Saturday, March 24, 2012

COMFORT Chapter Three "A Mother's Love"

Chapter Three

A Mother’s Love

July 4, 2010





Text Message: “coming in from San Francisco on Wednesday. Looking for a massage with nipple play. Mutual nipple play would be great but not necessary. Let me know if you're available on Wednesday afternoon. Thanks. Bruce”


            There were endless stories that tied in with his Mother's seduction of him. It wasn't just physical. Along with his body, she touched his mind. There was always more between them than mother and son.

            His gender play began early on. She helped him acquire his first doll well before kindergarten. For saving up and sending in a series of box tops, his very own Miss Rice Crispies doll came in the mail. Snatching her out of the small cardboard box, the smell of her plastic body excited him. Now he had his own baby-style doll with short, wiry, brown metallic hair. He loved taking her along when they went swimming and boating out on the sandbars of the Mississippi River. She floated as his hand pushed her along the river's surface, wearing only a small diaper. When he lifted her out of the water, he squeezed her and she peed out river water, for she had a small hole in between her legs for diaper wetting.

In the December following 9-11, he went on his first visit to Far Horizons in Tucson to spend the holidays with her. It was safe to be with her then, for his nagging, homophobic stepfather Harry G. had died the year before. During his visit one evening, they were walking arm in arm under a cold, desert full moon. It was around 10 P.M. Far Horizons was quiet with many of the trailers and their adjacent tiny yards transformed into glittering, winter wonderlands with strands of twinkling, multicolored lights, giant candy canes and candles, moving wire reindeer, angels and giant toy nutcracker soldiers. All the cheesy, holiday eye candy made him feel safe and comfortable especially after the horror of 9-11. That was so far away; and here and now he was safe, with his Mother and it was Christmas. Behind the lights and angels were shadows and ghosts of Christmases from his childhood whispering in the crisp, desert, snow-less and silent night.

"Why did you buy me dolls and not trucks?" He asked her as they walked.

"I don't know. You just seemed to prefer them, so I got them for you."

"And where was Dad in this?"

"Oh I don't know, working I guess." 

            Not there, obviously. The Miss Rice Crispies doll was joined by Miss Revlon, a stunning eight inch doll with yet another wiry, but auburn brown, metallic coif.  This doll resembled a clone of Rita Hayworth and Arlene Dahl. Then, of course, came classic, blond Barbie with the soft curly bangs and ponytail. Her ponytail was permanent so Steve couldn’t be her hairdresser. There was also a fun pair of floppy Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. He loved the secret little heart tattoos on their chests that said, “I love you” hidden underneath their underclothes. He developed a fondness for dressing the more feminine dolls up, and fixing their hair.  Especially Miss Revlon's, for it was so thick, pliable and long (to her shoulders) it could hold a myriad of hairdos he created with just bobby pins and a touch of hairspray borrowed from his Mother’s porch beauty shop. The French twist was his favorite, he felt hot between his legs when he pulled hard on Miss Revlon’s hair to control it and make it conform to the shapes he created with his hands. He began to reflect this doll love back onto himself, expressing a fondness for pretending he had long hair (braids and braiding in particular excited him), by wearing long hairnets, falls, hairpieces or wigs. Because his Mother was a beautician, there were always hair and beauty supplies available. He imitated the lady on the Dove commercial washing both her cheeks carefully with oodles of white, luxurious lather and then sensually caressing her more magically smooth and beautiful cheeks. Imitating girls and women made him feel more alive and sensual, though he didn’t yet quite know what that word meant.

* * * * *

One day, at his grandparent's house, his Grandmother Nan was baking a batch of her famous cinnamon rolls. The tantalizing aromas of butter, sugar, cinnamon, yeast and baking bread filled his grandparents’ small white house. There was nothing to compare to biting into one of those hot rolls, fresh out of the oven, melting with thick wads of gooey butter, and sticky, thick rust-colored cinnamon. Nan’s rolls didn't depend on a white frosting on top, they held their own with sheer, toasty, cinnamon crisp tops; so good she sold them throughout the neighborhood and the town. She turned to him in the kitchen. Her hair had gone white and was piled on top of her head in a thick elegant, yet messy bun. It was still black around the sides and back. She was short and had a thick-bosomed body like Eleanor Roosevelt but was much prettier with wide hips, a smaller, sweet-shaped mouth and a strong jaw.

