hen Zilo woke the morning after the first freshman mixer where he canceled his inhibitions with two warm Millers and danced to German techno music, his face hurt from grinning. He grabbed a pen and his notebook and scrawled the following: In my four years at Caltech, I will double-major in biochemistry and mechanical engineering with a focus on chicken processing, and I will have sex. He’d abandoned his plans of a monastic life when he first walked into his dorm and saw the young men and women carrying boxes and stereos and potted plants and bulletin boards and suitcases and trunks. His hall-mates. Both genders. Popcorn pajama parties, all-night cram sessions, intramural coed sports, cheap peeks as they headed to the showers! And they weren’t mocking him. Most even smiled. The gamy odor of his hall was what he thought sex might smell like. Each time he walked down it, he breathed deeply, and the stink shot from his nasal membranes to testicles, making them tingle.
The diploma was something he’d have to wait for. He would read the texts, attend the labs and lectures, take the tests, write the papers and programs, and in the four years, he’d graduate with honors and move back to Tucson to revolutionize the chicken farm.
He didn’t have to wait too long for the sex.
Zilo looked in the Yellow Pages, and walked seven blocks to a faded pink cinder-block building: ADULT SHOP. He first noticed the smell inside, like cherry-pie filling. Then he noticed the bright slickness of it all. Shelves of Silly Putty-colored dildos, one shaped like a fist. Books. Magazines with titles like Young Shavers and Newcummers. Mannequins dressed in leather. Inflatable women and men. Wigs on Styrofoam heads.
“Can I help you find something?” the clerk, a skinny, sunburned man, asked Zilo.
“I may need a little time,” Zilo said.
“What are you into?”
“I’m not clear on that,” Zilo said. “I was hoping something here would pique my interest.”
The clerk hefted a large book from the shelf below the dildos. He placed it on the counter. “This book has everything except animals and children.” The title, in squishy, bubble-gum letters: VSECHNO. And just below, in smaller, standard typeface, the poor English translation: EVERYTHING.
“It’s Czech, and it has it all. Penetration shots, and lots of photos of men with women, women with women, men with men. Everything.”
Back in his dorm room, with the door locked and the blinds closed, Zilo flipped through his new book. One page featured two men engaged in sex. The English translation read, Michael receives to buttocks. A man with an impossibly large penis: John has spacious bird. A lesbian love scene: Zuzan kisses breast-wart of Sally. All the photos and their captions, even the few Zilo found intriguing, left Zilo amused instead of aroused.
In his material science lab the following week, Zilo noticed a fair-haired ballerino smirking at him as the instructor drew a schematic on the board. Zilo had seen the ballerino before. Todd from Canada. He had performed with celebrated dancers in Europe, and done cancer research in Toronto. He had the face of a mail-away doll: smooth, white, almost shiny, like it had been genetically planned and carefully molded.
As the students filed out of the lab, Todd smirked one last time at Zilo, and haughtily flipped his blond bangs from his eyes. Zilo followed the ballerino as he swaggered back to the dorm.
In the cross-hatched rays of afternoon light that seeped through the closed Venetian blinds, Todd fellated Zilo. The unsummoned gurgles and coos that slipped from Zilo’s mouth were surprising and somewhat ridiculous, especially when Zilo found he couldn’t control their loudness.
It was over in less than two minutes. When Zilo zipped his trousers, he heart racing away in his chest, he felt like he was forgetting something important. He thanked Todd, kissed his forehead, and mussed his soft hair. Zilo then meandered around campus for a few hours before dinner, wondering.
A few weeks later, he began to have sex with Linda, a woman who lived in a dorm room below his. They’d eat dinner together in the cafeteria, go to their respective rooms for a few hours of study, then Zilo would walk downstairs and knock softly on her door. He enjoyed her giant frizz of red hair, and her large, pillowy breasts. He spent many hours with head buried in those breasts, while she yawned and stared blankly at the ceiling.
One night, as he kissed her nipples, he muttered, “I love breast warts of you.”
“It’s from a Czech porno book I have. It’s a bad translation,” Zilo explained. “It’s funny.”
“Not if you have to explain it.” She sighed loudly. “I’m bored. And I’m behind in bio-chem. Maybe we should quit this for a while.” She sat up in bed and covered her breasts with a pillow.
Zilo wasn’t too upset about the breakup. The same uneasy feeling like he was forgetting something had nagged him each time he messed around with Linda. Sometimes he was left with a hollow feeling in his stomach, almost like the early stages of heartburn.
The rugby player was next. His name was Bradford, and with his buzzed hair and muscular neck, he looked like the guys who bullied Zilo in high school. Each time Bradford walked near him, Zilo flinched. When Bradford sat at the same table in the cafeteria, Zilo’s throat clenched in his fear, and he could no longer swallow his food. This ended one Friday night in November after Zilo had downed his regular three Millers at a dorm party. Bradford busted into the party, flanked by two of his meaty teammates, and handed Zilo a large bottle of Irish beer. Before Zilo had time to get nervous, Bradford leaned down and whispered, “You’re just the cutest.”