GHOST. DOG. VIRGIN.
When I was actually rather old for it, in fact, in my next to last semester in graduate school, a young woman who I was attempting to seduce asked me if I were a virgin. Surprised in the car as I drove her back from our class in common, I did not answer, which silence she (of course!) interpreted correctly and, then, she explained without embarrassment that she had requested the ride specifically that she might pop the intolerable question when my answer or lack thereof would not be overheard as I stammered and flushed. We arrived at her destination and she left without further comment, though instead possessing a smile, discrete and chaste, at my expense.
Most distasteful for me, obviously. Yet, years later, even when I had graduated on to the more normal condition of men in my society, I began to wonder if I might owe something to my inexperience, to the ancient and seemingly invincible naivety which kept me, in my way, a pimpled adolescent well into my twenties (and perhaps beyond). As my career progressed I found that it, and I, were greatly driven by my shame…by, that is, the shadow of that hard dying virginity. Its memory pursued me. Somewhere I actually began an essay in which I believe I compared it to “the ghost of a dog,” invisible normally, but seen while waiting for a bus in a light rain at Haymarket station, the mist forming the outline of the beast as it followed me into the yellow pool of light provided by the street lamp.
I never, however, completed the essay, preferring instead to keep so powerful an image on the shelf, as it were, awaiting another piece, in which it might stand as a symbol of something that embarrassed me less, perhaps my own mortality and death, and when I do get around to using it, I shall (I think) employ it as an ending, an epilog, in which I see the crystal skull floating, eyeless and fanged, just inches above my own face, as I recline in a troubled sleep in the back bedroom of that terrible little apartment we had in Lynn.
Michael Jay Tucker is a former trade press editor who now teaches college-level English and history. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and family.