"Nan, oh Nan, are the cinnamon roles ready yet?”

"I think they’re cooled off now.” Nan had set them upside down, straight out of the pan, which they flopped out of effortlessly, from all the Crisco used to grease and coat the bottom. She was an expert in the use of cooking lube on her buns.

 “What do you say?"

"Please, please Nan."

"Sit at the table and I'll fix you a plate."

There was a pause. He loved visiting his Grandmother. It was going to be a double treat day if he was lucky. Nan put a still warm, buttery cinnamon role on a blue, Fiesta wear saucer on the table in front of him. He bit into the delicious, golden thing, the butter and cinnamon massaging his mouth, teeth and tongue like heaven.

"Nan" he said, chewing and savoring "Can I play in one of your slips afterward?"

"Are you going to be a good boy today?"

"Oh yes Nan, yes.  Can I walk in your high heels too? Please, Nan, please?"

"Alright if you're good, but don't go out side. Just stay in the house. And be careful walking on the carpet with those high heels on."

After he lavished his mouth and tongue on the deliciously warm rolls and butter, he was satiated orally. But now, he needed his drag fix. And he had his Grandmother’s permission.

He went into the small bathroom in middle of the house and pulled down one of Nan's white silk slips from a hanger on the back of the bathroom door. The silk slip was so smooth, it was like water in his hand. He stepped into it and felt himself transformed. But wait, what high heels did he want to wear? He chose the white ones with the shiny black sides and front cut outs so the first two toes peeped through the hole. Years later, he and his queer brethren would refer to that style of shoe as Joan Crawford-Come-Fuck-Me-pumps. He put them on, opened the small bathroom door and swished outside and down the hall into the living room. There, he began turning round and round, faster and faster, his slip billowing out, magically expanding as he turned. Gulping and laughing, he reached a turning climax and fell onto the thick, beige carpeting. He lay there giggling breathlessly and lounging on the thick, soft, cushiony weave. His Grandparents had recently installed new wall-to-wall carpeting. He luxuriated in the smell of newness. Sensing something, he looked up to see his Grandfather. Fat Gramps always exuded a heavy, masculine and severely serious presence. Before she died, Nan made many copies of old photographs and sent them to everyone. When Fat Gramps was a young father himself, he was an even more handsome version of the movie star Robert Taylor. But now, gone were the bedroom eyes, seductive smile and thick, black wavy hair crowning a Hollywood face replete with a sharp widow’s peak. Looking at him, Steve only saw a grumpy, fat, old man with receding, white hair staring at him disapprovingly, from across the living room. Gramps’ brow furrowed and the corners of his mouth turned down on the verge of a scowl. Steve hated being caught modeling in his Nan drag by Fat Gramps, for he was always seemed so crabby. That look on his face was what the grown-ups called disgust. It was like when you went to the bathroom and got poop on your hands or wet the bed. Gramps didn't say anything, he just stared in stern judgment with that unchanging, mean, grimace of the typical fifties stone cold macho man. He died of a heart-attack a very short time later.

