Chapter 49 – “Have You Been Able to Jag Off Lately?”
Residents of Iran are some of the most welcoming and hospitable in the world. During my eight days there, it’s amazing how many times I was invited into strangers’ homes, barber shops, ice cream parlors and pretty much any other venue just so they could ask me who I am, where I’m from and to welcome me to their country by offering unlimited tea and snacks. With some of these kind folks, I ended up hanging out and conversing for hours. And as I sit here on the floor of my childhood bedroom reflecting on the time I spent in Iran, I find it kind of sad that I had more openhearted and respectful interactions with said strangers from “The Axis of Evil” than I’ve ever been able to have with my own father.
Right now I’m twenty-six-years-old and have made the choice to continue living at home with my parents to expedite the repayment of my student loans and to save up some money for my next trip abroad. In addition to sharing the same living space, I work with my dad almost every day washing windows and cleaning gutters.
Never once in my life have I had a conversation with my dad about our inner-selves. He’s never opened up to me about his feelings on anything. Instead, all he’s ever talked to me about is window washing and the fire department and sports and bars and high-fiving about the attractive women that serve him drinks at the bars while getting drunk and watching sports with firemen. When I was a kid, I’d take great interest in these things just so my dad would take interest in me in return. It worked, but at the same time, my thoughts and feelings about anything that actually mattered to me were often suppressed by my father, especially those concerning the hurt and terror I felt when he’d come home wasted and bully my mom in front of me, never apologize and do the same thing over and over to this very day.
As I grew older and less dependent on the love of my parents, pretending I like the same things my dad does mattered less and less to me. Since he never opened up and, at this stage in my life, I wouldn’t dare trust him with my true self, the fact that he and I know absolutely nothing about who the other person really is remains clearly evident in the cold silence that divides us as he and I sit in the car together, driving to and from work each day. Although tragic, I kind of prefer it this way. It’s easier for me to drown out the sting of my old wounds with the radio blasting and the windows down. Unlike I am however, my dad’s not comfortable with not saying anything to me and always attempts to break the ice by asking dumb questions.
Each and every morning when we sit in the car next to one another, wordlessly staring out the windshield on the way to our first window job of the day, my dad will ask me, “How’d you sleep?”
Although this pisses me off, I always answer it and ask him the same in return and he’ll tell me about how he can’t get to sleep without the television on but then how he always ends up getting woken up by loud commercials and then watches TV in the middle of the night then smokes a cigarette and can’t get back to sleep. In addition to telling him it’s not good to sleep with the TV on or to ingest stimulants when trying to get rest, I occasionally throw a Hail Mary and try to take our relationship deeper by asking him what’s bothering him and why he can’t sleep. To this, he always just says “I don’t know” and I just nod and say, “Hmm, okay, yeah, I’m sorry to hear about that,” before we return to silence.
Now, it’s no secret that I like to make jokes about jerking off – usually in the form of hypotheticals that consist of random people with random occupations randomly beating it in some random place using random stimuli to help them get their rocks off. For example, “The other day I walked into the dressing room at JC Penney’s and found a garbage man hunched over, furiously masturbating to a gyro sandwich.”
I think shit like that is funny and to an extent, my dad does too. But what he doesn’t understand is the context of the joke – the criteria that makes it a joke and not just me wanting to talk about guys playing with themselves. And my dad’s misinterpretation of the gag comes shining through when he sometimes attempts to cease this secondary silence of our mornings by broaching the subject of masturbation.
“So, have you been able to jag off lately?”
The first couple times he’d asked me this, I just kinda played along because I didn’t wanna hurt his feelings because I could tell this was his honest-to-god way of trying to connect with me. So, even though it hurt like hell knowing that after all these years he knows so little about who I am that he thinks this is something I’d enjoy having a father-son chat about, I’d say, “Yeah, I dunno, sure, I can jack off whenever I want.”
And then he’d tell me all about whether or not he was “able” to “jag off” the evening beforehand.
One time, during one of these most unfortunate exchanges, I decided to ask my dad, when it came to load-catching techniques, whether he’d been more of a Kleenex/toilet paper kinda guy or a crusty sock/beat-rag kinda guy.
“Neither,” he said, “I just do it on the coffee table.”
“What? Are you serious? I put my dinner on that coffee table when we’re watching Bulls games together.”
“Yeah,” he shrugged, “I just jag off onto the coffee table and then clean it up later.”
“We used to do holiday jigsaw puzzles on that table. What the hell’s wrong with you?”
He shrugged again.
“You know what?” I spat. “I’m done with this shit. Don’t fuckin’ ask me your stupid little questions anymore about how I slept or whether or not I was able to jag off. I’m tired of answering ‘em. I don’t give a shit anymore, okay?”
“Well,” he shouted in return, “what am I supposed to talk about with you!?”
“Nothing!” I yelled. “We have nothing in common. You and I have nothing to talk about and I’d rather sit in silence than have the image of you cumming on our coffee table forced on my fucking mind. God,” I panted as I redirected my attention out the window, “what the fuck!?”