This story is autobiographical in nature with a bit of literary license thrown in. Chucky was real. So was Stevie, and so, obviously, was I. The overall story is accurate though some of the specific details are fictionalized for the purpose of the story telling. My thanks as always to my Beta Reader and Editor, Tinnean, You’re the best. All mistakes are my own.
At six years of age I had a crush on another boy. He was my age or maybe a bit older.
His name was Stevie.
He was a cousin of sorts. That is to say that his aunt was married to my uncle so somehow he usually ended up at most of our family gatherings. But it wasn’t at a family gathering where I first encountered him.
No, the first time I ever saw him was at church. For my family, it was our first Sunday attending that particular congregation because we’d moved to the community from another part of the state the previous week.
The Sunday school hadn't started yet, and I was busily making friends with the other boys sitting around me when Stevie was carried into the room in his father’s arms. His leg was broken, as evidenced by a plaster cast. His father explained to us that Stevie and his mom had been in an auto accident.
His cast was interesting, no doubt, but I was more interested in the boy himself. His hair was black and worn in a crewcut. He had the cutest face, and I became an immediate prisoner to his smile. He was all I could think about for months.
He seemed unreachable to me so I constructed stories in my mind about him. As an adult, I would have called what I did at the time living in a fantasy, but Little Me saw it as making up stories, and even at that young age I realized it wasn’t reality. They were purposeful stories that I engaged in at specific times, like after my mother had tucked me into bed at night, or on a hot summer afternoon as I was lying on our front porch swing because it was way too hot to be playing out in the yard at my “play place.”
In my stories we would hang out together, Stevie and I. We played. We cuddled. We kissed. We loved each other in sweet and innocent ways. In my child’s mind our imagined love was a pure, simple, and perfect thing.
I was not aware there was such a thing as sex when I was that age, and, though I lacked a sophisticated knowledge, physical closeness was an important component of my fantasies. I was to learn a few short years later about the whole “You can touch mine if I can touch yours” sort of thing many kids get up to when they’re small but it was never a part of my life or my stories. Certainly, in light of the conservatism I was being raised in, touching another boy’s pee-pee fell into the category of the forbidden, but I never knew about such things, and it never crossed my mind at that young age. I only knew that I desired to be physically close to another boy. It just was, and I never questioned it.
Stevie's family moved away the summer before we would have entered school as a first graders; the summer after I turned seven. I was brokenhearted, not only because he was gone, but also because somehow the thread of the story was lost once he was no longer there. Looking back all these years later, I’m not sure why, but maybe it was because there were no further sightings of him to fuel my fertile imagination.
Yes, Stevie had disappeared from my life, but as is the way with young children, I was easily distracted when school started soon thereafter, giving me a whole new set of interests to occupy my mind.
I didn't know it at the time, of course, but my story creating world received a new lease on life with the onset of my formal education. My parents had chosen a small parochial school that combined first and second grades in the same classroom for a total of twenty-five students. My school experience was not yet an hour old when I discovered the cutest little second grade boy named Chucky sitting on the other side of the room. He was a little smaller than me but not by a lot. Like Stevie, he had that black, crewcut hair I adored so much. Unlike Stevie, he had the cutest little button nose and the most lovely dimples on his cheeks. I developed a monstrous crush from the moment I first laid eyes on him. Stevie became a distant memory as I cultivated my fantasy world with new and exciting stories involving Chucky and me and the love we would share.
I found school to be a great deal of fun. I loved spelling, reading, and history; I tolerated math and science, and I adored recess. One of the best times though was the “nap time” after lunch when we were required to put our heads down on our desks and listen as the teacher read stories to us from books about the exploits of boys and girls from other countries and and other times. I always positioned my head on my arms in a way that allowed me to look across the room and watch Chucky as he rested his head on his own arms. Often I would see him looking back at me. When our eyes met he would smile. I was transported when that happened.
Life went on like that until one day in mid-February when fantasy took a strange left turn into the realm of reality. Our teacher informed us at the beginning of the month that Valentine's Day was coming up soon and we would all be expected to bring valentines for our Valentine’s Day party. There were clear rules by which the valentine game would be played. Each boy was to bring one valentine for each girl in the classroom and every girl was to do the same for each of the boys.
I thought that was pretty cool. The teacher sent us home with notes explaining what was required and I dutifully gave it to my mother, along with my own verbal version of the event as I understood it. My explanation was probably lengthy and delivered with over-the-top excitement, but to my way of thinking at the time, this was better than Christmas. I was probably hard to live with that evening, but after dinner mother and I ended up at the Sprouse Reitz store where we bought a box of suitable valentine cards. I proudly took them home and filled out the appropriate blanks with the names of each girl in my classroom. I had a few of the cards left over so I pinned them to the wall beside my bed pretending they were special cards, given to me by Chucky.