* * * * *

On another weekend night in his house on North Fourth Street, in Savanna, Illinois, his hometown, his Mom and Dad had company. That day, on a shopping trip into Clinton, Iowa, about a half-hour from Savanna, he had talked his Mother into buying him a gold and glittering pair of sparkling Sleeping Beauty high heels. Now, that he had a pair of his own, he wouldn't have to wait for visits to Nan's house to wear her shoes in order to feel like a lady. Now, he could be a lady walking around in his very own house, like a queen in her castle. His parents and the company were yakking on and on downstairs in the living room. It was exciting to have company. Upstairs in his bedroom he took the magical Sleeping Beauty high heels out of their plastic snap case. They were clear plastic with multi-colored glitter encased in the plastic, with one-inch heels, tall on a four-year-old's feet, but nothing compared to Nan's high heels. He slid his bare feet under the gold lame straps, adjusting them around each of his ankles. He got that shimmering, tickling feeling immediately, the same one he got when he wore Nan's high heels or her slip. The same sensation played between his legs when he pulled hard on Ms. Revlon’s thick coif to shape the French Twist or when he wore a long netted scarf or a long hairpiece on his head. He called it that “girl feeling.” Testing the heels out, he practiced walking around his room, occasionally stopping to point his toes or flex his ankles. With his Sleeping Beauty high heels on, he felt more free, commanding and somehow lighter. He took the bedspread off his bed, and slung it around his body like a cape dress, heading toward the staircase. He was filled with glee, for when his parents were occupied, he was free to explore the delicious girl feeling without the bother of them interfering or saying something stupid like "Why don't you go outside and play in the sand box with that Tonka toy crane we got you for your birthday, Steve?" Ick. He much preferred that playing-the-girl-feeling; dressing up as a princess, a queen, a damsel in distress or a helpless virgin just waiting to be rescued by some hero. That role was always played by Penny Stricker, Steve’s Tomboyish neighbor of the same age. Royal blood could not be bothered with toy cranes!

 Careful, now, he took the first step, navigating the stairs. He wanted to make a grand entrance in front of everyone in the living room below. Second step, carefully, elegantly, closer to the unassuming audience, third step…Whoa! One of the heels got caught on the bottom of the bedspread and he flipped back and screamed, sliding, bumping, and bouncing down the steps with their rubberized coverings, all the way to the bottom. His wind knocked out, he lay there gagging and struggling to inhale, but he couldn't catch his breath. Suddenly the hovering heads of his parents and their guests were gathered around and above him, looking down with grave concern. His father reached down and carressed him, gently. It was one of the only times he remembered his father touching him in that comforting way. Was his Mother rubbing the tops of his shoulders? Gradually his hiccupping and gasping subsided and he began to inhale, shallow breathes first, gradually becoming deeper. They were looking him over for further injuries but nothing was broken. The company politely ignored his Sleeping Beauty high heels but somehow, he sensed a quiet disapproval and felt an unspoken pressure to be ashamed for wearing these garish, girlish, sparkling things. Falling down the stairs was bad enough, but with these strange, garrish things on his feet! There it was again, that subtle feeling of disgust just hanging in the air.

That familiar feeling of suffocation, no air, and no breath, of being smothered, was one well. It went back to that time in that hotel room bed with his Mother. Gramps had died and shortly after the funeral, Gregg, his brother had stayed with neighbors while his parents took him away for a few nights. Here, at his first funeral, the thing they called Gramps lay like a rock, his still face like a fleshy mannequin in the stuffy, white, satin open casket with sickly, smelling flowers everywhere.  Everyone was crying. At one point Nan bent over to pet the hair on the top of Gramp's head and kiss him. Then his father lifted him to get him to kiss the Gramps too. He would not have it. He began kicking, screaming and making a crazy fuss. His father put him down real fast.

* * * * *

On that trip with his parents after the funeral, they checked into the Best Western hotel near Rockford, Illinois. In his own large double bed, with his parents across the room in theirs, he was having nightmares of death and vampires. There were funerals and dead things that looked like dolls, then the dolls were in pieces, shattered, shredded, cut and bleeding like small, miniature dead women. He heard his Mother say "Come over here, Steve." He got out of his bed and walked across the cold carpet to the bed where his Mother lay. Next to her, on the other side, his Father was snoring, already asleep. The sheets too were so cold and crisp as he got into bed next to her. She seemed to fall asleep; and he almost was, until suddenly he became aware of her hugging him. At first it felt good, he felt comfort and protection even though she held him tight. Then her hug became too tight. She rolled him on top of her tummy, and he noticed how black the darkness in the room was. Then he became afraid. The fear from his visions of vampires and the monsters came back in full force now. But his Mother was the scary thing now; her sheer power and the tightness of her grip making it impossible to breathe. The air was frigid from the air conditioner running on high. It happened.

