jackson can wear.

“Say hi to Lorraine for me, Mr. Halgas!” says Charlie. “I’ll see you next month!”

The old geezer grunts good-bye, waving his prescription in the air. And then I find myself thinking of Mr. Halgas having sex. His saggy, old-man body is entwined with Lorraine’s, who I can only assume is his wife but who looks like Barbara Bush in my mind.

Mr. Halgas’s penis is fine, at least in this scenario I’ve made up. So, what in the hell’s wrong with mine?

Charlie’s writing something in a file. “How’d you get by Glenda?” he asks me.

“I hit her over the head with my shoe. Don’t worry, she’ll be fine in a few hours.”

Mr. Halgas exits through the door, and now we’re just a couple guys looking down an empty hallway. “Is he gonna be OK?” I ask.

“Mr. Halgas? Shit. He’ll outlive us both.”

“Damn, I need to find a new doctor. I’m only thirty-five.”

Charlie does some more scribbling and drops his pen into his shirt. “So, have you knocked up your wife yet?”

I suspect that Charlie speaks more casually with me than many of his other patients.

“Funny you should ask. You got a second to talk?”

“It’s weird. It feels like it goes . . . dead.”

I’m scanning Charlie’s diplomas, sitting across from him. He’s looking at my file, and I’m flattered that I even have a file, considering my insurance company only has the vaguest proof that I’ve ever even been here. His face is stoic and professional. “Dead? What do you mean by that exactly?”

“No feeling. Nothing. Anna will be right there waiting for me, and it’s like a complete failure. Sometimes it even shrinks. An anti-boner.” Even as I say this, I can feel my penis going numb, like it can hear me.

“You know, that would be a good name for an all-lesbian punk band,” says Charlie. “The Antiboner.”

“You think maybe we could focus here?”

“You’re not eighteen anymore, Tom. Have you and Anna ever tried, you know, manual stimulation? Maybe switching things up a little? Being creative?”

There’s another quick scene in my head, thrown together suddenly. Mr. Halgas isn’t there this time. It’s me and Anna and we’re in an awful hotel trying to role-play. She’s dressed like a slutty maid, but she’s got this overly thoughtful look on her face, like she thinks this is all a really bad idea.

“The thing is,” I say, “that actually makes it worse. It’s like, if we ever try something out of the ordinary, I’m thinking about it then, you know. And that’s the fucking kiss of death. Thinking. It’s like thinking about a two-foot putt. You’re screwed.”

Charlie nods. “That’s a good analogy.”

“It might be a simile. I can never remember the difference.”

“Seven years,” he says, “that’s a big age gap for kids.”

“I know. On the bright side, it’ll give them both something to be mad at us about.”

He worries the end of his stethoscope like a doctor on television with a prop. He’s gained some weight since I saw him last month, and his hair seems to be receding before my very eyes. “Do you ever get morning wood?” he asks.

“Excuse me.”

“Morning wood? Or, if you’d prefer, morning missile. This is actually a medical question, I swear.”

I think about the morning version of my penis. That would also be a pretty good name for a band: the Morning Version of My Penis. “Sometimes, I guess. Not like when I was twelve, but, you know. Why?”

“When you’re sleeping, you’re unconscious, obviously, and you’re totally relaxed. So, if there’s action downtown when you’re asleep, it’s proof to me that your problem exists in your stupid head. You’re just psyching yourself out. That’s all. Anxiety manifests itself in weird ways. I’ve got this little boy, a patient. He has this rare form of narcolepsy. Whenever he gets stressed, like if his parents are having an argument or he’s got a pop quiz at school, he just goes to sleep. He doesn’t faint or pass out, he just falls asleep, on the spot. That’s what your johnson is doing, falling asleep to cope with stress. Your cock has narcolepsy.”

God bless my dopey friend in his white coat. This is his favorite part of being a doctor, wowing people with all the shit he knows. When someone in the dorms was super hungover back at school, he’d sit with them all morning and explain exactly why they felt so shitty. “There’s ethanol in alcohol, and that causes dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your brain actually shrinks and pulls away from your skull. Here, have some more Gatorade.”

“Don’t you need to, like, look at my prostate or something?” I ask. It dawns on me that that’s the first time I’ve ever asked someone that.

“Well, as nice as that sounds, no. We’ll worry about that in ten years. Right now, your malfunction isn’t in your ass, it’s in your brain. There’s a lot of stress in the world. Watching the news is stressful. Trying to get pregnant is stressful. Your body is reacting to that. Anna is stressed about it, too, I’m sure. But the girls don’t have to worry about rising to the occasion. They have it easy. Well, aside from actually having to carry and birth the babies. Some of them find that difficult.”

I tell Charlie about hearing Anna’s sex dreams. This information seems to cement something in his mind, and he begins rummaging through his desk drawer until he sets a little box of sample pills on his desk. I recognize the logo from the commercials that come on whenever I watch sports.

“Fortunately, the good people at Pfizer are looking out for guys like you.”

“You just keep those in your desk, like Skittles?”

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