If Hemingway Wrote Portnoy’s Complaint

categories: Cocktail Hour


             It was cold and clean in the city during those years and I would walk home to the neighborhood past the butcher shops with the meat hanging down and past the dry cleaners to our warm apartment.   I would sit at the hard table and I would sharpen my pencil and then do my work, my home work, and then I would retire to the bathroom and click the lock into place.  The bathroom door was oak and solid and hard and you could feel the spot where the wood knotted above the lock.  It was the one private, well-lighted place in that crowded house and there I would take my penis from my pants and massage it many times.  It was a good place, and I was young and strong, and my penis was young and strong too and able to withstand repeated massagings.  When I was done there was always a moment of clarity, a clean moment despite the mess, and for a while, before the remorse set in, I would feel a little less afraid of death.  But the remorse and guilt would always return, as would my mother, always my mother, banging on the locked door to find out just what her eldest son had been doing behind it.

              If you were lucky enough to be alive in Newark during those years you will find that the city is still with you.  And if you were lucky and had done good homework, and shown your parents a fine, clean report card, they might allow you to escape the house for a while and walk the streets of the town.  You would pass Uncle Nate’s clothing store and wave and he would wave back and you would think that this place was a good place. You would walk more and think of the shiksas of Weequahic High, their long blond hair flowing, and maybe, if you were very lucky, you would even see one of them, or at least someone who looked like one of them.  If you did you would stare at them hard and with great concentration, and store that image, and you would know that later, behind the locked bathroom door, you would massage yourself vigorously with just that image in your head.

On the way home you might stop in at the butcher shop and look at the different meats and then, the guilt returning and building in your chest, you would look at a piece of raw liver.  It would be pinkish-brown and slick and it would remind you of the time you took the piece of liver from the family fridge and then used it to massage yourself with before dinner.  You were always hungry in those days, despite your mother’s constant exhortations to “Eat!”, and it’s true you would eat almost anything, but it was with some reluctance that you ate the liver later that same night.

You would always do your best, though it was hard to be good and clean and do good work in that house.  Your father’s bouts of constipation were not good or particularly clean.  Your mother’s overprotective hysteria, though born of caring, did not seem to embody the ideal you were forming of grace under pressure.  And your sister was fat and did not do her work.  But the air was cold and the house was warm and you were young and strong.  You did good work in that house and if there were moments of remorse you also had moments of clarity.  And you had your moments of massaging, too, many moments of massaging.





  1. dw writes:

    Let us wank then, you and I
    When the liver is spread out across my thigh

  2. Dave writes:

    Glad that you two are playing. I was afraid I had crossed over some imaginary, masturbatory line that shant be crossed. If we do make it a feature it can be called Jerk Off Friday.

  3. John Jack writes:

    Hillarious, Dave and Bill. I’ll play. If Kurt Vonnnegut wrote Portnoy’s Complaint.

    This is the tale of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men massaging livers on a planet of liver massagers which was dying fast.

  4. Bill writes:

    Dave, let’s make this a feature. What if Jane Austen wrote Portnoy’s Complaint? “It is a truth universally recognized that a single man in possession of a good cut of meat, must be in want of a wank.”