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"Write down one thing you wish you could change about yourself," my second-grade teacher instructs.

She hands a piece of paper to each student as she meanders through the rows of desks.

I know right away. I want to be white like everyone else. I want to look normal. I feel a pit growing inside my stomach, a warmth overtakes my face and neck. Thank God I’m unable to blush because of the pigmentation of my skin.

I’m too dark for them to know.

I’m seven years old.

This is early anxiety. I don’t know what it is yet. But I’ll come to know it well, its crippling claws.

I need to act fast and formulate a game plan. Or else I’ll be found out. Or else they’ll know I’m weak and scared. But I’ll never let them know that. I’ll be the best. I’ll always win. No matter what.

I wish I had different ears is what I write—even though I like my ears. I lie so they’ll never know my secrets.

I come home from school and look at myself in the mirror. Peer into my eyeballs. Perceive that there’s someone in there looking back at me. That there’s something more to me.

Soon the teacher makes us go around from desk to desk, saying what we want to be when we grow up.

I know instantly. I don’t want to be anything else.

I hear the other students tell their dreams—be a doctor, or an astronaut, or a marine biologist—and then it comes to me.

“I want to be a pro hockey player.” Some of the class laughs.

But I know it’s my destiny.

After school, I go home and sit in the makeup chair in my mom’s bathroom. This bathroom is my sanctuary. I can hide out and look into the mirror. Be anyone I want to be.

I finally understand that I’m different—the only colored kid in my whole town.

Peshtigo, Wisconsin—population three thousand—just me. I turn my head from side to side and look at the brown skin on the boyish curves of my face. The reason I feel different is because I am different.

There’s only one path for me now. I have to be the best. I’m going to make it all the way to the NHL.

I can feel it.

I’m at the playground now and listening to some boys talking under the monkey bars. I dig a hole in the woodchips, get to the black dirt underneath, and bury a pinecone.

I hear about this thing called “sex” and wonder what it is. I can’t get it off my mind. When I think about it, I’m not thinking about those other things.

I sense early on that it’s a big deal. That it’s driving the world. I hear whispers of it from the TV screen. Or from the conversations of the older kids on Noquebay Ave (pronounced knock-a-bay).

I have a metal fighter-jet toy with a pointy tip on it. I’m playing games in my imagination in my room—crawling under the bed and behind the dressers. Looking for some hidden treasure. I take the tip of that jet and move my hand like a jackhammer. It feels like something is controlling me. I engrave tall letters into the wood on the back of the dresser, the word SEX.

I instantly feel shame. I can’t hide the letters or cover them up because they’re too big. The imprints of the fighter-jet phallus penetrated too deep into the wood. My heart pounds with guilt that I might get caught. I might get discovered.

I push the dresser back and clean my room. I pick up all the dirty clothes, put them into the hamper, and arrange the furniture. I tidy up my baseball cards and Ninja Turtle action figures, so there’s no suspicion.

But I know those big letters of SEX are back there. I keep that secret pressed up against the wall as tight as it can go.

Sixth grade is about to start. We get a list of the items we need for gym class. For the first time we have gym lockers with padlocks of our own. Showers are mandatory. This terrifies me.

First item on the list is deodorant. I never thought much about my armpits before. Now I feel self-conscious, that prickling sensation. I don’t have hair under them like some of the other boys.

I get a giant can of spray deodorant. I love dousing my pits with the stuff after gym class, feeling the burn. I don’t shower because I’m too scared to be naked. But I take sneaky glances at the boys exiting the shower. Some of them are already developed. Long strands of armpit hair and wild fluffs of pubic hair.

I see Tommy Kissinger’s penis. It must be half-erect. The thing is enormous and looking right at me—that intimidating eye. Underneath are two giant balls the size of oranges.

I stare—half in horror and half in astonishment. In full defeat—knowing that his sperm whale could swallow up my minuscule minnow in one gulp. How can I ever compete with a guy like that?

A notion begins to grow inside me. That my penis is tiny and pathetic. And that I am too. The only thing I want is to hit puberty and be whole. To have pubic hair. To become a man. That’s all I want.

My mom signs me up for basketball, and they put me at point guard. I have a technique that’s unstoppable. I drive the basket as fast as I can and jump into the air. Flying toward my opponent. Forcing him to foul me. As I’m airborne, I gently flick the ball into the hoop. Most of the time the ball goes in, and I get to shoot a free throw. Sometimes it doesn’t, and I shoot two.

When I’m on the free throw line, I feel that festering fear that I have no armpit hair. The entire world is looking at me, and I know I’ll be found out. Lessons are forming early. I’m learning to perform at the highest levels under these circumstances—under this stress, under this upheaval.

The sleeveless jersey leaves me exposed. But I devise a plan.

Instead of shooting the ball in the traditional way, how my dad taught me—shooting like I’m in a phone booth, lifting my arms high into the air, releasing the ball, then flopping my hand like a dead fish—I shoot more like a girl. Keep my arms down at chest level. Release the ball from right under my chin. Then no one sees my smooth, hairless armpits.

No one says too much about my technique. I can bury those free throws and rack up the points.

Sports becomes a way for me to hide my shame. When I’m scoring points and making plays and winning games, no one asks any questions. They give me high-fives and pat me on the rear end and tell me I played great.

I play every sport imaginable. But my two loves are baseball and hockey. Hockey all winter, and baseball all summer. It’s summer now, baseball season, with that sun shining high in the sky. I alternate between pitching and playing catcher. Hitting home runs over the left field fence. Spitting sunflower seeds in the dusty dugout. Pouches of Big League Chew and blowing bubbles the size of my head.

Then it happens.

A boy on my baseball team invites me over to his house. Tells me his dad has porno magazines. I know about porno already, and its existence. But I’ve never seen it before. I’m ready for this. I already feel that magnetic pull toward girls. One in particular, Josie Blinkleton, with her neon-yellow spandex. She makes me feel a certain way. I know I want more of that.

He takes me down to his basement. There are boxes everywhere. He pulls one out from under a table and opens the top. I see the stacks of magazines in there. Beautiful women on the covers.

He hands me a Penthouse.

It opens to the centerfold. There’s a black woman living in the open magazine. With thick makeup and curly hair. I look into her face—her eyes shrouded in heavy eyeliner. I slowly scan down her body to her heaving breasts and big black nipples. My eyes are just about as big as those enormous areolas. I keep scanning down and everything turns still and silent.

I can hear my heart beating in my chest. My eyes move toward her stomach and belly button. I know that just below is the spot that matters, where the sex happens. I continue to scan down in slow motion until I behold my first vagina, in all its glory.

The excitement dissipates quickly—gets sucked out of the basement through the sump pump. I don’t know what I’m looking at.

It’s black and pink and thick and shaven. The sides of the labia are large, like great flapping wings. My brain doesn’t know how to process these meat curtains. This roast beef au jus. I only know my own genitals and their shape in the mirror, how they hang there like chandeliers.

My brain processes her labia lips as big black balls hanging on the sides of her vagina. Terrible, haggard testicles. Something happens as I stare in horror at that vortex. A fracture of confusion in my brain.

A seed gets planted that will continue to germinate and grow into a tree of sickness and dysfunction over decades. I hide that confusion deep down into the gray-matter folds of my brain, where no one can see it. Maybe someday those shames will get rattled free and exposed for the world to see.

I move past that traumatic moment, blink it away. He hands me another magazine. I see blonde girls with soft pink vaginas and perky breasts as I page through it. I’m instantly addicted. It’s all I want to do. It’s all I want to see. I manage to score a couple Playboy magazines from another kid in town soon after. I treasure these like golden trophies. I hide them in my room up above the drop- ceiling tiles, where no one knows but me.

It’s winter now. I start to climb the hockey ladder. There’s something in the air—I can feel it.

It’s clear that I have something special on the hockey rink that the other kids don’t. I can do things out there that no one’s ever seen before—up in our small border town between northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I’m playing a level up, with kids a couple years older than me. It’s an outdoor rink in Marinette, and I wear a bright-yellow helmet two sizes too big. A thick wool stocking cap underneath, to keep me warm on those northern Wisconsin nights.

I’m in line in the neutral zone at the faceoff dot, waiting for my turn in the drill. I see some of the older kids pointing at me and laughing. I wonder if it’s because of my yellow helmet or my hand- me-down skates. They glide toward me and flick snow in my face with the blades of their hockey sticks.

“Hi, Brown Tootsie Roll,” a boy says.

“Brown Tootsie Roll!” they say together and laugh.

My eyes fall to my skates. I see the ice covered in a layer of snowflakes that has fallen from the sky above. I don’t look at the boys. I notice the cracks and bumps of the ice and sweep my stick back and forth, clearing away the snow.

