Ben was someone I had known since I was 5 years old — not in a romantic way, but in a “he was in my kindergarten class” way where someone exists passively in your consciousness for as long as you can remember. My best friend and I would play tag on the playground and take turns crushing on Ben and his best friend, respectively. My best friend liked Ben; I liked Ben’s best friend, whatever his name was. We had a little kindergarten love square and I remember it being very hot-and-cold, enemies to friends to suitors. At some point, his best friend went to another school or died or something, and then it was just Ben, but he was quickly surpassed by 2nd grade and 3rd grade lovers: charming young boys with big birthmarks on their faces or soon-to-be gays living out their womanizer days. For middle school, we parted ways: I went to a magnet school and did show choir, and I’m sure he did something equally as lame at a different middle school 15 miles away. Then he popped up in high school again — he was on the robotics team with a few of my close friends. We never really had a reason to talk but each interaction, when they did occur, was met with an earnest amicability: “I have seen you over many years, and so inherently, I care about what happens to you!”
Who would have thought that so many schools later when he transferred to my college, we might be in similar circles? And who else would’ve thought that earnest amicability could so easily morph into the sluttiest, weirdest vibe ever?
Ben and I had sex the next time we saw each other. At some point, he had become 6’3” and lanky in the exact way that appealed to me. He had a squarish blonde cut and droopy eyes, and I found the way he slinked through the world to be utterly hilarious. I watched him pack a geeb on the front steps while all our other friends drank inside, one or two coming out intermittently for their turn to smoke. When it was just us, we would get very close and talk about how exciting it was to see one another, how good the other looked. We reminisced about high school, commiserated over harrowing exes, and in between we kissed furiously. When the next person came out, he awkwardly draped his hands around his body and crouched like a neanderthal to pack the geeb for them. It was only when he stood fully, after they left, that I realized you could see the imprint of his boner right through his shorts. I laughed. He laughed too. It all felt very silly and intimate in the moment.
Just to be clear, his dick was huge. I think my exact words when I saw the imprint were, “Oh my god,” to which he shrugged bashfully and giggled (not in a weird pervert way, but in a deep, sexy, big-dick way).
We hooked up despite the quiet disapproval of our friends. When I told my roommate she could walk home without me, she offered the passive dissenting headshake of someone who knows something will end soon. She went home and I went upstairs, and much to my surprise, I orgasmed during a hookup for the first time in my life. Ben and I reveled in this for a while, and then he fingered me to completion three or four more times, until the sun peeked through his blinds and he walked me to my 9 AM lecture.
Moments like that don’t come very often, and when they do you’d like them to last forever. They feel magical — as if it were divine serendipity that I knew Ben, that I had once played tag with him, and that he had transferred to my college after all this time and hand-delivered me my first orgasm. But no great magic comes without a price. I flew too close to the sun, and Ben didn’t wash the weed from underneath his fingernails.
The next week I became afflicted with a horrible UTI.
I had UTIs before. I had been hooking up with stoners since I was 19, of course I had UTIs before. But I thought I had ironed out the technique to avoiding them: have sex, pee right after, wipe with wet toilet paper. Easy. After all, I hadn’t gotten a UTI in two years, but perhaps my hubris had made me sloppy. Perhaps I needed to edit my technique.
I didn’t see Ben during my week-long recovery. I claimed I was busy, and I was. I was busy chugging cranberry juice and downing Nitrofurantoin until my pee turned neon orange and the infection cleared out of my system. The next time I hooked up with him I was prepared: I drank cranberry juice frequently the day before, brought Summer’s Eve wipes, and made sure to shower after sex. I miraculously orgasmed again, and in gratitude, I kissed his hands (aka inspected his nails). We talked until the sun rose and made the familiar trek back to the Student Commons. Then he wrapped his sweatshirt around me in goodbye, and his lean figure disappeared into the sandy light of the early morning.
The next day, my pee burned again.
I tried using the remainder of my Nitrofurantoin, but it didn’t work. Cranberry juice and AZO pills didn’t work. So, I shamefully returned to my student health services building and peed in another bottle — and then I got self-conscious about how much I peed because I realized I gave them way more than the requested amount. What was I trying to prove? They were probably going to think I was some kind of horse — a giant horse with a huge bladder and chronic urinary tract issues. Also, amount withstanding, I got piss all over my hands so then I had to wash off the bottle in the sink like a fucking idiot. I thought of my more elegant friends who probably spread their lips with ease, only peed the allotted amount, and never ever got any on their hands because of their immaculate aim. At that moment, I resented them desperately.
After this excruciating experience, I decided it was time to focus on myself. So I cleaned my room, ordered takeout, and to better relax, I invited Ben over to fuck me one more time.
Give me a UTI once, shame on you. Give me a UTI twice, shame on me. Give me three distinct UTIs in a matter of 5 weeks — I know in my heart it’s a shame-on-me situation, but it feels inherently misogynistic.
The third UTI was the worst one. It began with the classic burning, but at this point in my relationship with Ben, I just took this as a natural side effect of having sex with him and had integrated all the aforementioned preventative measures into my daily life. Equipped with AZO, I believed the burning would disappear with the delusional optimism of a slot machine regular. The next day, I woke up to a tight cramp in my appendix. I couldn’t sit up in bed without groaning because of the acuteness of the pain — I thought it was going to burst. My roommate and I frantically googled symptoms of appendicitis and tried to determine how many hours I had left. My sister shepherded me from doctor’s office to doctor’s office until we found a 24 hour center, where I was served by a dismissive Persian who assured me that this was just a side effect of the frequent UTIs and nothing more. She prescribed me an antibiotic and sent me on my way.
The pain became even worse. I couldn’t eat anything; food just exacerbated the tension in my gut. My sister drove me to the ER that night, and we sat and took selfies in the hospital bed to send to my father. We kept the details of my hospitalization intentionally vague and woman-oriented so he wouldn’t ask questions. Finally, after an hour or so of selfies and my sister’s admonitions, the doctor arrived. Not Persian, very nice to me. They had analyzed my urine sample (I gave exactly the right amount of urine this time! Right until the dotted line, no more, no less!) and found that my UTI had essentially become so bad that it metastasized into a bladder infection. He prescribed me some elevated super-antibiotics to fight my super-UTI, and the next day the pressure dissipated and slowly but surely, my vagina returned to its normal non-UTI state.
I didn’t tell Ben about the UTIs. I didn’t tell him about the bladder infection either. I just told him I had a crush on someone else and that it wouldn’t work out between us. It felt like I was doing a kindness at the time — I wanted to preserve the fondness of our relationship, the nostalgia and the early mornings — but now I think of the next girl, the next vagina. What will happen to her? Will she fare the same fate?
Moral of the story: wash your hands before sex, and don’t hook up with
kindergarteners people you’ve known since kindergarten.
Hi, I’m Amita Rao — collector of horrible hookup anecdotes and purveyor of niche sex advice. I spent the first three years of college of sleeping with everyone I could and documenting those experiences through long, overwrought text messages to friends. Over the next few weeks, I will talk about anything I want — and if you send a message , I could talk about something you want! Isn’t that fun? Disclaimer: This column is not to be taken seriously, and neither am I — I mean, did you read this at ALL?
To share a story or get advice, email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Amita’s Sex Advice Column Inquiry.”