Copyright © 1994, 1996
THIS DOCUMENT IS A SEXUALLY GRAPHIC STORY ABOUT AN INTENSE SEXUAL, EMOTIONAL AND INTELLECTUAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A TEENAGE GIRL AND A YOUNG BOY AND THE COURSE OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP OVER A PERIOD OF 10 YEARS. IT IS A DRAMATIZATION ABOUT REAL PEOPLE AND THEIR CON- FLICT WITH SOCIAL EXPECTATIONS. IF THIS SUBJECTS OFFENDS YOU OR IF SEXUAL LANGUAGE UPSETS YOU, OR IF YOU DON'T WANT THIS MATERIAL SEEN BY UNDER-18 OR OTHERWISE UNQUALIFIED PERSONS, DELETE THIS DOCUMENT.
THIS DOCUMENT IS COPYRIGHTED © 1994, 1996 BY SJR. SO--HEY, YOU CAN COPY IT BUT YOU CAN'T CHANGE IT OR SELL IT UNLESS I SAY SO.
Just before my 9th birthday my godmother and great-aunt Frances bought me a new dark brown suit and new shoes for my Confirmation ceremony at St. Mary's Catholic School. It was a dim, cloudy Sunday afternoon outside; but inside the ornate, high-ceiling Gothic church hundreds of banks of candles cast a warm glorious light over everyone in the church. Mom and Aunt Frances and my deceased father's mother, Grandma Rose, drove me to the front en- trance and let me out on the sidewalk while Aunt Frances parked the Buick behind the church. I stood there for a moment looking down at myself, all got up in the immaculate suit and the shiny new shoes, my hair slicked with a hefty, odorous portion of Wildroot Hair Oil. I asked myself if it were really me in this costume. If I bent my arms the sleeves of the suit crinkled and wrinkled stiffly, but when I straightened my arm the cloth fell back into a smooth, neatly creased tube. I wore a tight starchy white shirt with a flowery bowtie my aunt had chosen. The tie and the thick collar dug uncomfortably into the front of my throat.
I felt out of place, as emotionaly removed from the impending ceremony as I would have been at a funeral for a perfect stranger's dead dog. I climbed the front marble steps and entered the front vestibule, an imposing, darkly paneled hall where I lined up with a chatty, squealing assemblage of other suited boys. The girls, fluttering and chirping like sparrows, lined up at the other end of the hall in fluffy communion-style dresses and white shoes. Soon the long-robed nuns in their stiff white bobbing habbits shushed us into silence. They strode quickly through our ranks to check us out and nod their stern approval.
Even the shuffling of feet on the waxed tile floor came to a dead stop as my own home-room teacher, Sister Mary Joseph, sternest and most dreaded nun of all, strode into the room. No more than a tiny slip of a woman, her imperious expression and long stride gave her a commanding manner. She stood exactly in the center of the long and narrow hall, her arms folded firmly before her so that her hands were hidden inside the floppy arms of her robe. As she slowly passed her glowering eyes from one end of our ranks to the other, her thin lips characteristically pursed and reset them- selves. The hall suddenly echoed as one of the kids gave a loud sneeze, which was quickly followed by the echo of four nuns giving a sharp and loud "Sh!" In the ensuing silence, Sister Mary Joseph began her announcement in her usual manner, with a rise of her head and a long deep breath.
"Children," she said, "you are about to become soldiers for our lord Jesus Christ." Pause. "As you attend the holy ceremony of Confirmation today, you will receive a scapular with an image of your patron saint." Pause. "Wear your scapular at all times. It is your protection from the dangers and temptations you encounter in your struggle with Satan. Protect it as you would your immortal souls. Many holy martyrs of the Church have suffered pain of death rather than lose possession of the holy image we will give you here today." Pause. "You are fortunate and honored that your holy scapulars will be blessed by none other than Monseignor Kearny from Blessed Sacrament School. He has honored us by agreeing to deliver the blessing and the sermon today." Pause. "Now we will all file into our pews." Pause. "Be silent. And conduct yourselves as children of Christ and as you were taught in the rehearsals. Don't forget to kneel and to stand at the proper intervals for a High Holy Mass. And remember at all times that the Monseignor is watching. I know you will make him proud of each of you, one and all."
She nodded to a nun at the door, who shoved opened the vast carved walnut panels that led into the interior. The place filled with the shuffling of new shoes and rustling of clothes as we entered double-file, first the boys and then the girls, and took our assigned places in a line of wooden pews along the right side of the church. As I shuffled slowly in line along the narrow aisle I passed my family, Aunt Frances and Mom smiling proudly my way, and my pert grandmother giving me a wink. Their obvious pleasure failed to improve my humor; the only pleasantness I found in the situation was the heavy waft of candle smoke and parafin in the air, and the dulcet singing of the choir in the loft above and behind us. As this would be a High Mass, I knew I would at least have the pleasure of hearing Sister Albert's accomplished choir singing the Gregorian Chant required by the formality of the ceremony.
As usual, the Mass progressed in what I always thought was a tortuously slow pace. And again as usual, I occupied my wandering mind by studying the dozens of statuettes that line the walls of St. Mary's. St. Christopher: a rugged, bearded, muscular man leaning heavily on his staff and struggling head-first through some undefined tempest, the child Jesus hoisted on his massive shoulders. St. Stephen the Martyr: in the swaddling garb of what I later came to know as the clothing worn by Roman peasants, lashed at his wrists and ankles to a wooden post, posed with his eyes lifted to heaven, all done with exacting, lurid anatomical detail.
My gaze never failed to linger on the carved image of St. Joseph, whose name matched my middle name and who had been chosen as the patron saint of my Confirmation. Not as herculean as St. Christopher, he was a long legged figure with a long beard, seated at his carpenter's bench with a tacking hammer in one strong hand, his other arm draped around the shoulders of the peasant boy Jesus, who clung absurdly dependant at his side. I studied Joseph's face interminably, striving to imagine what it might be like to have had such a father with strong, chiseled features and commanding eyes under a heavily furrowed brow. I wondered what his beard would feel like.
And the Virgin Mary, a short, full-hipped woman in a simple white flowing robe with a blue shawl draped about her head and shoulders. Her slim right hand was raised as if conferring on the viewer the two-fingered blessing that I had seen Pope Pius XII giving from his balcony in movie newsreels. In her right arm she held the half-nude child who turned its head to gaze at the viewer with a frown of divine approbation that seemed blatantly inappro- priate on the infant's face. Always my eyes fixed themselves on Mary's girl-like oval face. The sculptor had fashioned for her a pair of enchantingly dark, gentle eyes. Her expression was tender, knowing, forgiving. I could not match my mother's face with hers, nor my great aunt nor my grandmother nor anyone else. I wondered what it might be like to have such a mother. In many ways her expression reminded me of one I sometimes saw on Martha Jane. My eyes moved down to Mary's small bosom, and warmly I remembered the moist swell of Martha Jane's breasts and the feel of her nipples on my tongue.
I asked myself if the woman who lived within that statue would be scandalized at my illicit familiarity with the feel and taste of real, warm, responsive titties. Would she, too, offer a nipple to me for sucking?
