When Justin Fleich stepped out of his boxer shorts Sunday morning and stepped into the shower, it was the closest he came to having an intimate experience the entire weekend.
"The warm water, my soapy hands all over my body, that was pretty much it as far as having an intimate physical experience," said the Starbucks barista and a 10-year resident of Brooklyn. " I think I can say the same thing for last weekend and the weekend before that. I mean, I haven't been dating much."
If he had to add them all up, his dates for the past year probably total five, Fleich said, and none of them went beyond a first date. "I was hoping at least one of them would turn into a second date, especially with this one girl I had drinks with, because she was actually pretty good looking. But her interest was divided between me and her phone and her phone won, I'm afraid."
In his lonelier moments, he said, she's the girl he thinks about, although in his fantasies, his time with her takes a different turn.
"For one thing, she uses her phone to take nude pictures of herself and not just to text her friends," he said. "For another, I don't see her nude only in pictures; I see her nude in my apartment---in fact, on my bed and with my hands all over her."
Fleich says he can't remember the last time he had sex with a woman, but it was "a long, long time ago. Maybe six years. I mean, it's been a dry spell."
And there's no relief in sight, he added, because not only is he gaining weight, but he's starting to lose his hair and his clothes are becoming dated. "Let's put it this way: if I were a stock, investors wouldn't see much upside to investing in me. What they'd see is a lot of downside, so I think there would be a lot of calls to sell."
It doesn't help that he's barely making enough to live on at his job, but he doesn't know what else to do. "I haven't really figured out what I'm good at. So, I feel kind of stuck. I'm glad I even have a job, especially in this economy, but I'm definitely flat-lining."
Given his long dry spell and the bleak prospects before him, his showers have become the highlight of his weekends. "When else is my body going to be caressed? I've got this great shower head and if I close my eyes I can sometimes forget for a few seconds that it's water that's caressing my neck and shoulders and not a woman's fingers."
Fleich says he likes to experiment with different combinations of shampoo and conditioner because of the sometimes surprising results he gets in their textures and fragrances. "I noticed that the way a conditioner smells changes based on the shampoo you combine it with," he said. "It doesn't always smell the same. And also when you mix it up, the way your hair feels changes. Sometimes it's kind of stiff. Sometimes it's kind of floppy."
Conditioner has become something of an obsession with him lately, he says, because its look and texture is so similar to sperm. "I'm sure the guys who make this stuff do that intentionally," he said. "It's always kind of a milky white, and always has sort of a spermy feel to it, so I'm sure they're, like, playing with our heads a little.
"I can tell you," he went on, "if I were a woman, and I was having a dry spell, I would be pretty interested in having this spermy stuff shoot off in my hand. I'm just trying to put myself in a woman's shoes. Say I wasn't that attractive and just couldn't get a man interested in me. Having this spermy stuff in my hand would be the closest thing to having the real thing, right? I'll bet half of some women's conditioner gets rubbed all over their bodies instead of put in their hair. I know that's what I would do. In fact, that is what I do."
The warm water caressing his skin, the pretty fragrances, his soapy hands lathering up his body . . . . From a sensory standpoint, it's all there: touch, smell, and even sight, because if he stands at the back of his shower he can partially see his body in the bathroom mirror. Add in the element of sound, with the water dancing on the floor of his shower and some music in the background, and you've got the full monty. Of all the senses, only taste is left out of the equation. "And that's not really one of the big sensations when you're having sex, I don't think. I guess you kind of taste things when you kiss or when you, you know, kind of go down on her orally. But, really, taste is not one of the main senses you use."
"I can't say I'm happy with this situation," Fleich went on. "In fact, it sucks. But think of how much worse things would be for me if I didn't at least have a shower to look forward to. Because as of right now, a warm, caressing, soapy shower is the closest thing to sex my body is going to get."