This excerpt is from Candy and Blood, available on Amazon.com now.
This package must be handled with care.
There I stood, stark naked, perched on one foot with the other planted waist-high against the wall. My back was bent and twisted in acrobatic fashion, my neck craning and turning to get the best vantage point. A razor in my right hand was poised over my most sensitive of areas, while my left hand fought desperately with the loose skin and hair there to execute a plan of attack that wouldn’t leave me bleeding from my balls. Or worse. I was circumcised ages ago, so I no longer possessed excess flesh to spare. Manscaping in prison can be a rather harrowing affair.
Based on what I can discern from articles and advertisements in magazines and on TV, it seems that personal grooming has grown from a cottage industry into an industrial complex. What with all types of electric trimmers to do the deed and lotions, potions, balms, and powders to soothe one’s privates afterward, it’s an exciting new time for male genitalia. Of course, none of these advances have made their way to prison. Like our Dark Age ancestors, we’re left with nothing but a razor and silent prayers that we won’t slip and commit an act akin to an external vasectomy.
Why groom behind bars? While it’s true that there’s no one of the female persuasion (or of the male persuasion for that matter) who spends any significant amount of time in that particular region, there are hygiene and comfort issues involved. Everything in life feels better with less hair, and since moisture and odor tend to cling to hair, especially in the summer months, it becomes imperative to take on some amateur grooming duties. Really, I’m not trying to impress anyone (after all, the more subtle the frame, the more impressive the picture) but most prison cells are not air-conditioned. With temperatures soaring to over 100 degrees and often only a few showers afforded an inmate each week, frequent shearing becomes a necessity.
But there’s no handbook for this. (How much is too much?) With no feminine presence privy to my manscaping, I have no one to ask for advice on the issue of pubic manicuring. Dropping trou in front of my cellie and asking: “What do you think? Take a little more off the left side?” is really not a good idea, and I don’t recommend it. And so, this leaves me all alone in the shower once again. (And there really should only be one man per shower stall, for reasons I hope I never have to explain.)
The steam from the shower and the energy exerted to maintain my precarious posture—one foot flat on the wall, the other flat on the floor, creating a 90-degree-angle at my groin—combined to get me overheated. Sweat burned and stung my eyes, and I tried to blink it away while remaining focused on the task literally at hand. With my face remarkably close to my crotch (honestly, even in the heat and stress of the bizarre moment, I paused to indulge in feelings of pride and surprise over being that flexible), I could smell the funk rising as a fog from my unkempt bushy pubes. It braced me and gave me the resolve to tackle the necessary job I’d set out to do.
When I wasn’t blinking away sweat, my eyelids were pulled back as wide as they could go, my focus as intent as I could possibly push it. Like some miniature version of a late 19th-century native guide forging a path with a machete through the Amazon rainforest, I hacked away at the brushy black tangles with my pathetic single blade razor. My motions were tiny and quick. I felt deathly terrified that I might slice my family jewels to ribbons. Just having my junk in harm’s way had the adrenaline gushing through my bloodstream and my heart bashing like some psychotic meth-head was in charge of keeping the beat.
I pressed on, though, straining to focus on the task as my leg muscles ached from being held in such an awkward posture for so long. My right hand wielded my weapon, moved deftly, and gained confidence with each successful slice at the offensive overgrowth. I was nearly ninety percent completed when it happened. My legs began to quake slightly, as my control started to slip away. Then my right hand started shaking, too.
I stopped, right? I mean, that would be the only intelligent thing to do at that point. A razor clutched in an unsteady hand hovering just above my precious package—of course I stopped! I paused, regrouped, and then went back at it with renewed focus, right?
I see it now in my mind’s eye as if it were a fever-dream or some other entity—some idiotic entity—had possessed me and begun to control my actions. But no—the idiot was me. Anxious and eager to be finished and rid of the burden of performing my manscaping duties, I sped up. I chopped at the remaining few tufts of fluff and scraped the blade lightly over skin whose only preparation or lubricant had been warm water. There was a handful of tugs when the hair got yanked out from the root rather than sliced nicely, and they all smarted and made me suck in breath sharply through my teeth, but nothing too terrible. My movements became more frantic as an illogical panic set in, and I raced to finish my below-the-belt-haircut before my legs gave out on me.
Scrape, scrape. Slice, slice. Blink, blink. I was barely seeing what I was doing anymore. It was only a matter of time, really.
Steel bit into my scrunched scrotal skin, and I made a sound similar to a dog’s whimpering as I bit my lip to squelch the scream threatening to escape from my mouth. Even after that initial impetus to howl passed, I continued to make a sad-sounding, pained noise in the back of my throat. The damage was easy to survey, as red rushed to the surface of my sack and pooled there. Once my frenzied grooming finally ceased, I surveyed the damage I’d wrought. I noticed a dozen other nicks and too-close scrapes that now wept blots of blood as a result of my over-zealousness and incompetence. I finally put my razor away, but prudence had prevailed much too late. My loins looked like a sad chicken plucked by some sadistic version of the Swedish Chef.
Soaping up and rinsing off was physically and mentally excruciating because my mind begged for the torture to stop as a hundred tiny injustices all screamed their stinging distress. A certain Jerry Lee Lewis song about flaming spheres aptly described my sentiments upon finishing my shower: goodness gracious, indeed.
The entire ordeal left me more than merely chafed, with splotches and splashes of blood marking both my washcloth and towel. I was extremely sensitive for a week: every bead of sweat in that area made me squirm with itching, stinging pain. Baby powder, that most blessed of all personal grooming accoutrements, had recently been outlawed—citing the “safety and security of the institution” as reason enough to justify its removal from the commissary shelves. The only remedy left to me was to sit with my fan wafting a cool, soothing breeze directly up my shorts, and that became my default position whenever humanly possible.
Once healed, I was largely content with my shorn self, but for one nagging truth. There was no escaping the lingering and certain knowledge that it was only a matter of time before my twisted web of messy, meshy tangles would have to be pruned again. It’s a reality of this cyclical existence, a foregone conclusion that I dreaded: that, all too soon, I’d be alone in the shower once again with a razor blade companion, desperately trying not to make myself a eunuch.