I was fully aware of the blasphemous nature of these thoughts. As Mass moved agonizingly along, we children prepared for communion by attending the rear confessional one by one. Dutifully, I ducked into the dark curtained booth and spoke into the cloth-shrouded grating that separated me from the priest, whom I could dimly see and whom I knew immediately to be the kindly and unflappable Franciscan, Father Edward.
Dutifully, I contrived a suitably penitent voice. Dutifully, I recited the same repertoire of sins I usually confessed and for which I was truly sorry: for saying bad things about my fat Aunt Mary, whom I really didn't like, even after I confessed not liking her; for talking back to my mother or disobeying and upsetting her; for not making the bed on Saturday; for taking God's name in vain when I got angry at a kid on the playground and wished that Jesus would tear the little bastard's tongue out and send him to hell to be devoured by slimy gnomes; and for falling asleep during morning Mass.
Brazenly, I made no mention of wondering what the Holy Mother's breasts were like. Brazenly, I made no mention of Martha Jane's breasts or her thighs or that I had made her cum. Brazenly and stubbornly I refused to connect Martha Jane with evil, and even if I could I brazenly and stubbornly refused to betray our trust.
On the other side of the grating Father Edward leaned back in what I could see was a brown leather-backed chair. He gave his usual sighs and his usual response: "Very well, my child, and is that all you have to confess?"
"You know you must honor your mother and you must not have unkind feelings for your aunt, for they all love you and care for you in ways you do not understand. And for your penance I want you to say ten hail marys and ten our fathers."
"And remember to avoid the temptations and the sins of greed, envy, and lust."
And then the usual, ritualized dismissal: "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace, and sin no more. "
"Thank you, Father."
I left the man with no inkling of Martha Jane. I wondered if his benediction forgave me for that as well as for the sins I had confessed. I thought the penance was a little out of line for not liking my fat Aunt Mary. Apparently at least half that penance must have been slated for disobeying my Mom.
Returning to my pew, I found the walls of St. Mary's reverberating with the husky, amplified voice of Monseignor Kearny. From the ornate pulpit at the front of the church he inveighed weightily with his baritone's voice of doom: "...and be wary, my children, of the evil nature of the sins of the flesh, sins that render our precious souls disgusting in the sight of the Lord. For to Jesus and His Holy Mother Mary, the sins of the flesh are truly the most offensive sins of all. Because of them we risk the punishment of being cast down to a terrible, burning place in purgatory for ten thousand years, and after that, into the flames of hell for all eternity..."
Just ahead of me sat Sister Mary Joseph, nodding slowly in righteous agreement as the monseignor thundered on. I sighed impatiently, my eyes wandering until they fell on the statue of Jesus, gruesomely hanging from a crucifix high over the center of the altar. I cringed at the sight of the bloody nails...
I have no idea how much of this tripe I did or didn't absorb, but at the time I consciously rejected it as irrelevant to what Martha Jane and I experienced. At that time I found other aspects of life to be much more frighteningly evil: evil was the beating of a boy I knew by some unknown kids who came to our part of the project one day from the big apartment buildings on the hill at the top of Exchange Street. Evil was the Russians wanting to drop atom bombs on everyone, and evil was the Nazis and the Japs who had blown off the arms and legs of soldiers and shot out the eyes of the man who lived a few doors down from me. But I could not equate evil with the image of Martha Jane spreading her thighs to allow my hands to please her. To use a more modern phrase: the equation didn't compute.
However, I was not so brazen nor rebellious as not to appreciate the majesty of the edifice and interior of St. Mary's and the solemnity of the ceremony. Gregorian Chant had its hypnotic qualities, as did the ritual of the purple-robed mon- seignor moving down a line of piously kneeling children as he draped a scapular ribbon round their necks.
When he came to me I kneeled properly and straightly. Behind me, my mother stood with her hand on my left shoulder as the ceremony required.
The Monseignor intoned, "What is the child's name?"
"Steven," my mother answered.
"And who," the monseignor intoned, "is his patron saint?"
"Saint Joseph," my mother answered.
The monseignor reached toward an altar boy who fished out a scapular--a thin ribbon with a small, two-inch cloth-framed image of the indicated patron--and then the monseignor draped it loosely round my neck.
"Steven, I confirm you as a soldier in the army of Christ under the guidance of your patron, Saint Joseph."
There followed a quickly delivered chant of garbled Latin as he moved to the next child in line. Even I, brazen and rebellious sinner that I was, had to admit that the theatrical power of this pageantry was highly effective. Of course my relatives were in- ordinately pleased and heaped praise onto me incessantly on the drive back home, which mercifully was only a few blocks away.
Mom had arranged for a small dinner with my Aunt Frances and Grandma Rose, who brought ravioli and salad and knotbread for the occasion. The kitchen being too small, we ate in the living room on aluminum trays and paper plates. I'd had to fast in order to attend the required communion during the ceremony, and it was well past noon; I sat in one corner and ate like a famished cave man.
"Don't spill gravy on your shirt!" my aunt screamed in her usual panic, and Mom removed my coat and stuffed a napkin under my tight collar. The napkin hurt, but I was too hungry to complain.
"Don't eat so fast," my mother prompted. I replied by stuffing ravioli into my mouth until it squeezed out the sides of my lips.
"There," my aunt grunted, throwing up her hands. "See what he does? Why won't you listen to your Mama?"
My mother warned, "You better not stain that suit. Martha Jane will be here later on. See wants to see you in it."
At that, I didn't eat more slowly but I ate more carefully, making certain the napkin covered as much of my starchy shirt as possible.
But by the end of the day Martha Jane had not arrived. As it grew dark I went outside our apartment and looked into their apartment window next door, but no lights were on. Going back to our apartment I asked my mother what happened to Martha Jane.
Mom answered, "I guess she didn't have time. She probably went to the hospital with her mother and her Uncle Joe. He gets sick all the time with that shot up stomache of his, ever since he came back from overseas."
Once again before getting ready for bed, I checked Martha Jane's apartment but no one was there. Reluctantly I went back to our bedroom and removed my suit, getting into my undies for bed. Mom was in her nightgown, turning out all the lights. I lay on the bed in the lighted bedroom near the window and studied the picture of Saint Joseph on my scapular. The portrait had been done in oils, appar- ently in the late Victorian period. The man was heavily bearded, piously looking toward heaven with a conventionally saintly gaze. The scapular itself was a simple device, a black flat rayon ribbon with the cloth-bound portrait dangling by a similar piece of cloth. The painting was done in the same rich oils as a picture once shown to my class by Sister Mary Joseph, who had found in a book what she considered to be a true representation of the fires of hell. She brandished the book before the ogling eyes of the kids and told us what would happen to us if we were sent to hell. It showed a dimly lighted cavern populated by crawling serpents and evil clouds of smoke. Snarling, leering, crocodile-toothed hairless dogs ate their way through the intestines of screaming victims and cruelly tore off their arms and legs.
