There are rare moments when one realizes life will never be the same, moments often described by such cliches as "turning point" or "crossroads." That afternoon in July, 1975, just a few months after my twelfth birthday, was one of those moments for me. Sitting on the cool concrete of my grandparents' basement floor beside the coolest boy I had ever met, incredible revelations manifested themselves before me and many of the questions I had asked myself were suddenly answered, even as new ones arose to take their place.
It may seem strange that a twelve-year-old boy might not have connected erections with an awakening sexual desire, but many boys at this time were not as aware, not as experienced in the ways of sex, as are boys of that age in the twenty-first century. It was not uncommon for a twelve-year-old in 1975 to still be a virgin, sexually as well as emotionally and spiritually and intellectually.
No one had sat down and discussed sex with me, so I knew virtually nothing about it. Oh, I knew the mechanics of biology. One day, my fourth grade teacher showed us a poster of something oblong with a strangely shaped life-form inside it. When she asked what it was, I happily answered it was a fetus in the uterus. The flustered Mrs. Koenig replied that no, it was a chicken in an egg, and several of my classmates asked her what a fetus and a uterus were. Getting no reply, they turned to me for an explanation, and my father was called in for a conference. It was suggested at dinner that night that I might want to avoid reading my father's college biology texts for a few years.
My knowledge of reproduction, though more advanced than my classmates', lacked some very important details. I knew that a cell from the male united with a cell from the female and grew into a baby. What I didn't know was how the male cell was introduced into the female. I was completely ignorant of sex until Anthony said those magic words: I was hard because I was feeling sexual.
My mouth was open as all kinds of revelations dawned up me. I was ready to reproduce! It was time for me to start liking girls! If my penis became hard when I was feeling sexual, then that meant that it must go into the female somehow. That meant I was supposed to feel sexual around girls. That meant I was supposed to feel sexual around girls. That meant I was supposed to feel sexual . . . oh shit.
My mind was working at warp speed and the Captain Kirk of my brain suddenly ordered my Mr. Sulu to bring the Enterprise of revelation to a screeching halt. I looked at Anthony and my mouth was open. He grinned.
I didn't know what to say. I just looked at him. Anthony grinned at first, but seeing that I was still frozen, his face took on an expression of concern and worry.
"Are you alright, then?"
I froze a moment and then said, "No. I feel sick again. I think I need to go to bed."
Anthony frowned. He started to put his arm around my shoulder, but I jumped up all of a sudden and said, "I have to go to bed. I'm sorry."
"Jon! Please don't be upset. Please. Are you alright?"
"Yeah," I said as I walked unsteadily toward the stairs.
When I reached them, I turned around. Anthony had a stricken look on his face.
"Are . . . are we still friends?"
I looked at him and saw his cute face contorted with worry, saw the way his dark hair fell over his ears, his slender arms held up to his chest as his hands nervously clutched. The feeling was growing again.
"I have to go to bed."
I turned and ran up the stairs.
I ran up to my second floor bedroom and fell on my bed. Lying on my stomach, I stared out the window beside my bed, stared at the giant apple tree in my grandparents' backyard. I listened to the traffic on Main Street, to the cooing of some doves outside the window, to the yapping of the neighbors' pug.
I had no idea how long I lay there or how or when Anthony left my grandparents' house. My grandmother came upstairs before dinner and looked in on me. I wasn't very communicative with her and she finally left in sad frustration.
That night, after dinner, I returned to the porch swing with The War of the Worlds, but, once again, I couldn't read. About half an hour after I had sat down, however, Anthony rode past on his bicycle. He simply looked up at the house as he slowly passed and sadly, fearfully, waived. I merely nodded my head.
A few minutes later, he rode back again in the opposite direction. Once again, he waived tentatively.
"Hey," I called out.
Anthony stopped at the driveway and looked up hopefully.
"Are you alright?" he asked again.
I smiled. He was so . . . cute. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be feeling, but I liked Anthony and it felt good to be around him. It felt good in my heart and mind. It felt good in other places, too.
"Yeah, I guess so."
"May I come up?"
I grinned at him. "Sure."
