I first discovered masturbation at 17, in a sweaty, ebbing crowd of hundreds at a club in Denver. I was pressed up against the stage, my chest forced into the metal barrier, my eyes fixed on the frontman of one of the most underrated bands in rock history.
Near the end of the set as the song drew on, he slowly backed himself upstage, just at the side of the drum kit, and stood staring into nothing, head cocked to one side. I watched as a long line of drool pulled away from the corner of his mouth and fell, slowly, to the wood floor at his feet. My eyes dropped to his waist, where his hand disappered behind the hem of his jeans. Still drooling, eyes still frozen on the ceiling over our heads, he remained absolutely still, with the exception of the hand, stroking himself in the shadows. Any naive wonderment of what might actually be occurring faded quickly as I noticed the color of flesh, and small, furious movement. To be sure I wasn’t taken over by strange delusions, I looked at the crowd on either side of me, and nobody seemed to notice. Most eyes were on the band, facing backward to preempt any injury from the pit at our backs, or engaged in conversation with people standing next to them. Surely, I thought, the first two rows could see him from the waist down, and anyone else could only see his face, if they could see him at all. I looked up at him again, and back to the strangers at my sides. I saw a girl, much older than myself, who by her expression was seeing the same thing I was. She felt me looking, and turned and caught my eye. Her look of bewilderment mixed with pleasure made me wonder whether I was aroused or disturbed. I looked back at the stage just as he came, and he stood for a long time before he shuffled slowly back up to the mic.
I met up with a friend in the now blazing light of the littered and emptying auditorium. He was elated, obviously unaware that I wasn’t focused on him. He was talking too fast for me too keep up, wasn’t the show great? God, they rock. Did you love it? Where were you? I’ve been looking for you for an hour… And I stood, and asked him, still second guessing what I had seen.
“Did you watch him masturbate?”
“What?! Are you fucking kidding me? When?”
And I didn’t answer, but turned around and headed towards the queue at the back. My friend’s questions faded into the sound of ringing in my head, and I watched the ground 3 feet in front of me as I walked, wondering what to feel.