I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Red barns, tilled farmlands and simple, mostly uneducated people. A boy named Egghead used to hang around my aunt’s farm. His brother’s name was Jughead. No kidding.
Egghead’s mom used to grab him by the ear, shove the rounded end of a bobbie pin inside its narrow well, and pull out a bounty of orange earwax, while poor Egghead fought for release like a fish on the end of a hook.
There was an escalator-type conveyor belt that carried hay into the highest part of the barn. Sometimes it carried me and Egghead too. One day he told me he had a surprise for me, so I followed him up into the peak of the rafters where a void of light filled a hot summer day with a sense of moonless midnight.
“Close your eyes,” he instructed, as he guided me to a bale beside him. The blackness of the moment made closed eyes redundant.
“Now give me your hand,” he continued, reaching his rough fingers across my own. “Here, feel this.” I felt something tall and hard and warm. Oh my God, I thought, it’s the boy thing he pees out of. Gross!
I wish I had yelled at him. I wish I had knocked him backwards and yelled, “Egghead, you are gross.”
But, true to form, I got up scared and quiet. I got up pretending it never happened and did not want to play with Egghead anymore. Not ever.
If I could do it over, I would have knocked him on his butt, but then I would have hugged him and said, “Egghead, don’t ever do that again because it scares people. You don’t want to scare people because you need friends. Your life is hard enough already!”