The porch swing looked out toward the street; I watched as he slowly rode up the driveway and then lay the bike in the grass before coming up the steps to the porch. He seemed a little quiet and careful as he approached the swing. He stood for a moment before I smiled and said, "Have a seat," as I patted the place beside me. Anthony gave me a sweet smile—there was just no other word for it.
"What are you reading?" he asked quietly.
"The War of the Worlds."
Anthony smiled broadly.
"My grandparents knew H. G. Wells! They were Fabians!"
"What's a Fabian?" I asked, thinking it might have something to do with the famous singer.
"They were socialists. I also have some relatives who live in Surrey."
"That's where the Martians landed!"
"I know. Woking, Horsell Common. My aunt and uncle live near there. I know all the places in the book. I used to love to imagine the Martian tripods walking along the road when we would motor over to my aunt's."
"That is TOO cool," I replied enthusiastically. For quite some time, we sat on the swing and spoke about Surrey, his family, Wells, the Martians.
I don't know at what point that I realized we were holding hands, but I think it was a gradual realization. When Anthony squeezed my hand, I looked at him and he smiled at me.
"Jon, you're the first real friend I've had since we came to America."
I smiled back.
"You're the first real friend I've had since I came to Canterbury."
Anthony looked furtively around. I knew why he was looking and I looked, too. When we both saw it was safe, we quickly hugged each other and, to my surprise, he gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.
No boy had ever kissed me before, except for when Anthony kissed me Sunday afternoon in the church. I hated to kiss or to be kissed, especially by my grandmother or her friends, but there was something different about Anthony doing it.
No sooner had he done it than he jumped up from the swing.
"It’s almost nine o'clock and Mum wants me home now."
I thought something was wrong, but Anthony had the most peaceful look on his face as he stood by the swing.
"Will you come over tomorrow?" I asked tentatively.
"Certain . . . uh . . . sure!"
"I had fun today!" I called out.
"So did I."
As Anthony walked through a cloud of fireflies to his bike and then rode up the street toward his house, I had the warmest feeling in my chest. And elsewhere. Only, this time, I didn't feel guilty about it. It was nice, and that night, as I lay in bed, almost overwhelmed by "the feeling," by the warmth in my body, by the stiffness in my "willy," all I could think of was Anthony holding me.
Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday. Anthony and I rode all over town and through some of the countryside to the west of town. When we stopped at his house that afternoon, his skin was almost burnt. His mother applied some lotion to his face and arms, admonishing him about being so careless and "American." But, she smiled at me slightly as I apologized for keeping him outside so long.
We then rode over to the church, snuck in the back door of the rectory and tip-toed past the office. We must have slipped in under the radar of The Runnymede for we made it safely to the sanctuary without incident.
As we slowly walked about the church, gazing at the craftsmanship of the stained glass and the statues, Anthony smiled, as did I.
"This is my favorite place to go to get away from everyone," I said.
"I can see why," he replied as we took a seat in the choir. "It's a nice place. Pretty. Peaceful."
We sat for several minutes until Anthony moved closer and took my hand.
"Have you ever been to the real Canterbury?" I asked. Anthony nodded.
"Several times. And, I've met the Archbishop twice. Dad was always doing important things with public figures. Have you ever read Murder in the Cathedral?"
"It's a play by T.S. Eliot about the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry the Second. My grandparents knew T.S. Eliot, too."
"My grandparents met Spiro Agnew once."
I shrugged sheepishly. "Never mind."
After a few minutes, Anthony put his arm around me again. I snuggled up close and put mine around him.
The afternoon sun was starting to shine through the rose window above the doors to the church, casting another warm glow over the pews. A feeling of peace came over me such as I had never known before. Anthony began to softly hum a song I had never heard before, but which sounded faintly sacred. I assumed it was an English hymn with which I wasn't familiar. His voice sounded so sweet, so angelic.
"This is the most beautiful place in the world," I said softly. Anthony stopped humming and turned to me with a smile. He leaned forward, but just as he was about to kiss me on the cheek again, his face froze and his eyes grew wide with shock.
"Young men should ask before they enter the sanctuary."