Holding my scapular before me, I wondered if its reputed magic powers could indeed protect me from such a fate. Certainly, it had done a shabby job of protecting me from temptation. I couldn't imagine how anything could keep me from engaging in future naughty intimacies with Martha Jane. The image that made me feel a creepy apprehension was that of having to protect the scapular with my life. Suppose, as Sister Angelica from the fourth grade had pro- posed weeks earlier, the Chinese Communists invaded the country and arrested all the Catholics and strangled their children? I would be found wearing a scapular, certainly a dead giveaway, and would be sadistically and slowly strangled if I didn't give it up.
This morbid thought haunted me as Mom climbed in the bed and shut the light. When I grew a little older Mom would sleep in the living room on the sofabed, but in those days she slept with me. My place was at the window side, because I often enjoyed sitting by the window sill and looking out into the dark before falling asleep. Mom said good night and rolled away from me. For a long time I lay face up, pondering the magnitude of my reponsibilities as a soldier in the army of Christ with an official scapular that I had to wear at all times to confirm my identity.
Late in the night I awoke and found myself totally alone in the bed. Feeling something moving under me, I rose up on my knees and looked down. Horrified, I saw dozens and then hundreds of black thumb-sized roaches dashing across the white sheets in all directions. Frantically I pounded the mattress and made wide sweeping movements with my outspread hands to wipe them away. They kept coming, multiplying, crawling everywhere, I couldn't stop them...
Suddenly I was awake. I was on my knees in the bed. My Mom slept on her side, next to me. My hands were spread on the sheets in front of me. But there were no roaches. Only the clean white sheets. My heart pounded. I waited for it to stop. The only object on the sheet before me was the tangled, black- stringed scapular.
I picked it up and placed it on the window sill. As I did so, my arm was flooded by a narrow beam of moonlight.
Stealthily I moved to the edge of the foot of the bed, then onto the floor. My heart still pounding slightly with the memory of my terror, I slowly opened the corner chest and took out a new sheet, which I brought with me into the kitchen, carefully looking back to see my mother still asleep. Wrapping the sheet around me, I opened the back door, wincing as it creaked halfway open. Look- ing behind me again, I saw no one following me. I walked into the dark back yard, barely visible in the light from a streetlamp several doors away near the corner of the building. A cricket chirped lazily. I moved out near the curb of the access driveway behind our building and looked across Martha Jane's back yard. I saw no lights. It was too dark for me to see into their bedroom window. I wondered where she was. When would she be back?
My mother appeared in her nightgown at the back door, frowning sleepily into the dark with swollen eyes. "Speedy? Speedy?"
Reluctantly, I walked toward her with the tails of my white shroud trailing at my feet.
"What are you doin' out here in the middle of the night?" She bent down and examined me. "Are you walking in your sleep? Huh? Are you asleep?"
Seeing that she had furnished me with an excuse as good as any I might conjure on my own, I nodded yes.
"Are you asleep?" she asked again.
I nodded. "I'm asleep," I said plainly, and looked up to see if there were any possibility that she believed me.
"Well, come in the house. Come on, get in here and get back to bed." She pulled me gently into the kitchen and stroked my hair. "Are you awake now? Answer me, are you awake now?"
I nodded yes, and kept walking in my oversized sheet to the bedroom, where I left the sheet on the floor and climbed back into bed. As Mom settled beside me I nestled back into my pillow, face up, and looked away from her into the shafts of moonlight that banded the window sill.
Mom asked irritably, "What *were* you dreaming about?"
"Roaches," I muttered.
"Roaches. The roaches from the scapular."
"Roaches?" she repeated, incredulously. "Well, go back to sleep. Are you alright now?"
I nodded yes, several times.
"Go back to sleep, then."
She turned away from me and drew the top sheet to her shoulders. Soon she was still, breathing deeply. I lay watching the moonbeams, listening for echoes of Martha Jane in the room. The resting woman beside me felt like a foreign object that didn't sound or feel like the Martha Jane I wanted to talk to and explain my dream to.
I searched the moonbeams and thought about her until I fell asleep again.
For several weeks I saw Martha Jane only now and then as she walked across the grounds on her way in or out of the project. She caught sight of me once from a couple of blocks away and smiled and waved and yelled Hi.
Meanwhile, it seems my Mom and future step-dad had gone through a brief spat. They started dating again a few weeks later. But my sitter was not Martha Jane. In fact, I had two different sitters at first. The first must not have been very interesting, as I have absolutely no recollection of who they were or how they looked. The identity of the second sitter is also a blank, but I recall that I spent the evening not at home but in the sitter's apartment, across the driveway and at a slight angle from my own building. Through their back kitchen window that night I could see the back door that led to my own apartment. And just to the left was the apartment where Martha Jane and her family lived. At one point that night I saw her in her kitchen; there was no mistaking that pretty face and frizzy auburn hair. I waved to her. Of course, she didn't see me. I went back later and waited for a while but she didn't show again. And by the time the sitter walked me back across the driveway back home, all the lights were out in Martha Jane's place.
When I had not seen her for several more days I bumped into her accidentally just as I was going out the front door on my way to school. She came outside at the same time with her schoolbooks under her arm.
"Hey, hon," she sang as she locked her door. She beamed at me and gave me her best Southern twang. "Where've you been, sugar?"
"where've-you-been-too," I mimicked playfully.
"Well," she went on, making a silly face, "Where YOU been?"
"Well," I said in the same way, "Where YOU been?"
She laughed and gave a mild go-away wave with her free hand. "Oh, silly!" She shook her head. She was wearing a long plaid, pleated skirt and a white blouse. I very clearly remember that morning and how she looked; bright, clean, basic, unpretentious, very very pretty in a simple, uncomplicated way.
We walked a few blocks together. I noticed she seemed to be getting thinner. She also looked tired, but cheerful. It turned out she had been working very hard in school and was overly anxious to do well. "You wouldn't know about that yet," she said, "you're barely in the third grade."
"What grade are you in?" I asked.
"The umpteenth, feels like."
Umpteenth was our private code that meant something akin to forever or infinity.
"I'm coming over Saturday," she said. She had stopped and seemed serious and looked steadily at me without moving.
I said, "Oh. Okay!" and beamed at her. She kept looking at me in the same mysterious way. I didn't know why she wasn't saying anything. She seemed concerned, apprehensive.
"Well," she said after a minute and a short breath, "I am supposed to stay with you Saturday night, anyway."
I did not know what she was getting at or what was going on, or why she emphasized the word "supposed". I do remember the moment clearly. I became very tense; I felt suddenly distant from her and didn't know what was wrong.
She asked me pointedly, "Are we still friends, hon?"
"Sure we are," I said.
"I mean...are we still really, really friends?"
I blushed. "Your my own special, very only, very umpeenth-degree friend."
"And you're my special little man, hon," she said, but she wasn't smiling, except weakly, sympathetically.
We talked a little more, I don't remember what we said. She seemed absent-minded. It was not until Saturday night that I discovered what she was thinking.
It was all quite complicated. At least, it was for Martha Jane. As an adult I now understand, but as a 9-year-old I could not fathom it. I viewed things more simplistically.
Next Saturday, Martha Jane and I sat and talked after she made dinner and after we cleaned the dishes. Then she studied on the sofa a while. She asked me a series of seemingly unrelated questions, none of which I remember. She was not as openly affectionate as usual and seemed remote, though not at all cold.
