I’ve always liked older boys.
One summer day long ago my mother took me to the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round. I don’t remember if it was my first trip to a merry-go-round, but I remember how excited I was to be able to ride on it by myself. I felt all grown-up. Mom gave me enough money to take several rides and then left me to my devices. I think we went with a friend of hers, and she and her friend went off and chatted while I re-upped on the merry-go-round over and over.
The attendant was a teenager, probably around 15 or 16. He had long brown hair and a skinny frame. He didn’t say too much to me at first. But after my second ride he came to me and told me that I should switch up horses between rides. So I gleefully went from horse to horse from one cycle to the next.
I remember wishing that he would ride with me and talk to me. I thought he was rather pretty. I liked his hair. Who knows what we would have talked about. I was only 8 or 9 or something. Maybe 10, tops. What would I say to a big kid like that? But still the thought possessed me as I went round and round. I lacked the slick moves that my godson apparently has in spades. My partner, his parent, and me took him and his younger sister to the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland a few years ago and as we were waiting in line to look through the telescope, he was clearing making the moves on the girl in front of us. He was 8 at the time; she may have been older. My friend, his father, and I were looking at each other and saying stuff like “check this shit out!” in whispered tones. I can’t describe exactly what it was, but we knew what we saw. He had been hyper that evening, but all that vanished. He was smooth talking in a low voice, his body loose yet in control, his eyes making contact. Heaven knows where he picked up these moves, but it was rather impressive. I expect it was just innate.
Nothing of the sort existed for me at that age. I had no moves, at least not like that. Though I did notice boys early on. I remember Underroos TV commercials from when I was 7. Boys and girls my age and a bit older ran around in their tighty whities to demonstrate how much fun Underoos were to wear. I remember not caring about the product as much as I did the boys advertising it. I doubt I tried to talk my parents into buying some. It wouldn’t have felt right to ask for a certain brand of underwear. They might have asked why this brand, and self-consciousness would have made me fumble over an answer. I was generally too earnest a kid to prevaricate, but at the same time I would not have wanted to say “because I think the boys on TV look cute in them and I want to look cute, too.” So I never talked about them with my parents or anyone. I just silently waited for the commercial to air during Saturday morning cartoons and hoped that no one would notice my acute interest in it. Heaven knows where I learned to censor myself like that. I expect it was just innate.
I remember the last ride on the merry-go-round clearest. On this occasion, I got on a horse that didn’t jump. I had been on a bunch of jumpers and I thought I’d try one of the stationary ones. Today on the Griffith Park website they boast that each one of their horses are jumpers. Maybe they always were and this last one I got on was busted. I don’t know. But I remember the teenaged keeper came over to me as the ride was starting up and told me that I should only get on the horses that moved. He didn’t explain why, but he wasn’t mean or scolding. In fact he was quite nice about it. And he smiled. Ah! Be still my heart! I got all warm inside. I lacked any moves, but I’m sure my eyes twinkled a bit as I smiled back and said, “OK.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was out of tokens and it was my last ride.
I was sad that it was the last ride. I had gotten my fill of the merry-go-round, but we had finally connected. Maybe on the next ride, he would have ridden with me.
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