First time was the bean field. I was nine. Hiltrude had the least-yellowest teeth in the village. Only when I’d emerged from my first (pretty sure I remember tongue) kiss did I appraise yon gaping plague sore.

“Verily,” spake my friend, Thurstan, “that be gross.”

Hiltrude flashed an ecru smile, and started to pick a bubonic scab.

“‘Verily’?” I scoffed. “That is troth outdated.”

The children chanted:

Ailwin and Hiltrude, kissin’ in the bean!

First comes sores, then Black Death,
Then your final plague-racked breath!

They la’d and they da’d, and then we dragged Hiltrude’s body off the field.

That put me off chicks for awhile.

When I was thirteenish, Sara of Pell moved to our village. Sara was fair of hair, slender in frame and divinely stacked. We’d be all, “What ho, Sara. Tell us about Pell. Cool, yeah. OH, really? Tell us more about Pell.”

She was definitely into me.

I went to Sara’s cottage one day for some recreational “weaving.” Her brother answered. What do you suppose I heard? “Sara? Sorry, man. Plague, you know? Shoulda come yesterday.”

I wept, as my mother counseled; then followed Osbert the Clubfoot’s wisdom and made out with her sister. But a week later, hand-of-god, sores and horror—pattern much???

Okay, I get that the Lord’s Wrath strikes where it will. Sure, I’m not the only one who’s lost a hookup to BD. But couldn’t we die together? Then there’s not all the anguish and sexual frustration and getting in trouble ‘cause, oh I’m sorry, you called a girl a ‘pre-corpse.’ Know why you don’t hear many laments like mine? Cause EVERYONE ELSE IS FREAKING DEAD OF PLAGUE.

Except me. Nooo, I have elephantine plague-resistance. Example: Agnes.

One second with Agnes was enough to make me forget about Hiltrude’s teeth and Sara of Pell’s bosom and Sara of Pell’s sister’s low self-esteem. Agnes could Norman-kiss. We were fifteen and in love.

“So, my father thinks I should marry Gerald.”

“Um, hell to the nay.”

“I don’t know. Gerald is tall.”

“Gerald has nose hairs of an un-Christian length.”


Then she let me go all the way to Second Bastion. Forsooth, there is no greater joy on this flat earth!

We had plans, you know? We were going to run away to the Towne and start a new life for ourselves. I was going to ask her father for her hand.

Seriously, I was.

And then:

“Shit. Shit, Ailwin, I have the fucking plague. Look.”

I looked.

“No… No, that’s just acne.”

“It’s not acne. I don’t get acne on my thighs.”

“Standard feudal affliction.”

“I have to go home and die now.”

“Wait! Please can we just once—”

All reason implied that a maiden on the brink of mortal capitulation would be more than willing. I mean, hello! But no, it was “too risky,” she was contagious, true love means never having to give you plague, yaddayaddayadda. Even though I told her life wasn’t worth enduring without her and we could be together in eternity… Whatever. Dying women are about as rational as friars at the penny apothecary.

Two days later, Agnes died. That’s right, God. Remember Agnes? You took her from the world, and from me, when she was a still a promising middle-aged woman of 15. How do you sleep at night?

I wanted to be with Agnes so desperately, I must’ve sucked face with every unmarried female plague victim in three leagues—and still, healthy as a horse! Not to mention horny as a half-bred Saxon. What gives, Celestial Order and Bodily Humours? I’m no doctor and I can’t read, but… WTF?!

Mother said I was being “creepy” and forbade me from chasing plague skirt, so I grieved for Agnes many a fortnight in my bed. I went to confession until Brother Wyclef cut me off. “My son, ‘tis not the Lord’s fault you’ve been pox-blocked. Shut thee up.” Dickhead. I went back to bed. ’Twas a period of thorough melancholy and suckhood, and it pains me to recall it.

When I made peace with the irrevocable loss of Agnes and the arbitrary cruelties of fate, I returned to the toils of living, ready to teeter on the edge of annihilation with the rest of crazed humanity. To dance, laugh, weep—to meet disease and disaster with the full boldness of life!

“Yeah, no, that sounds great… It’s just actually, we’re all like, so busy.”

Uh-huh. Straight-up shunned, like a leper or a Cornish dude. I couldn’t get a date to the Maypole if I were a tattooed Druid sex god. GIRLS THINK KISSING ME WILL GIVE THEM PLAGUE. Now they avoid me like… well, yeah, I’m pretty much how that expression got started.

Thanks, God. Thank you so much.

And the names! Besides plague-hag, I’m a sore-sucker, shroud-peeper, bubonophiliac, the Stiff Reaper, cretin of pestilence, douchebag. I have zero friends, cause everyone thinks I’m cursed, and did I mention they held a vote on burning me at the stake that came waaay too close for comfort? Though at this point, does it even matter? Maybe I’d be better off as a bonfire. My life is basically just zits and girls dying of the plague. How much is it to ask that I meet one (1!) fertile virgin not in the early stages of decomposition? I don’t give a crap if her teeth are brown or her breasts withered or her sense of humor single-note. Let her be peg-legged and harelipped, for all I care. I’m open to any and all of the less fatal ailments: Scurvy, anyone? Body lice? Peasant Ear? ANY PLAGUE-FREE WENCH IS FINE. How long am I supposed to live this way?

I’m a VIRGIN who can’t DIE.

Ailwin and The Plague, making out in hell
First comes love,
Then death’s rot
Please God, kill me, thanks a lot!!!

Puberty blows. FML.