So, I could overcome the heat, dust storms and fatality around every corner because I was in love with two boys at the tender age of eight. They were like photograph negatives of each other. Dylan all blonde and light skinned, Daniel with his dark hair and dark eyes. They also had very different opinions of me. Dylan completely ignored my every word and attempt to make eye contact and Daniel would steal his mother’s jewelry and hand it to me at the bus stop in the morning. When I received my first new bike with the purple seat and tassels hanging from the handlebars, it was Daniel who taught me to ride it and would cruise along side of me in case I fell. When I inevitably fell, it was Daniel who picked me up.
By a mere stroke of chance, we had moved to a trailer not far from where Daniel lived in his. When I say a trailer, I mean barely a two-room vacation pop up. My parent’s bedroom was at one end, living room and kitchen at the other, and my sister and I slept on bunk beds in what was a hallway. The entire trailer was about the size of a hotel room. Not exactly the paradise we had planned, but there was good news. We were having a house built in a new subdivision. This would only be temporary.
What was not temporary was my mother’s new found excitement for Arizona living. She began taking tennis lessons while we were at school, and started cooking again. Well, she would make what was supposed to be food. I don’t remember many dinners, I do believe I have repressed those memories. There were sly attempts at sneaking us liver disguised as steak. Thank goodness I had round cheeks I could stuff like a hamster with bites of liver and Brussels sprouts to spit out later when I went out to feed the dog. She would rail against us wasting food, but her logic about kids in Africa did not hold water with me. I was sure they were eating better than we were.
So, I went to school during the day, staring forlornly at Dylan and during the afternoon, I would ride my bike with Daniel and accept whatever piece of jewelry he had managed to filch from his mother. Of course, my mom always made me give them back, but it was the thought that counts. He adored me, and I in turn adored his adoration. Really the perfect relationship.
During this time, my parents pretty much ignored me. At night, I would sit with my sister watching a crummy television and thinking of stories to tell. There was nothing better to me than making my baby sister laugh. I would climb up on my top bunk, listening to the coyotes outside howling their goodnights and I did feel happy. I was glad we had moved across the world.
All was well until my curiosity got the better of me. Daniel was in our backyard and like any boy out in the woods, when he had to go, he just went. He simply unzipped his pants and let loose in a small ditch. Now, I was young and curious. So instead of looking away, I stepped beside him and examined the goods, as any inquisitive young girl would. I knew boys had different equipment. I had seen my male cousins when they were babies.
To my mother who was washing dishes and watching from the window, this was apparently a huge deal. To describe her as a screaming banshee is an understatement. She snatched me up and drug me by the arm back into the hovel we called home. There was a belt spanking and I was told what I had done was very nasty. As I sat carefully on the edge of the bed, there were no tears. So, I had seen a boy’s penis. Big deal. It wasn’t that impressive.
The next day she forbid me to see Daniel. I told her I wouldn’t, but would just hop on my purple bike and hide it behind his shed while we sat in his room and listened to music on his tape player. His mother adored me, she would make me homemade tortillas, and fruit punch. She would occasionally trim the hair my mother butchered so it would grow back normally. I use to pray she would want a daughter so much she would insist I come stay with her.
I felt sure I could still harbor dual crushes on Dylan and Daniel. Dylan barely knew I existed anyway. Well, that is not exactly true. He did know I existed. I had become the object of his teasing after I spilled an entire container of black paint on our teacher. The room was divided. Half thought I did it on purpose and admired me, and the other half just thought it was hilarious. Dylan was one of the latter and would laugh every time there was a painting project. My teacher did not. I was not allowed to handle paint after that day.
Humiliation burned my cheeks with embarrassment. Nothing worse than having the object of your affection think you’re a joke. However, I learned to play along with it and in turn realized I could not at any point take myself too seriously. In the whole scheme of things, spilling paint was such a small thing and it was actually very funny. The look of horror on my teacher’s face as black paint splashed her white pants and white shirt was humorous. Because I did not become upset with his teasing, Dylan actually began paying attention to me. I was like a boy, he said, I didn’t freak out or cry. So there it was. The reason why over the years I would have more male friends than female. Why I always seemed to have a boyfriend. I was one of their tribe and they accepted me.
I was thrilled, elated and would sit at recess with Dylan every day listening to his stories of his older brother. When he told me about “rubbers,” I pretended to know what he was talking about. The image I had in my mind was not very accurate. But I didn’t want to show my ignorance. I also knew enough I could not ask my mother or father.
Everything would have been perfect, except one morning I woke up sicker than I had ever been. I had eaten my mother’s dinner the night before, and surely that was the culprit. My mom had a full day of tennis and whatever else she occupied her time with and insisted I had to go to school. I couldn’t even get off the bathroom floor, let alone walk. Begrudgingly, she called the nurse who suggested hot tea. That was an even worse idea and there was suddenly pain. I remember lying on the cold tile floor of the bathroom and staring at the ceiling light. If I died, would Dylan always remember me as his first love? Would Daniel?
There was also the thought of if I died; I hope my mother would be racked with guilt the rest of her life for yelling at me I was going to school. When my mother returned to the bathroom, she looked worried and not for herself. Surely, I could get some mileage out of this.