Yesterday, my vacuum cleaner died.
I was devastated when I found out. I'd had terrible day at work and really needed it. But when I turned it on, it gave off the most horrible rattling sound I'd ever heard. I turned it off straightaway, but it was already too late. It squealed once before it started belching black smoke. I cradled it in my arms as it gave a final wheezy whine.
It's not much to look at. It's one of those old Eastern European models: bakelite brown, chunky and with a brand name you couldn't pronounce if you tried. Friends are constantly surprised when they find out it still works. Most of them tell me I should throw it out and buy a new one. I've lost count of the number of department store gift vouchers I've received at Christmas, specifically for a new vacuum cleaner. And yes, over the years I've thought about buying one of those new, flashy models with extra suction capabilities, but I've never gone ahead with it.
Most people wouldn't understand, but I love that old vacuum cleaner. I've known it my entire life. It had belonged to my mother, who had got it from her mother, who brought it with her when she came to Australia in the 50's. It's the closest thing we've got to a family heirloom. Growing up, it's always just been Mum and me, so it's like a link to the family I've never known. But that's not that reason I love it.
When I was three, Dad walked out on us. Mum was forced to take a house-cleaning job to make ends meet. Things were tight, and because Mum couldn't afford childcare, she took me to work. My earliest memories are of following Mum to work, playing in other people's living rooms and falling asleep on their couches. You wouldn't think it, but I remember those years to be the happiest, safest years of my life. I remember running my fingers through shag carpeting as I watched Mum bopping along to the trannie radio on the coffee table, her feet moving in little dance steps as she cleaned. I remember crawling after her, putting my hands over the vacuum cleaner and feeling the vibrations purr up my arms. Most of all, I remember being lulled to sleep by the sound of the machine, and the reassuring safety of Mum's arms as she picked me up and laid me on the sofa.
It must've left a deep impression, because when I left home and moved to Melbourne, I took the vacuum cleaner with me. Over the next ten years, I carted that thing from college dorms to grungy flats and mates' sofas, and to every share house I have ever lived in. My mother thought it was strange I was so attached to a mechanical object, but she attributed it those hours of parental neglect as a toddler. I've tried to disabuse her of that notion, but I'm sure she still silently chalks it up as another of her parental failings. Even now, every time I go home for dinner, she asks me if I still have the vacuum cleaner. And when I nod, she gives a resigned little sigh, pats my head and says, "Well, at least I raised a tidy boy".
Whenever she says this, I always go bright red. The truth would have killed her.
You see, I never used it for cleaning.
I discovered love at thirteen.
As a rule, thirteen year old boys are horny and desperate. Some boys are lucky; they're pimple-free and look like Jesse McCarthy. For the rest of us, it's a different story. It's a cruel trick of nature that we're at our most sexually active when we're least likely to get laid. All those hormones, all that acne, all that boundless, frustrated energy has to be diverted somewhere. In 1992, I was stuck. I was too shy to talk to girls, I didn't have the guts to steal Playboys, and broadband internet was five years away. And so, like any adolescent boy, I improvised: cushions, mattresses, handkerchiefs, hand lotion... but the best thing was the 1952 Soviet-era vacuum cleaner in the cupboard. Mum had long since quit her cleaning job, and had bought another vacuum cleaner besides, but she loathed throwing anything away. That bakelite cleaner had been gathering dust for five years when I spied it in the cupboard.
I wiped the dust from the casing, as trickles of memory seeped up through my mind. Flashbacks from my childhood reminded me that it was as strong as a horse, warm to the touch, and the soft rubber lips felt like, well, soft rubber lips. As I took it out, an idea began to form in my mind. I loved that old vacuum cleaner as a child. As an adolescent, I would love it again.
Making love to a vacuum cleaner isn't an experience you're likely to forget. If you've ever tried it, you'll know what I mean. There are three stages of paranoia you have to overcome before you get to... well, cum.
