Nobadeer Beach, Nantucket. Fourth of July, 2010.
The sounds of EDM music pump from one underpowered Bluetooth speaker to the next, forming a discordant chain of shallow bass and tinny synth chords like some robotic twilight bark. It’s packed; very little sand is visible between the towel-floored shanties of twenty-somethings in fluorescent swimsuits. They giggle and swig behind iridescent sunglasses bought cheap at gift shops and gas stations before the ferry brought them over. Colorful people among very few people of color.
A surplus of beer leads to carelessness. Cans spill, creating dark spots in the sand that shrink and disappear. By noon, the temperature hits 95 and will continue to rise. The sun summits the sky and waits, triumphant, searing the skin of gingers like albacore belly on a hot stone. Girls apply low-shield sunscreen to each other with care; guys do it begrudgingly. Someone calls out the score in a volleyball game that is being taken far too seriously for the caliber of play. Jeeps cook on the beach like doomed whales. An out of place family shelters the eyes of their young ones as a Grayson nearby drops to a knee, puts his lips to the spout of green hose, and chokes down a beer bong in three liquid bites. America making the most of its birthday.
I remember this scene vividly. I remember the sense of patriotism, camaraderie, and flamboyance that seemed to brand the beach that day in Nantucket. It was my first and only visit to the prep school stronghold that is Martha’s Vineyard’s radioactive neighbor. I tend to fare as well as unpasteurized dairy products on beach days. I wore a wide-brimmed fly fishing hat from REI that people found funny, but I was dead serious. They called me Indiana Jones as an insult even though that’s about the highest compliment you can pay a man. Fuckboys kept taking it off my head without permission, like taking the breathing apparatus from an asthmatic kid on the playground. This was long before Melania wiped out bullying.
We played a few games of volleyball against some older guys who wore knee compression pads and high-tenned with both hands after winning a point. “Dig dig dig,” “UP!” and “tight” they’d yell, so well versed in the lingo, so professional. They called us for open-handed sets that rotated too much, for foot-faulting on serves in a four-vs-four nonsense match with stakes so low they could pierce the earth’s core. But their chemistry was no match for our athleticism and vigor: we won by more than two.
The night before, we’d thrown a house party that came to an abrupt halt when the police knocked on the door after 3AM. Exhausted, I had struggled to breathe around bites of a bacon breakfast bagel that morning, but by midday, the edge had worn off and the rumpled sheets of my brain had smoothed out. These were college friends and their siblings, a few girls they knew. Some people I had known for a year; others, a day. Still, I felt safe as I settled into a striped beach chair after our volleyball victory. It all made sense.
Looking back, I should have seen the nap coming. Gulls circled overhead, a suspended mobile of nature’s making; the heat swaddled me in layers of downy sunshine; the music and conversations became one cohesive note played from a white noise machine. As for the warming beer in my hand? A superb understudy for a comforting mug of honey chamomile tea. I never stood a chance.
I don’t know how long I was out for, but I awoke to a light weight resting on my lips. It was slightly furry, like a velvet pouch containing a child’s treasures. People were laughing long before my eyes came into focus. I sat back, my eyes wide now, and saw a pulsing, veiny, scraggly set of testicles. Their owner was gripping them at the base to push each grape out against the sack, drawing the skin tight like an injection of facial filler.
He had pulled his testicles out of one leg of his bathing suit but he’d kept his shaft inside; perhaps out of courtesy, perhaps because his penis is disfigured. My lips were dry and instinctively, I ran my tongue over them. I tasted the pungency of woodland mushrooms—slightly sweet, slightly rotten, preserved from lack of exposure. Notes of pepper and sausage, unsurprisingly, transported me to the breakfast tables of my youth. A bouquet of tobacco and sage took a short flight up to my nostrils while a full-bodied finish planted roots in my throat for weeks to come.
I jerked my head back, causing my chair to topple into the sand. My assailant stowed his chicken hearts and stepped away from me, laughing with everyone. I pulled myself up and looked around as the reality of what had just happened set in: I had been teabagged.
Urban Dictionary defines teabagging as “the insertion of one man’s sack into another person’s mouth. Used as a practical joke or prank, when performed on someone who is asleep, or as a sexual act.” What that definition fails to account for are the emotional and psychological damages that remain with someone who has had testicles dipped into (or on) his mouth.
I consider myself lucky that I sleep with my mouth closed, for I’m sure that my bagger—given the opportunity—would have pressed the entirety of his wrinklepurse into my gullet. Instead, he gently rested them upon my lips in a manner that might have been romantic had I been into that sort of thing. As it was, and as it continues to be, I am not.
Ten years have passed since that day on the beach. I have never returned to Nantucket. I burned my fly fishing hat and threw out the bathing suit I wore that day. My palms start to sweat whenever I hear the sound of waves crashing. I am overcome with terror whenever someone unfolds a beach chair.
As for the teabagger? I know he’s still out there. Upon how many mouths has he rested his grundlecharms? Who can say. But I know this: teabagging should be a beautiful, consensual process between a mug of hot water and a pouch of earl grey. So the next time you see a friend snoozing peacefully, leave your testicles in your shorts.