excerpted from Put It Down in a Book
(Drill Press, 2009)
by Tom Bradley
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy.
—Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality
If you and your pals are still youngish enough to tout yourselves as being in a state of psychosexual flux, there’s a whole rigmarole of complex depravity you’ll want to engage in. These are disorienting sorts of extravagances, such as, for example, certain advanced forms of the game of “chicken.”
These are icky,unmentionably icky. But there’s a sort of elemental beauty in their sheer advancedness. You must admit that it would be difficult for a gang of pals to devise more advanced games of “chicken.”
And, of course, you are left with nothing to show for these extravagances but the conviction that you must start getting sedulous about pulling yourself together, acting regular for once. Because, after all, a strict regimen of carousing with pals can lead to emotional regression—or at least, in your yet semi-informed mind, you seem to recall hearing about some vague connection between those two conditions. Doubtless this is a residuum of the psychoanalytic climate of opinion left over from the days when you were even more callow than you pride yourself on being now. And, you remind yourself, there’s nothing more ridiculous-looking than a borderline-overripe diaper boy, pudgy to boot.
You fear nothing more than the irreversible process of emotional regression. You remember the chills that shot through your skull the first time you were exposed to that publicity shot of What’s-his-name, eyes closed, his body curled bare-naked like a foetus around that terrifying Extreme Oriental lady, who was fully clothed and staring right into the camera in hideous cannibal triumph. Total regression that was, on the part of the author of “I am the Walrus.” What comes before the in-utero state? Nothing. That particular Top Ten Hit Parade Rock Pop Icon was begging to be annihilated; that haole kid’s timing couldn’t have been better.
Now, how would such a thing look in your case? Especially grotesque. For such a healthy-sized man as you to curl foetally around such a petite, even diminutive creature as the female of the species—well, your husky shinbone alone would obliterate her from view (whoever she was), from the shank of her knee to the bridge of her no doubt sweet button nose. It would be simply too-too silly.