Harlan would not have known that some might say what he did with his libido in the fall of his junior year at Hout was to “sublimate” it. Good thing, too, since he would have rejected the notion as nonsense. His sex drive was exploding. Genetically, he had hot loins handed down to him from both parents.
Of course, there was no way for him to know this. Not that they kept secrets from him, but the Colfaxes were not one of those rare families that would allow such a notion into their conversation.
He did learn, early on, that babies came from their mommy’s bellies. One day when he was a toddler he had pointed to a pregnant woman and asked his mom why she was “fat” there, as she was a willowy young thing and that fecund protrusion made no sense to him. Because she lacked the finesse to obfuscate the truth, Scilla was candid. She told him that when people were in love, the man will sometimes lie down between the woman’s legs and they do something called making love. Sometimes this makes a baby start to grow in the woman’s tummy. She told herself that the best way to prevent an endless stream of questions was to give him as comprehensive an answer as he could absorb.
Harlan’s curiosity had been extraordinary since he was a very young child. When his father taught him how to use tissue to tidy up after poo, to do it once, twice, as many times as it took to come up clean, so that he would then know that he was finished, he looked at Dean and asked, “What do blind people do?”
Both delightful and demanding, that little boy.
But some questions even nascent geniuses don’t know to ask, like, “Is our family’s sex drive like totally off the charts, or what?”
So, even as the demands of school sucked up his vast reservoirs of energy, Harlan’s sex drive demanded attention. It had competition: he and Ward were back at their almost-friendly race for grades. Harlan put in long hours at the computer lab and the library, including time at the libraries of the University of California Med School and San Francisco State, accessible with passes the admin office at Hout had issued to him. Then more hours at home, perfecting his work so it was as flawless as anyone could expect from a junior in an academic private school.
Ward kept pace, but both of them, without admitting it, accepted that it was Harlan who set that pace.
But did this scholarly activity lead to a sublimation of Harlan’s libido? We could perhaps call it that. But Harlan would have been correct if he were to take issue with us and argue that “it” — the hard-ons, the woodies, the boners, the stiffies, the tentpoles — never receded in frequency, no matter how much attention his schoolwork demanded of him.
What did recede, or, perhaps regress would be a better word, was his inclination to further expand his dating experience. Not that his interest in getting more of the Real Thing had waned. Not at all.
One night he heard his mother on the telephone at the base of the stairs when he left his studies to use the toilet. It sounded like she was talking to Gina Dunphy’s mother, about having that little hottie in for a seasonal deep-clean. When he returned to his room, he took his mind off his calculus homework for a few minutes and instead brought back that exquisite little adventure of late summer, till he’d shot several spurts of love juice into his waiting wash cloth. Yeah, he thought, I could use a seasonal deep-clean about now.
So we could not accurately use the term sublimate for Harlan’s sex drive, which remained urgent and persistent and, at times, impetuous.
What was sublimated was that dating-thing. It required mental and emotional energy that he did not have. Too much to learn. He likened this part of life to a video game. You had to want not only the prize at the end, the victory, the mastery of the next level (or of the universe!). You also had to have a desire for the process of getting there: the shooting, the leaping, the skateboarding, the race itself.
He wanted the victory of the dating game, that is, to feel his erect penis in a warm, wet vaginal cavity, sending waves of its own erotic charge over his hard gristle till he thrust in and up that cavity to orgasm and the wonderful explosion, the emptying, the ensuing tranquility, the quiet peace that made life so delightful after the release of tension that lived within him at all other times. But when he took care of his needs with solo expertise, he not only yearned for the Real Thing, he pined for it.
Getting the Real Thing would be the victory. But the process, no, he did not yearn for that. He had no interest in going on another date like the one he went on with Regina to the ballpark and then on the Muni Railway. For what? To have to show up at her house and talk shy and sweet with her parents (he still thought there was a pretty good chance her dad was a dickhead, though he had no hard evidence to support this suspicion).
