It was the first summer-like Saturday night of the year, and you could feel the electricity in the air. Four young guys showed up, full of swagger with all that wild, un-neutered dog energy. When I saw them approaching the car, I almost cancelled and drove off, but the leader of the pack had a magnetism that I liked, so I let them in and started driving them to the hot spot downtown. He claimed the front seat, jumping in and immediately talking about “meeting bitches.” He was a furnace full of fire on full blast. He said he was 21, which means he was 19 years old. He was a glowing hot coal in full bloom. He wasn’t the biggest of his pack, but was clearly the Alpha, and I could tell why. Three of his friends sat in the back, but no matter where the conversation went, he brought it back to “bitches” , how he was going to meet them, and what he was going to do with them. He was hyper-focused, kind of like my puppy when he’s getting close to another dog in the park. When he picks up that scent, it’s hard to get him see anything else.
Often, when a young guy’s body is taken over by its animal nature, it pulls the consciousness down to match it. Maybe consciousness is subject to the laws of gravity, and its natural tendency is to float to the lower chakras. Like my puppy, the boy was likable, excited, with boundless energy, and had no capacity for higher order thinking. He demonstrated no capacity for obedience, impulse control or discrimination. In my mind, I nicknamed him “Alpha Boy.” I remembered how, earlier that week, my puppy swam clear across the Colorado River to see a female, totally disregarding my calls. Any dog trainer will tell you, pups have three primary needs, in this order:
In the seat next to me, Alpha Boy kept bringing the conversation back to “bitches.” I skipped discipline and tried to blend recreation and love by asking, “how did y’all dudes meet?” They laughed and told some disjointed story about meeting at an after hours diner and getting in trouble with the police, but before I could make sense of the story, Alpha Boy asked me about my experience with “bitches,” wanted to know how many I’ve had, which type was the best.
Sometimes, with young guys, a guy becomes the “Alpha” without really knowing how to be an Alpha. Sometimes they pretend to lead, but like an undercover sleuth, look for clues, directions, guidance. Some, especially when there’s no father figure in the home, ask for discipline by demanding it. My puppy asked for it when he chewed up my apartment one day. Alpha Boy was getting ready to chew up the streets, and some girl would surely get in the way. So, I shifted into Father Mode. “You’re on fire tonight?” I said. “Do you have condoms on you?” His face lit up. “Of course, yo!” and then, he asked me, “Do you have condoms?” I’m guessing he forgot his condoms the way my dog forgets his manners when he sees a bitch in heat. I made a mental note to start carrying condoms in my car for guys, and urged him to stop by the store on his way to the club.
Of course, as they open the door to jump out, there’s the obligatory Car-Door Therapy. He turned to me and said, “Wait. Before we leave, you gotta tell us: how many bitches have you banged?”
That’s how guys tally things.
Not men. Guys.
Guys keep score. Guys look at scoreboards. Guys put up points. The guy or team with the most points gets the win. Points = Winners. The winner gets the money. The endorsements. The adulation. The WOMEN. So guys learn to count. A lot of guys think the only way to count for anything in the world is to have a lot of things to count. Guys carry cards with their statistics. Guys measure speed and power and keep totals.
“How many, yo? How many bitches have you had?”
My mind raced. I started counting, but my plusses turned to minuses the moment I started counting. My additions subtracted my peace and joy. I was surprised to find myself getting sad.
My mind was clicking. How do I answer the question in a way that adds to their total rather than subtract? At a certain point, a man realizes there’s no graceful way to answer that question. You don’t know when that point is going to creep up on you, but one day you’ll be counting, and it will hit you: there’s only one number that really counts. So I said, “I’ll tell you this: no matter how high you go, there’s one winning number. If you don’t reach this number, you lose.”
His eyes lit up. Alpha Boy was excited. His friends started throwing guesses: “I bet its 500, yo! Nah man, gotta be 1,000?”
I settled it.
“One,” I told him.” The number is ONE. It’s the only number that adds up to anything.”
Disappointment hijacked his face. Then laughter rose to his defense. “That’s crazy, yo! I can’t have just one. There’s too many bitches!”
Then I let him in on a little secret. “Only dogs look for bitches. A man can be identified by the language he uses to describe his world. When you rise above your animal nature, and become a man, you’ll be talking about that ONE. That’s when you’ll see her.”
I pointed to the 7-11 on the corner.
“There. Go get your condoms! And BE CAREFUL!” He smiled, said thank you.
We shared that smile and I drove off.
*Names and some details have been changed to protect identities.
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