On Valentine's Day I brought in the requisite cards and with self-satisfied pride slipped them one at a time through the slot in the top of the large, tinfoil red box our teacher had placed on the corner of the her big oak desk at the front of the classroom.
I wished like everything I could have given a valentine to Chucky but the rules our teacher handed out were specific; I was a boy, and that meant I was to give one valentine to each girl, and besides, giving a valentine to another boy was kind of a scary thing to think about. I had not yet encountered what I later knew to be homophobia in my short life, but the non-verbal model society presented to me told me that men loved women, boys loved girls, tom cats loved pussy cats, girl dogs loved boy dogs, and bulls loved cows. There was no available model for me that said that boys could love other boys. But I wanted to.
Lunchtime was zero hour. The excitement in the room was palpable. Several of the best-behaved children were allowed to pass out the valentines to the rest of us. It saddened me to discover I was not included in that group, but then I never was, even though I was a quiet and well-behaved child who never caused problems. The teacher did have her favorites however, a fact that I accepted with only a bit of puzzlement. There were, after all, more important things for a first grade boy to consider in life other than favoritism.
In our classroom there were twelve girls and thirteen boys, so as the valentines were passed out I counted the little envelopes as they piled up on my desk till I had the right number, twelve envelopes of varying sizes. Once I knew I had them all I started tearing them open one at a time. Since the number of cards and the number of girls in the classroom had matched when I started opening my valentines, I was surprised when another card landed on my desk, delivered by a girl named Virginia. I didn’t like Virginia. She was one of the “best-behaved” children that received special favors from the teacher, but not only was Virginia bossy of the rest of us when the teacher wasn't looking, she also smelled bad.
Puzzled about the extra card, I recounted. Sure enough, I now had thirteen cards when I should only have had twelve. I thought to myself that perhaps, because my teacher was a girl that she’d given me a valentine also but that would have been weird because she had a husband! Ewww! Shrugging it off, I continued to methodically open my stash of cards, setting the envelopes aside in a neat pile, reading the messages on each one as I opened them, smiling and happy as I did so.
I must have been about halfway through the process when I tore open an envelope and a card fell out, but this one was different. Rather than the usual store-bought card with the store-bought message, it was obvious this one was homemade, but in a very neat and artsy way. Cute, is what it was, and memorable enough that even years later I can still see it in my hand. To begin with, it was by far the biggest of all of the valentines I had received. A quick look around told me that no one else had received a card like mine. It had white, pink, and red construction paper hearts on top of fine laced cloth hearts pasted randomly on the front of the pink and white construction paper card. On the front of the card among the hearts were printed the following words with a felt tip pen, in very neat, block letters:
“Teddy, It's Valentine's Day “I Need Someone To Be Mine - - -”
I opened it, expecting to see yet another note of adoration from yet another cootie riddled little girl. Instead, I just about fell out of my seat. On the inside page, surrounded by more homemade hearts and hand drawn little Cupids, on lacy cloth heart backgrounds was the inscription:
“Will you be MY Valentine, Teddy? “Love, Chucky”
My little-boy heart did backflips and somersaults. It went all aflutter with the wonder of what had just happened. In what felt like one of those slow motion dreams, my eyes lifted, scanning the room in the direction of Chucky's desk, way over by the windows where the second graders sat. There he was, looking my way, a slight smile on his face but not the bubbling-over-the-top kind of smile that I was used to seeing. Our eyes met briefly before we averted our gaze, perhaps embarrassed, only to yield, driven by an undeniable force to look once more in each other's direction. This time his smile was bigger, and I returned it, hesitant. In response to my smile he beamed his brightest hundred-watt grin in, and I'm sure mine became just as big in response, before shyness set in once more and we both looked away. Throughout the remainder of the valentine giving and receiving process we kept stealing glances at each other, smiling, either shy or effusive in our expression each time, depending on the particular brand of Cupid’s arrows that were flying back and forth between us at the moment our eyes would encounter each other.
Noon recess was fast approaching and with a precipitous, odd feeling I became ultra-nervous, wondering how to handle this new thing that had happened in my life. It was obvious Chucky liked me in the same way I liked him, and I realized with a sudden intensity that this was all beyond my experience. It wasn’t that I didn't want something to happen between us, I just didn’t know what that something was supposed to look like. I had no frame of reference to tell me what was supposed to happen next, but with child-like faith, I decided that maybe it didn’t matter so much; that it would all work out if I just left it alone and let whatever was going to happen to happen.
