Something in the Way He Moves…His Face

He was five.  He had freckles and he liked to climb trees. I was five.  I didn't have any freckles.  And I liked to climb trees too. He was going to be a fireman and I was leaning towards becoming an astronaut. We both liked boys and we were planning to marry and raise thirteen of them. Yeah. His name was Danny. No. Not you, Danny. And Danny was REALLY funny. He was the first and only mime I have ever known. He could hold a nonexistent needle in one hand and no thread in the other and pull that invisible string through that imaginary teeny-tiny hole in that needle and then stick the sharp end of that fake thing into the outside of one nostril and then pull it through his nose and then out the other side of his other nostril. Then he would take what you could almost see in each hand and he'd pull it back and forth and back and forth and those nostrils of his would flare out one at a time, following whatever direction he pulled that nothing in. HILARIOUS. The skin on his face was real thin and he could pinch it between his finger and thumb and pull it away from his skull,  jerk it from side to side, up and down and practically spin it in circles. AMAZING. He could cross his eyes and hold them there, FOREVER. Wiggling ears for him was no harder than taking a breath. With so much talent and such a promising future, who wouldn't have fallen for that guy? And Danny liked me, even though it turned out that I couldn't really climb trees. I gave it a whirl, but then my dad had to come and get me out of the big one behind his house. And my dad told me to quit climbing trees if I couldn't get down. Adults didn't embrace every little thing you did back then. They didn't enroll you in a class or therapy for your inadequacies. You just had to deal with the hand you were dealt. But I had to try it a few more times just to see if anything had changed, and unfortunately for my dad, no, I really never could get down. There was a swing set in a neighbor's yard where Danny and I liked to hang out. One evening, while the kid who lived at the swing set house was inside eating his supper, Danny and I spent his entire dinner hour trying to jump from his swing to the ground, in less than a second. Swingset "Okay, my turn," I would say. Then I would pump and pump my feet to get that swing going and then when I got up where I wanted to be in order to jump to the ground in less than a second, I would say, "Now."  And then as soon as I said, "now," Danny would say, "Sec." And every time he said, "sec," I was still in the air. Then it would be his turn. Then he would pump and pump his feet to get that swing going and then when he got up where he wanted to be in order to jump to the ground in less than a second, he would say, "Now."  And then as soon as he said, "now," I would say, "Sec." And every time I said, "sec," he was still in the air. We were both amazed at how fast a second was. Then I got smart. I decided not to sit on that swing and pump my feet. I stood on it and jumped.  Surely hitting the ground in less than a second could be accomplished this way. Nope. Then we started launching ourselves off that kid's picnic table. But we still couldn't land on the ground in under a second. When I told my brother about it later, he said, "You morons.  How long do you think a second is, anyway?" But that did not dash the love I held for Danny or the love that Danny held for me. We spent our days in the winter heaving snowballs at each other after school and studying the ice hanging from the drainage ditch bars.  There were tons of giant icicles piled up and they looked as though they were a sculpture.  We only either saw the water running through those bars or the water frozen mid stream, like somebody said, "now," and somebody said, "sec," and right then and there that water stopped doing whatever it was doing. My sisters, Louisa and Ki-Ki will attest to this. By third grade, kids grew tired of singing, 'Millie and Danny sitting in a tree, k- i -s- s-i-n-g, first comes love, then comes marriage,  then comes the baby in the baby carriage', because the only thing that wasn't true about it was, we weren't sitting in a tree, so we didn't give a crap. The best part of being Danny's girl was that he didn't care if I beat him at H.O.R.S.E as often as he beat me at P.I.G. over at the basketball court. And when that dreaded six week square dance course in fourth grade gym class began, I didn't have to hold hands with any of those icky boys. I ALWAYS danced with Danny. So, there we stood in the gym, boys on one side against the wall, girls on the other side against the wall. It was  the guys turn to go across the room and pick a partner. And, THAT SON OF A BITCH, slithered over the glossy floor in his white socks and he chose, Nanette fucking Roberts. I ended up with that boy who had perpetual B.O. Now, I don't care how funny Danny was. I wanted him dead. After investing five good years of my life, five good years of my life that I could never get back, it was all over. And do you know why Danny dumped me that day in that gym? Nanette Roberts had BIG fourth grade boobs. GIANT KNOCKERS. And Nanette Roberts couldn't throw a ball through a net if she spent an entire day in that very gymnasium AND she had the personality of a rock, no matter where she was. A week later, my broken heart, my basketball and I, spotted a pink chalked heart outlining the letters D. L. + N. R. DL + NR The atrocity was scribbled on the wall right behind a hoop I was trying to throw free throws into, by MYSELF. Life is full of change. I trudged through those dark fifth and sixth grade days. I gave up the whole tomboy thing and turned into, boy crazy, beginning with John Cowsill. Stop laughing. I have a feeling my dad preferred pulling me out of trees. I went on to middle and high school where the buildings were so enormous that it was common not to see anybody from your own neighborhood and I rarely saw Danny. Ten years after graduation, I turned up at our class reunion with a husband and pictures of our two boys. Then, I noticed a guy who used to hangout with Danny in the corner helping himself to a beer. I made my way over to him and said, "Hey Bill, how's it going?" "Hey, Millie, not bad.  How about you?" "Is Danny here?" "Nope," he said. And then he turned off the spigot and said,  "He's gay." "What?" I said. "Danny's a queer.  There's no way he's gonna show his face." And then he snickered. Well, that explained why we'd both been so partial to boys. Now, if I'd have been seven years old at the time or fifty seven years old at the time, I would have punched Bill in the face, put his neck in an arm lock and stuffed his mouth full of grass. But, it was 1985. I was twenty-eight. And I was all dressed up. All I said was, "Oh," and then I walked away. Sorry, I didn't have your back that night, Danny. I should have kicked him where it counts. It won't happen again. But Nanette Roberts? COME ON.

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