The hotel room went black and he succumbed to fear and sleep, the darkness washing over him, the imprint complete, the damage done. He would recall for years how in a moment, his Mother's snuggling, and smothering grasp paralyzed, confused, and sucked the urge to fight back right out of him. The abuse memory flooded him like the venom a spider injects into its prey, paralyzing it, so that it can feed at it's leisure. At that moment, he was branded hers for years. He would subject himself to endless hours of therapy to determine why he was gay but stimulated by women. He would ask himself again and again why he went in search of women for physical or even emotional intimacy but then after the sex was over, or even without sex when the friendship ended; he usually ended up feeling betrayed, empty, and used.

Growing up, he was drawn to the feminine. She saw it was in him, and enabled his desire for being a girl and for girlish things. An unpredicatable woman, at one moment she turned on him for being so girlish. This wrought havoc on his connection to her and his own ability to connect with his feelings; in the next moment, she would be shining her seductive self on him, complementing him for his skill in art and drawing; or in awe for the emotional expressiveness he was able to reveal so easily when he acted in plays and musicals throughout his Middle and Senior High School years.

* * * * *

It was a warm summer night. He was five. He was sitting in the full-chair hair dryer in his Mother’s screened-in, porch-beauty-parlor of their house in Savanna, Illinois on North Fourth Street. The dryer was the crown most expensive piece of furniture in the small, porch-beauty shop. His Father had constructed the addition for his Mother. She got her beautician's license a few years before. The headpiece of the hair-dryer formed a kind of giant helmet over his head, after adjusting it by pulling it down completely covering his head and face. It was very dark on the porch with the lights off, but he wasn't afraid. Some of the neighbor's lights were on across the street. He could smell the grass and the damp summer night air floating in through the porch window screens. He turned the black power button on the right side of the dryer, and it came to life, blowing out rushing warm air like wind from a sea cave over and down around his head, hair and body. The dryer's leg rest was controlled by what seemed to be a stick shift. He pulled it back, downshifting for the trip and simultaneously raising his legs up and out. He was the rapturous star beauty queen flying through the universe riding a cosmic wind blowing through his hair, and over his head and face. The chair was his power throne space ship. He was traveling, thinking how beautiful he was, for he was neither he nor she, simply blowing wind and stars. The constant, warm rushing air of the powerful, blowing dryer erasing his worries, cares and confusions. He felt free, and infinitely alive, a tiny but courageous boy-girl astronaut traveling through space.

* * * * *

Fridays were busy days for the porch beauty shop. On this particular Friday, he was singing "Mac the Knife" along with the radio to three of his Mom's beauty shop clients while he lodged himself between the chair and the sink where they got their hair washed. He mesmorized the ladies as he sang. He could match any tune from the radio with his voice. After they went home and his Mother was closing up the shop, he was alone with her.

"Mommy, will you wash my hair please?" he asked her.

"OK kid, c'mon and jump up here" she gestured toward the slanted-back chair forming a bridge to the hair washing sink (can this be better—K thinks it’s too adult). Steve jumped up and sat down. His Mother adjusted the back so that his head fit over the basin. First, she rinsed his hair. Gently and smoothly, the water pouring over his head. He closed his eyes and drifted. The water just right, never too hot or cold.

"How's the temperature kid?” she would sk caressing her hands gently through his hair again and again, as she rinsed water through it via the rubber extension hose.

"Make it warmer Mom, warmer,” he said, and she did. "There, that's good" he said, making pleasure sounds. "Mmm. Aaah." Next came the soap and suds. She applied a bit of shampoo and gently worked the lather into his scalp. Nothing ever felt so good. Sometimes the water seemed that it might trickle forward but the way his Mother worked the lather and hose, it never ran into his eyes or down the sides of his face. "Oww, ahh" he said, his eyes closed, in that sensual safe place with her again, far away from the real world with its judgments of disgust, it’s unkindness and it’s disapprovals. It was safe here with her, safe to feel, and be who he was.


