Bomb threats always make me think of 14. My friend’s lanky, awkward sticks of dynamite; me, a fat time bomb. In Florida, the sun got hot enough, you could hear the sizzle of their ignition, my soft ticking, between calling each other “faggots” and whistling at girls down the hall.

 Always just loud enough for other boys to hear.

I hear the howling of a tired, battered dog in front of an auto-repair shop. He has one eye, a broken leg, screaming, 

“I can take you, fucker. Go ahead and try me,”

—lying to himself rather then lying down, because he’s not a puppy, and not a bitch.

Bob Hower, Rough Road Series

Bob Hower, Rough Road Series

His metal chain rusting against the post is a quiet laughter, the sneer that keeps his broken growl alive, grinding teeth to bone, bone to teeth; sharp enough to bite, but just making his own jowls bleed: this is what he has learned.

This is what I have learned. We teach our boys to hold a fist like a promise, like a prayer, like their favorite answer, like the always-solution. We teach our boys it’s okay to cradle footballs, to cradle a woman, but not to cradle themselves. Maybe that’s why my best friend swung a fist into my chest seconds before collapsing into my arms, sobbing.

Because boys never cry: we sob. When absolutely necessary, if we’re lucky.

If we’re lucky.

 

Or we get guns, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a boy with a gun… except for a boy who needs love—which is, too often, the same thing. The crossover is massive and can make crosshairs look like peace signs in their soft focus.

Misha Taylor, Gun Boys

Misha Taylor, Gun Boys

 

Focus on your size—biceps, cock, ego—make it bigger. Bigger. What matters is not what’s carefully wrapped inside your skull, or the complex network of organs and pipeline veins, but what dangles between your legs, how much you can bench press—that’s your manhood. That’s manhood.

 

 

Manhood is fucking the bitch deep enough to bury the pain away. Any injury or illness means no fear, no tears, as statuesque as possible. This will make your muscles strong. But some can’t “take it like a man”, so they give it to someone else, one beating at a time. Escaping pain, giving pain.

 

The pain.

A little league outfielder is crying, a baseball-sized welt on his face. He’s told to "Man up!"—as if, somehow, men are elevated from feeling. Man up.

 

Higher. Harder. Man up up up.

 

Photographer Unknown 

Photographer Unknown 

 

But some crash down again, get locked away in metal boxes, get shipped back home in uniform cider boxes.

 

So, maybe the sky isn’t big enough.

So, maybe the sky isn’t big enough.

 

Photographer Unknown 

Photographer Unknown 

Maybe the sky isn’t big enough.

 

The old dog keeps barking out the tired message from his bleeding mouth. His broken growl cuts sharper then anything measurable.

 

That’s the true nature of strength, it seems: it’s held beyond measure.

 

We need to teach our boys that. We need to make sure they know that the heart can never atrophy, that the brain holds muscle memory—that it’s okay to be strong, but manhood isn’t measurable. Perhaps it’s time to teach the old dog some new tricks.

 

 


Jeremy Ashton is a writer, actor, creative thinker, and coffee addict, currently pursuing his Master's in English at St. Johns University. He is passionate about good writing, good people, creating art with friends, and working for equality in this crazy world.

To contact Jeremy or see more of his work, visit him at jeremyashton.com 

Twitter | @jeremyashton

 

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