“Your son’s been distracted by girls,” Miss Pelley informed Robert Steven Williams’ mother. “He’s a bit early on the curve. Have you had the birds and the bees discussion?”
In fourth grade, our classroom seating was set up in clusters of six desks, three facing three. I sat in cluster four, opposite Colleen Daley. Colleen’s breasts had swelled early, but most of the guys in the class didn’t care: they were more interested in playing paper football in the cafeteria or reading Mad Magazine. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop thinking about her. The scuttlebutt around school was that Colleen was going out with Spencer Jackson, a fifth grader. Despite sitting across from Colleen for an entire year, I rarely spoke to her, mostly because I was too nervous to say anything.
One day, during a pop-quiz for social studies, I was trying to identify the capital of Wisconsin (the only town coming to mind was Green Bay because the Packers had just won their second Super Bowl), when my pencil rolled off the desktop. The number 2 hit the floor and rolled underneath our cluster. I dropped down to grab it, but it had rolled toward Colleen’s desk and I had to crawl underneath to get it. Even with an outstretched arm, the pencil was still a few inches from my grasp. I scooted forward and accidentally caught a glimpse of the wonder between Colleen’s legs. I was startled to see black curly hairs hemmed in by her polka dot underwear.
I came up from underneath the desk with pencil in hand and tried to concentrate on the pop quiz. It was impossible. Over the next few weeks, I found excuses to retrieve various school supplies from underneath my desk in hopes of getting another glimpse. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t help myself. This was a new frontier and I was drawn to it in the way the West called out to our colonial pioneers.
My preoccupation with Colleen caused my grades to drop enough to warrant our teacher, Miss Pelley, to call my parents.
“Your son’s been distracted by girls,” Miss Pelley informed mom. “He’s a bit early on the curve. Have you had the birds and the bees discussion?”
I don’t believe Miss Pelley had caught me in the act of sneaking a peak (I’d only done it a handful of times), but I wasn’t privy to Mom’s conversation with my teacher—it was years later that mom told me of my early interest in the opposite sex—I had little recollection.
But I do remember clearly the day Dad came home from work and asked me to take a ride with him in our ’67 Ford Country Squire wagon. Mom must have spoken to him, because this was an unusual request, and I was immediately suspicious.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Just get in.”
It was a cool, crisp day. The last of the leaves were gone. Thanksgiving was just around the corner. Dad lit a Pall Mall and drove toward the mall. He took long, deep drags off of that cigarette and smoked it down to the butt before saying, “I want to tell you where babies come from.”
I looked out my passenger window as we passed a 7/11. He fired up another Pall Mall, looking straight ahead. “You’ve probably heard things on the playground,” he said, “but I want to make sure you understand what happens.”
I already knew what was what. Tommy Tracy had given me the facts in third grade with the visual help of a Playboy magazine he’d taken from his dad. I remember thinking back then that it wasn’t possible that a girl would allow me to put my dick in that spot Tommy pointed out on the centerfold’s body, but he claimed that his older brother, Gregg, swore it to be true. If I had any lingering doubts, Dad’s talk confirmed Tommy’s story.
Later on, still in fourth grade, with winter giving way to spring, four guys and I, riding Sting Ray bicycles, zoomed to the school. In those days we affixed baseball cards with clothesline clips to the rear wheel so that the card flapped across the spokes, making a buzz that only to a kid sounded like a motorcycle. We rode around back to a place behind the dumpsters. We got off our bikes and dropped our drawers. I’m not sure who instigated it, all I remember is that we were curious as to where we were relative to everyone else in regards to peach fuzz and pubes. There was no touching, nothing sexual at all about it. We were comparing notes to make sure that we weren’t radioactive.
My first official sexual encounter was several years later, in the seventh grade with Gail Parker. We were studying after school at her house. We took a break and were watching ‘Patty Duke.’ Her mom had just given us milk and cookies. Gail was a red head and freckled. She also had braces. I can’t explain what it was about Gail that kept me thinking about her late at night, all I knew was: I wanted to kiss her. But I was also worried about which way to tilt my head on approach, and that made me hesitant.
Gail made the first move by taking my hand. “I think I like you,” she said.
My throat felt dry and I mumbled something, leaning forward to kiss her. She came toward me too and I made the fatal mistake of closing my eyes as we neared. I had no idea that she was leaning toward the same side as me, and I guess she didn’t either because our noses collided. We both recoiled—my face turned redder than Gail’s hair.
Her mother called out, “Do you want more cookies.”
We looked at one another and started laughing. Although there was no more kissing attempts that day, Gail and I went steady for about six weeks. During that time I mastered the art of Junior High level making out.
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