Our exchanges were brief and rather formal. She asked me about some uncles of mine who had not returned from the war, and she asked if I ever saw my Uncle Frank--my father's brother and one of the few male relatives in my family who had survived and returned home. I told her that Uncle Frank had not seen me since he fin- ished his last hitch in the Air Corps and decided to come back to the States and go to college on the GI Bill. I told her about his getting wounded in a B-26 in the Pacific a few years ago and how he pulled up his pants leg and showed me the pink scars of the three healed bullet holes in his lower thigh.
She winced, making an "Ugh" face. She said firmly, "I don't want to hear about it. I've heard enough about the war."
So I didn't say any more. I sat on the floor watching her, trying to figure out how to get through to her.
Martha Jane announced, "My Uncle Joe died, you know."
"Yeah," I said, "Mama told me."
"He was sick for so long, from his war wounds. He lived longer than we thought he would, but...It was hard on Mother. That's two men the war took from her, her husband and her brother." She stared ahead pensively, then blinked awake. "Well. Enough of that."
I said earnestly from across the room, "I'm real sorry, Martha Jane."
She smiled weakly. "Thank you, hon. I know you are. It'll be alright." She looked back at her book and began scribbling in her notepad.
For a long time--perhaps for most of the evening, it seems-- she pored over her studies and remained unresponsive.
Later that night I felt she was still mourning, despite saying she would get over it. I had seen a whole neighborhood full of hurt, tragic people: widows, the disabled and the paralyzed, the shot-up and the abandoned of the War. I had seen my mom's sister, my young and plain-looking Aunt Martha, when she came to our apartment once in the middle of the night, pounding on our front door and screaming for help until she woke us. My mom scrambled out of bed and I stood in the hallway watching from the bedroom as Mom opened the front door for Aunt Martha, who rushed sobbing into the living room and collapsed in a wailing heap on the sofa. Her husband had beaten her again. Mom and Aunt Martha tried to hide the bloodied bruises from me, but I had already seen them on Aunt Martha's face and arms and I knew what the marks meant without being told. Seeing her, I wanted to cry and throw my arms around her--even though she was, unfortunately, one of those adults I didn't trust. She was even more grimly puritanical and prim than my Mom, and a fundamentalist who considered everything an occasion for sin of some kind. But I understood her pain, both physical and emotional, without having it explained to me.
That night occurred some years earlier, when I had just turned 6. The commotion woke up Martha Jane's family next door. She and her sister Evelyn came over in their robes and pajamas and Martha Jane went straight over to me because my mother panicked and was rasping, "Get Speedy out of here, get him out of here!" Martha Jane led me to bedroom, where I looked up at her and whispered so the others wouldn't hear, "I already saw it."
She looked down at me. "You did what, hon?"
I repeated, looking back to make sure the others couldn't hear us, "I already saw it, Martha Jane. I saw what happened."
Martha Jane knelt down to me in her rumpled bathrobe and looked into my eyes with her deep, striking green ones. "Then," she said eyeing me seriously, "you understand what happened."
I nodded. Then I added, so the others wouldn't hear, "Uncle Bobby hurt her again."
We were alone in the room. I could still see in my mind the earlier glimpse of Aunt Martha's bloody lip and the dark bulging eye, and the blue-black on one of her arms. I started crying. I could not stop the tears from falling down my face, despite my attempts at remaining calm.
"Oh, honey," Martha Jane implored, "don't get scared and start crying, now."
"I'm not scared," I sniffled. "I know how Aunt Martha hurts. It makes me cry."
"You--" Her eyes looking into mine softened and seemed to turn to mush. "Oh, you sweet baby."
"Why does he do that to her?"
"I don't know, hon. But you are so sweet. So very sweet."
She closed the bedroom door, shutting us off from the sobbing and wailing in the living room, and put me back into bed. She told me it would all be okay in the morning and she understood my feelings. She sat on the bed and said I shouldn't feel bad about not being with the others and she really didn't want me to feel as though I were being "locked away" in the room. She said, "I'll stay in here with you for a while if you want, okay? So you won't be all by yourself?"
I told her, "It's okay if I stay in here, 'cause I know Aunt Martha. I know how she is. She doesn't want us staring at her, she feels all ugly and everything. I'll stay here so she won't feel ashamed. But...they don't have to yell at me. They're always hiding everything and acting like I won't understand."
"No, hon. They're just scared, that's all. They're upset." She stroked my head. She told me she would come back later and that she would tell my Aunt Martha about my concern for her. But I said, "No, don't tell her that."
"But why not, hon.? I know she'd appreciate it."
"I don't want you to."
"But, Speedy...honey, why not? What's wrong?"
"'Cause every time she sees me, she'll be embarrassed. She'll remember tonight. That's the way she is."
I don't know how long Martha Jane sat looking at me, stroking my hair, with that amazed look on her face. Finally she said, "I have to go in there and help. You sure you'll be alright?"
She sighed and rose and went to the door, but before going out she leaned inside and blew me a kiss. "You're my little man from now on, hon," she said, and closed the door.
That night had taken place some years before and was one of the very early incidents that had so endeared me to Martha Jane, and her to me. Now it was a few years later. And Martha Jane had become more than just a neighbor. More than a friend. And now I saw that she was the one who seemed hurt. Or, at best, worried about something.
I didn't know what to do about it. I was good at clowning, though, and I wondered how I could make her laugh. At 9 o'clock she hustled me into the bathroom (no bubble-bath this time. I was getting a little "too old" for that) and she stayed in the living room while I bathed. I dried off and straightened the room, and peeked around the door into the living room. She was on the sofa, studying intensely. But I did see a crumpled kleenex in her hand, and her eyes had reddened.
An wave of empathy had me almost crying with her. There was a curtain-covered closet in the hallway between the bath and the bedroom. It could not be seen from where Martha Jane sat on the sofa. I got out of the tub, dried off, and went rummaging in the closet, looking for a funny idea. Martha Jane heard me kicking around.
"Speedy, I thought you were going to bed," she called.
"Just lookin' for somethin'," I called back. I found my six-shooter outfit in there, and a cowboy hat. I put on my mom's dress with my six-guns and holsters on backward. I had seen enough John Wayne movies to be able to do a fairly acceptable imitation of the guy. I donned this outfit and tied toy spurs loosely on my ankles. Pulling the brim of the hat down low over my eyes, I walked into the living room. I looked ridiculous. I stood there while she had her face in her book. It was a minute before she realized I was there, and when she finally looked up I yelled out in my best John Wayne voice:
She blinked. Her mouth fell wide open and she covered it with the kleenex. I strutted across the room with big stomping John Wayne steps. "pardon me, ma-uhm, but...this town ain't big for thah two of us. One of us has...got tah go."
She laughed in her oh-my-god, head-shaking way, not a big laugh but several breathy intakes. She blurted out, "Do you intend to sleep in that outfit?"
"Why, yes'm" I said, still John Wayne. With my thumb over my shoulder I indicated an imaginary object behind me. "Just me and... muh horse, over there."
