On the morning the last Gibson son accidentally killed himself while masturbating — it was Trevor this time, and slipping in the shower, like Colton — the two paramedics arrived knowing exactly where the laptops were, and the tissues, and the bottles of hand lotion.
Landon, the youngest, had gone first, a swallowed gulp of water drowned him while he violently cranked himself in the bathtub, and when they found him, afloat in the cloudy swamp, his small body giving off the chlorine odor of a public swimming pool, the paramedics had been so disgusted by his erection and the Japanese cartoon pornography on the laptop beside the tub that they had left the room, gagging.
We’d watched them all summer, through pinched blinds from the house across the street, us girls drawn to them, gripped by our first up-close glimpse at boys our age unfiltered, so raw and free of shame. To us, choked in training bras, bound and hidden in the long skirts and ruffled dresses mother approved, their gymnastic nudity, their indulgence of their basest desires, they were feral and alive and we could not look away.
Brooks was second, falling off the roof while masturbating in the cool night air, tumbling, scraping down the rough shingles and sinking — we imagined in the throes of pleasure — until the sharp point of the Gibsons’ iron fence punctured his stomach. When the two paramedics arrived and surveyed the nude body, the sustained erection, and the cracked phone blaring auto-played episodes of MILF Hunters, they rolled their eyes.
They’d be back the next morning for Bryce, who crashed his Jeep head-on into the namesake oak tree at our neighborhood entrance on his way to school. The two paramedics smiled as they approached the accordioned car, thanking god that this death had been a regular one. But when they made it to the window, they recoiled and heaved, seeing Bryce’s penis; he was driving nude from the waist down — his pants and underwear riding shotgun — his phone in the dashboard mount displaying a zoomed-in image of Alexandra Daddario’s nipple.
For weeks, we tried to find significance or meaning or romance in the Gibson boys’ deaths. We attended the funerals. We cataloged information in composition notebooks, studied the angles of their devious grins in yearbook photos. Us girls wanted poetry. We craved beauty from tragedy, we squeezed and squeezed at these deaths, desperate for a drop of heartbreak or longing. But none emerged. The boys at school who’d known the Gibsons confirmed they were abhorrent pornography addicts who were unpleasant to be around. None was literary or tortured, all were defined by their addictions to online sex and self-pleasure. The air at school wasn’t haunted by the weight of their absence; it was lightened and relieved.
Mr. and Mrs. Gibson made a large profit selling their big house and used the funds to pursue their dream of opening a smoothie shop in Myrtle Beach, which has won awards and spawned four additional locations.
Us girls grew up and moved on, went to college, moved to big cities, started careers and families of our own. But every now and then we remember the Gibson boys, and the nights we spent watching them angrily jack themselves off in their beds — five boys in five rooms too dumb to know everyone can see in when you have your light on at night — and, alone in our offices or our cars, we search our memories one more time, looking for some uncovered piece of melancholy grace, but we always come to the same conclusion: it was a net positive for the world that they died. Those boys were so nasty.