Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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The story of my vasectomy

WARNING! This link will take you to a video of an actual vasectomy. While I highly encourage people to watch it—all surgery is fascinating, and this is the kind of “no scalpel” procedure I had done—I should state that it presents a tug of war between stainless steel instruments and very thin and sensitive body parts.

I was never this nervous going into a medical procedure. I’ve had four wisdom teeth beaten out of my skull. I’ve had my wrist screwed together. I had to get plantars warts burned off of my sole with a laser. Nothing quite compares to lying on your back mostly naked with your shaved scrotum (I did it myself) the focal point of the afternoon.

Weeks before the surgery, my doctor had explained the procedure in pretty vivid detail. Of course, my writer’s imagination had gone wild, and it did not help to see, so soon as I had entered the room, a stainless steel tray holding almost a dozen surgical instruments, and also gauze smeared with iodine, the color of brown scabs. I knew it was iodine. But iodine recalls the color of coagulated blood.

There I lay, nards under a tissue-thin square of sky blue paper, and the doctor came in with a host of people: four (at least) medical students, all of them preparing for lucrative careers of nard hacking. In the small room, I soon developed a sense of claustrophobia, this while my testicles swelled to the size of peaches. Supine, I stiffened to a board, sweat beating my brow, the room a trash compactor, my nards now ripened Michigan fruits, their skin red and downy. And I had a multicultural audience wearing scrubs.

I was wearing my dashiki. The doctor said, “Hey, this shirt looks Caribbean. Let’s put on some Caribbean music.” Songs by Mark Anthony and the loathsome Ricky Martin streamed from a corner. The procedure had begun before Ricky could sing Go go go! Ole ole ole!

“You’re just going to feel a pinch.”

Indeed, a pinch, if that’s what you want to call a needle stabbing your sack. I tried to be mindful, as my Roshi had trained me, but my mind went rather haywire, and I started hearing all sorts of idiotic associations, including the jingle, “You save big money when you shop Menards.” It did not go well with Ricky Martin, not when Raymond Jack Szmanda (the Menards guy) danced before me, his nuts bleeding.

The doctor was training his students, explaining all sorts of things about skin and vessels and placement and tools, and using words like cauterize, and a nurse kept handing him some branding rod attached to five million watts of electric death. I could smell my testes burning.

It hurt to be yanked around. Not the way it hurts when you stab yourself with a screwdriver. But the vas is short and rather thick, thicker than you imagine; the sound and vibration of cutting it was similar to what I felt when I cut my kids’ umbilical cords. There’s also very little room to maneuver, and with so much attention on me, I felt I was in a toaster.

I was pouring sweat. The doctor opened the door to let in air. This made a nurse feel she could now come in to ask random questions. “Just one quick question, doctor.” Are those Michigan peaches? Could someone cauterize Raymond Jack before he bleeds all over the floor?

The stitching required more yanking, more explanations, “These are going to dissolve.” Dissolve? How? Where? Into what? “We won’t need to remove any sutures.” You’re damn right about that. “Oh, good. Rihanna is on.”

Now that I was all stitched up, nauseated, a dripping human sponge of sweat, the doctor asked me, his hand on my shoulder, “What kind of music do you like?”

“Me?” I gasped. I found the breath to say, “Tom Waits.”

The doctor and the audience exchanged clueless glances.

“Should we know him?” he asked.

I nodded. “If you die today, what deity you believe in will meet you at the gates of paradise. And you’ll be asked, ‘Do you like Tom Waits?’ Answer ‘No’ and you’ll go to hell where five strangers will cut your genitals.”

They all guffawed. “We’ll look him up. We’ll look him up.” The doctor patted my shoulder. “You did great. You’re all done.”

Just pay at the counter. And spread no seed.

Pecan nuts on tree

Pecan nuts on tree

Photo from Wikipedia.


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What’s appropriate to wear to class?

This just happened.

I was sitting in my office and typing an email message . A trio of students walked past my wide open door, and I noticed that one student’s shirt said “suck dick” on it. So I stepped out into the hall and asked him, rather jovially, “Hey, can I see what your shirt says?”

Here’s what it said:

You can’t suck my dick while talking, so shut the fuck up.

I’m not for censorship. I think people should wear what they please, and I occasionally teach wearing a dashiki. But I’m glad I’m not the one who’s got this guy in his classroom today. I’m going to guess most instructors are just going to ignore it. Why attract further attention? However, right now I’m wondering how I would handle it if he came to my class wearing that thing.

I’ve responded to students’ t-shirts before by assigning research projects. A guy who came into my class wearing a hammer and sickle got to do a project about the Gulag. Another guy sporting a Che t-shirt got to read Ay, Cuba, A Socio-Erotic Journey. But how do you turn this kind of frat-boy belligerence into a learning experience? “Here, watch all 44 episodes of Keeping Up Appearances, then write a paper on how etiquette and protocol can be contrived to equal passive aggression.”

For the record, when I was 16, I had a t-shirt that said Shut Up, Bitch. I bought it in California following a nasty bit of heart-wringing over a girl, and I wore it to a few beach parties and a summer camp. One of my dearest friends in the world, a woman who knows me through-and-through, two years my elder, took me to the side and said, “I don’t think that shirt’s like you. It’s just taking the hurt you feel and hurting others with it.” After that I never wore it again.

So, perhaps it’s best to leave these kinds of things to the peers to sort through. Again, I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision.

Here’s a photo of me in my dashiki, as photographed by my 5 year-old daughter in Vilnius this past July. I often teach class this way:

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