1.17 Abraham’s modification club
«Brrrrr…. The first day is not the most painful, but it is the ugliest! You look at it after the op and it looks just gruesome, like some sort of Frankendick,» grandfather said bluntly. «In the beginning you don’t feel any pain. First of all you were under general anesthesia, and then you are filled with painkillers. But fuck, it sure does look hideous… They put some sort of a sock on it, but almost as soon as I got home it came off. And then you could see everything, fucking threads bristling from the wound …»
«Wait, I don’t want to hear about those bristling threads,» said the grandchild sitting on the stool, as he quivered with disgust. «Tell me, you said that you were under general anesthesia, is that when you are unconscious and feel no pain?»
«Yep, exactly, general anesthesia, it is a complete black out. I had never been under general anesthesia, so that in it self was a once in a lifetime experience. I was extremely nervous. Can you imagine, you are naked on the table, and you are about to undergo one of the most intimate operations ever, they put a mask on you and a whole bunch of concoctions start flowing into your veins. This narcologist or… No-no, he is not a narcologist, he’s an anesthesiologist, who puts you under anesthesia… He said something about my beard, that it might cause problems with the oxygen mask, but for me it felt like he just wanted to be an asshole! Anyhow, I remember that I was repeating on my own «Bismillah, bismillah,» and thought why am I not already under anesthesia. And then I heard how doctor said to the nurse that give something-something units of fentanyl… I still can’t believe that I heard that, and that I got fentanyl, but that explains the absence of pain…»
«What is fentanyl?» interrupted the grandchild.
«Fentanyl is a painkiller, an opioid, precisely synthetic opioid, hundred times stronger than morphine. It was used back then together with some other chemicals for anesthesia; I don’t know if they still used it at hospitals. Fentanyl was a hot topic during that time, it ruled on the streets with full throttle. During the millennium change it used to be heroin and AIDS but then fenta climbed on the top. Heroin is three times stronger than morphine, so many times weaker than fentanyl; it was crazy, all dying to overdoses. Things started to get better a few years before the Visitation Day, weed was legalized and taxed and they started to cure junkies with the tax-money. Well, with these tax-bills that didn’t fit to pockets. Fucking country, you know they said in one movie that «This is not a country, it’s just a business».»
«But what happened during the anesthesia?» interrupted the grandchild again and fiddled his tea cup to which he had just added three spoons of sugar.
«Nothing happened. It didn’t happen. There was nothing. No dreaming nor darkness, nothing. Basically like when you are really tired and you put your head on the pillow and the next moment you are awaken by the alarm clock. I fell into anesthesia with the thought that why am I still awake, why can’t I sleep, and the next moment I was like wow-wow, I can’t be awake, why am I not asleep already. And then I started to understand that I am no longer on the op-table but under a blanket in the waking room.» Grandfather silenced and poured black tea into his cup, added two spoons of sugar, stirred and poured some cream into it. He tasted it, added a half spoon of sugar and stirred again.
«What happened next?» asked the boy and tasted also grandfather’s tea.
«After that they wheeled me into the ward, sticked me under the IV drip and then I just hanged about. Just waited there, op was at ten in the morning and I had to be there until two in the afternoon. It was fucking depressing to be there. Besides me there were four other guys; one was passed out, maybe had just gone through a difficult operation, the second one was Russian, he was reading a newspaper, slept and was quiet. The third guy came to welcome me already in the morning, he was a friendly fellah, basically as old as I am now. He had a neutered cat vibe, little bit half-wit if I may say so. He told me that he had testicular cancer, or -tumor. That they took it away, that they took everything away. Whoa, that hollowed me, right before the op as well. From that note a word of wisdom to you boy — touch your balls sometimes, and if you feel anything strange, anything that wasn’t there before, then go immediately for a check-up. Maybe they won’t take everything away. If they take everything away, then you will get tits. That old guy had tits. That was sad…
«The fourth guy came after the op, middle-aged, from an island, I don’t remember anymore if he was saarlane or hiidlane. Damn, was he tiring! It was visible that he was nervous, kept on yapping; sat, arms crossed on the bed and yapped. In the beginning with the castrate but then he left vivaciously to get some analyses done. And then islander started to cross-examine me; sleeper and Russian didn’t respond to his yapping. «Why are you, young man, here?» and «How so?» I really didn’t want to talk to him; that anesthesia high started to wear off as well. Luckily the doctor finally came, the same urologist who examined me before the op, and to my knowledge also performed the op. He gave me precise instructions: no sex for four weeks, if the bandage comes off then it comes off, if it gets urine on it then it’s also okay, if there is infection then I must do potassium for it. Then I stumbled out of the hospital and came home.»
«But did it hurt then or what?» asked the boy.