New York City, 1981

“Yeah, yeah, you’d like my dick in your mouth, wouldn’t you?” The reptilian voice popped the memories of his Mother’s warm caressing touch, killing the sensual daydream. Steve opened his eyes wide.

“No, I wouldn’t” he yelled in shock and disgust. Chico, the Latin beauty shop assistant had been washing Steve’s hair in Sidney’s, a hairdressing salon on St. Marks Place. Chico’s trademark outfit was baggy, orange pants with Gaucho boots and a tight black tee shirt. He had ringlets of full, shoulder-length, curly, black hair and a shadow smudges of hate in his sleazy, brown eyes. The owner, Sidney was always throwing shade at Steve from then on, somehow holding Steve responisble Chico hitting on him. What the fuck? Because he thought Steve was coming on to Chico’s advances? Why were people always trying to stick it to you when you showed a soft weakness for beauty? He never went back to Sidney’s salon. He saw Chico for years afterward, haunting the streets. At some point in the 90’s, he disappeared, along with Gringo. Gringo was the larger than life graffiti cartoon head drawing of a white man with blond hair, one patch over his eye and a half-smoked fag spilling out of his red lips; all on a blue background. He adorned the Northwest wall of a five-story building about fifty feet east of the Northeast corner of St. Marks and Third Avenue. Gringo was a symbol of the underground spirit; the renegade pirate welcome-wagon cartoon greeting all who dared walk east of Third Avenue where 8th Street offically became St. Marks Place. Gringo was also the outsider among all the Latinos who’d invaded in the 50’s and 60’s replacing and displacing much of the original Irish, Italians and Jews of the East Village, who’d left for the greener pastures of the suburbs. About 10 years post 9-11. Gringo vanished, a victim of NYU real-eastate development.

Around the same time Gringo disappeared, Steve had a Chico sighting. He reappeared, albeit now with a female companion. The orange pants were history. From his deck, looking down on East Sixth Street, one early summer day in 2010, Steve watched the couple walk their rickety, robotic walk east on Sixth Street to score on Avenue A. Moments later, he watched them reappear, walking back in the opposite direction, afterward. They were synchronized in their walk, like rictus-masked machines or a death-duo army. They walked their junkie soujourn on many hot summer days in 2010. Then, they disappeared around the same time Steve furnished the deck with the smiling Buddha and that little piece of green, the Foot Slave had been recommending for years; a single Fernspray Gold Cypress tree. Steve purchased both from Chelsea Garden to celebrate his sixtieth birthday party in July 2014 with a few friends. The tree didn’t acclimate well to the deck, dying three years later.

* * * * *

Savanna, Illinois circa 1960

            In his child-beauty shop days he felt peace with being who he was because his exposure to other kids) was minimized. But when he started school, he came to realize he had to conform to the way other little boys were acting, even though for him, that gender felt wrong.

One day, during his first year of kindergarten, he came home from school and sat down on the floor of the living room and took out his doll case. He had to destroy them, all the dolls, all the girl things. He knew that he was a boy and not a girl. He didn't understand, but he got the message that boys don't play with dolls and the tacit message that he had to stop playing with them.