I turned in horror to the right and saw the terrible visage of The Runnymede in the door to the right of the altar.
"Will young men be joining Father for Evensong?"
"No, Mrs. Runnymede," Anthony replied serenely, quickly regaining his composure and his mastery of the situation. "Young men must return home for supper."
Was it possible? Did I actually see the start of a smile at the side of the normally hideous Runnymede mouth? Did her voice hint at just a possibility of tenderness? Could the Runnymede actually not be one of Satan's minions sent to earth to terrify the young into submission?
We both stood and solemnly filed past her. But, as we exited, I thought I saw the Runnymede claw, I mean hand, reach out and touch Anthony's shoulder.
When we reached the safety of the courtyard between the church and the rectory, I pretended to wipe sweat from my forehead.
"Whew, that was close."
Anthony smiled, but said nothing.
As we walked up First Street back toward my grandparents' house, a thought occurred to me. Anthony must have seen it on my face because he smiled and asked, "What?"
"Would you like to sleep over tonight?"
Anthony thought a moment and then smiled.
“That would be brilliant!"
My grandparents' thought so, too. Father Mac was enthused, though I could hear some discussion in the background as I called Anthony's parents to seek their permission. When the final authorization was granted, Anthony ran back to his house and returned in just moments with a small backpack containing his overnight things.
After a nice dinner of fried chicken—during which Anthony learned to eat chicken with his fingers!—mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob, Anthony and I watched a little TV as my grandparents went to Kroger to stock up for the Fourth of July cookout the next day.
My grandfather joined us when the ten o'clock news came on. I normally stayed up to watch the news and Johnny Carson's monologue, but my grandparents were surprised to learn I was a bit tired from all my bike riding. Anthony, too, was strangely afflicted with the same need for sleep, so, after kisses and hugs, we crawled upstairs.
I turned on the desk lamp in my room as Anthony sat down on the bed.
"This doesn't really look like a boy's room," he commented. And, it didn't.
"This was my parents' room when they lived here before I was born. We moved to Dallas just after I was born."
"This was their bed?"
"Nine months before you were born?" he asked with a wry smile.
"Well, yes. Why?"
"Oh, no reason. So why don't you have anything of yours in here?"
"Well, most of my stuff is in storage. My grandfather says there isn't any room for my stuff. But, I insisted on my National Geographic map of the Moon over there and my Texas flag by the desk. Oh, and my poster of Roger Staubach."
"Who’s Roger Staubach?"
I was shocked. I was not a serious football fan, but everyone knew Roger Staubach!
"He's the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys!"
"Who are the Dallas Cowboys?"
"Who are the Dallas Cowboys?! Anthony, how long have you lived in America?"
"Don't laugh at me!" he replied with some heat. "Do you know who Manchester United are?"
"Well, I'm not English!"
"And, I'm not American!"
"Well, you're half American and so you have to know who the Cowboys are!"
Anthony screwed up his face as if he were smelling something really awful.
"Well, if I have to."
"Hey," I said with mock encouragement. "Winston Churchill was half American. It can't be all that bad."
Anthony smiled and then I thought of something.
"Hey, that's what I'll call you! Winston. No, Winnie! That's it! Winnie the Pooh!"
"No, you don't!"
I began to dance around the room and sing, "Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh... ummph!"
I found myself on the receiving end of a quiet impressive tackle for such a slight twelve-year-old English boy! Lying on the bed with Anthony on top of me, I tried to catch my breath as he held my arms down.
"Where'd you learn to tackle like that?"
"That's where your fake American football came from!" And, with that, he planted a kiss on my forehead.
We both looked at each other a bit nervously and, then, Anthony climbed off me with a cute blush on his face, grabbed his night things and said, "I should get ready for bed."
I smiled and as he left for the bathroom. I stood up and pulled my summer pajamas from the dresser. When Anthony returned, I was wearing my pj's, with my hard thing hidden under the elastic waistband of the pajama bottoms and the shirt tail. From the funny way Anthony was walking, I figured he had done that same thing!