Initially, it's embarrassment. A vacuum cleaner is very loud; so loud, in fact, that you're sure that everyone in the street can hear. Worse, you're adamant that everyone can surmise what you're planning to do. I must've turned that thing on and off ten times before I had the guts to keep it on.
After that, it's the fear of getting caught. Doubts flick across your mind as you worry that someone might enter the room — the worst thing about being caught buck naked with a vacuum cleaner nozzle attached to your dick is that there's no way you can talk your way out of it. There are reasonable explanations for just about everything in life, but not for that.
Once you've reasoned the first fear away, and you've locked the door to prevent the second fear from coming through, there's the third, and greatest fear.
I wasn't there yet. I was nude apart from my socks, sitting on the edge of the bed. I held the evil-looking rubber nozzle in my clammy, sweaty hands. I looked square into the depth of the black little hole. My dick was semi-erect with anticipation and semi-deflated with nerves. I swallowed loudly and turned it on. I yelped and turned it off. I swallowed again, turned it on and shoved my dick through the hole before I could back out again.
The third fear is that the suction could rip off your dick. The old Soviet-era vacuum cleaners can literally lift a bowling ball off the ground, and I could feel every bit of that force sucking at my prick. In desperation, I tried tugging it off, but it wouldn't go. I pulled and pulled, my mind picturing the newspaper headlines the next day. And then, the remarkable happened. I hunched over and emptied my load.
It took a full three minutes before my finger could find the power switch. In that time, I came again. Because the tube was frayed and worn, the suction was incomplete. The rubber lips would suck and release, choke and pull back erratically. It would gargle and whine as my dick pushed deeper into the tube and cut off the air. It was, in truth, the most fantastic masturbatory device I'd come across.
Once I recovered, I got on my bike and peddled over to the library. I checked and double checked the relevant anatomy books, until I was certain that it couldn't happen. Then, I looked at the clock, and realised I still had three hours before Mum got home from work. I peddled back home and plugged in the vacuum cleaner.
I never looked back. In those days, Mum took night classes as well as her job at the garment factory. On weekdays, she would be gone by the time I woke up. In the mornings, I would find my lunchbox on the kitchen table and a frozen dinner defrosting in the sink. At night, I'd be asleep by the time she got home. In the meantime, I had hours to entertain myself, and I spent most of that time with the vacuum cleaner.
In hindsight, it wasn't the healthiest of childhoods, but we've all got our little hang-ups. At least I didn't do drugs.
Childhood memories are often tinged with embarrassment. It's understandable. No one goes through life perfectly the first time around, and our preliminary efforts are often gauche, miserable failures. However, in the face of such disappointment, we should never forget the silver lining - we've learn from our mistakes and we do get better.
I'm twenty eight now, and I'm proud to say that I've gotten over my dependency on mechanical devices; mostly, at any rate. I date on and off. I get laid occasionally. I even have girlfriends once in a while, but they never seem to last. Relationships always start promisingly and things are great for a couple of weeks, but they all end up the same - either they get restless and leave, or they start smothering me. Either way, it always falls apart. But on the bright side, at least they never stay long enough for me to get attached and really miss them.
Anyway, that's the way I felt before Vanessa Winton.
Vanessa Winton's twenty-five, a brunette and one of the most beautiful women I've ever met. She's intelligent, articulate, interesting, and until about a month ago, she was my girlfriend. We managed six months together, a personal best for me, and things were going really well. But then she was offered a research position in Boston, and that was that. It was one of those career-making chances, and who was I to stand in her way?
I thought I'd be fine without her, but a month later, I still roll over in bed and expect her to be sleeping beside me.
When we were together, everything made sense. I could imagine myself growing old with her, having kids with her, building a life with her. But after Vanessa left, everything fell apart. My life derailed. I couldn't see the sense of anything anymore. I would spend my nights spinning the globe, walking my fingers around Boston. I would try to imagine what she was doing, how she was settling in, whether she'd met anyone. I tried calling her once, but hung up after the tone.
.... There is more of this story ...