"Do you know any hangover cures?" she groaned.
"The only one that ever works for me," I said frankly, "is sex." It's a neurochemical quirk of mine; when I'm horribly hung over, I wake up horny. The distraction of fantasy and the brief endorphin hit is the only respite from the physical wretchedness and free-floating shame. This is the only time I allow certain depraved fantasies to drift through my mind uncensored. Pretty much anything but the dog is fair game. Whatever works. It's a special occasion, a holiday from inhibitions.
"If I didn't have company, I'd just masturbate," I said.
"Hmm," said Shelly, with a rueful, don't-let-me-stop-you arching of her eyebrows. We laughed and passed it off, pretending, by mutual consent, that this idea was obviously out of the question, to spare us both embarrassment. We let it drop and considered some other alleged cures, all of them ineffective: aspirin and lots of water the night before, of course, which we'd forgotten; marijuana, which I didn't have; spicy food, the thought of which made us feel ill; exercise, which, like, yeah right. There was, of course, the sure-fire Hair of the Dog, in the form of mimosas or Bloody Marys or early afternoon beers, but this inevitably led either to the dreaded 8 p.m. hangover or another late night of drinking and an even more catastrophic, cumulative hangover the next day. Ugh. If only there was something.
Finally Shelly said, "Well, why don't you masturbate, and I'll watch?" She said it in the most matter-of-fact, oh-for-Pete's-sake, let's-get-it-over-with-already manner. "It'll make you feel better, and I've always wanted to watch a man come," she explained. As though it all made perfect sense.
"You must've seen men come when you were having sex with them," I protested. Why was I arguing? I was just buying time, I guess, absorbing that she'd gone ahead and boldly suggested this thing out loud.
"Yeah, but you can't really concentrate and pay attention when you're in the middle of sex; you've got so much going on yourself," she said. It was as though it were just a matter of clinical curiosity. It could be anyone. Why not me? I'd be doing her a favor. A win/win! It was an absurd conversation--like most conversations between men and women preceding sex: all pretext. As I got over my initial reflex of shyness and actually considered it, I got a familiar sick giddy thrill in my stomach—the feeling you get when, as a kid, you jump off an embankment on a dare and go into free-fall for a second or two. I can count on one hand the number of times I've had this feeling, and it might be my favorite sensation: the realization that I'm really about to do some illicit, crazy thing I never thought I'd do.
"Okay," I said, trembling. "I'll do it."