When I returned from brushing my teeth, my grandmother was just leaving and kissed me goodnight on the forehead. Anthony was already in the king-size bed under the sheet. I snapped off the desk lamp and crawled in beside him.
My bed was in the corner of the room up against the west and south walls, with the windows on the south wall right there by the bed. I had crawled over to the window side to give Anthony easy egress in case he had to pee in the middle of the night. Neither of us said anything; I was nervous and I figured Anthony was, too. I lay on my back, listening to the cars on Main Street a block away. I could see some stars in the sky and a billboard beyond the house behind us on Main Street. When I felt Anthony's hand take mine, I turned my head and looked at him.
Anthony had a sweet smile on his face. I couldn't help but smile back at him. Both our hands squeezed at the same time.
My thing had slipped out from under the elastic band and was poking up though the fly in my pajama shorts. Suddenly, I felt "the feeling" hit me harder than it ever had before. I felt nervous, as if I needed to run around the block or something. I felt hot all over. I felt short of breath. I felt something else. I didn't know how to describe it, but it was intense, whatever it was.
I looked at Anthony.
"I feel so . . . so strange."
Anthony smiled. "I know. I feel it, too."
"It's the way I felt when you hugged me."
"I know. Can I ask you something?"
I nodded faintly.
"Did you feel it when you looked at that chap in the National Geographic? The one who sailed around the world?"
I was almost panting now.
"Yes," I whispered.
We were silent for a moment. Anthony's hand was so soft, so smooth, so warm. It was slightly moist, as I was sure mine was. He squeezed my hand again and whispered, "Let's hug again."
"Oh, yeah," I replied.
I rolled over onto my left side as Anthony rolled over onto his right. I scooted forward and against his body and into his arms.
I thought I was going to die. Literally. As our young bodies came into contact, all the breath left my lungs. I clung to him and he clung to me. Tightly. I lay my head on the side of his, my chin on his left shoulder. I could feel my stiff thing poking out of the hole in my shorts and pressed against the silky cloth of Anthony's pj's. I could also feel Anthony's stiffness pressed against my own pj's. The feeling in my thing was beyond words. Our legs wrapped around each other and we seemed beyond rational thought. I wanted to hold Anthony and to be held by Anthony. I wanted to feel all of Anthony. I wanted Anthony to feel all of me. I wanted to kiss Anthony! Oh, yes. I wanted to kiss Anthony. But, I wanted something else, though I couldn't even begin to fathom what it was. All I knew was, I wanted it!
"Oh, Anthony," I breathed.
He pulled his head back and our faces met. I looked into his eyes, the light from outside casting a ghostly, silvery glow over his blue eyes. Suddenly, he pushed his mouth down onto mine and we kissed. His lips pressed fiercely against mine and we loved each other with tight, ferocious, closed mouth kisses.
With no conscious guidance from my own volition, I began to writhe against Anthony, my body rubbing and twisting against him, causing my stiff penis to rub against his silk covered abdomen, his own fiercely hard penis rubbing against mine and my abdomen. The feeling in my penis was beyond comprehension and I became crazed as I bucked and twisted and writhed against him.
"Nnnng, nnnng, nnnng!" I heard coming from within both me and Anthony.
"Oh, my God, Anthony!"
"Oh, Jon! I love you! I love holding you! I love this. Oh, God, I love this!"
We were out of the world, somewhere over the moon, clinging tightly to each other, pressing against each other as if not to would be to die.
And, then, I thought I actually would die. The feeling grew and grew and I was gasping and writhing and crying, as was Anthony.
At the same moment, we both cried out, "AAAHHH!!!!" And, in one infinitely ecstatic moment, we died and only slowly came back to life.
As the spasms that burst from deep within me ended and my penis ceased its insane pulsing, we both collapsed, gasping for breath, though still clinging to each other.
"Oh, my God!" I whispered. "What just happened?"
"I don't know," Anthony gasped. "But, I want to do it again!"
So, we did. And, when the same activity had produced the same result a second time, we lay in each others arms, exhausted and in love. I looked at Anthony's face for some time, gazing into his eyes, watching his sweet smile and the image in my eyes as we fell into sleep was of the boy I realized I was in love with.