Coach taps me on the shin pad.

“You ready, Bobby?” he says. “You’re up next.”

I skate the circles as fast as I can, pumping my legs underneath me. I catch the pass from Coach on my backhand, in stride. I stickhandle through the cones and shoot on the goalie, raising the puck over his glove, off the crossbar, and down into the net for a goal.

I get back in line, breathing heavy—wondering what a Brown Tootsie Roll is.

I keep getting better at hockey and I find myself in the big city of Green Bay the next season. Dad makes the one-hour commute to practice while I do homework in the passenger seat.

I’m surrounded by people that seem so foreign to me. I feel different from them. I’m just the boy from the small town up north who escaped. I’m still the only brown kid, even in the big city.

I find comfort with these wealthy kids and their families from Green Bay. I want to be like them. We traverse the Midwest, playing tournaments and chasing trophies. It’s on weekend road trips and hotel excursions that demons slowly begin to creep into my life, lurking in the shadows all around me. They latch on to my organs and hidden parts, with claws like razor hooks.

We have a hotel suite, and my parents are asleep in the bedroom. I’m out in the living room on the pull-out couch, watching a soft-core porn on Skin-A-Max with the volume turned to zero. That’s the first time it happens. I feel pre-cum slither out of me. I run to the bathroom with this slippery substance on my hand. So much excitement and zeal. What is this? This is happening! All I want is to become a man. I know about ejaculation from the porno movies, and this must be it!

Thus starts my quest for knowledge of my penis, and the amazing things that come out of it.

I’m eleven years old.

I go to a hockey camp in Minnesota and room with a blonde-haired boy from Washington DC. He’s more advanced in his knowledge than me. He tells me about masturbation and how to do it right. We turn the lights out in the room. This is my first time. I’m on the top bunk and he’s on the bottom. He tells me to grab the base with a tight grip, like the knob of a hockey stick, and start moving up and down. Priming the pump.

The room is dark and quiet, aside from a rustling and squeaking of mattress springs and movement of shadows on the wall. He announces that he finished. I know what that means, but there’s nothing happening for me.

I feel that shame and embarrassment again. I’ll find a way out. They’ll never catch me. I clench my abdominal muscles and force a tiny sprinkle of urine out of my boner. I pee the perfect amount on the bedsheets and announce that I finished too. The lights come on and he peeks up at the top bunk. I show him the evidence of the stains on the bed. He nods his head in approval. Why can’t I ejaculate like the blonde boy?

Is there something wrong with me?

The Nintendo craze hits, and my life will never be the same. I become Mario. I’m on a great adventure to slay dragons and rescue petite princesses in pretty pink dresses. I spend all my time playing Ice Hockey and obsessing about Mario Bros. and secret warp-whistles and the latest game releases we read about in Nintendo Power Magazine.

Konami releases Contra, a two-player shoot-em-up war game. It blows people’s minds.

There’s a secret code: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select, start, to get thirty lives. An older boy at school tells me he has Contra, just got it for his birthday. He invites me to his house after school to play it. We’ll go to war together. We’ll destroy the vile Red Falcon and save the universe, be heroes.

I’ve never been so excited for anything in my life. Plus, he’s an older boy who I look up to. He’s a stud athlete on the kickball field during recess. I want to be like him. My day can’t be any better.

We’re up in his room on the second floor and I look through his stack of Nintendo games on the bookshelf. I see the usuals: Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt, Mario 2, Paperboy, Excitebike, the gold Zelda cartridge, Mario 3 with the yellow label and raccoon tail, but I don’t see Contra anywhere.

“Where’s Contra?” I ask.

“I have it hidden,” he says.

I keep looking through his games, feeling the plastic of the cartridges on my fingers. He fumbles his words and tells me that he’ll let me play Contra.

“But first we have to go out to the playhouse in the yard,” he says. “To play house.”

I follow him out to the playhouse in the front yard. We’re inside and he tells me we’re going to pretend to be husband and wife.

“You be the wife and I’ll be the husband,” he says. “Then I’ll let you play Contra.”

I’ve seen enough pornos at this point that I know what happens between husbands and wives. Before I can respond, he pulls out his erect penis. It’s just sitting there, like a flagpole. He tells me that after I give him a hummer, he’ll let me play Contra.

I know this is wrong. Something doesn’t feel right. Everything moving slowly.

I don’t know what that means—a hummer. He tells me what to do with my mouth.

I want to play Contra more than anything in the world. I lean over and he puts it in my mouth. It’s sweaty and salty. I bite down on it. He winces in pain. Zips up his pants and walks out, frustrated.

I’m a bad wife.

He tells me he doesn’t have Contra, after all.

I go home and eat bratwursts for dinner with my family. I tell them I had a fun day at school and at my friend’s. I stare blankly at the white milk in my glass and push broccoli around on my plate.

“Everything ok, Bobby?” my mom asks.

“Oh, I’m just tired,” I say. “It’s been a long day.”

“Get to bed early tonight, kiddo,” my dad smiles. “Big tournament this weekend.”

More fractures happening in my brain. More confusion. I’ll tuck those away. Deep where no one sees them.

Bury it down there.

The masturbation intensifies. I finally figure out how everything works, and now I’m able to finish like a champion. But I don’t have any semen in my nuts yet because I haven’t hit puberty. A clear translucent substance shoots out like snake venom.

There’s an emptiness I find during orgasm that I can rest in. I love that emptiness, that nothingness. It’s my escape from the world around me. In those few seconds of bliss, there’s no pain.

I take the bus home from school and have about an hour before my mom gets home from work.

I dig into her VHS aerobics tapes and find a cassette of Jane Fonda in a teal leotard. I lie on the living room floor and stroke myself, imagining how smooth those fabrics feel and the sweaty skin underneath.

I hear a car pull into the driveway and the dog is going crazy, barking and running into the furniture. Mom must be home early! I hit eject on the VCR frantically. Put the aerobics tape back on the shelf. Turn off the TV. Gather up my clothes in a ball. Scamper off to the bathroom. Lock the door. I peek out the window and see my mom carrying in groceries and inspecting her flowerpots, picking off dead petals and bugs.

I open the cabinet to choose from an assortment of lotions and lubes. I’ve been using the Vaseline lately. I love its greasy texture and suction as I lie there, lubed up from nipples to kneecaps and making the tightest little hole with my clenched fist.

I open the lid and it’s scraped clean to the bone. I move on to the bottle of hand lotion. I pick it up and it feels like it’s filled with air. Empty too. I used all the Vaseline and the hand lotion? I feel those prickles and wonder what my mom will think when she discovers that it’s all disappeared—absorbed right through the delicate skin of my genitals and up through some blood vessels to coagulate in my horny heart.

I consider going dry but see a bottle of shampoo and conditioner combo that looks enticing.

Extra-strength dandruff control.

I masturbate on the bathroom floor buck naked to a Victoria’s Secret catalog. I hold the magazine in my left hand in front of my face, while my right hand does all the work.

I finish and unravel a scroll of toilet paper to clean myself up and flush the evidence down the toilet. I return the Victoria’s Secret catalog to the magazine rack, where I keep it hidden on the bottom shelf, under the stack of Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living magazines.

I zip up my pants but feel a tingling that grows into a burning. I pull them down to my ankles and look at myself in horror. The skin below the head is bright red and swelling up like a mushroom wearing a scarlet scarf of doom. It’s like a little tan turtle’s head having an anaphylactic response to a bee sting and bad shellfish.

The skin of my balls crusts over and looks like reptile scales.

It keeps swelling and I wonder if it’s going to pop. I just know this is permanent. The thoughts attack my brain that I’m forever scarred and forever a freak. What girl will ever want to have sex with me? Me and my deformed dick and crocodile balls. I cry and pray to God, “Oh please, oh please, make it normal, God, make it go back to normal.”

I’m twelve years old.

On Sundays, I go to the Lutheran Church and sing songs and take Confirmation notes during the sermon, but it doesn’t mean anything to me. Church means that I can stuff my face with cookies and donuts afterward during the coffee klatch and go play games with the pastor’s kid at his house—bow and arrow, BB guns, and baseball cards—while my parents talk about the weather or the Packers with their fellow congregants.

I write poems during church like, “I see the pastor, God is my master.” I get them published in The Lutheran magazine. I’m writing what they want to hear—but inside, I’m boiling and horny and scanning the congregation for any semblance of skin or flesh or pantyhose that I can capture with my eyes like Venus flytraps and masturbate with later.

