Here is the first story of the rest of these stories. Thank you for reading.
Love was a challenge for Leon. He had a steel rod going straight up the middle of his body and whenever someone hugged him too vigorously his internal organs pressed against the steel and caused him enough pain that he had to lie still for an hour alone in his room in the dark. When he came out of his room into the light to talk to whoever had hugged him, that person usually was no longer in his house. One day at a healing and self-actualization seminar he was paired with Pink Cat for a reciprocal massage exercise. Pink Cat had multiple piercings in her nose, ears, eyebrows, lips, tongue, and elsewhere. “I’ve got metal in me too,” he told her, “straight up the middle.” Instead of looking confused and asking him a lot of questions, as most people did, she smiled and said, “Want to massage me first?” Having had so much experience being touched in painful ways by people who, through no fault of their own, didn’t know how to navigate the metal in him, Leon knew how to touch someone so full of metal herself. Pink Cat had been to half a dozen of these types of seminars before, and she usually left before the massage part started, and the few times she stayed, the touch of the people who came to these things didn’t feel right to her so she bolted up and ran out, vowing never to come to another one. But this guy was different. His touch was quite strong—hard even—but in a way that said “I’m taking care of you” and not the usual “I’m intimidated by you” or “I want to sex you up, you wild, pierced woman.” She giggled when it was her turn to massage Leon and he thought, “Uh oh, giggling equals carelessness,” and so he tensed up, which of course usually made even the lightest touch hurt deep inside him. But her first touch was so self-assured that he calmed right down and she had this way of massaging him that went deep into his body and touched everything but the metal rod. And then she touched the metal rod. She massaged it. It, too, he had never known, needed a healing touch. When the seminar was over that night, Leon said to Pink Cat, “I have a beautiful station wagon.” “Where are you going to take me in it?” “To the beach.” They got in and drove to the beach, both thinking, “Hope we don’t rust.”