"Do you have an erection?" he asks.
"Ripping through my fucking jeans," I reply.
"Drop them, please," he orders. "You're a good-looking Jewish boy." The room feels as though it will swallow me whole.
"I think your problem is premature ejaculation," he says. What?! How the hell did he come up with that? I want to be treated for erectile dysfunction, but whatever your ailment, Boston Medical can promise sex for life!! because it offers one remedy: the ICP shots. It then sells you the ICP in two discount-via-frequency packages -- six months for $1,150, two months for $520.
Mohebban tells me this is what I need: self-administered shots into my penis that will force an erection, and then I'll be so erect that I'll have time to practice ejaculating. After six months, he says, I'll have learned how to control my ejaculation, and I can stop taking the shots. Maybe I'd find a nice Jewish girl who'd administer them, he jokes. Then, erect, on my way back to a small waiting room, I see a kid with headphones over a Yankees baseball cap. He's wearing a baggy Roca Wear T-shirt over draping Sean John jean shorts and filling out a medical checklist. He looks like he's 18. We look at each other for a moment from across the hall, but I flinch, turning the corner and ducking into my cream-colored room. The Boston Medical Group's office is not a place to make friends.
Victor Marrero, 30, Mohebban's assistant, has a slight mustache and wears a high-school ring under his latex glove. His are hands Nos. 7 and 8; 7 holds my penis from the bottom, 8 presses a thumb at different points down from the top. Victor tells me it's been about 30 minutes since I was injected with ICP, and I'm about 60 percent erect. I ask him if he went to medical school. "No," he says, "medical-assistant school." Marrero starts to sell me the ICP. I pay $175 for my visit and feel like I've just been erectly screwed.
The RigiScan results come back mixed. i don't know why doctors administer all of these medical tests, because when the results come back, if there's anything that doesn't make sense, the doctor just discounts it with a nonchalant dismissal. If these tests don't matter, why did you have me put an electronic boa constrictor around my cock? The results show that I have normal nighttime erections, but that the base of my penis is more rigid than the tip. Kaminetsky calls that a medical impossibility. Then reiterates that I am fine. That my problem is mental. Kaminetsky recommends a visit with Ursula Ofman, Psy.D.
Ofman's office is on a perch high above Impotency Row. She is wide-bodied, blunt, German, indiscriminately dressed. Her waiting room is stocked with recent New Yorkers.
"What is the problem?" she asks.
"Erection thing," I say.
"When did it begin?"
"I guess when I started seeing this girl."
"Tell me about it. Tell me where it all began."
We're walking through what happened with Erica, and little details are bringing back larger pictures. Erica talked a lot about sex. There was the time I cooked salmon. Had we acknowledged then what was not right? Our first morning together was February 14. I wished her a happy Valentine's Day as she came out of the shower. The night before, I'd gotten hard, I just hadn't come.
"I didn't come!" I yell to Ofman. "I didn't come because I didn't want to come too soon!"
"What happened next?" she asks. "Think details, tell me exactly what happened."
What happened? I thought. Exactly what happened next? I lie on Ursula Ofman's couch squeezing two beige pillows, surrounded by books like Sex for Dummies and The New Male Sexuality. The next night, I remember, was Erica's birthday party. There were drinks on the Bowery, I remember being nervous about meeting her friends, so a friend of mine joined the party. He bought Erica and me beers, had a Sprite and cranberry juice, then went home. I stayed on, I remember, and Erica and I wound up at her friend's apartment on the Lower East Side. She was house-sitting. There were CDs scattered all over the floor. We lay beside them. Again she was on top. It was our second time making love. The second time I didn't come.
"Again I didn't come!" I tell Ofman. "Again I didn't come!"
"Good," she says. "What happened next?"
And I remember the salmon. This was at my place on Mulberry Street: couscous, broccoli, a bottle of white wine. I'd bought a pint of Ben & Jerry's, but we didn't make it that far. That was the night we searched for the Kimono. My air-conditioning wasn't working. That is where it all began. I remember panicking, I tell Ofman. I remember being nervous, feeling judged. I remember watching myself. I remember wishing that we were through. "That's where it started," I say. "That's where my erectile dysfunction began."
"So you see," she says, "by trying so hard to please her, you forgot about yourself. Eventually, I think, you were trying so hard that you became physically disabled. You were no longer able to become erect. You took the pleasure out of making love. I don't think you have a problem. I just think you need to relax."
I could kiss her. I feel as if I could go out and sleep with the world. Later, I discover that ED in the majority of all men is psychosomatic. This problem doesn't just occur in young men. In Laumann's China study, where the average age was 41, 65 percent of the men's erection problems were nonmedical. Every year after 40, a man's erection problem is more likely to be physical by .6 percent. There are no studies with 30-year-olds, but Laumann believes that if you conducted this test in Manhattan, with my age demographic, all of these numbers would be higher.
"New York is more hedonistic than China," Laumann says. "People have more partners, it's more competitive, and that increased anxiety, especially among young men, would influence ED even more." This is why psychological factors figure so heavily into drug research -- the body is tightly connected to the mind. You'd be amazed at the sexual consequences of even the most common drugs: Prozac can delay ejaculation. Propecia, a hair-loss retardant, can hinder sexual desire. And Pepcid AC, an antacid, can cause "dry" orgasms, where the semen is forced back into your bladder.
I want to call my doctor, explain Nicole to him. I want to call Kaminetsky, tell him to keep his RigiScan results. I want to call Mohebban, call Victor, tell them to fuck off with their ICP. I want to call my cousin, Uncle Kenny, and Chet. I want to call Bob Dole. I need to speak with my dad right away.
First, though, I call Erica, and she just laughs. "You're not the only guy I've ever experienced this with," she says. "You're just the only guy who had it for so long."
Four months later, my erection spring training is put to the World Series test.
Julie is a college senior at McGill University in Montreal. I got her number through the girlfriend of one of my best friends in New York. Visiting the city, I call Julie, and she meets me at a Best Western hotel. I'm smitten, all the clichés. We spend the whole weekend together, and on the day I leave, we find ourselves sweaty-grappling in her bed. She's younger than me, and I really like her, and besides that, she has curly brown hair, and wears a green bushy sweater with sleeves that go down past her hands. She looks good. And today there is no problem. Between the kissing and the rubbing, the bump and the jeans-on-jeans grind, I am totally erect, and I feel there's nothing we can't do.
The details, Julie says, I should keep to myself, but it's been six months since we met, and it may be time to look for another apartment: After Julie finishes college, she's moving in with me here in New York.