These early teen years are a hard time for me. I don’t know why I feel the way I do, so lost and angry. I don’t even know who I am. Am I just a Brown Tootsie Roll? Why do no girls like me? The one I like says I’m cute—but cute like a puppy dog, and she’s not interested. She wants a man, not a boy. I feel like I’m always going to explode.

I just keep my focus on hockey—it’s my escape. It’s all I want to do. If I’m not on the ice practicing or traveling and playing games, I’m in the driveway on my rollerblades and ripping a plastic puck into the goal that my dad built out of two-by-fours and netting.

When it gets too dark to shoot pucks, I come inside to eat dinner. Then I’m right back at it. Stickhandling a golf ball around the living room. Toe-dragging under the chairs and coffee table. Picturing myself in front of thousands of fans. Scoring the game-winner in Game Seven.

I can see it, out there in the distance somewhere.

I just have to grow first. This doesn’t seem fair.

I can’t understand why everyone else hit puberty already, but I haven’t. I’m a fourteen-year-old bantam playing in Green Bay, and it seems like every one of them grew, and their voices changed. Mine still sounds like a girl.

We’re in the locker room and going around from player to player, reaching into our underwear and pulling out pubic hair to prove that we have it. Some of the guys reach in and pull out long thick tufts between their fingers. Some go in and pluck out one or two thin ones.

I’m standing in the corner of the locker room and watching in horror, because I don’t have any pubic hair. I’m a bald eagle. I feel that thumping in my rib cage and the instinct to survive. To never be found out. To never lose. I wait for it and time it perfectly. Greg reaches into his underwear and pulls out a thicket and everyone laughs and claps their hands. Right at that moment of applause, I reach up to my head and pluck a hair from behind my ear, faking an innocent itch.

It’s a thick black one. I take it between my fingers and discretely curl it into a spiral. I’ve seen enough of the curly hairs on the toilet seat in my dad’s bathroom to know what they look like.

I keep that thing pinched between my thumb and pointer finger in my right hand. When my turn comes up, I feel the warmth in my face and machine-gun heart pumping bullets of fear. I reach my hand into my pants and make a look of concentration, then a feigned wince of pain as I fake a plucking motion.

I bring my hand out of my pants to reveal a thick black curly pube. They applaud and nod in approval. I throw it on the ground and keep the motion going by turning my head to the next guy up.

I’ll never let them know.

I pray to God that night and ask Him to grant me armpit hair and pubic hair. I wake up the next morning and there’s nothing there. I figure prayers don’t work anyway. And my suspicions are confirmed.

I used to pray before bed, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take, Amen.”

Not anymore. Not tonight.

Instead of folding my hands before bed, I fold my jizz rag into a perfect square and prepare for my nightly ritual of masturbation. I lie there motionless, with earholes open and listening to the silence of the house, scanning like the sonar of an attic bat— making sure everyone’s gone to bed.

I set up a pillow and straddle it in my underwear. I rock back and forth, looking at myself through the mirror on the big oak headboard of my waterbed. Balancing on my knees and toes like a confused cowgirl on this ocean of bliss. Looking only at my tan thigh and pretending it’s a naked woman’s leg. Making soft, high-pitched moaning sounds like I hear the girls make in the porno movies, going crazy.

Sex is my God now.

My curiosity for the world grows. I’m hungry for it. It’s at hockey camp in Houghton when I first taste the sweet nectar of tobacco on my lips. Chemicals seem to be the next logical progression for me. They help to cover and keep things hidden.

Five of us sit in a circle in the room and play cards, laughing and being kids. One of the older boys pulls out a can of Kodiak Wintergreen. I watch as the other boys take pinches of the moist tobacco and place it into their lips. Tommy passes the can to me and I smell that unforgettable scent, that pungent sting of fresh tobacco and demon’s blood. I emulate what the others did before me and take a tiny pinch into my lip.

I instantly feel the burning and my eyes grow wide. I feel some presence entering me through the velvet mucus layers of my innocent lips. Thirty seconds later, the buzz hits me and the room is spinning. We’re all laughing and spitting brown tobacco juice into empty Mountain Dew cans. The older boy shows us how to use our elbows to collapse the top of the can and bend the aluminum down to create the perfect spitter.

There’s a knock at the door. It’s one of the counselors.

“Open up,” he says. “Open the door.”

I instinctively nosedive under the bed. I swipe the tobacco out of my lip and wipe it on the carpet. The room spins around me. I’m under the dusty old bed and my heart is pounding, reverberating around the room. A million thoughts run through my mind. Will I get kicked out of camp? What will my parents think?

“Oh please, oh please, just let me get out of this one,” I whisper to myself.

“Wrap it up in here, gentlemen, and get to bed,” he yells, poking his head through the door.

I don’t think he cares that we’re chewing tobacco.

The first time I feel chemicals enter me, they’re mixed with adrenaline and the notion of being caught, getting busted, and that whomp, whomp, whomp, of blood flowing to my head in a panicked flow of frenetic heat, and I love it. I want more.

I take a few more pinches during camp. Hide out in lonely bathroom stalls. Sit on the toilet and close my eyes. Let the smile on my face radiate. Feel the peace flow through my bloodstream. Spit brown juice into the toilet. Be alone with my thoughts. All my worries drop down right between my legs. Wash away through some pipes and sewers. Flush out into vast oceans where they’ll never be seen again.

The tobacco gets its claws in early.

Later that year I have my first encounter with marijuana, the green goddess.

One of the guys on my team has a brass pipe. He already smoked all his weed out behind the hotel and is high as a cucumber. He passes the pipe to me in the hotel room. It’s still warm. I put my nose to the bowl and smell the burnt odor emanating and tempting me for a taste.

“What happens when you smoke it?” I ask.

He tells me all the fun stories of laughing and eating and how much better sex is on it. My mind races as I marvel at this golden pipe. What kind of green genie is in there to grant me any wish I want?

I hold the pipe in my hands, rubbing my fingers on its metal ridges. I tell myself that I’ll smoke it someday when the time’s right.

Opportunity knocks a few months later, on the roof of my buddy’s house. There are five of us up there. I feel awkward because I’m the only one without a girl—the fifth wheel. I know what’ll happen later tonight, with no parents home. They’ll be making out and having the time of their lives.

And I’ll be alone.

Josh pulls out the dime bag. He packs the bowl on the roof outside his bedroom window. I press my lips up to the cold metal of the pipe, and he fires the lighter. I hear the crackling sound of burning plants. The smoke curls and heaves down my windpipe.

The moment it hits my lungs, my wish is granted. We’re annihilated and can barely get off the roof and back into the window. We roll onto the bedroom floor and laugh until we cry, unable to function or breathe. Then the music comes on and the lights go low. My two buddies disappear to far corners of the house with their girls, and then it’s just me, all alone now. Wondering if it’s because I’m different. Wondering why no one wants to kiss a Brown Tootsie Roll.

All I want to do is touch a girl. To have a girl look at me like they do in the porno movies. To moan and quiver and scream out my name.

I sit out on the patio and stare up at the starry dome above me and think about my future. I think about escaping from this tiny town and making something of my life. Someday I’m going to get a Victoria’s Secret girl when I play in the NHL. Then they won’t be laughing anymore.

I sit there alone and create fantasies. Stoned images explode across my mind like cracks of lightning—those electric thoughts like juggernauts. I close my eyes and see these rich beautiful people at elegant parties. And I’m there. I’m one of them.

I’m dressed in a tuxedo.

The most beautiful woman walks in. She’s the girl of my dreams. An angelic combination of the best parts of every girl I’ve ever seen. Her blonde hair bounces and curls as she walks. She’s wearing a miniskirt and heels. Those long legs flowing like rivers to be baptized in. Like two wet tributaries flooding up to that delicious delta, hiding beneath the lace thong under there.

I meet her at the door. I take her hand and her coat. I look deeply into her eyes. I speak to her in a manly voice, a voice that’s hit puberty, and with a body that has massive muscles and heroic fluffs of pubic hair and armpit hair, full of pheromones and fury.

“Would you object,” I pause and scan her curves, “if I got down onto my knees and went to work on your gorgeous body?”

The words roll off my tongue, secretions of spider’s silk. The scene cuts to the coat closet. My head between her legs. Her thighs caress the skin of my ears like a soft whisper. Telling me to “keep going.” Telling me “don’t stop.”

I can almost taste it. I can almost reach it. It’s coming. That’s the life I’m going to build for myself. I’ll get there one day.

I’ll get out of this town.



High school hockey comes, and I have to make a choice. I’m not allowed to play for the varsity team in Green Bay because I live an hour away, outside the district. Do I come back to the Northwoods to play in Tiny Town USA? Or keep this thing going, keep climbing the hockey ladder?