"Oh, no," she said. "You are so cute." She wiped one eye with a corner of the kleenex, trying to hide her red eyes. I think she knew I couldn't possibly have missed the gesture, but she kept up the effort. She said, "I have something in my eye, hon. You go on and get ready for bed. Go on, now, it's late."
"Well...okay," I said, disapppointed that I hadn't accomplished very much. I walked back to the closet with one of my aluminum toy spurs dragging uselessly off one foot, and removed my silly gear and stored it back in the closet. As I was doing so, I saw Martha Jane turning back the bedclothes in the bedroom. I undressed down to the underwear that I usually slept in and crawled into bed. Martha Jane fluffed the pillows and turned off the lamp. She stood by the bed.
"You ready to go to sleep now, cowboy?"
She was silent. She looked at the floor. I saw her eyes water. She was dark against the dim light shedding in from the living room.
"You never met your daddy, did you, hon? You never saw him. He got killed over there before you ever knew who he was."
I didn't know what to say to that. Every relative I encountered --and there were many of them in my huge family--mentioned my dead father at every visit, every Mass, every picnic, every Bingo game, every damn holiday dinner. Now Martha Jane was doing it. I was not angered by it, but I did find myself unable to understand this constant lingering over the memory of dead men I never knew.
Martha Jane went on quietly. "My daddy was killed in the war, too. He was one of 'em, too, that...died, got killed." She took a deep, wobbly breath, and sighed. "I guess you're lucky, Speedy, you never knew your daddy, but I knew mine. I used to..." She stopped again, breathed deeply, and when she started again her voice had cracked and broken up. "I used to see him all the time. Every day. So you don't know what that is, when some Army sergeant you never saw before--" and she began talking and crying at the same time-- "shows up at the door with a letter--"
She suddenly crumpled and fell to her knees, her hands on her head, which was cradled on the edge of the bed. She cried her heart out, not wailing, but heaving in long, wrenching, childlike sighs. "I miss him! Oh, I miss him! Why isn't he here to help us?"
Instantly I went to her, squatting on the bed and holding her head, the only part of her I could reach. She cried and cried and cried. I didn't know what to say, but I did know to hold her and stroke her hair. Eventually she calmed down, and returned my hug with a long tight embrace of her arm around one of mine. With a long sigh, she reached up to the night table for another kleenex and sat on the floor, drying her eyes and looking up at me.
"You knew I was thinkin' something, didn't you cowboy?"
"You...are one little smart-ass," she said, blowing her nose. She sniffed loudy. "You know what a smart-ass is?"
"I think so."
"Well you are one sweet smart-ass. Now, c'mon..." She stood up and started tucking things in again. "I'm done now, I got it outta my system and it's a-a-all over with. You get yourself to sleep. C'mon, John Wayne."
"Martha Jane?" I began. I had not told her what I desperately wanted to tell her.
"I..uh...Hmmm." I scratched my head.
She came closer to the bed. "What is it, big boy?"
"I still never..."
"Mm-hm, okay, you still never. You still never what?"
"I never told anybody what we did together."
She stood deadly still and silent, looking toward the floor, hands on her hips. She pursed her lips and made another sniffle. She didn't say anything. I thought I had offended her.
"I mean...," I went on carefully, "in case you were worried about that. I mean, at first I thought that's what...you were worried about."
She said, "Oh." She neither moved nor looked at me. "Oh," she said again. "That."
"I just wanted you to know," I said, shrinking from her and back into the bed.
She shook her head, seemed to ponder deeply. Abruptly she left the room. I lay there numb, figuring I had somehow pissed her off in the worst way. Then the living room light went out. The only light in the room was moonlight falling on the bed. I heard Martha Jane walking toward the bedroom. I turned and could barely see her at first, but soon she appeared in the dim light of the moon beside the bed.
She said sternly, "C'mere, Speedy."
I crawled to the edge of the bed. She was wearing dark clothes, a blue blouse and a ruffled blue skirt. All I could see were her eyes.
"You are one smart little boy," she said. "Yes, I was worried about that. I wanted my daddy to get me out of trouble, I thought I was in trouble about that." She paused and said something, almost to herself, something I would be able to understand only years later. "I am goin' to hell. We're both goin' to hell."
She then reached out and pulled me to her by one hand, she standing by the bed with me on my knees near the edge. She looked deeply into my eyes briefly, and then hugged me tightly. There was something serious and desperate, rather than playful, in the way she clasped me to her. So I made no moves on my own. I simply let myself be held, my arms draped loosely around her neck. When she made no response after a moment I gave her a hug and waited. But she stood unmoving beside the bed, silent, enfolding me closely with one arm around my back and the other cradling my head into her neck and shoulder.
With my face in her neck I was unable to see hers in the dark, but I could tell that she was looking down at the floor silently for a very, very long time, perhaps for almost two minutes. During that time I very lightly stroked her back and then put my own hand on the back of her neck to let her know that I would wait, wait for her to stop thinking or whatever it was she was doing in that long wordless minute in the dark.
She moved her lips; faintly I heard them part, and she took in a small breath as if to speak, but she stopped. I waited for her in the darkness around us. Her eyelashes flicked once, and I knew she was looking past my shoulder, across the bed, out into the moon- lit window behind me. Her lashes flicked again against my cheek, and she looked down once more, breathing. She parted her lips again and they made a mildly dry, sticking sound. And she breathed and waited and waited, as if something from deep inside her were slowly, slowly struggling to the find a place in her breathing and in her voice. She looked down. She swallowed. Hard.
"Hon?" she began, tentatively, barely audible. Her lips were so close to my ear I could feel the moisture of her breath on my earlobes. "Do you want to be nasty with me?"
My head buried in her neck, I nodded slowly.
She paused again, and again I heard her lips part drily near my ear. She continued, softly. "Do you mind if I say it's nasty but I want us to do it anyway?"
"I don't mind."
"I mean...I mean I know and you know that everybody says it's wrong and we're not supposed to do it, but...I want to anyway. I want you to understand: I know it's nasty...but that's why I like it. And I don't understand it."
"But I like it too," I whispered back.
Again she hesitated before she relaxed her arms and held me more loosely. "Good," she whispered in my ear. "Good." She stroked my back for a moment and gave my head in her neck a brief affectionate hug. Then her fingers were at the front of my underwear. She tried to find her way into the slit but couldn't, so she pushed her hand gently under the top band.
She whispered, "Your dick, hon...", and soon her fingers found me and wrapped around me warmly. "...there he is..." She hugged my cock gently. Then she murmured so softly I could barely hear, even though her lips were still against my ear: "I like it too, hon. I can't help it. We're so much alike."
At the time, most of this went right past my very young level of awareness--but I clearly understood that she was troubled. I knew that I somehow had to stay with her and believe in her and help her in some way. I wanted to bring indescribable pleasure and comfort to her. She was making me feel loved and tickly now, and I wanted desperately to do the same for her. I found the folds of her skirt and tried to gather them up, but had a hard time; my hands were too small. She stepped back, not letting go of my cock, and used her free hand to lift her skirt. She spread her feet apart and looked down while I massaged her mound over her panties.
"Ah, hon," she breathed. "You remembered just exactly how I like you to do that."
