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Brian Lobel

By Brian Lobel
Brian Lobel is a writer/performer and theater director originally from Delmar, New York. His plays BALL and Other Funny Stories About Cancer and Festival of Lights Alive have been produced in Chicago (at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre and Live Bait Theater) as well as at over 50 theaters, universities and medical schools around the world. Brian is the recipient of the 2004 Hopwood Drama Award for BALL and a 2006 CAAP Grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs to develop Other Funny Stories. You can find his website here.
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The instant I walked into the bathroom, I saw why he was looking at me,.  I looked at myself in the mirror and there it was.  There I was.  An it.  A cancer patient.  6’1, 120 pounds, with no hair and eyes severely sunken into my head.  I was death.  I was a walking symbol of death.  I was mortality – and Adam was smiling nervously at mortality, not at a cute boy.  Who would want this?  And if anyone did want this, wouldn’t I think that they were disgusting?  The image of myself in the mirror would not let go – it suddenly became the image of the man on the crashing plane… swiftly going down without anyone to take his virginity. But there wasn’t a convenient punch-line on such a grotesque and depressing sight. 

That coy smile wasn’t coy; it was fear.  It was deep pity as shown behind a plate glass window, afraid that my mortality would leap the foot that separated us and spread to him too.  I’m sure that he didn’t know what it was that I had, but I’m sure he didn’t want it.  I wondered if he ran home and threw his clothes quickly into the wash, lest my mortality stain his carefree college life.

I couldn’t stay for the rest of the Vagina Monologues.  I left the bathroom, walked back to Ruth’s Co-op and gave myself what I thought might be my last orgasm before I went to bed.


Five weeks after my abdominal surgery and I still hadn’t had an orgasm.  I got worried the doctors may have been wrong.  My surgeon had said that he didn’t need to cut the nerve that facilitates ejaculation during the surgery, but maybe he was wrong.  Maybe I had lost my chance forever.  Maybe they thought I just wouldn’t notice.  Or they figured that no one but my-virgin-self would notice and therefore, the problem would be contained… My abdomen was bulbous, with what felt like a zipper of staples straight down the center.  I sat on the recliner at my house, watching Seasons 1, 2 and 3 of Sex and the City on a loop – living vicariously through the sex lives of Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and (my favorite), Miranda, none of whom ever appeared to lose their orgasms.  And I did little else.  I feared maybe the doctors were wrong.  I had missed my chance, with Sandra, Raquelle, Adam, anyone and I would, assuredly, die sans penetrative sex with another person.   

I was sleeping on my back, since showering had proved too difficult with the staples; I had gone 5 weeks without a proper shower; and I was in more of a haze than I was in actual sleep. And then, out of the blue, I see it:  my classic wet dream image from adolescence, developing with Polaroid-like steadiness. There is a red-headed woman underwater with a front-clasp bikini.  I looked closer, trying to make out her face.  Was it Raquelle?  No, no, no, Adam? No, Sandra? Rolando? Maybe it was one of my many lesbian gal-pals I loved and adored.  Still no.  Maybe it was my old babysitter, Heather, who’s body and visage had originally inspired the original recurring dream. 

I didn’t know who it was, but I knew what would happen.  Water all around, sunlight above, sand glistening in the distance…  Maybe they were right, maybe I could do it, maybe I could do it, I could have penetrative sex… My dreaming eyes closed and re-opened, thereby taking in my muse.  MIRANDA.  Ohhhhhhhh….. Ahhhhhh…....Oh….  Ahhhh….  Oh… Ah… Ahhhhhh…..  I’m not sure if that’s the gayest person to get off to, or the straightest – but I do know that getting off to Cynthia Nixon officially makes me a lesbian.

For the first time, I didn’t rush to wipe off my masturbated cum opting instead to lay in it, soaking in it, basking in all its glory:  proud, hopeful…  The virgin would not die in a ball of fire.  I realized that, because I couldn’t shower with my stitches, I wouldn’t be able to wash the since-dried-cum on my abdomen for another few weeks. But I knew, positively, that there could and would be a future.

And there was a future. Six months later, on my first date with Vicky, it happened.   Boy, girl, penis, vagina, penetration, the end.  Well, it was better than that – actually kind of nice.  As we lay on the floor - an awkward one-balled queer and a 26-year-old art historian/tattoo artist, I revealed to Vicky that I had just lost my virginity.  Ahhh….  Conquest.  Vicky quickly dressed, made me dress, apologized and sent me home.  Hmm? 

The next morning, I received a frantic phone call from her, begging me to join her at Espresso Royale, where Vicky had gotten us a table.  Over our mochas, she leaned in with a face I had hitherto known as only the cancer-face, serious and well-intentioned and asked “Did I rape you last night?” 

It was a serious question with a serious face attached to it and I smiled, “No Vicky, No. You did not rape me last night.  You have no idea how long I waited for that to happen.”  And she smiled, relieved that she hadn’t ruined the life of a cancer survivor – and after that, it was all behind us.  Or at least my virginity was behind us.  Or my virginity was behind me. Err, mostly. 

The End.

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Rob Day-Walker said:

Brilliant, concise, evocative, and funny. I should take some pointers from you. Seriously, though, stories like make me despair of ever fully understanding queer communities and lives - and I wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks for sharing.

Posted at: May 23, 2008 2:20 AM

erica said:

i kept waiting for the part where he expresses his regret for such a misogynistic crusade. did i miss something?

Posted at: June 9, 2008 9:16 PM

Janice said:

In response to the previous comment, this essay feels to me like a critique on queer misogyny. I believe the description of the scene during the Vagina Monologues between the author and Adam alludes to this. Not to mention the reference to Cynthia Nixon, a lesbian, and dare I say, feminist icon. This is a funny, challenging essay and I can't wait to read more of his work.

Posted at: June 10, 2008 9:15 PM

Seth Macy said:

Feminist lesbians be damned. I agree with the previous comment and add, he adores lesbians and considers himself a feminist. He's making fun of them, but in doing so making fun of himself. His crusade seemed more like a means to an end than misogyny. He wasn't afraid to admit the truth of his quest.

Posted at: June 13, 2008 5:08 PM

thomas spitzer-hanks said:

Having been an anxious virgin myself, I admit I'm less interested in the politics of Brian's feelings than I am in his having expressed them. I think it is really important to describe fear and desire in a masculine context (as well as all other possible contexts) because so many find these two emotional states inextricably intertwined in themselves and in social expectations of personhood. Also, I thought the piece was well-written and easy to read. Thank You.

Posted at: September 17, 2008 4:24 PM

Bryan said:

Excellent writing...intriguing storyline. I am curious though, what was with the homosexual connotations and "queer" references in your story? Once finished reading your story, I reflected that this is a story about a bisexual man struggling with both cancer and sexual identity. Was this the purpose of your story? If so, great, but I get the impression that you were trying to convey something else.....?

Posted at: May 3, 2009 3:34 AM