My parents and I go over the options and decide on military school, starting my sophomore year. But it’s not one of those kinds of military schools. This is my first taste of the elite life, Prep School. Everyone else is rich, but I know I’m not. I try my best to pretend that I am.

Culver Military Academy, on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee.

I still haven’t hit puberty. I’m pretty embarrassed about it. Most of the guys have bushels of pubic hair and armpit hair and bulging muscles. I have a whimsical little fluff of peach fuzz and a chubby little body. I’m still a boy, and my voice hasn’t changed.

I’m fifteen years old.

The first night at military school, I organize my bookshelf and talk with my roommate about this “Hell Night” that’s about to happen.

It’s the one thing on all the new guys’ minds—plebes, as they call us.


Commence, Hell Night.

We march around the hallways and square the corners by rotating our feet and walk like tin soldiers, arms straight and shoulders back. We learn how to greet the upperclassmen with terms like Captain, Corporal, and Private First Class.

They scream in our faces and command us to keep our eyes forward. We get our military uniforms. Crisp and pleated trousers and light-blue button-up shirts with name tags and rank pins on them. Black shoes spit-shined and brass belt buckle radiating a golden hue, polished deep with Brasso.

We learn the Honor Code: I will not lie, cheat, or steal. We repeat it over and over until we have it memorized.

All I want to do is get on the ice and fire pucks. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about.

Hell Night ends, and I did a good job of pretending I was a scared little cadet.

My new bunkmate and I laugh about “Hell Night” and what a joke it was. We close our eyes at Lights Out to rest up for the early reveille wake-up call at oh-six-hundred hours.

There’s a bump in the night. Flashlights flicker throughout the room and shine into my eyes.

“Get the fuck out of bed,” a voice growls in my face.

I stand up and rub my eyes and see two of the older students in full military fatigues, black face-paint, and bandanas over their mouths.

One holds a broomstick in his hand and the other a blowgun. “Stand right here,” he says.

He grabs me by the shoulders and positions me in front of my desk, facing away from him. I look at my bookshelf, with the pictures of my family and my house back in Wisconsin. My Michael Crichton books and The Catcher in the Rye. My stack of CDs—NOFX, Rancid, Less Than Jake, Minor Threat, The Suicide Machines. I can see everything in great detail, amidst the scattering flashlights and frantic thoughts.

“Stand at attention,” he orders. “Yes sir, say it, yes sir!” “Yes sir,” I say and stand at attention.

“Spread your legs,” the voice whispers near my ear. “Keep going, nice and wide—open up, Buttercup.”

I widen my stance and stand there in front of my desk, wondering what’s going to happen.

One of the boys comes over and places the broomstick between my legs and taps it on the floor with a menacing rhythm.

“Are you ready for the Nutcracker?” he asks.

“Yes sir,” I respond, ready to take the shot in the groin. I’m just glad they’re not going to shove that broomstick up my ass. I’m scared, but ready to endure the pain.

“On three,” he whispers. “One, two, three—”

He whips the broomstick up toward my balls and I brace for impact, eyes squinting hard and teeth clenched. The moment before my hairless gonads get crushed, the broom hits the bottom of the desk with a loud, cracking bang.

They laugh and laugh. I exhale a deep breath of relief and turn to them, realizing it’s all just a joke, a fun game they’re playing—messing with us.

“Don’t look at me,” he orders. “Turn around and face the wall and put your leg out like this.”

I’m in my boxer shorts and shivering cold. I turn my head over my shoulder to see what he means. He shows me how to stick my calf out behind my other leg.

I see the other boy loading up a thumbtack in the blowgun. Fuck it, I think. Let’s get this over with. I stick my leg out to show them that I’m not scared. That I’m crazy too.

“Ready?” they ask. “Let’s go!” I say.


The tack shoots out of the blowgun and sticks into my calf. They laugh so hard, but it doesn’t hurt bad. I reach down and pull it out and a thin stream of blood squirts and pools into a little puddle on the floor.

The blood stops them in their tracks. One boy runs to the bathroom and grabs a big wad of toilet paper and throws it at me, tells me to wipe it up. I clean up the blood and wipe my leg.

“Ok, get back to bed,” one of them says as they leave the room. “This never happened.”

They seem nervous as they leave, like they’re worried about getting in trouble. I think the blood saved me.

Hell Night is officially over.

I lie there in bed, picturing sexy girls in plaid skirts and white knee-high socks that I saw prancing through the quad earlier. I wonder what kind of panties they wear, and which ones don’t wear any at all, going commando and wafting in the wind. I silently stroke myself and finish in a black dress sock while my roommate snores above me. I toss it into the hamper and have the sweetest sleep.

The next morning, we have a convocation with the entire school. I don’t care what the lady behind the podium is saying. I’m scanning the left side of the auditorium where all the schoolgirls sit and giggle. They turn their heads to the right and check out the cadets. I wonder if any of them ever look at me. I wonder what they think when they see me. Or am I invisible?

I look at the stage and picture terrorists taking over with big machine guns, holding everyone hostage. One of them gets to the microphone and the room goes silent. He asks if anyone will accept the challenge of coming up to the stage and fighting one of their greatest warriors—a fight to the death.

Every eye in that auditorium looks down to their toes, hoping for a hero. I slowly raise my hand and get up out of my seat. I walk up the center aisle past all the envious cadets and the schoolgirls smiling at me. I get to the stage and beat the shit out of every one of them.

The entire corps of cadets stands at attention and salutes me. The schoolgirls stand and clap their hands, jumping up and down, tits heaving like dough in slow motion. They hike up their plaid skirts and showcase themselves, looking eagerly to me with anorexic eyes, and I have my pick of the litter.

I’m hopelessly addicted to pornography.

There are some computer disks circulating around the barracks. They’re filled with thousands of pictures of naked women in all sorts of positions and poses. I download them onto my computer and hide them deep within folders upon folders in some random icon that I name:


We all masturbate furiously and relish in fantastical tales of depravity and just how fucked up we can be, trying to one-up each other with sick stories and vivid imagery. I always win.

In the back of a porno mag, I see some products for sale. I put in an order for a masturbation device, a little mouth with red lips and a silicone tube attached with ticklers and tentacles inside.

I order an extra-large bottle of special lube too.

The boys are infatuated with the mouth. We open the packaging, and it just flops there, flesh-colored, and smiles at us, whispering things in our ears. We’ve never seen anything like it. It comes with a little silver ball with a motor in it that vibrates the bottom lip, a trembling quiver of bliss of a secret midnight kiss. It’s attached to a remote control by a little cord. You can turn the vibration speed up or down, depending on your preference.

I sit in the bathroom stall with a big chew in my mouth and try her out. But it doesn’t feel the way it’s supposed to feel. Those ticklers in there are hard and scratchy. I pour gobs of that lube into her mouth until she drowns and turn the vibration up to maximum. Make her hold her breath underwater.

Anyone can use the mouth. The only rule is that you have to wash her out real good when you finish. And you can finish inside. You have to dry her off and hide her back in the lounge, wedged under the sofa, tucked way up there with stray cans of chew, porno mags, and other contraband.

Some of the boys decide to play a prank on me. I often boast and joke of the high-quality lube that I ordered, and use the stuff every night, basking in its slippery radiance—its gorgeous, greasy grip.

They empty out some of the lube when I’m not there and replace it with Icy Hot, so the next squeeze of the bottle squirts out burning hellfire sauce.

They all wait in the room next door when I get back from class, ears pressed to the wall in anticipation. I lock my door and put a scarf in front of its little window. Escape to my cave of fantasies on the bottom bunk, while a bedsheet hangs and provides cover from any peering eyeballs.

I have this picture of a naked woman with the biggest bombs of all time wedged between the mattress of the top bunk and the springs. She stays up there and lives up there. On all fours and smiles, with her face down and ass up.

I take out my beloved lube from the hiding spot between the mattress and the wall and squeeze a dollop into my hand. I start stroking and imagine what it would be like to have sex with a woman like her, those legs wrapped around me and screaming my name. I bet those guys in the NHL are having sex with women like this.

I feel a sensation boiling inside of me. Something doesn’t feel right. It begins with a tingling warmth radiating from my testicles and slowly crawls up my shaft and innards, culminating into a burning pain that’s ripping me apart.

I start screaming. I smell the Icy Hot. It’s almost unbearable now. I’m in survival mode. I open my door and run to the shower naked. They’re waiting in the hallway and laughing and rolling on the ground, tears in their eyes. My boner is bright-red and burning, and my balls like glowing coals. The Icy Hot is deep inside of my penis hole and burrowing like a termite.