As she had done, I slipped my hand under her waistband and found her pubic hair and her soft folds. She was not wet yet. But she moved one foot to open her legs more so I could find her crease.
I whispered, "I want to make you feel good." Now I hoped I was learning to talk to her as she talked to me. I was beginning to comprehend the nature of my own very young sensuality, realizing how so much of it was mirrored by Martha Jane, and learning to try and contact those elements within her. I was not yet very certain about any of it. But now I had glimmerings of the giddy adrenal rush gen- erated by the allure of the forbidden that held us and our secret world together. And I was beginning to understand as well the para- doxical, inexplicable comfort we both experienced by giving in to, rather than resisting, our hunger. In short, I was getting older and more sexual, and I realized more than ever how complex were the emotional and physical needs that bound us. It was scary. It was a lot like rushing blind across the avenue the way I used to, traffic headed at me in all six lanes, not sure if or how I could make it safely to the other side--but knowing, from where I stood at that moment, I would not and could not run back.
Martha Jane moved her head slightly, toward me. Her lips touched my ear. Her mouth opened and I heard the thin saliva break as she licked my earlobe. And then my neck. Under one hand I felt the skin on the back of her neck move and flex as she reached farther with her tongue and licked behind my ear, then down, then into my neck again. Under my other hand, she was getting wet.
She pulled her head back, smiling and looking down to watch my hand working between her legs in the dark. She spread her knees apart a little more. She softly hissed, "Put your finger in me..." I found her hot opening, now growing wetter, and slowly inserted what came to me naturally--my longest finger. She urged quietly, "All the way in, hon, deep..." Her eyes closed as she sighed a trembling, breathy "Aaahh..."
I flexed my finger in her. I never ceased to be amazed at the way the inner Martha Jane could suck on my fingers in her. "Did that feel good?"
"Bend your finger again, inside...Yes...keep doing that..."
We continued for a while, but it soon became uncomfortable standing up. She broke away and got undressed. Before climbing in- to bed she removed my tshirt and underwear and had me sit up against a pillow that she placed against the headboard. Then, naked in the moonlight, she lay before me on her tummy with her head in my lap and started sucking me. She sucked gently, wetly, slowly, immersing me in her very hot mouth and holding me there. Then slowly she withdrew, sucking upward, and came off me with a loud swallow of the wetness she had re-sucked off me, and sighed lasciviously. "You feel so good in my mouth. You fit all the way inside."
She licked her lips and sucked me again in the same way, gently but fully, flattening her tongue along the underside and pressing slightly, then started bobbing her head slowly and rhythmically. I was amazed and hypnotized. I began to be aware of her physical beauty and the depths of the desperate lust that lurked in both of us, there in the dim shaft of light that fell across her naked back as she licked and sucked.
She stopped and asked, "Do you know what I'm doing?"
I just stared at her. Of course I knew what she was doing, though she had never done it so gluttonously. But I didn't know what it was called.
"I'm suckin' you off. Do you like it when I say that?" Once again, her eyes had a strange glint and her voice sounded inordinately wicked.
"Yes," I whispered back, suddenly realizing how breathless I was. And I was doing some hard, nervous swallowing of my own. "You know I do. Especially the way you do it." I was truly flabbergasted that there were so many ways to bring pleasure to each other.
She returned to her sucking, which she continued for quite some time, breaking to gently fist my wetted cock. The cloying sensuality of her motions and words caused me to make what I know to be a seriously wicked grin as I watched her pump me. "That's good," I whispered.
She looked up. "Yeah?" She grinned back.
I grinned again too, into her eyes. "Yeah. Keep doin' it."
"Feel it, baby...enjoy it..."
And once again, her eyes and her words and her voice held me mesmerized. She herself seemed hypnotized by my own spellbound reaction. We fell into unalloyed devilishness, as if demons within us had generated a chain reaction neither of us could not stop. She wouldn't let up. The lust in her eyes and her voice met mine, mine met hers, and they fused. We were glued to it, tangled it in. I kept hearing the nuns and the aunts and relatives warning me, but all their screaming voices together could not drown the tantalizing whispers of Martha Jane. And the more my eyes lit up with pleasure, the more Martha Jane saw it and gloated on it.
She gave a low, dirty chuckle and breathed, "You like it. You like being like this with me." She kept looking into my eyes, directly into them, into my cornea and through the optic nerves and into my brain. As she wetly stroked my twitching cock I heard only the wet slush of her hand in the hot spit she had left on me, and her endless, libidinous whispers. "You like it just as much as I do, don't you, I can tell. I like it too. I like watching your face while I make you feel good. I love your dick. I love touching it. I love milking it, and sucking..." She pumped and then sucked and then pumped me again. I was feeling extremely strange and giddy and I knew she did too. A dark wicked wave seemed to wash into the room and lick me squarely in the scrotum under my balls, then lick upward along my spine and settle in the back of my head. I could see the reflection of these new and growing impulses in her own eyes, I could hear her voice echoing my own rising lechery. We fed it, and fed on it, helpless in the dark and the moonlight. She fisted me loosely now, looking up at me. Distinctly I felt and saw her own eyes catch the glint of lust in mine, and she leered and fisted and kept whispering. "I feel you liking it, I feel you jumpin' in my hand. Such a beautiful, hard, sweet little cock. It gets so big. How does it get so big from being so little?"
"I like you making it big," I managed to whisper back, but only after fighting for the breath to say it. I took a deep breath and gasped brazenly, "I like watching you watch me."
Her eyes rose, surprised and please that I was joining her in this hypnotic whirl. "I'm so glad you like this. Want me to suck you some more?"
"Yes, it feels so good."
"I want to suck you and I want you to fingerfuck me, like last time."
Uh-oh! A new term in the ever-expanding lexicon. I was taken by surprise. Another Martha Jane word. At that point I somehow knew there would be an explanation forthcoming. Contented, and learning for the first time what the word "turn-on" would later come to mean, I let her suck me and we continued our lurid whispers and glances. Of course, I did not cum. This was fortunate, in a way, since literally I didn't know what I was missing. But at one point a pang of sensual tickling shot through the length of my shaft, and I felt an oozing from me that mixed with her spit and slickened it. I wondered if that meant I was cumming.
But the feeling passed too quickly for me to stop and ask questions about it. For Martha Jane had risen to a half-sitting position beside me, her head against the headboard. Her left leg lay on the mattress between us, bent at the knee toward me so her inner thigh was spread to expose her slit; and she bent her right knee upward, keeping her foot on the bed, using her heel to spread her right leg wide and exposing even more of her nakedness. She shoved her hips forward so that I, lying beside her, could fully see her auburn tuft and the widening, smooth-lipped slit below. With one hand she spread the silken hair that partly covered her, and wantonly instructed me on how to touch her clit and how to insert my finger and how to search far up inside her and find a magic bundle of muscle and nerve that made her arch her hips and sigh lustily and made her nipples swell in my mouth, and she looked down, leering and watching me please her and holding herself open for me, telling me this was her cunt, and she said that when she felt really nasty as she did now that she wanted me to call it her cunt, and as I pulled her clit and stroked the tender place far inside her wetness, her words and her voice and her sighs slid into a barely audible stream of hissed obscenities.