First he disposed of Miss Revlon. He tied her to a chair leg with rough string and with the sharpest pair of professional hair cutting scissors he could find from his Mother's beauty shop, began cutting into the doll's skirt and blouse, shredding them. "I can't fix your hair any more Miss Revlon, I have to kill you and make you go away. You have to die,” he said gouging into the doll's small pupils with the sharp scissors. He chopped and cut away at her thick coif until it was gone and bristly, bald patches remained. He continued snipping, cutting, gouging and scraping. Soon the doll's hands were severed. One big snap and her partially baldhead was detached from her half-naked body. "Oww, oww" the doll was saying as the silent voices of Gramps, his Father and the other little boys cheered him on with their ringing, stinging shame. "Dolls are bad, bad for boys. You have to die" he said outloud, plunging the scissors into the Miss Rice Krispies doll next and sticking their sharp points in her head and face, to reach her brain, to stop her from talking, thinking, feeling. He cut into the head, removing half, then cutting the lips off, the eyebrows and nose. Barbie was next. He tore off her gorgeous, pink satin gown and sat her down on the floor, binding her arms behind. Her legs were spread out in front of her with the perfect little toe feet that fit into the perfect miniature sparkly, pink high heels. Snip snip snip and off came her feet. "Barbie I hate you” he said. He could hear her crying “Oww, oww it hurts Steve. Please stop stop!” “Shut up. You're a bad doll and you have to die. Boys don’t play with dolls." Gouging, snipping and cutting, he pulled the blond ponytail, straight up off her perfect, blue-eyed little head, hard. One final snip, and it was gone! Barbie looked like a porcupine-clown, the smart, 50’s pony tail now nothing but fuzzy stubble. He jabbed at her eyes and cut off her nose, then her chin, then her tiny ears. Next he pierced her pointy breasts, making holes where the nipples should be. He stopped and leaned back, looking at the dolls, damaged broken, sad and ridiculous with their shaved heads, missing limbs, and scarred, half naked torsos. He would never play with them again. He was a boy, now he knew. He was a boy and boys didn’t play with dolls. He picked up Miss Revlon one last time and kissed her, then he whipped her armless and legless body again and again against the legs of the chair until the plastic began to loose its shape. "Go away dolls, go away, I hate you all I hate you" he said. He killed them. He was free of them. He gathered all the pieces of their bodies and hair into his doll case and took it out into the kitchen.
            His Mother had on a red apron, was busy making chicken and biscuits. Turning and looking down she said, "Well, hello son. What are you up to?”

He dropped the box at her feet, crying "Mommie, I killed my dolls...I killed my dolls...I'm a boy and I can't play with them anymore, the kids at school said...I'm a boy and not a girl" he was shaking and wailing, his face scarlet with tears exploding out of his eyes. She knelt down and hugged him close. Something had spilled out of the case. She could see a tiny pair of hands, bound with twine.

"It's alright son, I love you and Daddy loves you and we'll get you some new toys, better than the dolls, OK? It's going to be OK, baby.”

"I don't understand Mommy, I don't understand why can't I be a girl?” he said.

"There there now son, it's alright, it'll be alright.” Later, after dinner while he was watching Superman his Mother quietly carried the case with it's damaged inhabitants outside and dropped it into the garbage can.

* * * * *

At recess a few weeks into first grade one autumn day, his class was playing Monsters. All the boys were Monsters and they were capturing all the girls and putting them into the torture chamber. Steve was running back and forth with the girls, (not running too fast though) alternately laughing and play-screaming loudly, hoping to be caught.

"What do you think you're doin' Orr?" said Kevin Riley, approaching him. He was the blond, husky son of a dairy farmer.

"I'm one of the girls, you have to catch me," Steve said, singing the last word and running away, play-screaming.

"You dummy! You're not a girl, you're a boy, you have to catch the girls with us, dummy. If you even are a boy that is! Ha ha" Kevin turned to the other boys. "Orr thinks he's a girl, ha ha." All the boys were laughing. "Stephanie’s a girl, not a boy, a girl not a boy." Kevin pushed him down then, laughing even harder as Steve fell. "Girl! Girl! Girl!" the words repeated in his head over and over again as he got up. He shrugged his shoulders and began chasing the girls then, trying to transform his scream into pseudo-macho low-pitched growls, as per the bully’s instructions.

The problem was that he didn't want to be a boy; he wanted to be a girl and to be with the girls! Even after killing all his dolls, the girl feelings were still there. This is when he first became acquainted with the feeling of rage. Because he was a boy, he was crucified for wanting to be with girls and act like them. Other boys saw him as weird, a threat, something to be abused and made fun of. He was a boy who felt he should have been a girl. Was he a mistake? Others thought something was wrong with him, and therefore, he got angry

            Beyond second and third grade, his closet girl was always there. He would still occasionally wear long lacey hairnets in public, and in private, play in his Mother’s make-up and wear her high-heels.

