Ben Berman

Beats, Balls and Bases

Beats

We pulled into the drive-thru hoping for some cheap and greasy late-night combo to stave off the inevitable hangover but found, instead, a homeless man humping the intercom. And without missing a beat Sam leaned over, rolled down my window and asked, hey, you want fries with that?

***

The man turned around and lunged at us, started beating his fist against my car door and spitting violently. I slammed my foot down on the pedal and he fell face first behind us – and we just left him there lying on the ground, moaning with his pants around his ankles.

***

We must have told that story a hundred times once we got back to our dorm, mastered the back and forth of it – he tried to masturbate on us, Sam would say, but we beat him off in the end, I would follow. Though even then I was troubled by the jokes we cracked about his special sauce – the way we transformed his attack into a punch line, treated his illness like our crazy adventure.

 

Balls

Benny had the brains, says Marc, and I had the balls – which would be funnier if he were speaking metaphorically, if he wasn’t referring to our final night in Marrakesh when we ordered sheep offal off a menu, as though eating at a local café could have offset that ever-insistent sense of dislocation.

***

And though it’s been fifteen years, the details come back now with such texture, such vivid intensity, I could almost forget that we’re lying on hammocks under the shade of a huge umbrella, that the uneasiness in my stomach is from sipping highballs all afternoon, that the weight on my chest is from my one-year-old, who’s fallen fast asleep.

***

But it’s all flashes and fragments and soon we find ourselves struggling to piece together what happened after we got back from that café and found an abandoned, balled-up litter of newborn kittens in the stairwell of our hostel – our wives watching us warily as we argue over who suggested finding a shovel, who thought we should look for milk.

 

Bases

Chloe had already made out with Kenny earlier that night, but that didn’t stop her from taking my hand and asking if I wanted to see what was going on downstairs. And though Kenny and I weren’t that close, I felt implicated as we walked down to the basement and heard all my friends chanting: how low can you go?

***

My entire understanding of relationships, at that point, was based on those after-school specials where the guy moved too fast or the girl found true love, so I wasn’t really sure what to do when Chloe suddenly thrust her tongue inside of my mouth and started plunging it like a clogged toilet.

***

After the lights came back on, one of my buddies asked if I was going to try to get to second base. And though I didn’t love being the only single guy in eighth grade, I wasn’t ready to commit, felt such relief when Chubby Checker’s voice boomed from the record player and we all returned to playing limbo.

 

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