And I remembered doing this to her before and making her cum, but now I knew she wanted me to call it fingerfucking and that she liked the word and so did I, and she liked me watching her on her side with one leg bent between us and the other with one knee raised and resting spread away from her so that she could use the leverage of that leg to raise her cunt toward me and we could watch me fingerfuck her, and she liked watching while I did it, and her raised knee soon fell and she dropped back into the pillows and spread herself flat and gave herself over to the long cum that seemed to be on its way, and for a long while she simply lay and enjoy it and sucked on my finger in her. And finally I gave her the smashing, paralyzing orgasm she wanted, her head pressed far into the pillow and her neck straining, her arms and legs stiffened against the white sheets and her nipples jutting upward as she threw her head back and suffered silently the sweet agony I was giving her, taut and stiff for what seemed to me a perilously long time. Her hips gave a slight jerk, and I expected her to slide into her swooning relaxed state, but instead her head snapped farther back into the pillow and her teeth showed in the dark and she whimpered "Oh!" in sudden surprise, and then "Ah!" and she came again, again, again as I moved my fingers in the way I knew was just right for her, never for a moment wanting to lose my way in giving her pleasure, caring for her, protecting her in her utter nakedness, striving to make it perfect and right for her. And finally, with a great sigh and a whimper that I know could be heard out in the dark street beyond our window, she relaxed with a final lurch of her hips, and began breathing in waves, then breathing regularly and deeply, and she made the same sounds she made when she cried, but now they were sounds of exhaustion and release.
I licked her nipple, my soaked hands now lightly massaging her outer lips and inner thighs, and she put a hand on my arm and cried, "so good!", and on reaching down to touch my cock she found wetness there, a smear from inside me, and she opened her eyes and looked at me and then looked at my cock and reached down and kissed the tip, moaning "oh your cum, your sweet cum!" She licked it off me and it tickled terribly and I felt deep in my balls the oozing of another smear, which she milked out of me with a long slow pull upward on my dick, and she licked that off too with tender relish, as if even the smallest beginnings of my cumming were as precious as water to a parched throat. And then, out of breath and with a final gasp, she literally fell into me and hugged me and held on and went straight to sleep.
We slept like that for a while, with her splayed over me as if knocked unconscious. She awoke with a start and looked at the clock. "Darn!" she whispered frantically, "they'll be coming home!"
Quickly she dressed. As she did, she caught me smiling at her from my pillow and she told me, "Speedy, you are remarkable. My god, I wish I could tell someone about this. They'd never believe me..." She looked at me as if she were in shock. "How do you do this to me? Where did you learn to do this?"
"Do what?" I asked, truly puzzled.
"You know what I'm talkin' about," she scolded midly, hopping a little to get her shoes on. She sat on the floor and tied her laces. "You made cum in my mouth, too, didn't you?"
"Listen," she said earnestly, finishing her shoes and getting up to bend over me. "I want you to grow up and cum. I can't keep doing this all by myself. Do you have any idea what you just did to me?" She gathered up the wads of kleenex and started straight- ening the place quickly, mumbling, "I didn't even know anything like this was possible. Where in the world did you learn how to do it like that?"
"You taught me," I said.
She caught herself, pausing as if startled, and went back to her hurried straightening. "I'm just talking, hon. You go to sleep. Your Mama will be home soon."
She returned to the living room and her books. The light in there snapped on. I rolled over and looked out the window. I did not understand the significance of this nor the problems it would cause later. But I had experienced an unusually intense level of eroticism which I feared and yet didn't fear, something apparently as new and exotic to her as it was to me.
That was a sensuous summer. Mom's relationship apparently ran smoothly for a while and my stepdad-to-be took her out not fre- quently but regularly. Each time, Martha Jane would show up on time and we'd fix dinner for each other, clean up, do a little homework, and then undress each other in the tiny bedroom. Soon the room echoed with our sighs, whispers, and moans of pleasure and lust. The only sex we had outside that bedroom was the one time Martha Jane showed up at our place one rare Saturday afternoon when I had not been shipped off to relatives for the weekend. Martha Jane had iced tea with Mom and chatted a short time, and told my mom she wanted me to come next door and help set up a record player her sister Evelyn had given to Martha Jane and her mom.
She brought me to her apartment and as soon as we were inside she took me into her bedroom. I told her I thought she wanted me to help her with the new phonograph and she giddily and impatiently replied that the machine was set up already and she really just wanted us to be alone. "I don't know what's got into me today," she exclaimed, almost visibly trembling. "I feel so nasty. God, I hope we don't get caught!" She lay on the edge of her bed with her legs hanging over the side. Lifting her skirt, she panted, "Fingerfuck me, hon. Hurry. Somebody might show up." I put my hand inside her waistband and fingerfucked her inside her panties. She came almost immediately. Afterwards, nervous and fumbling, she lay me down the same way and jacked me with my zipper open until I felt that little buzz in my cock and she pulled a little drop out of me and licked it off. Then we straightened our clothes and went into her living room, where she settled down. And just in time: about ten minutes later her sister Evelyn arrived unexpectedly. I talked with her briefly and while she was in their kitchen making lemonade Martha Jane saw me to her door and whispered as I left, "That was close. But it sure felt good!" Afterward she told me we shouldn't try that sort of thing again, as the schedule in her place was truly unpre- dictable and so many of her mother's friends always popped in. And she said she never, never wanted to risk having my Mom find out.
Had sex been the only aspect of our relationship I have little doubt that both of us would have soon tired of this sitting routine and sought more varied pleasures elsewhere or with someone else. But we had a life outside the bedroom that was also special for us and that only added to our feelings of intimacy, devotion, and pleasure in the bedroom.
My back yard was a small patch of lawn about the size of a modern suburban carport. It lay along the curb of the access drive- way that fed into the project from the street and led to a parking lot around the corner of our building. Near the curb was a large black oak. We spent several evenings there on weekdays at dusk, just after dinner, as the long summer days ended and the stulti- fyingly humid Southern air turned breezy and cool, the sky glowing purple and orange. It was there under the heavy, leafy old oak tree that I told her about my strange dream with the roaches. She said she had no idea why I would dream such a thing, but she suspected the nuns had scared the hell out of me.
Martha Jane and I discussed our dreams frequently during those waning summer days under the tree. She often dreamed of her father coming to her in the night, but he was reduced to the size of a boy, a very small boy almost as small as an infant. His head was bloodied and disfigured (he had died in combat on Okinawa from head wounds). He would plead for help, but when she rose to go to him she saw the rest of the house was filled with more like him, thou- sands of them, moaning and reaching for her. In the dream her mother made tea, oblivious to it all and apparently deaf and unable to hear, but as she sipped her tea she said she didn't want to hear and appeared to have gone quietly insane. Overcome with helplesness and rage, she would wake up sweating.
She said she once had a dream about me. I was standing in a dark room smiling at her. She said my eyes were very large and very dark, almost gigantic, and they glowed in the dark room. As she stepped toward me she became very small and felt faint, and suddenly I was very large and very much older and went to her with a glass of wine, gently cradling her head in one arm while holding the wine for her to sip. The wine was warm and was in a small silver chalice. She said the most striking part of the dream was my remarkably dark eyes that seemed to fill the room. They were kind and endearing, but there was something frightening and ruth- less about them as well.