* * * * *

One summer between fourth and fifth grade, after not playing with dolls for a number of years it all came upon him again. He developed an obsession with one particular doll, the Pebbles Flintstone doll. Even children could relapse. Maybe it was the red hair or the bone tied to the little ponytail on top of her head. Maybe it was the thrill of seeing a cartoon character in real life. He thought about owning the doll night and day. It became his obsession.

"Nan said maybe she'd get me a Midge doll instead of a Pebbles." He was walking with his best girl friend Cindy Pittman back from the Tastee Freez on Main Street. It was around seven on a warm, Saturday night in Savanna, Illinois during the summer. You could feel the humidity and the smell the slightly fishy Mississippi River. He was staying with his Grandmother Nan for a few weeks. His Father had been transferred several times moving the family from various cities throughout the Midwest in the last two years, but whenever Steve came back to his home town, Cindy and he started up where they'd left off. They had just seen the five thirty showing of "One Hundred and One Dalmatians at the Times movie house.

"There’s a brand new Pebbles in at the Woolworth's in Clinton, I saw it the other day." They were licking their vanilla cones, the humid, twilight summer air causing the soft ice cream to melt. The “cold-ice-cream-headache” was passing as he sucked at the white drips as they flowed over his fingers. Huge swarms of shadflies and moths were circling a nearby gigantic streetlight. Across the street he could see the Miller's Pomeranian barking at a big, black cat.

He was always trying to impress Cindy and knew that he could be a girl with her. "They have a Midge there too, I really like the way her hair flips up. Did you know that she's even got freckles?"

"Wow" said Cindy, biting into her wafer cone.

"A-huh" Steve popped the last of the cone into his mouth, biting down and making the rest of the soft, sweet runny ice cream explode in his mouth.

"Ow ow ow--headache" said Steve again feeling the cold in his brain. He pressed his hands to his forehead and nose. Then "Hey-do you want to come with us to Clinton tomorrow? I might even buy that Midge or Pebbles, I'm not sure which yet. I think Pebbles costs more but--"

"No, I can't. Mom's dressing us all up for church tomorrow then after, we're going to Galena for Mike's baseball game" Cindy said. They were on their way up the steep hill that ended with the Hamadeau steps that rejoined North Fourth Street. North Fourth, was one of the highest streets bordering Savanna near the Hospital Hill. Steve hated and feared Mike, Cindy’s brother, he was a mean, awful bully. But he still had a severe crush on Charlie Pittman, Cindy's dad, after seeing him naked once.

Charlie was a utility man and worked third shift for the electric company. One day when they were all playing Hide ‘n Seek in the Pittman’s two story house, Steve wandered into an adjoining closet from Mike's bedroom upstairs that connected to a closet in his parent's bedroom. He emerged from it and stopped, frozen. There was Charlie Pittman sound asleep and spread out, on his stomach, buck naked in all his musky, manly, hairy glory. His long, lean, muscular, naked body was stretched out on the bed like some beautiful exotic animal, the covers carelessly tossed aside. Steve could smell him and felt a tickle between his legs as he stared. Then he noticed that thick almost creamy curly and wavy brown hair that covered Charlie’s head like a velvet halo. Oh how he wanted to touch that hair and run his hands and fingers through it the way his Mother did to his hair when she washed it. Steve was fascinated at Charlie’s man’s body. That tickle sensation between his legs was now getting stronger! He didn't know a man could look all that warm, hairy, muscular and inviting. His own father was just fat but Charlie! The tickling feeling became stronger, like when he went over and down from the top of a Ferris wheel ride and felt the magic, tickling worm sensation flash through his core. Now, he didn't want to play Hide ‘n Seek anymore. Charlie stirred and Steve froze again. He wanted to get closer, to crawl into the bed, touch Charlie and lie on top of him; hug him and rub on him and feel safe and warm and hot with him. He wanted to explore and follow that tickling worm feeling, oozingly close to Charlie. He just knew he would feel happy inside and outside and all over! Again, he breathed in the man’s musky, raw smell even more, his eyes settling on Charlie’s naked butt. That’s where the shit was, the heat and the hot, wiry, spider-like hair. He knew that from his Mother. He took a small step forward, terrified and excited. Suddenly, he heard Cindy giggling loudly outside the door, jerking him awake from his man lust trance for her Dad.