Then the date, the talking about all the things he did not want to talk about, along with a little (never enough!) talking about the things he did want to talk about, like sports and how cool he was with his smart grades and how that was going to lead to some kind of big-time future for him.
And, as if the process of that game were not tedious enough, it what? It, like, leads to some dopey prize like a boner on the streetcar while a girl holds your hand on her tummy? With no place to go and no idea what to do if you did have a place? That is the end result of all that effort? No way that’s a victory.
So it was back to, first, mental images of Gina, the friend with privileges, and then the Porn Babes.
Harlan and Ward were not overwhelmed by the schoolwork they had assigned to them, or by the extra credit work they had assigned to themselves, but the plethora of requirements had shoved all FOSOA activity out of their lives for the first two months of the school year.
They talked about it a few times. There was a wistful moment or two, while still under the snorting of the obligatory time-monsters, when one or the other of the boys would remember the Summer of Cool-Ass Experiments, how even the penance they had paid in Geordie’s dad’s storeroom seemed like a carefree time for them. Every week or so they would send text messages to Geordie, telling him that this was another bad week to schedule a meeting of the FOSOA. They hoped that he would not misunderstand and think they were trying to cut him out. They hoped that he would not take it personally.
But the FOSOA could not be so easily submerged. It was like a waterlogged beam that finds enough buoyancy in an upward rolling current to rise almost to the surface before it recognizes how much water it has taken on, succumbs to fatigue from its burden and rolls back beneath the waves.
Harlan, in particular, kept his eye on possibilities for resurrecting the FOSOA experiments. Good thing, too, or he might have missed the opportunity Ms. Aldhouse handed to him.
Harlan did not like her. He had a few reasons. One, she had replaced the beloved Mr. Glendenning, the initial inspiration for the FOSOA. Not what that Scotsman necessarily intended, but something for which he would be remembered fondly by the founders of the FOSOA. But Ms. Alhouse was also, it seemed to Harlan, suspicious of him and Ward. She made them sit apart. Neither did she allow them to work together on projects.
Harlan set about trying to crack this nut. Early on he had met her head-on in a challenge to her exam schedule. He raised his hand in class after she made the announcement during the first week of instruction, just before Labor Day.
“How can there be two midterms? ’Mid’ means the middle point. There can be only one middle point.”
“Well, Colfax, then we will call them ‘third-of-a-terms,’ if you like. I will give you a choice. Either we all call them midterm one and two, as I have noted them in the syllabus, or you can volunteer to type up a new syllabus for us tonight and make 22 copies for you and your classmates. What is your choice, Harlan Colfax?”
“But that still makes no sense. They are not at the one and two-thirds points of the semester. In fact, the first one, from now till the exam, is shorter than the period from the first to the second. Yet there is more material covered. That puts too much pressure on us. The first one should be two, no, two and a half weeks later than it’s scheduled, or the material needs to be divided up differently. As it now stands, the schedule is neither logical nor fair.”
She became red-faced and changed the subject. After class, she took Harlan aside and scolded him for his attitude, his disrespect of her. He looked at her, unflapped, with a disdainful air.
On his next homework assignment, she gave him a “C,” the only one he would receive at Hout. After this, he decided it would be in his best interests to work with her. At every opportunity he told her what he thought she wanted to hear.
Yes, Ms. Aldhouse, I would welcome the chance to work with the new boy Tristan Boggs instead of with Ward Dixon. Yes, I agree, it is a good idea to mix things up a bit.
She smiled at his reformed attitude. She had the satisfied look of someone who has won an interpersonal battle, one who has conquered the recalcitrant.
Harlan had a plan, though. He had already talked to the new boy, this Tristan Boggs. And Tristan had shown a strong interest in the FOSOA.
The dude claims he can write killer code! He says he’s hacked, he’s pranked under the Anonymous umbrella. He says he has “treasures to share.”
Thank you, Ms. Aldhouse!
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