I jump in the shower to wash it off, but the water makes it ten times worse. It’s scalding. They follow me into the shower and laugh so hard they can’t breathe. I’m hunched over in the corner on the old tiles and crying and begging, “Get me a washcloth, please, please!” as the water from the shower rains down and spirals into the drain.

It’s the worst pain I ever felt in my life. Now I’m unable to distinguish between pain and heat. They’re the same to me.

I’m on the JV hockey team sophomore year. The rest of the students go home for Thanksgiving break but the team stays on campus to play a tournament. We all stay in the Naval Building that looks like a white ship next to the lake.

We wait until Coach goes to sleep down the hall before the ceremony begins.

There are twenty-two teenaged boys all lounging on beds and couches in a dark room. There’s a big square television placed up front. There’s a porno tape playing and everyone in the room is masturbating. The boys laugh and race to see who can finish first. There’s an unwritten rule to not look in any other direction, except at the erotic images of bouncing flesh and titties on the TV screen.

I don’t win the race but cross the finish line in a respectable fashion. I’d rather be a marathon-man than a one-pump chump anyway.

I go to the top of the Naval Building and spit tobacco juice off the side and onto the grass below. The stars hang above me like lightning bugs and the moon reflects off the mirrored water of the lake. I know that I’m on a great adventure, and this is just another step. I don’t know where it’ll take me, but I feel that stirring deep inside. What does it all mean?

I flick the chew out of my lip and still feel horny, thinking about those schoolgirls prancing around. I lie on the roof of the Naval Building with my pants down to my knees and stroke myself, looking up at the stars and feeling the cool breeze brush against my balls, sending shockwaves of shivers through my body. I shoot my load into the air, toward the heavens like a comet, and listen to the water gently lap up against the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee.

We’re on the ice every day and in the weight room and getting bigger, stronger, and faster.

I play defense on the JV team. I’m a nobody really. But I’m a hard worker, known to be a little crazy. Kind of clunky out there but can move pretty good. I still have no armpit hair and a high-pitched voice that I mask by pretending that it’s lower than it is. I don’t think anyone knows. But there’s one guy on the Varsity A Team who knows. And he says, “Hi Bob” in an exaggerated low voice whenever he sees me.

He knows.

Something happens late in the season that changes the trajectory of my hockey career. We’re short on forwards because of some injuries and Coach calls me to the other side of the bench to play wing. He must see the terror in my eyes. I don’t know what to do.

“Just go as hard and as fast as you can,” he says. “Get in there on the forecheck and hit someone!”

His instructions are clear enough. The steel of my blades hits the ice as I jump over the boards. I black out and do things on the surface of that ice that no one’s ever seen before. I crush two players into the boards and they lie there in heaps and we get a scoring chance—the entire momentum of the game shifts.

When I get back to the bench, my teammates and Coach look at me like, “What just happened?”

I’m thinking the same thing.

It’s clear that I can do something out of the ordinary. I learn that I can put myself into a state of mind and body—I can become the hunter...and God help the hunted. All my prey can do is pray. I smash opponents that game. From that point on, I never play defense again. I just smash.

I’m a forward. A rugged winger. A hard-nosed gritty dangerous forechecking menace.

I smash and flail and fling my body—a heat-seeking missile. I black out. And I like it. Forechecking for me is a higher state. It’s not really me there. I’m in there watching but out there on the ice, it’s not me. It’s a monster.

All those years of feeling so small and bullied in Wisconsin come out and erupt into collisions with opponents. I drive my shoulder through their body. And there’s nothing they can do about it.

The school year ends on a high note for me. There’s a buzz about my forechecking ability. I can tell that people are afraid of me. And I like that. It gives me a sense of worth.

I’m back in Wisconsin for the summer and chomping at the bit, ready to get back to school and back to forechecking.

And just like that, a miracle happens.

In an instant, I become a man! The bushels of hair appear on my body. My voice changes, and I don’t have to fake it anymore. I hit puberty. I grew! My Irish/German Dad is a huge human being—a giant, standing at six-foot-four and 250 pounds.

But my mom is this agile little Filipino lady, and I become a mix of the two. Now I’m a big body who can move smoothly and with agility and fast. Like a big brown jungle-cat assassin, not like the little pussy I used to be when they flicked snow in my face and called me names.

When I show up to campus for my junior year, I can tell everything’s changed.

People can’t believe how much I grew. The girls are looking at me differently too, laughing a little more at my witty jokes and smiling deeper. I notice them checking me out, scanning up and down, and this terrifies me—I still feel small on the inside.

Varsity tryouts start and I’m ready. I’m a forward now, but there are so many good hockey players at our school. Culver is known to be a hockey hotbed, a factory for producing elite players. All these guys seem so mythical to me, like they’re untouchable. Better than me. But when I get on the ice and “Blackout Bobby” appears, none of that matters and they don’t stand a chance. I’m still very raw and don’t make the top team, which is called the Varsity A Prep Team.

As a seventeen-year-old junior, I’m on the Varsity B Team with Coach Norton. One step away from the top team at school.

Coach Norton brings out the best in me. He’s an encourager and a nurturer. Throughout my junior year, I stick to the game plan and go as hard and as fast as I possibly can—let Blackout Bobby do what Blackout Bobby does best. But I’m not just effective as a forechecker and bodychecker. I’m becoming a good hockey player too, making the right reads and making the right plays out there.

We’re playing against one of the stud teams from Michigan. I’m flying all over the ice and score a couple of goals. I annihilate guys out there and piss people off. I love the feeling of competing and laying it all on the line. I think about the girls watching me in the stands. I wonder what they think. I picture them getting wet and wonder just how wet they can get.

Full saturation after a performance like this.

During the handshake, a few guys give me dirty looks and drop their extended hands at the last second, opting not to shake mine. I just keep smiling, cocky, and think about the amazing game I played and our big win and those girls in the stands, gushing.

Toward the end of the line, I meet eyes with one of the players, a D-man who I’d been chasing around all night and hunting. I see his lips move and tongue curl up to the roof of his mouth, his teeth exposed, and a venom comes out and pierces me.


Everything goes black.

Then everything goes blood-red.

I punch him in the face and a skirmish erupts in the middle of the ice with both teams converging. I continue my barrage and throw punches at him, wanting to kill him, wanting to devour his soul.

This is a new kind of blackout.

The players push and punch, and the referees and coaches from both teams come on the ice to break up the fights.

Coach Norton zips over to me and pulls me out of the pile. “Bobby, Bobby,” he screams. “Stop! Stop!”

He drags me off the ice and into his office. All I can see is death and blood.

“What do you think you’re doing, Bobby?” he yells. I just start crying.

“He called me a nigger.”

I lower my head into my jersey and shoulder pads, wishing I could escape right into my equipment like a traumatized turtle and hide forever. My soul hurts so bad. This is worse than Brown Tootsie Roll.

“He called me a nigger.” I can barely get the sentence out.

Coach grabs me by the arm and leads me to the door.

“Follow me,” he says.

He takes me to the opposing team’s locker room. Their coach is talking to them, having a team meeting. Coach Norton kicks open the door and stands there in their locker room with me.

“Who said it?” he asks me.

I point to the guy, my eyes puffy and red, my rage subsided, my spirit crushed.

The player and his coach come out into the hallway, and Coach Norton makes the guy apologize to me and shake my hand. I don’t care what the player says. I’m already dead inside.

“Go get changed, Bobby,” Coach says and pats me on the shoulder pad. “Great game today, I’m really proud of you.”

I end up having my breakthrough season. I lead the team in scoring. I’m a feared competitor. I win the award for Varsity B Team MVP.

I know it now, junior year, playing on this Varsity B Team, that something’s happening.

I can do something no one else can do.

I can streak across the ice and smash an opponent through the boards, and the puck pops out to my centerman. He fires a shot low blocker-side right off the goalie, and a butterfly slide across the crease. The puck careens toward the corner and hits a shin pad. It’s back toward the crease, where I battle with a goliath defenseman, sticks up in the air, a deadly dance of crosschecks and crossed gazes, grunts, and growls. The puck hits the toe of my skate, and I whack it, once, twice. I feel the crosscheck hit me right below the padding on my back and make contact with the soft skin and muscle tissue caressing my spine.

I wince in pain and fall forward.

Out of the corner of my eye, through a bead of sweat and all its refraction and distraction, I see that puck sitting there behind my opponent. He doesn’t see it, and he waves his stick back and forth on the ice, a desperate display to clear out any garbage or greedy fuckers looking to pick up a greasy rebound.

I reach with my stick and give it one last whack, at an impossible angle—and the goalie is there, and my opponent falls backward, and I fly through the air toward the net.

Time halts just for this moment.

