The Age of Innocence

Chapter 6

I was sitting on a bench by the locker I’d put my clothes in when I realized what a large problem I had. Well, to me it was large. Had I showered with the other guys, maybe I’d now have an idea if it were small, medium or large in comparison. I was sure there’d have been boners in there. First time group showering for most of them, and many twelve and thirteen? Boys who’d never seen other boys naked? Had to be boners. A basketful of boners.

But now my predicament was certainly large. How could I walk to the shower room with this showing? I couldn’t.

So I suddenly got smart, and before going any further, I walked to the shower room still holding my shorts strategically. There was a table outside with a stack of towels on it. I grabbed one and returned to my bench, sat down, laid the towel over my lap, took my shorts and jockstrap out from under the towel, then removed my shoes and socks. No exposure at all. I was proud of myself and hoped no one had noticed my tented towel.

Micah was already in the shower room, and when I walked in, he was blushing and had his hands over his groin. That was good because I was doing the same. I’d dropped the towel off at the table and my hands had automatically dropped to my groin, too.

I looked at him, so beautiful with his blush that I almost couldn’t breathe. I had to say something before more blood raced to my head and my brain stopped working altogether.

“Hey, how about this? We both drop our hands, look, then laugh or giggle or, in your case, sigh with envy, and then we’ll both be okay. How about that?”

“Sigh with envy?” He chuckled and shook his head as though either in disbelief or at my audacity.

“Well, I have to say that before you look,” I said somewhat defensively. “After you see it, I won’t be able to.” I laughed, then put my hands at my sides. Man, that was hard. As hard as I was!

He looked, then did the same thing, now blushing harder than ever, and just as hard as I was.

We were both thirteen, neither of us far into puberty. We looked about the same.

That was true, but I thought that how I felt looking at him had to be different from how he felt gazing at me. He was simply looking at another boy much like him with a boner. I was looking at the most beautiful boy ever created, standing before me in all his natural loveliness and with the most attractive erection I could imagine anyone ever having in the history of the world. The spectacle of him standing there in the altogether, water running off his body, a gorgeous blush on his face that seemed to be covering his entire body now, embarrassment about his beautiful erection showing in his face but his hands bravely at his sides—it was almost too much for me.

Okay, that might seem a bit over the top, but if so, there’s a great misunderstanding here about the degree of infatuation I had for Micah. I felt weak at the knees, and at the same time an overwhelming desire to walk to him and hold him and press against him and hug and touch . . . Well, that’s how I felt. I had to resist. I knew that. I had to stop looking, too. That was first and foremost and I knew it, but how could I stop? I was enraptured, transfixed by his sexy, stunning beauty.

I might have just stayed frozen if he hadn’t spoken. There was one thing I hadn’t counted on, even imagined when thinking about him ever since I’d first seen him, and that was a sense of humor. Seeing him alone with that book in his hand, I’d thought: shy, reserved, maybe timid. I hadn’t thought: great sense of humor! But he certainly had one! He’d twitted me already about including him with the group of those embarrassed seeing other boys hard, then just a moment ago when I’d suggested I was large enough to make him jealous. And now he defused what was becoming very awkward with more of the same.

“I’m no expert, and all statisticians will tell you sample size is important, but, even with my lack of experience rating boners, I’d say that’s a magnificent specimen. Perfect example of what every kid in early childhood should be proud of.”

I started to smile, then realized what he’d said. “Early childhood? Early childhood indeed!

I pretended fake anger. He knew it was fake because I was laughing as I said it. Inside, I was extremely thankful that he’d found a way to get me out of the state I’d been in.

After that, we showered. I took one right next to him. He asked me about myself, and I told him about my parents, where I lived, about which classes I liked and which I didn’t—all that routine crap you have to spill when you’re getting to know someone. While I was talking, his boner was receding. I was too aware of how close we were for mine to do likewise. Mine seemed permanent.

I finished my spiel and asked about him and where he’d come from and all, and he began talking. His speaking to me wasn’t having the effect my talking had had for him. Unfortunately, he noticed. He was having trouble not looking at it, and finally, his eyes fixed on it by then, his words tapered off. The silence made it all worse.

“I’m sorry,” I finally said. “It’s nothing I have any control over.”

He finally raised his eyes to meet mine, and he grinned again. I don’t think the evil I saw in them was just in my imagination. He was enjoying this! That didn’t help me at all! I was rapidly changing my mine about how pure and innocent he was.

“I know how you can get it to go down. At least it works for me.”

“What? Here? Now? No, I couldn’t.”

“Well, you can’t expect me to lend a hand. You did save me, so I guess I owe you, but, well . . .” He stopped, then broke out in laughter again.

I think I was almost fully in love with him by now. I’d been infatuated, smitten, enchanted before, but I hadn’t any idea who he was or what he was like. Now I did. His personality was as wondrous as his appearance.

He saw something in my face. I don’t know what. But he stopped laughing and gave me an empathetic look. “I can leave you alone. From the look of you, it won’t take you more than a few seconds. I’ll stand outside and not let anyone in.”

With that, he turned off his shower and walked out.

He was right about no more than a few seconds.