Across the access driveways were the small back yards of the building directly behind ours. I never knew our backdoor neighbors personally. Occasionally I'd look out our kitchen door and see one of the neighbor ladies standing in her kitchen and talking with Martha Jane across the driveway.
One of those neighbors, a Mrs. Johnson, would open her back door each evening just before dark and carefully slip her bathrobed, paraplegic husband in his wheelchair down the three or four concrete steps into their back yard. She would make him comfortable there on their little patch of grass, read the newspapers to him, or tune a station on their small brown GE portable that rested on the ground between his wheelchair and her aluminum lawn chair. Many after- noons, Martha Jane and I sat on the curb and watched this ritual. We would say hello to Mrs. Johnson and to Mr. Johnson, and Mrs. Johnson would smile and wave hello and bend down to Mr. Johnson and tell him we were out there with them. Mr. Johnson was unable to respond. Nor could he move his legs or arms or his neck or his eyes. He slumped limply in his wheelchair, wearing striped pajamas and a brown bathrobe, his eyes ogling blindly ahead, a thin drool forever flowing down one side of his slack and expressionless face. Mr. Johnson had been almost blown to pieces on Taiwan. Even at my age I realized without being told that the man would never move or talk or lift a spoon of soup to his face.
Martha Jane would watch quietly as they performed this almost- nightly ritual for a brief stay in the open air. I would look up at her and see her swallow, for a different reason now, and she would murmur, "God grant the poor woman patience." I told her about Taiwan, and Guadalcanal. And she told me how my father had died. He was flight engineer in a B-17 on his 21st mission when the plane was badly shot up. They barely made it back to England, where they discovered that the front wheels would not remain extended for a landing. As engineer in this emergency, my father ordered everyone but the pilot into the rear of the aircraft, where most of them lay wounded and unable to parachute out. With the pilot bringing the plane in, my father stationed himself near the landing gear handcrank, literally jamming the left wheel straight and steady with a hand-held crowbar. The wheel held up just long enough for the plane to land and start to slow. Then the gear collapsed, crushing him. All the other crewmen were saved.
"You're a lot like him," Martha Jane told me at the end of that story. "You'll try anything, just to see what happens. You're such a little outlaw."
We would sit there until the sky grew dark, seeing before us where so many others had gone, talking vaguely about how far there was to go.
"Sometimes I think we're the only ones who are still in one piece," she sighed, her chin propped on her knees. "Sometimes I think we were put here so we could know how much there is to lose. So we can save whatever's left." She shook her head. "And sometimes I think: there's so little left to be saved."
On July 4th she took me to a movie at the neighborhood theatre, the Suzore's--a seedy, well-used, crowded, and sticky-floored movie house if ever there was one. The place was a fallen relic of the 1920's, but it had a kind of homey who-cares air about it and the best popcorn in town. We held hands and shared the popcorn bag, laughing at the Bowery Boys and hiding our eyes when Charlie Chan crept through the hidden corridors of a haunted house. The walk back home was about seven blocks, down the steep, landscaped, four- block-long hill that led from the top of the project to our building at the other end. It was one of those hot Southerm nights, humid but cooling down, the air so still that the voices of people walking nearby hung in space long after the people had gone. In those days, before pollution clouded the view, we could see a multitude of stars overhead. As we walked I pointed out Orion to her, and Alpha Centauri. I showed her where the Weeping Sisters usually appeared and told her that the faint red dot near the steeple of St. Mary's Church was Mars. We were standing in the dark of the open lawn near the project's administration building. She listened as I pointed out the constellations, and after a minute I stopped and watched as she looked up. I was very nearly her own height, then. A half-moon floated just in front of her, outlining her face. Unable to resist, I softly cupped my hand over one breast.
She looked down at my hand on her bosom. She didn't pull away, but she whispered mischievously, "Somebody's gonna see us."
"I don't care," I said.
She laughed and said, "Yes, but I do."
"Okay," I said, and withdrew my hand.
She held my hand at her side as we strolled the rest of the way home. "It's not that I don't want you to," she said. "It's just that...I don't ever want anyone catching us and trying to stop us from doing it."
That summer gave us several nights together, nights of holding each other warmly and softly, naked, with Martha Jane under me or hovering over me and whispering her secret needs and pleasures, showing me something new. I learned to keep her on a dreamy sensuous edge for a longer and longer time, and then to make her cum several times, rapidly and intensely. She would almost always fall sleep or faint afterward, and I had to struggle to stay awake so I could rouse her in time to straighten up before my Mom returned.
Martha Jane had her 17th birthday in September, 1950. There was precious little money to spend, but she invited a few close friends and had a small celebration in her mother's apartment. I was there, indulging heavily in ice cream and homemade cake.
Martha Jane found it necessary to introduce me personally to everyone in the place. I was surprised to learn that so many of her friends were not classmates but older adults. This left me edgy, especially when she kept introducing me as "my boyfriend, Speedy." And every older lady in the joint had to say something like, "Oh, he's such a cute boy!" My discomfort was obvious. At one point I retreated to a corner and sat unsmiling by myself for a long period. Martha Jane came over to me and asked what was wrong.
I sat petulantly bumping my heels on the legs of the chair and averting her eyes.
She leaned down to me. "Speedy, you're too smart and too well- liked by everyone here to act like this. What's wrong with you, don't you like these people?"
"They all think I'm cute," I pouted. "And I hate the name Speedy."
She chuckled and said, "Speedy, let 'em think what they want to think. It doesn't hurt to cooperate a little bit. And what difference does it make?"
I adamantly folded my arms.
She stood up and said, "Hmp," with her hands on her hips. "Face it, hon--you ARE cute!"
I said back, "Hmp!"
"How am I gonna get you to have more experience being around people other than that fussy family of yours? Hm?"
I said nothing, but kicked away with my heels.
"Okay, sourpuss," she said. Shaking her head impatiently, she returned to the group. I spent the rest of the day mostly ignoring everyone until I felt it was time to go home. As I left her apartment I saw her notice me from the corner of her eyes while she spoke with the others. For the rest of the day I stayed in my living room and pretty much had the place to myself, my Mom being at Martha Jane's all afternoon. I listened to the Philco for a while, and typed on the Underwood. And by dusk I was totally bored.
I went to our back yard, out by the curb near the big oak. For a while I sat on the curb under the tree, listening to its heavy, leafy limbs rustle in the breeze. It was dusk, and the early fall sky had turned red.
Before long I heard the slap of the screen door behind me at Martha Jane's place. I looked behind me. Sure enough, it was she. She saw me and walked toward me, her head lowered and her arms behind her back. I sat with my legs extended from the curb, my heels on the surface of the driveway. She sat beside me.
"What's the matter, hon?"
"Nothin'," I said.
"Look at me."
She lowered her voice and said, hurtfully, "Speedy, why are you doing this to me?"
I sighed deeply and leaned forward, propping my chin on my raised knees. I muttered, "I dunno." And I didn't.