The scratching sound of skate blades crunch into the ice, small shards spraying aerial avalanches, arcing and descending. Just as I whack that puck, and everything is still and stuck, some beads of sweat and tiny chips of ice fly past my face. I’m watching each individual ice crystal. And I just float there and watch it all. I watch them soar past my eyes like miniature mirrors and show me my own reflection of futures that are eternal, and I know, I just know that anything is possible. Any dream is attainable.

I know these cold rinks and frozen surfaces. I know, right to the depths of my soul, that I understand these things—icy things.

I know that in one desperate plea, I can reach out my stick and whack a black rubber puck, and somehow amidst all this beautiful chaos and oblivion, on this day, in this moment, the puck happens to squeak through a hole where the goalie’s blocker and stick once guarded and protected, and slip past the goal line.

I land in a thud on the ice and my teammates pick me up, this five-man huddle of pure joy and love. And we scream in each other’s faces. We spit and swear and drool and dance. We scored a goal! It’s the best feeling in the world.

Fuckin’ eh rights, boys!

We skate down the line of the bench and high-five each of our teammates. We enter through the door and take our seats. And we drink and we breathe and we smile and we glow. But then we prepare and get ready for another shift. Another war. Another chance to transcend a tragic world and enter the high plain of chilled victories, frozen frenzies of joy and vengeance.

It’s around these late teen years in high school that the game transforms into something different altogether. Things become more serious. The stakes are higher than those innocent days of weekend tournaments and mini-sticks and ball hockey in hotel hallways. Now there’s competition and players nipping at heels.

I see this develop during my time at Culver, and I decide that I’ll always be the guy who’s nipping, gnawing, and clawing. I’ll be the guy who never gives up. That’s who I’ll be.

I learn fast that if I’m pissing people off by the way I play, I’m doing something good. That I’m playing the right way, with heart and grit and jam, and not caring what anyone else thinks. I don’t care that I skate different than the rest of the guys. I don’t care that I can’t stickhandle like them. I know I can go fast as fuck and hit guys harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. This is enough for me.

Those with hearts of gold recognize it and applaud it. It’s only the bitter hearts that put up resistance. I know who they are and know they’re the enemy anyway. I sense them, I always have. And when I get a chance, under the right circumstance, I drive my shoulder right through their chest and lungs and lay them flat on their ass.

One day after practice, some of the boys are talking, and someone asks me if I think I’ll play in the NHL. I should feel embarrassed about this uncomfortable situation I’m in, but this time I don’t. I say yes, that I think I’ll play in the NHL. They laugh. I don’t blame them either. I just say yes, and I know it. I know if I just keep going as hard as I can, it’s going to happen.

I’m stubborn and determined, and when I set my mind on something, I already believe it and know it, and then it’s just a matter of a million steps to get there. This is one of those early steps, publicly announcing to a group of my teammates on the Varsity B Team that I’ll make it to the NHL—somehow, somewhere.

And while most of them laughed, I know of one or two of them who didn’t, one or two of those golden-hearted boys who’d looked into my soul and I into theirs—in those ethereal days of Prep School, where we didn’t yet know anything about the world and its briers and thorns.

There’s a buzz about me on campus.

I’m being primed for the Varsity A Prep Team for my senior year. With all this newfound confidence, comes a newfound knack for chemicals and depravity, creeping down those dark paths of destruction, walking on my tippy toes, cautious and careless all at the same time.

This is the fateful year that I get desperately addicted to chewing tobacco.

There’s a local guy who picks up logs of the stuff from the gas station in town. He brings it to the barracks and sells it to us out of a big duffle bag. We keep logs hidden all over the place. My routine quickly becomes solidified, that any moment of free time is spent hiding out in the bathroom and spitting brown tobacco juice between my legs into the toilet.

I sneak to the lounge and reach my hand up under the old heater where I keep my chew stash. I grab one can and put it in my armpit under my shirt and let my arm dangle there, covering it from any prying eyes. I feel the prickles of anxiety and the fear of getting busted pump through my veins. I kind of like it. I put on my best innocent face and march down the hallway, squaring my corners, to the bathroom.

The hooks get set in deep this year at age seventeen. Now to add to the already prolific masturbation and porno pastime, enter in the chemicals—alcohol, chew, weed, and pills, anything you put in front of me. It gets devoured.

Everything’s falling into place. I’m going to be on the Varsity A Team next season. Everyone’s talking about me, saying good things. I’m living in the moment and drinking it all down. As junior year ends, I’m selected to represent Team Midwest at Hockey Night in Boston, an international tournament that’s heavily scouted by colleges and pro teams.

To give you an idea of how much of a powerhouse Culver Military Academy is, seven guys from Culver get selected to play for Team Midwest. Six of them are on the Varsity A Team. And then there’s me. The MVP of the Varsity B Team, and I’m buzzing out there.

I feel like the worst player on Team Midwest and, pound for pound, probably am, but still, I can do something that no one else can do. When I black out, people notice and good things happen. I get a couple of letters from Division 3 hockey teams out East—Manhattanville and Fitchburg State—and it’s an amazing feeling to know that a college team wants me. But I have my sights set on the Wisconsin Badgers. I want to play Division 1.

No one’s going to stop me. I’ve always known it. I know I’ll play Division 1. It seems like some far-off pipe dream, but somehow, I believe. It has to happen. My full measure of faith is there, even if I don’t see it yet.

Coming into my senior season, I’m ready. I’m so ready.

I get even bigger and stronger over the summer, and I’m prepared to take on anyone who steps in my way. The big man on campus, a senior, with an opportunity as big as the sky. Everyone’s excited to see how I’ll do. The coaches know it. The players know it. My parents know it. And I know it. Bring it on!

And then we have a party off campus. It gets out of control.

It’s Parents Weekend and this means that we finally get to leave campus and go off to hotels with our families.

I’ve only drunk alcohol a few times before. And I like it. No, I love it. I don’t love the taste, but I love that feeling of letting go and relinquishing all control and care.

Some of the guys score a few bottles of rum and whisky with fake IDs. We’re out in a field and guzzling the booze and letting the effects take hold. A different kind of “Blackout Bobby” makes an appearance, and someone has a video camera and films it all.

There’s a group of hot townie-girls running around and taking shots, and they love the boys from the military school. I’m lying on the grass and can’t wipe the smile off my face. There’s a drunk townie on ecstasy rolling all over me and laughing at my jokes. She’s tiny and crawling on me and pretending to be a cat, meowing and nestling up on my chest and neck.

I’m so horny that I’m going to pop. But I’m scared and don’t know what to do. Not with a girl like this, Cat Woman.

“I have to go pee,” she purrs. “Come help me.”

We stumble off behind a building and she squats down and leans against the bricks and pees. She’s laughing and tipping and swaying back and forth. I hold her up by the arms as she empties.

“Help me get my underwear on,” she giggles with eyeballs rolling into eternity and lips like red velvet.

I pull her underwear up and they’re leopard print. Her skinny thighs damp with perspiration and humidity. I zip her pants and fasten the button. I’m drenched in pre-cum. She’s swaying and swelling with sexual energy and leaning into me. All I want to do is kiss her. But I’m so nervous.

Then it happens, and we come together and press our lips and bodies into each other. We roll around in the grass and anthills. We dry-hump, trying our best to feel something through layers of denim that chafes and grinds to a pulp.

So—looks like this is going to happen. My first blowjob. My heart is beating so fast inside of me. I’m sweating and already feel inse- cure about my size. She unzips my pants. But it feels different than what I imagined from all those years of swimming in porno scenes. Nothing’s happening. It just flops there, trying to crawl inside itself while I drown in shame.

It’s like she’s smoking a little cigarette now. I panic and want to shrink and slither into one of those anthills, follow some tunnels into the depths of the earth and disappear.

I close my eyes tight and try my hardest to think about the last porno scene I watched, hoping to get hard. It was this blonde-haired college girl in her dorm room with a suction-cup dildo stuck to the post of her bunk bed. She’s on all fours and smashing herself backward onto it, moaning unmercifully.

I become the bedpost.

I’m completely limp, but somehow finish. It surprises her and she spits it all over the place.

An awkward silence now.

“Let’s head back to the party,” I say, and take her by the hand.

I take a monstrous swig of rum and force it down my throat as I burp up some vomit and swallow it back down.

The next morning on campus, we stand in military formation to perform our weekly Sunday Parade. It’s a series of military movements and marching, judged on accuracy and precision. I stand there and think that I might be dying. This is the first of many hangovers I’ll fight through, tooth and nail.

Word gets out about the party and the tape, and we get called into the Commandant’s office. He’s the guy who makes all the decisions. A few of the hockey players are involved and we know that if we get caught drinking, we get suspended for half the season. So, we agree and make a pact: deny till you die.