≈≈ ≈≈

Lina was not to be denied. She was sitting on my bed, and her eyes were intense. “You will tell me, you know. You look like you want to burst, and denying relief only works so long. Just like when you’re—” she made the hand motions all boys understand, and how did she know so much about it, anyway? “—and you get to the point of explosion, and stopping it is futile.”

“How in the world would you know anything about that?” I asked, shocked, really.

“Girls have orgasms, too, you know. I know what one feels like on the approach, then the landing. Besides, in Sex Ed with just girls last year, we were told that a boy telling you he’d pull out just in time was a myth, that most boys, as they reached that point, couldn‘t stop, and even if they could they wouldn’t because they weren’t thinking about anything right then but the coming explosive relief and getting there as expeditiously as they could.”

I was shaking my head as though stunned by what her Sex Ed classes covered and the detail involved, but in fact I was thinking I’d managed to get her mind off what she was wanting me to reveal. I quickly found it hadn’t worked.

“That’s how you look now. And it’s how the boys look in the videos I’ve seen just before they let loose. So talk.”

I tried again. “Why are you looking at boy porn? Shouldn’t you be looking at girl porn? And why any porn at your age? They say it’ll warp your emotions and stuff like that. Give you false impressions, screw you up for the real thing. You shouldn’t be looking at that stuff. I think I’m going to have to tell your mother about safety locks to block out sites that young girls like you shouldn’t be watching. It’ll be for your own good.”

“What would be good for you is to stop changing the subject. I think you’ve found the girl of your dreams. I’m here to help you with the conquest. Identification is one thing. Winning her is another. If anyone can help you with that, it would be me.”

I just shook my head.

“Come on, Scottie. What, you think I’ll blow it for you? No way. I like you. You’re my only real friend here. I wouldn’t sacrifice that for anything. I can be discreet. I will be. And you want to talk. I can see it. You need to tell someone, and here I am. So, come on.”

The thing was, she was right. I needed to talk about this. Keeping it all in was stifling. I needed to talk about it and all the things involved and how to . . . well, I just needed someone to talk to about what I was feeling and where it was going and all.

I was silent for what to me seemed a very long time, staring into her eyes. She didn’t look away. I finally said, “This has to be private. I mean, it has to be. No hints to someone to tease me. No telling any adults. You’re right; if you gave the slightest suggestion to anyone else, I’d never trust you again and we wouldn’t be friends. Can you do that?”

She nodded, not changing expressions, then laid a hand on my leg and said, “Of course. I’m here for you, Scottie, and no one will ever know anything about whatever you’re going to tell me, at least not from me. No teasing. No hints. Nada.”

“Okay, then. I do need to bounce what I’m feeling off someone. You’re right. I have found someone. And I think I’m in love. I’m pretty sure of it. It doesn’t feel anything like a crush. I told you I hadn’t had any of those, and I didn’t have many, and they weren’t strong like some kids get. This is much more intense than that. I think it’s love, and it isn’t going to change in a week like crushes do.”

“What’s her name?”

I hesitated. Should I do this? I decided I should. That I needed to.

“His name is Micah”

She continued staring at me, and then slowly, a smile appeared, and it broadened. “Welcome to the club! Let me say, I’m not shocked, and in fact hardly surprised. It was kinda clear that girls weren’t turning you on, that your boob talk was camouflage. I didn’t know if you were simply a late bloomer or if maybe you liked boys but weren’t allowing yourself to go that route.”

“I don’t think I was denying anything. I just hadn’t found anyone I really felt attracted to. Of either sex. Now I have.”

“Does he know? Does he love you back? Is he gay like you are?”

I sighed. “This is why I need to talk. I don’t know. I don’t know any of that. I don’t even know that I’m gay. I never thought I was.”

She started to speak, then stopped herself. I could see her rethinking her response. When she did speak, it was softly instead of her usual confident, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes caustically funny blurt. I think she was reading me, reading some of the desperation in my feelings, and adjusting accordingly. Which was good because what I didn’t need right then was a broadside.

“Scottie, you like a boy. You may well be falling in love with a boy. I don’t know what sort of fantasies you’ve had about him, but it’s very normal to have sexual fantasies about the person you’re falling in love with. So I’d be surprised if Micah hasn’t appeared in some of those sorts of fantasies. I don’t think you can have those sorts of thoughts about a boy and not accept that those are gay fantasies and that you’re gay yourself.”

I didn’t respond. Best to let her ramble on.

“I can, however, easily think it’s difficult for you to accept that. You never had reason to think about your sexuality before. Now you do. I’d suggest you don’t fight it. You don’t need to think of yourself as gay at the moment, but don’t reject it, either. Time will bring acceptance. And it’s not a bad thing at all. It’s simply who you are.”

She said this so empathetically, it was hard for me not to accept that what she was saying was indeed possible. She was right, just as I’d said a moment earlier: I’d never considered this.

There was no doubt, however, that I was either in love with Micah, or damned close to that. Maybe just in lust with him, but it didn’t feel that way. Not having been in love before, I didn’t know what it was. Maybe love was something beyond what I was feeling. I wasn’t sure. I was sure I had very strong feelings. I did think it was love. Had no idea what else to call it.

