I knew this was going to happen.
At eleven-thirty, I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and I decided I should give in and go to bed. I picked up and started reading a book of short stories called The Best American Non-Required Reading from a few years ago, and I got completely engrossed in it. At one-thirty in the morning I found myself completely awake, and practically buzzing with stories. I didn’t want to get up and turn my computer back on, because I knew that if I did, I’d start telling another of my huge childhood stories, and before long it would be four o’clock and my shoulders would be sore from hunching over in my chair, typing. Well, that seems to be what this night has in store, so since I’m here now and so are you, it’s time for another one of those stories. I’ll give you a fair warning before I go any further. I don’t think I’ll need to use any R-rated language, but the subject matter of this entry may make it unsafe to read at work, or it may make you uncomfortable, if reading about nudity is something that makes you uncomfortable.
There’s a certain age that kids reach, years before puberty, when curiosity gets the better of them and they want to see what the opposite sex’s naughty bits are like. For me, that age was about nine. The list of likely candidates was surprisingly long, since our neighborhood was full of kids the same age as my little brother and me. A girl who lived two houses down used to come over to our place to color with crayons on the front porch. Not on paper, mind you, but directly onto the porch. One day she scrawled out the words BELLYBUTTON and BAGINA onto the cement. When I asked her what a ‘bagina’ was, she pointed between her legs and said, ‘This,” and we smiled conspiratorially at each other. My mom came outside to check on us, and noticed that we’d been drawing all over the porch. She got mad and sent the girl home, and I had to scrub the porch clean with steel wool. That’s when she saw what the girl had written. She decided there and then that the girl was Trouble, and I wasn’t allowed to play with her anymore. The girl and her family moved away not long after, actually, and I never saw her again.
The Mormon family next door had three kids. Their son was a year older than me, and he fancied himself a comedian. He used to say things like, “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, in THAT order,” and we found him hilariously clever. He also had what was by far the coolest bike in the neighborhood; a purple chopper with stickers of flickering flames along the bottom. All of us were dead jealous, and we used to beg him to let us ride it. He had two younger sisters, one of whom was two years younger than me, and the other a year or two younger than my brother. We would all hang out together often, and if the parents of one set of kids ever wondered where their kids were, it was a pretty safe bet that they were at the other house.
I found out very recently that not long before they moved from the neighborhood, their mom had suffered a severe bout of depression and considered committing suicide. She confided in my dad, who was then and is now an Episcopal priest, and he counseled her for a short time, which may very well have saved her life. They moved across the country to New England, but they still keep in occasional contact with my dad, who occasionally gets a note or a Christmas card from them. Interestingly, after my parents split up, they told my dad they had a feeling that my mom would end up marrying the guy who lived across the street. Never mind that he was already married, and that my mom was doing a bit of dating herself. This is actually a very funny subject and will probably merit some entries of its own at some point, but suffice it to say that six or eight years later, my mom DID end up marrying the guy across the street, and twenty-some years on, they’re still married. I’ll never know just what it was that our former neighbors noticed, or how they could have predicted that marriage.
So. Anyway. Back to the subject at hand. There was a family up the street with two daughters, the older of whom was my age, and the younger a year or two behind her. They were not the cutest girls in the neighborhood, I wouldn’t say, or the friendliest, but they were cool enough, and we did hang out with them sometimes because that’s what kids do. I seem to remember them trying cigarettes really early, but I’m not sure why I have that particular memory.
Next to the two sisters lived a cute dark-haired girl who was a year younger than I (presumably our age gap has not changed) and had an enormous crush on me. She would ride her bike past our house and if I was outside, she would yell things like, “I love you!” or “I’m Wonder Woman and you’re my Superman!” She was the obvious choice when the aforementioned Curiosity hit, and she was happy to oblige one day in her bedroom.
She made it easy, actually, by asking me if I wanted to see her. I said yes. She lifted up her tank top slowly, left it around her shoulders for a moment, and then decided to take it off altogether. Then she unzipped her shorts, which slid to the floor. She shimmied her underwear down to her knees, and stood that way for a while to let me look, then smiled and said, “Now you.” I started to take off my T-shirt, and she reached over to help me take it off. We were in love, after all, so that little gesture was surprisingly natural and sweet, especially considering that I think we were eight and nine years old. I sat down on her bed and took my jeans off, which left me sitting in my tighty-whities and feeling really awkward. She was still standing in front of me, shirtless, with her shorts on the floor and her underwear at her knees, so I mustered my courage, stood up in front of her, and slid my underwear down. We stood there for a while, a foot apart, just looking at each others’ bodies. It never occurred to us at that point to do anything more.
We started doing that pretty regularly. Sometimes we would take our clothes off and cuddle up in a blanket somewhere in her house. We used to pretend we were married. We’d be outside playing and one of us would do a big fake stretch and yawn and say, “Unnnnnnnh. . .I’m really tired. Is it time to go to bed?” “I think so,” the other would say, and we’d wander off into the house together, holding hands. We got familiar enough with each other that I could probably have identified her in a lineup of naked girls with their faces hidden. She was my first love, and her first name was the same as Angelina Jolie’s last.
The Mormon girl next door was a different story, and not a romantic one. She showed my brother and me (and we her) in our garage. I don’t quite remember the circumstances of how it happened, but we were outside playing baseball or something, and it was all very matter-of-fact. We just kind of went in the garage at the same time. I remember telling her, with my plethora of nine-year-old tactfulness, “Whoa. Yours is pink. [GirlUpTheStreet]’s is red.” My brother and I pulled our shorts down at the same time and let her inspect us in the same way. I seem to recall that my brother was still uncircumcised at the time, which, if true, meant that we gave her quite a bit of information that day. Having accomplished our mission, the three of us pulled up the garage door and went back outside to resume whatever it was we’d been doing before that.
My brother wasn’t immune to Cupid’s charms, either, despite his tender age, but this entry is long enough that I think I’d better stop now and leave some stories for next time. There are a few more that involve GirlUpTheStreet, too, so we all have those to look forward to. As I predicted, it’s four o’clock in the morning now, and my eyes and brain are having difficulty focusing.
To be continued.