I’m the first to get called in and I play it stupid, like I have no idea what they’re talking about.

“What did you do this weekend?” they ask.

I make up elaborate stories of my relaxing weekend with my parents, spending quality time together and connecting. Any time they mention a party, I act shocked and appalled that they would even insinuate that I’d be underaged drinking.

I lie through my teeth and cover all my bases. Somehow my brain thinks I did a good job of it. They tell me to go into the hallway where the other hockey guys all wait to be questioned.

I sit there in the hallway sweating pure salty bullets of guilt. I watch the next three students walk out of the office with red eyes and tear-stained cheeks. They look at me and shake their heads in failure—looking like they just got waterboarded in there.

I can’t believe what’s happening. I’m fucked.

My mind races with what my next move should be, and the only conclusion that I can come up with is to beg for mercy.

I get up and knock on the office door and ask the administrators if I can talk with them. I come clean with everything and confess that I was at the party. That all the stories circulating about Blackout Bobby doing hilarious things on film are indeed true.

Some of the video evidence:

Me with my pants around my ankles peeing on a huge boulder and pretending to hump it. Then I’m talking drunken gibberish and there’s a large tree branch tucked into the back of my shirt, and I’m reaching my mouth to the side, mid-conversation, and taking bites from the leaves on the branch and talking about how delicious the “upalicktus” leaves are.

Next scene, I’m on my hands and knees and hurling green vomit into a drain sewer. I’m yelling something about Ninja Turtles and swearing bellowing profanities at Michelangelo, the party dude, who must be down there somewhere, lurking in the shadows, just beyond my double-vision line of sight.

I’m just glad my first sexual failure with the townie-girl isn’t on that film. I’ll censor that memory, blur it out completely, and never think about it again.

I guess they’d seen enough of Blackout Bobby.

I get kicked out of Prep School a week before my senior hockey season starts. For the drinking—but mostly for the lying.

They call me into the office. “Bobby, based on the information you’ve given us—” and then there’s a pause, and in that eternity, I see my life flash before me, and I think about the mercy and grace they’re about to show me for confessing to everything, and I’ll be better, I’ll get my act together, just give me one more chance, “—we’ve decided to dismiss you from the academy.”

Dis. Miss. Those two syllables stab me and slice through my flesh, a sharpened blade of regret. I’ll never forget the sound. I break down into hysterical tears and cry harder than I ever cried before as the room spins around me. My head slumps over in my hands, deflated, and everything crumbles into nothing.

My parents pick me up in the green minivan, load it up with all my luggage and trunks, and we drive home to Wisconsin, six hours in silence.

I’m back in the Northwoods to finish my senior year at Peshtigo High School, a failure. I was just at one of the most elite Prep Schools in the country, sitting in class next to sultans’ kids and children of the rich and famous.

It’s hard to believe that somehow I was there, and that somehow I absorbed into that reality. I know now that it all stems from a deep longing for something more ever since I was young. I always wanted to get out of my tiny town. I dreamed of cities and high society. I dreamed of something bigger. Something better. Something else.

So now the journey ends. It’s all over.

I’m back in my old school with all my old classmates who I grew up with ever since kindergarten. We all know each other too. We know who we are at our core. This sort of thing happens when you spend years and years in classrooms with the same people, stacked in rows in a cage.

But out there in the world, I get to become someone else. I get to become who I truly am on the inside, beneath the core, where no one sees. That’s all I really want when I strip away all the distractions and doubt. It’s just me—and I see that there’s a great big world out there and I want to be a part of it. I want to be something and make something of myself.

I’m graduating from high school in six months, but I don’t want to go to college like everyone else. I want to play Junior hockey. That’s all I want to do—play hockey. Way off in the distance I see some vision of me, and I’m playing in front of thousands of people.

It’s all I want.

Hockey makes life simple. Put the puck in the net. Finish your checks. Work hard. Hoist trophies. But there’s this feeling like something’s just a little off. That it all doesn’t add up. I have a suspicion—an instinct—that there’s something much more mysterious to this thing called “life” than what they’re telling me.

I keep this thought in my back pocket next to my tin of tobacco, knowing that someday I’ll discover the truth.

I spend the remainder of my senior year in a haze of chemicals and lifting weights and getting on the ice as much as possible—and wondering what I’m going to do with my life.

I latch on with a local Midget AAA team in Green Bay, the Northeast Wisconsin Road Runners, a step above high school hockey, one stop from Junior hockey. It’s the first time I really experience that “pro hockey” lifestyle of partying. A group of us spend a lot of time drinking beers and going to strip clubs and chewing endless cans of tobacco together.

After a game, one of my teammate’s dads says to me, “If you didn’t focus so much on hitting, you could be a really good hockey player.”

But it’s just what I know how to do. Hockey for me is about bodychecking. I love the feeling of hunting down my opponent and homing in on the perfect angle, as I skate across the ice like a spear and drive my shoulder right through his heart.

That’s the best part about hockey. Maybe it’s all an outward expression of the pain and dysfunction I feel inside of me. I don’t know. But for those couple of hours on the hockey rink, I can put on a suit of armor and hold a weapon in my hand and hunt opponents. I can become something mythical. I can become someone else.

I play the rest of my senior season with the Midget AAA Team, and when the season’s over, it’s over. There’s a silence in the hockey world. I don’t have any options. Reality sets in that boyhood is dead and gone. I’m eighteen now. I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with my life.

I keep meeting horny girls at parties and I can’t get it up. It doesn’t work. I’m a Brown Tootsie Roll after all. Everything works perfectly when I’m masturbating. I can go for hours like a thoroughbred. But anytime that embarrassing old flap of skin gets exposed to the air and there’s a hot girl waiting for it, it evaporates and all that’s left is shame.

I do manage to lose my virginity in a drunken hotel room. Some high school graduation afterparty of annihilation. It’s me and the hottest little kitten ever and my buddy passed out on the other bed, snoring. No way I’m getting a condom on, so I stuff it in there and manage to get going but can’t feel anything, even though I know I’m supposed to feel something in this rite of passage. I’m supposed to feel like a man now.

I ejaculate and make it official. Boomshakalaka!

A demolished dumbfuck, but somehow still smart enough to pull out.

I look at myself in the mirror in the bathroom—standing there naked and shitfaced with bulging muscles and shaved pubic hair beneath my chiseled abs. I look like a porn star. I’m finally a man, with a destiny to chase.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” I tell myself and splash cold water on my face and peer into my bloodshot eyes.

Pass out.

My mother wears a look of deep concern on her face the next day when I tell her that I don’t want to go to college—at least not now. I talk to my parents about the prospect of playing Junior hockey. The only problem is that I’m far from being a prospect. I’m non-existent on the hockey radar now. Blacklisted as the fuckup, the druggie, the booze bag, the failure, the one that got kicked out, the one they’ve given up on.

That doesn’t bother me, though. I know it’s going to happen.

I haven’t given up. That’s all that matters.

I register for my first Junior tryout with the Springfield Junior Blues in the North American Hockey League, a developmental league for players aged sixteen to twenty to get scouted.

I make the drive down to Springfield, Illinois, in my dad’s Ford Ranger pickup truck with the windows rolled down. I touch that freedom of the open road. The feeling embeds deep in my bones. From this moment on I’ll be a nomad, a road warrior, one of the wandering stars, chasing that elusive dream and destiny.

This is the start of something. I can feel it.


"First shift, go fight someone," a wise hockey sage prophesies to me. “This will get you noticed, then focus on playing good hockey for the rest of the tryout.”

Real fighting, bare knuckles, bone on bone—shows you who you really are. No room for anything but truth and certainty when throwing bones at an opponent and getting bones thrown back at you. The only things present are lightning-fast twitching reactions of muscles and tendons. They begin as electrical impulses of sparks from somewhere deep inside you. Their only reason for existing is to keep you alive.

This is Junior hockey. We’re allowed to fight now. Drop your gloves and hunt for souls.

It’s crunch time. Either I make a Junior team, or who knows what’ll happen. Maybe I get a job at the cheese factory or find somewhere to go to school. Maybe I just rot away and give up on my dreams altogether. An endless stream of uncertainty and unknowns.

Ok, here I am.

Open tryout with the Springfield Junior Blues of the North American Hockey League, Tier 2 Junior A. I have to make the team, period.

I’ve never been in a fight before, on or off the ice. Mostly because I’m scared—scared to lose.


The puck drops and I’m working as hard as humanly possible. Going a hundred miles an hour. Trying to put the puck in the net, hit everything in sight, and make the right plays.

Some of the veterans from last season’s team are at the tryout. You know who they are. You can smell it, sense it. They walk proudly and wear the official team apparel and gear. I want to be them.

