Mark pulled open the door and walked into the steam room. His heart was pounding and there was a little flutter in his gut. It was just before three in the afternoon, in between the morning and after work rush hours. In other words, fairly private. He took a seat in the back corner as Brian had suggested. He couldn’t see anyone but from muffled grunts and coughs he figured there were at least two other men sitting somewhere hidden in the dense curtain of steam. For the past week he followed the same routine, a sort of recon job that all lead up to today. He knew that in a precisely one minute a new wave of steam would be pumped out from the vent and that he would have exactly four minutes before it dissipated enough to see (and be seen from) about 5 feet away in any direction. That was his timeline, four minutes.
Further intelligence gathering and empirical analysis suggested the probability of a new entrant to be about 1 in 20 and the probability that they would sit within his visible perimeter to about 1 in 5. All in all the odds of somebody coming in and sitting close enough to foil the whole thing were 1 in 100, roughly speaking. There was a modest clank as the valves opened and the steam began to pour in. As the fog thickened he played back his conversation with Brian.
“You know where I like to do it?” Brian said. “The steam room. The one at the club.”
“Are you serious?”
“Dead serious. Do I look like I’m bullshitting you? It’s the best. Hands down or hands around. Whatever you like,” he smiled.
“Aren’t you worried about getting caught? Isn’t that like illegal?”
“Jesus, illegal? Come on. Maybe you’d get a stern warning or something. But, that’s the point, sort of. It’s like, scandalous. I remember I had a British friend, he used to call it a danger wank.”
“Ha, that’s funny.”
“Yeah, except he’d be halfway through and then would call his mom and try to finish before she got to his room.”
“That’s some fucked up Freudian stuff right there.”
“Tell me about it. But, you shouldn’t worry too much about getting caught. You’ve been in there, right? The steam’s your friend, man. It’s like a wall.”
“What about, you know, clean up?”
“No, no clean up. What you gotta do is edge,” he said, “it’s all about edging.”
“What the fuck is edging.”
“It’s where you almost finish, but you don’t. You keep it to yourself. Bring yourself right up to the edge and that’s it. I mean, you’re in the steam room for Christ’s sake. It’s the least you can do. And never mind the towel,” Brian said, “I know what you’re thinking. Don’t. Just trust me. You gotta go to the edge.”
“I don’t see the point.”
“Just trust me is all. Look, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s like an internal orgasm. They say it’s like what women feel. Way stronger. It’s like, spiritual. Trust me, okay?”
“How would you know what…”
“Look, just do it and then we can talk all about it. How’s that?”
“I’m still confused about the point of it though.”
“Look, it’s spiritual okay? And it’s like female-approved, like militant feminist approved. 100 percent even. Something about the whole not cumming part. My girlfriend explained it to me. Like a hard-on is inherently violent, or something. And this, well it doesn’t eliminate the hard-on but you keep it to yourself, the wad that is, and so it’s like less violent. Spiritual. Like if a Buddhist monk jerked off, this is the way he’d do it. You see what I’m getting at?”
“Not really, man. This sounds weird to me.”
“Just give it a shot, okay? Then we’ll talk.”
“Okay, well what do I do? And what’s the whole point of the steam room?”
“The steam room is part of the whole spiritual thing. Plus, with like the open pores and slight lubrication and that eucalyptus shit they put in there, it’s like a pleasure roller coaster man, let me tell you. Besides, since there might be some other dudes in there you’ve got to be discreet, which means you’ve got to take it slow. You can’t just get in there and start pounding away. Somebody’s going to notice that. So, you got to be slow and gentle and this is perfect for the whole edging thing. And because you don’t have anything to work with, like nothing to watch, you’ve got to dig deep to find something that gets you to the finish line. That’s the spiritual part, like you’ve got to meditate almost.”
“How long does this all take? Like doesn’t the steam kind of come and go?”
“Yeah, you’ve got like 4–5 mins from the time a new wave settles in, so you got to come prepared. I like to get there a couple minutes before I know a new wave is coming. They run that thing like clockwork so you can figure it out.”
“Okay and when it’s time to finish I just, you know, stop?”
“Well, no. I mean you keep going until you’re really about to blow and then, and this is key, right before and I mean fucking right before, you let go and grab your balls. Not too hard, just enough to settle ’em down. Man, after that, you’ll thank me. Trust me about that.”
The steam finished and filled the room. 4 minutes to go. Underneath his towel he got started and his mind took him back to Sophie. They had only been together twice but there was was so much passion to it, restrained passion. He remembered how he cupped her head so gently like it was some very delicate thing and how he couldn’t stop looking into her eyes. It was the only time he ever wanted eye contact like that. Hers were so exotic, pointed at the edges, wide and brown. Beautiful. He tried not to think about how what aroused him so much about their whole delicate, beautiful, little affair was exactly what repulsed her and drove her away. There’d be time for contemplation of that sort after.
He was almost there. The steam began to dissipate as he felt himself whole, perhaps for the first time. The concentration was intense. The moment right. At last, he pulled away and held on tight as he shot up to the stratosphere of pleasure and to the edge of the purest bliss that was now available to him. And he remembered thinking that there was something very spiritual about the whole thing.