«Oh, hell yeah!» skirled grandfather. «You couldn’t imagine how much it hurt. That was something different, that was primordial pain. Constant pain. Every step, every damn move, shit… Every thought, for fuck sake…» Grandfather silenced and fell into his own thoughts.
How was he supposed to explain to the boy how it felt after it and what kind of pain it was? He didn’t want to talk about how he felt when he tested the new and contract bidden «him» for the first time. That it wasn’t naturally a situation where «don’t have intercourse for four weeks» and then «davai, push in and start banging.» Far from that. He had truly suffered. Truly. Every moment, every move, every time his underwear touched the wound. Every time fabric touched the unprotected head whose collar had been removed. He had been high constantly — nothing too serious, just some ibuprofen, ibumetin and god-knows-what-iin-or-een. Definitely four hundred mg’s in the morning. Possibly a small hit or a roach from a previous day. Maybe another four hundred during lunch or maybe not. Maybe two if he didn’t take anything in the morning. And then two in the evening, definitely two. And puff, definitely puff. Mostly after work but if morning was difficult, then also in the morning, but in small quantities.
Sometimes the pain vanished after painkillers and weed. Or he simply got used to it. Got used to pain, discomfort and weirdness. Part of him had vanished, as if it had never been there. There was pain; a part of him had been replaced by pain. When there’s Ramadan and one should not think about sex at all, then it’s quite easy to let your thoughts run loose. But this was an ultimate Ramadan for him. Just a glimpse of something, text, word, passing thought, fantasy, not to talk about his own wife’s touch or hug – it all created immediately sharp, cutting pain. He had to not only control his actions, but to subject the whole «him»; to detach and to secede from anything that could cause any excitement. Besides mind and mindset, there was also purely physiological side – first two weeks he had to wake up every morning between six and seven to take a piss. Usually because he was in pain, sometimes in a hurry – before it got painful.
After the second week he started to doubt in doctor’s words that he couldn’t have sex for four weeks; he thought it will take longer, like five to six weeks. Everything was swollen and bloody and purulent and he was afraid. Dick in lukewarm potassium permanganate dilution, he was pondering in the middle of the bathroom about times they had spent together, places they had gone and deeds they had done. But he cured himself and a light started to shine at the end of the tunnel by the end of the third week. He was not worried any longer if everything is going to be alright; he felt it. First time after the op when he started to have an erection and he allowed it to happen, first time when he didn’t fall into meditation to think about snow, cold or some other non-arousing thing, was extremely weird. Extremely. Everything was pulling and the feeling was like the cork is going to fly off. Not the jizz but the head of the dick. He got afraid again and repeated on his own: «Snow-snow-snow,» and tried to calm himself by freezing his mind. But the next day he tried again, and was afraid, and tried again, until one day he wasn’t afraid any longer. And that was … unbelievable. Like that first time when you wanked off and later on couldn’t understand how could you be so empty. He was incredibly gentle with himself and that was enough to understand that he had become a virgin. He was a virgin, married man for nine years and father of two.
And before he could give his virginity to his wife, she flew away for twenty days. There had been a few handjobs before departure but these had been awkward; he had behaved like a total broad and squealed on every sharper and tearing movement. There was no unity, only awkward experimentations of teenagers. And then he was alone and enjoyed rediscovered youth, lonely nights. Until his wife came back and they indulged in unity, endless and foreskinless.
«What are you thinking of, grandpa?» asked the boy whilst cutting lemon on the kitchen table and dropping the slices into his tea.
«But why is it done if it’s painful? I read a book about it in the library and there it said that if a doctor doesn’t see a reason to do it, then there is no need.»
«What else did it say in that book?»
«It was written that it is customary among the Jews and Muslims. And that doctors have to do it sometimes to non-Jews and non-Muslims if there is an infection. But that usually there is no need for it.» Boy looked at grandfather perplexedly.
«You know, I’ll tell you how it all started. How it started for me. For humanity it is another story. Partly longer but in the same time shorter.» Grandfather sighed, took his tobacco pouch from the kitchen table drawer and rolled himself a cigarette.
«One of my first contacts with that topic was when I met your grandma’s father. I had like heard of it before but hadn’t paid much attention to it. Your great-grandpa came to Estonia, to like give his permission to our marriage or so. We met at the city, your grandma and her father, and me with my mom. We went to one of those downtown buildings that stays empty now; there was some kind of a supermarket. Viru center was its name. Well, it is like when many shops are together in one place. Like a bazaar. It used to be like that back in the day; people were constantly buying and buying.