I chip the puck past the defenseman. Beat him to the corner. His D-partner gathers the puck off the boards. I fly in like a cannonball. Crunch him up against the glass. Use my stick like a spear to dig the puck out from beneath his crumpled body.

I get control of the puck. Someone crosschecks me from behind. Sends me headfirst into the boards. I pop right up and I hear those fateful words, “You wanna go?”

I shake it off and start skating up ice to backcheck. The play drifts away into the neutral zone. Mid-stride, I have a thought pop into my brain: it’s time.

I turn around and let my gloves slide off. I unbuckle my helmet, bounce it off the ice, and turn to my opponent. I watch him elegantly toss off one glove, then two. They fly through the air with a flair of panache. He unbuckles his helmet like this isn’t his first time. Sends it spinning and careening down the ice. If I wasn’t so scared, I’d be impressed.

He’s one of the veterans on the team, about my size, wiry—looks tough and rugged to the bone. Those piercing dark eyes. He places his knuckles up beside his face. Just then, the big nuclear warhead of the camp, the resident tough-guy, old Goony McGinty, steps in front of my opponent and pushes him aside.

“No, you’re fighting me instead,” he barks.

If the first guy shed his gloves with poetic, artistic flair, Goony takes things to an entirely different level altogether—like some kind of maestro. His gloves arc perfectly through the humid air of the arena, landing softly next to his helmet that’s still spinning like a top and making a slight scraping sound on the ice, his own symphony of blood and guts.

I’m looking at two veterans on the team, both standing there with their gloves off and furious faces. I must have rubbed them the wrong way. That means I’m playing good hockey. Time to back it up.

I don’t know what to do, so I do the only thing I can. I put my knuckles up and step forward to engage.

Goony McGinty steps forward too. After a quick square-up, we come together and grapple. I get a good grab on his jersey. I’m in full defensive mode. Everything turns into slow motion. The crowd and the scouts and the other players all disappear. It’s just me and Goony, in this little bubble of hatred, together.

He throws a big overhand right toward my face, but I see it coming and I lift my left arm to block it. He winds up again and throws another haymaker. I see this one coming too and block it with my left hand, turning my head away in a defensive posture. He winds up and throws a third punch, identical to the two previous, and I block this one too.

In the middle of my first hockey fight, I have a thought: I think I have his timing down.

He winds up again to throw another big punch, but I split it right down the middle, and put my fist through his nostril. A heavy pie-in-the-face-overhand-right bomb. It connects with the meat of his nose. Explodes his face all over the place. Drops him.

The entire arena goes silent. No one knows what to do.

I pick up my gloves, helmet, and stick. Skate back to the bench and take a seat. Something changes at that moment. I see how much respect and space is earned through a well-timed punch in the face. For the rest of camp, no one so much as looks at me with anything but respect and cordiality.

I envision the player on the bench next to me offering me a bottle filled with Gatorade like a maître d’.

Mr. Robins, would you like some water, or perhaps a towel? How about some Gatorade, sir?

I like this feeling. I want more of it.

My confidence is growing. But I still feel insecure. Still feel like that Brown Tootsie Roll underneath it all. I feel like I don’t belong. My suspicions are confirmed, and I don’t make the team. They keep Goony on the roster instead.

But I receive a valuable lesson in my first hockey fight. For some reason, I possess another skill that most other hockey players don’t have. I can chuck ‘em. I can move ever-so-slightly with the most delicate electrical impulses from my nervous system and avoid being hit. I can whip my knuckles toward adversaries—make contact with soft skin and explode their faces.

The next week I go to open tryouts for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League. The premier developmental league for players aged sixteen to twenty, all hoping to get scouted by Division 1 schools and the NHL.

The USHL is bigtime. Tier 1, Junior A. The U-Show.

I’m out of my league but have the tryout of my life.

There’s a Native there with long black hair down to the bottom of his jersey. He flies around the ice crosschecking and tomahawking guys in the wrists. Everyone at that tryout is scared to death of him. “Screaming Buffalo” they call him, but not to his face. No one’s built up the courage to look him in the eyes.

After the first period of the scrimmage, a scout comes into the locker room with a red face and screams, “You guys are going to let that fucking Indian run around out there? Who’s going to do something about it?”

There’s nothing but silence. We’re all terrified. Then someone speaks up, “I’ll fight him.” Everyone’s looking at me, and I realize that it’s me who said it.


It must have bubbled up out of me. Instantly, my cheeks get hot. My fate gets sealed. First shift of the next period I skate up to Mr. Buffalo at the faceoff circle and ask him to fight.

“Square up, buckets off?” he says, calmly, in a slow, thick Native accent.

I fight as hard as I can, chuckin’ knuckles and, luckily, we slip and fall, and the fight’s over before it even starts. But none of that matters. All that matters is that I was willing to do it. I showed up. This is a valuable lesson to learn—just show up, and it’ll all work out somehow.

But not this time. I get cut again.

I get cut from five Junior tryouts that summer and start to believe what those coaches are telling me. Maybe they’re right. That I’m worthless. That I’m awful at hockey. That I’m better off dead.

But things aren’t so bad. I’m working at the local rink in Green Bay. I have the key and can skate whenever I want. I go into the rink at midnight and put on music and skate around with gloves, stick, and a puck for hours, until the morning light emerges. It’s the most peaceful feeling that I know. The crunching sound of smooth ice under the blades of my skates. The hockey rink is my protective cocoon from the world. Nothing matters when I’m out there on the rink, all by myself skating through the misty fog and firing perfectly-placed pucks into the corner of the net.

We have a good crew of hockey folk at the rink in Green Bay. We’re all hungry to chase the hockey dream. We skate and eat and lift together every day. That’s all we know and all we care about, chasing pucks and glory.

One of the boys, Big Willy Snipeshow, asks me if I’m going to the tryout down in Summerset for some Junior team in the “Montana League.” I’d heard about this league before. It’s Tier 3, Junior A. Known to be a tough league, a fighting league.

It’s already late in the summer and this is my last shot.

First shift at tryouts for the Great Falls Americans, a big guy picks a fight with me. He gives me the nod and shakes his gloves. My gloves fly off and helmet goes spinning. I grab a perfect hold on his jersey, right at his shoulder, and throw five punches into his face and drop him. Blood squirting everywhere.

Next shift, I streak down the left side of the ice, cut across the crease, and tuck a pretty goal past the netminder. I’m on fire. The first period ends and I’m coming off the ice. I see the coach looking at me from the top of the bleachers where the scouts sit with their clipboards. I stare back at him as he walks down the stairs toward me.

“Bobby, hold up a second,” he waves his hand in my direction. He meets me at the door of the locker room.

“Hi, Coach,” I say, with great beads of sweat dripping down my face, my knuckles swollen and throbbing up to my wrists.

“Do you want to be on my team?” he asks.


Yes, more than he could ever know. This is it. My last tryout. If this doesn’t work out, I don’t know what I’ll do—probably scrape mold at the cheese factory. Yes, I want to be on the team.

“Ok, great, you’re on it,” he says. “Go out there and play hockey the rest of camp. You don’t need to fight anymore. You’re a good hockey player. Go play good hockey.”

The next day, they put us on different teams with new jerseys in our stalls, so the scouts can get some different looks at players and new line-combinations. As we sit on the bench and wait for the game to start, the opponent who I beat up the day before skates by and gives me a nod of respect. His face is red and black and blue— ballooned and swollen, like the raw ass of a jungle baboon.

The guy next to me nudges me in the arm.

“Oh man!” he gasps. “What happened to that guy?”

“I fucked him up,” I say in a calm, low voice, and stare straight forward at the center-ice faceoff dot like a psycho.

The guys to my right and to my left inch over slightly on the bench, giving me a little more room. The player to my left extends his arm with a bottle of Gatorade and offers me a drink.

Coach wants me on the team—I made it! This is happening!

I drive out to Montana, Big Sky Country. I’m eighteen years old with a limitless future in front of me. I see the mountains inch closer across the horizon as I fly down the highway. I wonder what my life is going to be like. High school is over. I’m a man now.

END OF THE LINE, my friend. Thanks for reading this far. If you want to support me and help fund the first printing of this savage memoir, please Pre-Order this book or purchase a Pre-Release Paperback (1 of 1000) at:

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See you over there. Be sure to say hello and tell me where in the world you’re reading from! Thanks so much!

Bobby Robins



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Thanks for reading! Leave a comment and let me know if you are excited to read SEX DRUGS PUCKS AND SOULS!! Where are you from and where did you see me play? Really appreciate your support and hope you enjoy the savage memoir!

Bobby Robins

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