A me se me importa poco

que un pajaro en la alamea

se pase un arbol a otro

 (It doesn’t matter to me

if a bird in the poplar grove

has skipped from tree to tree)

From Los Titeres de Cachiporra, The Billy Club Puppets, by Federico Garcia Lorca

Zipless fuck. Hah. A panic ran the village. Everyone was to report to Javier’s surgery. There was an epidemic of sífilis. I climbed the stairs with a grim face. The waiting room was packed. What are you doing here? Oh, I see, you slept with him and he slept with her, and she slept with him and he slept with – Tonia. All roots led to Tonia. And, of course, whoever had given it to her in the first place. We all suffered large needles full of antibiotics jabbed in our arses. Javier’s mother was there, knitting, blissfully ignorant. Isn’t it nice that all your friends are here dear? She spoke only Spanish.

It wasn’t syphilis. Soon after this Saturday in the surgery, we moved from the McKinley house to our last stop before going home. We camped with a Spanish friend, Fina, in a house in Lluc Alcari. I woke one morning and, when I tried to get out of bed, was hit with an excruciating pain in my testicles. I gasped with it, and laid back in bed. I discovered it was OK, as long as I laid down and didn’t move.

Javier came to visit, diagnosed epididymytis, returned with more antibiotics, and mumbled something about it being caused by a too tight pair of jeans I had bought recently. “Rubbish” bellowed Uncle Theophilus, a psychiatrist when I told him about this some years later, “it’s a sexually transmitted disease, extremely painful, an infection of the epididymis. You must have been fucking around.” Uncle Theophilus, a complex man, was bisexual, and knew about these things. I later found out a lot more about the epididymis.

It is, in the words of one medical dictionary “an elongated mass of convoluted efferent (carrying away) tubes at the back of the testes.” This long – six metres long – thin tube stores, transports and matures sperm cells. A bit like a sperm cellar. You can see the little sperm dispensers in white coats, wandering its convoluted passages sampling various barrels of sperm in tasting glasses, swilling and spitting. “This batch is ready, Smithers, motile, mature and raring to go.” Meanwhile, up above, a hand is moving rapidly up and down the shaft, or a penis is moving frantically in and out of its preferred receptacle, awaiting the explosion.

But my epididymis was fucked. An infection, more likely Chlamydia trachomatis than N. gonorrhoeae, the usual antecedents, had moved from my bladder or urethra into this complex sperm cellar and I was rendered immobile and immotile. Why most likely Chlamydia ? Because it’d the hidden STD. You can walk around with it for years and be handing it around to all your best friends and not know. We didn’t use condoms in those pre-AIDS days. Everything was curable.

I lay on my back inscribing the Chinese character for Tao onto a leather pouch that I had made to carry my passport. I still have this relic, and it still carries my passports – now four, mine, De’s and those of our two children. I just pulled my old rendering of it in red ink pricked with the hypodermic, and compared it with the one above, printed from the net. Not bad, not bad all. Here it is


My diary at this time is littered with quotes from Lao Tzu, which I had discovered, along with the Tao Te Ching, when living in Balmain. I carried Lao Tzu with me, always, in the slim Penguin edition, as a talisman. On Tuesday January 23rd 1974, for example, I wrote:

I do my utmost to attain emptiness

I hold firmly to stillness.

Well, that was certainly the case, every movement sent a screaming wrenching pain through my balls. Not exactly the stillness Lao Tzu had in mind.


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