Sex was something that almost snuck up on him.  When he was younger and taking his bath in tepid water, already a little dirty from his brother, his mother would wash him.  First she soaped his head with lather.  Then she showed him how to put soap on the wash cloth and demonstrated how to wash his arms and under his arm pits, under his neck and down his back.   She washed his feet and his legs up to his knees.  He had to stand up as his mother poured warm water out of a pot over his head.   He closed his eyes tight but once in a while, soap would get in and it would sting.  A good short cry and more water seemed to solve this problem.

Then it was time to wash “down there”.  His mother would put soap on his wash cloth but then it was up to him to do the rest.  This he did completely unselfconsciously.   His mother instructed him to be sure to soap between his buttocks and to do a good job “down there”.   This was how he learned that his head was some precious commodity floating high above and disconnected from his genitals.  His head was where his eyes were, where “he” existed as a person.  The rest of him came along wherever he went but he attached no importance to it. 

One day, as his mother watched, he pretended to swim in the bathtub.  When he turned over, he had an erection.   He was astonished and laughed.  What an amazing thing!  “Look mom,” he cried, “it’s standing up!”  His mother giggled and turned beet red.  She threw the wash cloth over him and looked away.  She cleared her throat.  “Now, don’t play so much in the water.   Come out or you’ll be wrinkled like an old man.”

He stood up and climbed out of the bathtub, which was quite high.   His mother wrapped him in a towel and then when he sat on the closed toilet seat, she wrapped another towel around his head. She showed him how to make a turban.  “It’s very important to use two towels to dry yourself, one for up top and one for below your waist,” she explained.   “You should never mix the towels up because the one for ‘down there’ will make you dirty.  If you use it on your face, you will get pimples.”

This seemed like very serious and sage advice.   She was no longer smiling and looked at him levelly.  “You have to be very careful.  If you touch yourself too much ‘down there’, I don’t know what will happen.”  It was true that he still felt warm from his erection, but through careful concentration and diligent effort, he was able to eliminate the feeling after another half hour.

Soon after this, his mother stopped giving him baths.  His older brother just laughed when he heard the story but otherwise gave him no further information.  He did not share the information with his friends.  He just assumed that they were all equally aware of the two towel rule.

Although he was among the larger people in his class, he did not mature as quickly physically as they did.   The other boys were already sprouting pubic hair while he was clean shaven as a baby.  His nipples were inflated, large and soft, almost as if he had breasts.   During gym, he waited until everyone else had had a shower before he went in.  Then he faced the wall the whole time so no one would stare at him.

The girls in his class were starting to develop round protuberances on their chests, and he was told Kay wore “falsies”.   He laughed with the others although he had no idea what they were talking about.

At home, his mother would never speak about sex, although other bodily functions were discussed openly.   His father seemed indifferent to all genders equally although he would occasionally come out of his haze to cuddle his little children for a few moments before quickly losing interest.  He was most interested in ideas, in world events and his son’s progress in school.  In some distant memory, he seemed to remember surprising his father and mother in the kitchen as he hugged her and gave her a kiss, but it all seemed so long ago.

He loved his mother’s underwear drawer and would often look through it.   Garters and stockings fascinated him.  He spritzed himself with perfume and spread lipstick on his lips.  He did not know what to do with the rouge or eyebrow pencils and made himself up to look like a clown.  Somehow, he knew this was not acceptable and when he heard his mother coming up the stairs, quickly rubbed everything off with tissue.  As his mother entered the room, he walked out, a tissue covering his face.  “I needed to blow my nose and couldn’t find a Kleenex,” he explained.  Later, he found his father’s hernia harness too, but no one ever explained the mysteries of that particular device.

None of this prepared him for what happened one day while he was waking up from a dream, where he felt supremely warm.  He had an erection and he was rubbing himself against the mattress.   He felt horribly afraid.  As he continued, he thought his insides would come up through his throat.  He was standing before a dark cave, a hooded figure with an unseen face loomed over him and he thought he was about to die.  This was the end, it was supreme ecstasy, what one felt before meeting his maker.   He remembered the words of his mother and realized she was absolutely correct.  If he touched himself too much “down there”, there was no telling what would happen.  He stopped.  He was covered in a clammy film.

Eventually, he learned the truth, that it was not death that awaited him at the end of the rubbing exercise but a pleasurable release.  At first there was only sensation and no other physical effect.

During this whole time, he was coming to terms with the fact that girls now made him nervous.     This had never been the case before.   He had climbed and played roughhouse with them.  They had played tag and cowboys and Indians without discrimination.     Now, he closed his eyes and pictured their faces as he did the rubbing.  He felt tremendously guilty when he met them the next day and did not know what to say.  

He did not know who or what to ask.   His brother laughed at him, he feared his mother and his father would be so disappointed in a son who seemed to have mixed up his two towels.  His thoughts were no longer high up.  They were down low.

He did not dare to speak to others about what was obviously unspeakable.   The end of the school year was rapidly approaching.   The girls in the class were becoming increasingly aggressive in seeking out boys to hug and kiss.  He hid from them to avoid their wet, slobbery osculations.  But they kept finding him at night in his dreams.  He did not kiss them.   He could just see them, seemingly naked, from the shoulders up.  They were somehow beneath him and he was rubbing himself in some way he could not identify.  Their faces gathered expressions of pain as he felt himself approach the little mini-death he had experienced before.   “No, no,” he thought even as a flower of wetness burst forth from him.   Liquid bloomed and surrounded him in his bed.   He awoke in a sweat and as he threw off his covers, the cool air told him he was sopping from head to foot, but more particularly “down there.”   He jumped out of bed and ran downstairs first to find two towels and then to the bathroom. 

In later life, he never could remember how he had learned about the basics of the birds and the bees or the connection between this nocturnal activity and sexual relations.   He didn’t picture his cat or his car at night, just girls.  So how exactly did this whole thing become clear? Was it in health class?  Did a classmate whisper in his ear so that he answered in shock, “my mother?! Never! Impossible!”   Or did he read a book? At some point, he understood that the wet dreams were in fact part of sex and that he was to try to perform the sex act with girls, creatures who he thought must find sex disgusting, especially if they were anything like his mother.

From his friends he learned that one had to sneak up on girls, kiss them while they weren’t looking, get them drunk, or compliment them outrageously.  By following these easy steps, sooner or later one could put one’s hand on a girl’s breast, which lead, according to the experts, directly to sex.   Seemed simple when his friends explained it.  When he tried it, the girls seemed bored.  Or if he kissed them, he had no clue as to what to do next.  Breasts too were nice to squeeze but at first, he could not understand what that had to do with sex either.  After all he liked to squeeze arms and waists too.

How did all of this activity fit together?  What was its purpose?  What was the larger plan?

There was no flash of light or insight.  It was only very gradually that he immersed himself in the pool of sex and its many liquidities, like a swimmer entering the cold waters of Lake Ontario   Living at the bottom of the ocean of ignorance, the boy was woken into true knowledge only after he was fully grown when a mermaid showed him her own sexual desire.  Her hands moved over his body as she mounted him, moaning.   The disparate pieces flowed together, the two towels became entwined.   He opened his eyes and drowned in love.  Welcome to the world.