What I didn’t know, what I was desperate to know, was what Micah felt. And I knew I didn’t want him to know how I felt. How was I supposed to find out about him and not reveal anything about me? Was that even possible?

Hopefully, that was what Lina was for. Girls seemed wiser in the ways of love than boys. More able to talk about love without the embarrassment and ickiness boys just naturally adopted when the subject came up. She was certainly on steadier ground than I was when I came to discussing it. This was all unknown, unnatural territory for me.

“I need your help,” I said. “I haven’t a clue what to do. I want to know how he feels about me. I want to know if he could have feelings for a boy. But I don’t know how to find out. I can’t give myself away. If he’s not gay, my only hope would to just be friends with him. That would be better than not being with him at all. But if I start asking questions, he’ll figure it out. You did. He’s probably a lot smarter than you are.”

I threw in that last just to change the mood in the room. It was getting too intense.

She ignored the barb. Probably had a much stronger sense of self than I did and wasn’t worried a bit about how smart I thought she was. She liked the kind of problem I was presenting to her. Just like a girl, I thought. Love and relationships were right up her alley, and every other girl’s as well.

“Let’s get down to basics. Have you ever talked to this boy, or has it been forlorn glances from afar?”

“Well, yes. I not only talked to him, I saved him. And I’ve seen him naked. And hard.”

“Scottie! Really? Well, you’re almost home, then. What do you need me for? Your next step is simpler. Just jump his bones.”

“You’re totally out to lunch here! It isn’t that way at all.” I went on to tell her about our Gym class and what came later. “He doesn’t know how I feel about him, though. He probably just thinks I’m a nice guy who helped him out.”

“Yeah, I see. But you’ve already done the part that’s really hard for a shy boy to do. You’ve managed to talk to him, get to know him a little, and start making friends. You just need to follow up on that. You have Gym with him, so you can talk there. Maybe arrange to eat lunch with him on the pretext that he doesn’t know anyone, so again, you’d just be in the role of Mr. Nice Guy. You don’t really need me at all.”

“Sure I do. I don’t know how forward to get. I mean, like, well, in the showers next time. Should I look at his dick and then wink at him? Or is that being too forward?”

She started to say something, then stopped and hit me in the shoulder.

“Hey! What was that for?”

“You were jerking my chain! You know you can’t do that. You just said that to wind me up. You wanted me to act all shocked and give you a speech on taking it slowly, one step at a time.”

I rubbed my shoulder and grinned. “If I can’t have a bit of fun with you, who can I have fun with? But I do need to know what to do next.”

“Easy. Get to know him. Find out what his passions are. Unlike you, most boys have them. They won’t call them that, but that’s what they are. Find out, then join in if you can. If you’re both interested in the same things, getting close is easy as pie.”

I frowned at her. “I don’t understand about half the expressions you use. What’s easy about pie?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never tried making one. But my mom always uses that expression, and like mother, like daughter.”

“You’re full of clichés, aren’t you?”

“If the shoe fits . . .” Then she laughed.

≈≈ ≈≈

At school, I stood in the cafeteria, kind of hanging out where I wouldn’t be noticed by kids coming in, and waited. I figured Micah would show up sooner or later. All eighth graders had the same lunch period.

While waiting, I scanned all the tables, wanting to make sure I hadn’t missed him in my initial survey. I’d feel pretty silly if I just stood there and then at the end of the period saw him stand up and carry his tray and dishes to the drop-off area.

Then I saw him come in. He was alone. Most kids were with someone, but it was still very early in the school year, and new kids were still finding friends.

I wondered when it would go away, this jolt of energy when I caught sight of him. He caused a physical reaction in my body, something no one else had ever done. It felt like a rush of blood, and I wondered if it showed itself in a blush. I hoped not. If I always was blushing when I met him, wouldn’t he wonder what was wrong with me? Some fatal disease, perhaps? Maybe catching?

But he looked so good! I didn’t understand why other kids didn’t seem to notice. It was obvious, so obvious that he was head and shoulders above every other kid in the school in looks. I didn’t know him very well yet, not enough to know if his personality matched his looks, but from the little I’d seen, I thought it might. I sure had enjoyed our time together the day before. Nothing he’d done or said had diminished my feelings for him.

Now I was hoping to have lunch with him. I didn’t know if he had a group he usually ate with. But it wouldn’t hurt to find out.

I managed to move inconspicuously and enter the by-now-empty serving line behind him.

“Hey! Micah! You’re a little late, too. Anything edible today?”

“Oh, Scottie. Hi. Just got here, haven’t really scoped out the goodies yet.”

My chance. Wasn’t going to blow it. “Hope it isn’t meatloaf. They use roadkill and industrial waste blended together as a meat substitute. On the days they have more waste than corpses, it’s dangerous. I think the last time I ate their meatloaf my teeth glowed in the dark for most of two days after. Hey, you want to eat together? Everyone else will mostly be done by now.”

That’d give him a chance to say if he ate with a regular group. Or not. Or didn’t want to eat with me.

“I’d love to eat with you,” he said. Then laughed. “Almost like a date.”