* * * * *

The next day, Cindy was busy with church and her brother Mike's game. Nan, Steve and his Mother went shopping in Clinton just as he had hoped. Clinton was in Iowa, about thirty minutes away. He promised to meet his Mom and Nan in an hour, in front of the store after he went to the toy section. As he entered the Woolworth’s, he smelled coke and chilidogs from the fountain. The springy, wooden floor creaked as he walked toward the back of the store to the toy department. First, he pretended to look at the boy stuff; the boring basketballs, baseball bats, and gloves, catcher’s masks and tennis rackets. Then there were the trucks. He passed a father and his son (the boy looked about his age) ignoring them. Where was it? Here! Here at last was the girls’ section. Nonchalantly, he floated over to it. Immediately, he began to feel more alive with the color pink was everywhere. There were play kitchens, baking sets, dress up and make-up kits; and further down were the dolls. Yes, and there, there was the Pebbles doll. He approached as if he were in church, approaching the altar. He got closer. He looked furtively around making sure no one saw him, and then he reached down for her. He couldn't take her out of her box, for she was attached to it, actually wired into it, which seemed cruel somehow. He picked up the whole box. He couldn't believe how real she looked. Not like a real little girl, but like the Pebbles TV cartoon come to life; complete with freckles and bright green eyes. And there was that little, fake plastic bone tied in the top of her shiny, red pony tail on top of her head. He touched her hair; it was soft, smooth and slightly metallic. The bone was actually disappointing; the plastic felt too light and hollow with a seam running down the middle. He could smell her plastic body. He just stared in wonder at those always-open, painted on, bright, green eyes. Oh, how he wanted to own this doll. He heard someone coming so he quickly dropped the box back onto the display shelf and walked in the opposite direction. It was two girls and their mother. They passed by the aisle where he was. He quickly walked back to Pebbles and stared at her again. He touched her arms and legs in the box. She was stiff. But there, there a few feet away was another doll. It had white hair and was dressed in a soft, plush, pink fleece jumpsuit with booties, and a bib. It lay in it’s own box with its eyes closed. He moved closer to it and began touching it. It’s skin felt so real, more real than Pebbles’ and the arms and legs were so much softer than Pebbles’ too. And it was bigger; it was life-sized like a real baby. It was so real it was almost scary. It lay in its box like some sleeping thing. As he picked it up, the arms and head fell back. It felt so alive. As he held it upright, the doll’s wrinkled eyes still stayed closed like a newborn. He brought the Baby Doll up to his face and hugged it to his chest. He could almost feel warmth from its body and a tiny heartbeat. The floppiness, the helplessness of her was tickling him between his legs. He wanted this doll so bad. He didn't want to let go of her. He began hugging and kissing her, pressing his cheek to her oh-so-soft face and head. As he pressed it closer and harder, he felt himself getting harder. For a few a moments he forgot where he was. He was just hugging and kissing this big, pink, soft, alive Baby Doll. Suddenly he stopped, hearing people approach. He dropped her down quickly too and as and he let go, she flopped and bounced back into her box, as if she were unconscious or dead. Strangers appeared immediately, just inches from him, so he turned away quickly, ignoring them as they passed, again pretending to be searching for the boys’ section.

He was learning how to pretend. Becoming an expert at it. His gender had betrayed him but through subterfuge, he could get what he really wanted. He became a master at pretending and his fantasy life became intrinsic to his survival; for the world in its real state was much too mean and ugly for him, still he embraced the secret world of girl feeling, for this was his real self.

















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