Cover photo: Julian Wilson by Ryan Miller.

Russia! Read all about it in SE95 Photo: Burkard

The excruciating truth about Chlamydia trachomatis

I overheard a conversation in the surf the other day. One lad says to the other, “Bareback?!? Aren’t you worried about… you know… catching something?”
“I’ve probably already got it,” replies the other. “Besides, I actually like the burn. It keeps me on the edge, where I gotta be. It keeps me sharp, plus, the burn keeps me awake, I’ve saved so much money on coffee…”
This reminded me of my very own run-in with sexual transmitted infections.
She was from Lisbon, and was a lawyer. Her dad was Italian, and played jazz. Once I’d told her that I worked as a freelance surf journalist, she was putty in my hands, of course. We got intimate, and did it in the lounge, in the car, in the bedroom, in the kitchen, and in the bum.
Two days later, she had gone, and I was walking home from la Piste. The waves were fun and it was hot. The 1st September, as I recall. A pain arrived in both gonads like a tidal wave of ache. A twinge, then a full-on stab. It’s a long walk back across the sand to my place, and I started to lag behind the other two. It continued to burn, as if my balls were on fire, as if they were in a vice. The pain actually floored me, and I dropped my board and was I was crawling on my hands and knees. The only thing that helped was getting back in the sea. The sea cooled and soothed ball 1 and ball 2. But only temporarily.
Later that night came the shaft pain. The burn. A burning penis with aching balls is what I had for supper that night. First thing in the morning I called the doctor. “Is it an urgence?’ asked his secretary. It was.
The first and second course of antibiotics didn’t work, but did upset my guts. I also took anti inflammatories, which gave me the worst heartburn ever. I took yeast to counteract the anti-inflammatories. A month in, and I had rotten guts, the shits, a burning oesophagus, and a fire burning pee pee tube. Every part of my body between mid thigh and chin hurt. I went and stayed at my mum’s for a week, and confessed all. She said, “Oh dear.”
It burns when you piss, sure. They say like ‘pissing razor blades’. But it isn’t. Razor cuts barely hurt. It was more like pissing molten lava. The worst is when you think you need to piss, but only a dribble comes, and you lean over, one hand against the wall for support, basically crying in pain. Sucking air in between your teeth, and just looking down at your little chap, the one who got you in all this trouble. You can’t see much except maybe a slight redness inside the eye, and occasional red marks on your dome.
Every male you ever confide in will put on a genuine sympathy face and then ask, ‘Did they stick a cotton bud up your nob?’ 100% of all males will definitely ask you this.
I had tests upon tests. I saw a significant part of the French health infrastructure, which is actually excellent. I had numerous tests done in Hossegor, I saw a urinary tract specialist in Bayonne. Old injuries flared up as the infection spread. An ankle injury that was 85% healed, from 4 years previous flared up, swollen. Both wrists clicked and swelled. All joints ached and clicked. I went to see another specialist for that, in Dax. He was a man who you see when nobody else knows what’s wrong. He was the fifth man in total who inspected my chap.
Around four months on, at Christmas, I tested negative for chalmydia. Although my cock still hurt and my ankle was knackered.
I’d like to think it made me a man, showed me another side of the human condition, brought me closer to my art. It aged me, I have a pain line down the left of my face. The only thing that really helped was surfing, it seemed, somehow to ease the episodes, of both the chap/ball burn, and the joint trouble. There is a look a man gains when his cock has been on fire, barely detectable, a mere dampening of a half-knowing twinkle grimace in one eye, the left. The kid telling the coffee story was lying. Bravado, banter, nothing more. He’d never had it, that much I know for sure. But I had. And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst foe.

– Gordon Devonshire


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