Listen close. You’ll sweat on the day they make you a man. August 12, 1990. You’ll be four months from fifteen, and you won’t know any of the guys you’re with, and that’s too bad because your ride won’t be around until after two and if you want to leave before that then you truly are a pussy. This is important. Your socks will be striped. Two thick bands of green will sandwich a skinny strip of yellow, and as you stand in line you’ll think about nothing but the simple white tubes on the feet of the other boys around you. Don’t cry about it. Don’t disappoint yourself. Ball your fists instead, and focus on aggression. You will learn to make your friends this way. The older men will gird you for the task. Pads for the hip and tailbone are what they’ll give you first. Next are knees and thighs. After that, the shoulders. Finally, your helmet. It will be perfect, new and orange, and with it on you will be bigger and stronger than you ever were before. You will get an erection. Enjoy it. Your cock will strain against the confines of your cup, and you will think about your virility when Coach uses a stinking black marker to write your surname on your newer, bigger, badass forehead. You will sweat on the day you enter the world of men. You will see the other new men around you, your brothers: Mayes, Kim, Karwazcka, Kohn, and at that moment your first name and their first names will wither before you and die. Yes, you’ll make the necessary letters when needed in court or on your credit card applications, but anybody that matters—your boss, your enemy, your mentor, your friend—the people that matter will look you in your eye and call you by your name—your real name—and you will feel complete. Enjoy it. Roll it around on your tongue. See how it feels in your mouth. Listen. Its sound is sweet, and when you hear it, you will feel respect, and you will live your life and you will live your life and for nearly twenty years you will live your life and then one day you will marry and then you will have a child of your own and then that child, an infant, a babe of four months, will sicken overnight. A grotesquery of bulges and bloat, is what her tiny neck becomes. You’ll seek experts—doctors and surgeons—and they’ll speak to you in tongues. Epidemic parotitis, they’ll venture. Hygroma. Lymphoma. Sarcoma. Cysts. You’ll stupefy and blubber. Oh, there will be tears that day, I tell you—those of your offspring and woman and self—and when your experts require your attention, they’ll call you “Dad” because the wailing baby belongs to you and the moniker is valid and they are in charge and they don’t have the time to care about your name or your goddamned feelings or whatever it is you like, and this—this, my simple friend—this will fuck you up.
Big Hark is a writer in Chicago.