“How are you feeling today?” he asked at our next session, as usual.
“I still think about men.”
“We may need to try something new. Through the years you’ve learned that homosexual relations are pleasurable. This is incorrect data. Homosexuals have confused their sex organs. Why else would they stick their penis where they shit? We need to correct your brain’s miswiring. I want you to go home tonight and bottle some of your feces in a little film container. Every time you’re attracted to a man—if you’re out on the street or on a bus—I want you to open the bottle and sniff the contents. You need to be reminded where homosexual men stick their penis. You need to be reminded that homosexual relations are not pleasurable.”
Listening to Alfonzo, I was free-falling into space, falling backward from the top of the stairs, trusting he would catch me.
If the film container did anything, it reminded me of how often I still thought of men. Whereas before I had always unconsciously noticed a man on the street or the bus, now I had a means of counting every last one that caught my eye: I’d reach into my shoulder pack, pull out the container, my firearm, discreetly hold it up under my nose, open it and take a deep, powerful whiff, like I was back snorting poppers in a bathhouse. Only this time its perverse stench was a bullet to my soul, silencing, but not killing, me.
One night after sniffing the container three or four times on a bus, I caught the evening’s front-page headlines: Persian Gulf War: One Man’s Story of Torment. Yes, I understood. Alfonzo was my commanding officer, and I, his enlistee, had been sent to wage the war of my life, the war within. Desperate times required desperate measures. Or so I told myself.
Some weeks later, he asked me again how I was feeling.
“There’s no change,” I told him.
“You’re still sniffing the vial?”
“Yes. And I’m still attracted to men. Only now I smell shit all the time. It’s confusing me.”
“Well, then . . . Ordinarily I don’t like gimmicks, but we may need to begin hooking your genitals up to electrodes. We may need to help retrain your penis.”