«Anyhow, we were in some kind of clothing shop and Kuuki went with my mom to try something on. I stayed alone with your grandma’s father for the first time. I thought he will start to interrogate me, that what are my plans with life, what university I will go to and what job and so on. But your great-grandpa looked at me and asked if I know that I have to clean myself from there. He did with his fingers like with scissors snip-snip. Bljaad… I got goosepumps from it. That was so bloody random; he told me in the middle of the shop that I have to get my foreskin cut off. I got an immediate block from that idea, like in why the fuck?! But I didn’t say anything to him. He was shorter than I am but looked like someone you don’t want to have a quarrel with; he was either angry looking or laughing from his stomach. No expressions between those — not kind nor surprised. He didn’t do shit with his face except staring angrily or laughing. Anyway I nodded that yes-yes, will get it done, and didn’t think of it for a long time.» He finished his cigarette calmly and put it out into the ashtray to immediately roll a new one.
«I still don’t understand what got me up to doing that. I try to place it and fit it with the narrative, development from total opposition, from thinking of it as a completely pointless and old fashioned, barbaric practice, up to a moment when I fell from the peak to a sea of questions. Why is it necessary, is it dangerous, am I capable of it, can dick just rot off, can the doctor accidentally chop my dick off, and so on and on and on.» He lit his cigarette and continued: «If you look at it theologically, then yeah, in our cultural space it is a regular tradition among Muslims and Jews. It was Abraham’s contract with Yahweh — after the circumcision of the heart they made a new contract, with him and his successors, with everyone. From ancient times until eternity, the contract between me and you, said Yahweh and the old Abraham circumcised himself, his sons and his servants. But we are not the only ones who practice it. Americans do it to all newborns since the middle of last century. Makes no difference if you a Jew or a Catholic, liberal or conservative — scissors and snip-snip! And Africans do it. And natives of South-America. And natives of Australia. And Melanesians. And Asians. Asians do it mainly because of Islam, but they have their own traditions as well. And Jews circumcise…»
Grandfather rambled at length on who, how and when cuts. Who cuts only part of the foreskin, who cut it lengthwise, who made it into shreds. He spoke of how many different parts a penis has and how many parts a vagina has. The boy sat and listened, blushed at some moments and fiddled with his tea cup. Grandfather used difficult words like frenulum and labia minora. Noticing that the boy doesn’t understand, he always offered him a lengthier explanation. The boy blushed and listened. Grandfather spoke about faraway tribes who are separated by an ocean, he told how they cut the penis in half, from the top to the scrotum, and theories why they do it. The boy sat and listened and he was not blushing any longer; his face was totally pale.
«See, Uku, you got lucky.»
«Well, they did it to you right after being born… Do you remember it?»
«I do not…»
«That’s it, you didn’t have a choice but you also do not remember it; the procedure was done to you in a secure environment and that’s the end of the story for you. I and your uncles, we have to remember it.»
«But you didn’t tell me why you did it,» reminded the boy on the stool. He fished a tubby cigarette butt from the ashtray and respired it back on burning. Grandfather grabbed it immediately from him and snipped the boy on his nose with his index finger.
«Damn scoundrel, wait until your beard starts to grow,» said grandfather and dropped the butt in the ashtray. «I did it because I had to bring something to the table as a sacrifice. The time was ripe for it, I had decided to bring my whole self as a sacrifice to Him. Heart, mind, soul, body, ego with every cell and hair. It is part of the way of hanif’s – to reach Him and to give yourself to Him. Plus, everything went simply and I took it as a good sign, approval to my endeavor. If a difficult thing is going smoothly, then you have to use it…» Grandfather started to roll another cigarette for himself.
«See, the family physician gave me a referral letter to urologist after I merely mentioned it. Men don’t go to a physician’s office at all, I didn’t go back then and I don’t go nowadays, and I think that is why the doctor gave it so easily. Anyhow, it took me a year to call the urologist and make an appointment. I got a consultation quite fast, it took only a couple of months, and there it went even easier. The doctor asked if I had any complications, is the foreskin too tight or anything like that. I told him that there are no problems; to which he replied that then there is no need for an incision. And then I mentioned that see, I am Muslim, to which he replied that then it is another story and started typing on his computer’s keyboard.
«I observed him and thought to myself; this middle-aged doctor with a ring on his pinky, he had decided immediately after my statement to perform the operation on me and I couldn’t understand how it had become so simple. Everything else that was partly involved with religion, people spat on; all other things got caught up in bureaucracy. With him it worked and ran without obstacles. Was that some sort of an agreement amongst urologists, honorary code, that everyone must get circumcised? Was it some sort of competitive interest for circumcisions? Did he make nicks on his scalpel sheath for every removed foreskin? Or did he get money for every operation? Anyway, after he finished typing, he gave me a paper about anesthesia, recommendations and dangers, plus the diagnose. I had foreskin phimosis and treatment for that was circumcision…»
Grandfather lit his cigarette, exhaled smoke and said:
«This doctor screwed the system with full throttle and came on the side of humans. He made things simpler and that was a good sign.»