For our recess times, we always filed out of the classroom row by row, beginning with my row, next to one of the two big chalkboards, and ending with Chucky’s row way over by the windows. As my row was dismissed I walked with as much calm as I could muster, along with the other boys and girls, toward the door. We weren’t allowed to run in the classroom, but as soon as I made it to the exit door I dashed out onto the playground with the other kids. I ran and jumped, throwing my fist in the air in exultant celebration. Chucky loved me! He’d said so in his valentine! That fact alone was cause for celebration.
It was a warm, sunny day out, and on days like those, during the lunchtime recess, there was a wonderful, time-honored ritual that I loved to participate in. It was the waxing of the slide. With feverish excitement, boys and girls would take the wax paper that had come wrapped around the sandwiches their mothers had made for them, and wax up the slide by sitting on the wax paper and sliding down on it to make the surface “supersonic” fast.
Today though, instead of doing that, I did something else. I needed to think, so I went and sat on the ground, my back resting on the schoolhouse wall, way over in the corner where the big kid’s classrooms were. To my left was the schoolyard fence and to my right was a bush that kept anyone on the playground from seeing me unless they were standing next to the fence that stretched away from where I was sitting toward the far corner of the playground.
My mind was awhirl. The thought, ‘He likes me! He really, really, really likes me!’ played over and over in my mind. My little-child heart thrilled at the thought but was unable to process what it all meant. I gave up trying to figure it out, thinking that perhaps later tonight, as I lay in my bed creating another chapter of my story, I’d be able to spend some time making sense of it all. For now, I just let myself revel in my happiness.
I didn’t know how much time passed but my ears picked up the sound of someone approaching my hideout. I hoped, yet at the same time feared, that it might be Chucky.
He stopped when he saw me sitting there. I looked up at him. He looked down at me. Neither of us said a word. I moved over a bit. He took the hint and sat beside me.
“Did you like it?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said in my best shy boy voice, my eyes looking at the ground somewhere around my feet.
“How much?” he tossed a pebble against the wood planks of the fence.
“Lots.” I picked up the pebble from where it had landed by my left knee and examined it absently.
I dropped the stone and returned my eyes to his face. He smiled.
Neither of us spoke for a while. Our eyes roamed across what we could see of the playground from our hidden location in the corner. I felt his hand on mine as it rested on the grass at my side. Our eyes met and we held the gaze as I allowed him to take my hand in his. He squeeze it. I squeezed back. He scooted up beside me and kissed me sweetly on the cheek then looked away. My toes tingled and my spine sent delicious shivers through my body.
I leaned toward him just as he turned his face once again to mine. Before I could chicken out, I kissed the tip of his cute little button nose. His hundred-watt smile lit up his face. His eyes sparkled, his smile accentuating his adorable dimples. Our faces radiated happiness as our eyes locked and our souls sparked, while electric impulses flashed invisible between us. It may have lasted only a few moments or maybe a few minutes. How long didn’t matter. What mattered was that we were in sync. Our souls were in tune for however long this lasted, then, as if by mutual agreement, it ended. We jumped up and dashed out onto the playground to play with our friends. All was right with the world. We were insanely happy.
For the remainder of the school year, if we weren’t involved in formal games organized by the playground staff, Chucky and I were inseparable in the schoolyard. Sometimes we’d sit over in the corner and hold hands while we talked about the things we liked, or made up silly scenarios based on our favorite TV programs. We never talked of our “relationship” but it was an unspoken agreement that we liked each other. A lot. What else needed to be said by two small boys in love?
As the end of the school year neared I dreaded what was coming because I knew it would mean I’d not get to see Chucky much over the summer. Our houses were just too far apart. When school started up again in September, he’d be in the third grade and in a different classroom from me. The big kids had different recess times than us first and second graders which meant that even though we’d be in the same school I wouldn’t get to see him much except maybe for a few minutes in the morning before school started or in the afternoon when it was over.
On the last school day of the school year we sat in our corner for our last recess together. We held hands and promised to see each other during the summer by having our moms arrange times for us to play at each others houses. When the recess was almost over, he kissed me on the cheek and I kissed him one more time on the tip of his cute little button nose before we went back into the schoolroom for the final class of the year.
As it turned out, he and his family moved to another state in early June. I never saw him again.
I cherish his memory. In many ways he showed me the way forward. As I grew up, especially as I entered my teenage years with all the changes it brought to my life and to my body, his example on that Valentine’s Day of my first grade year became a beacon, a lighthouse if you will, that to a degree guided all the relationship decisions I would make during those tumultuous years, perhaps preventing me from self-destructing as many teens seem to do. He’d shown me love, pure and innocent, and I believe it was the memory of his innocent adoration that prevented me from settling for less than what I knew I deserved. The downside to that, if there is one, is that I was lonely during the early part of those formative, teenage years, yet in the end, I’m convinced that I won.
That, though, is a story for another time, I think.