Joel, who also liked looking at boys with muscles; Robbie, a hookup at the bookmobile one summer: and David Angel.
Not the David Angell who produced Cheers and Frasier. A slim, shy boy, puppy-dog cute, with dark hair and dark blue eyes and nice hands. We played occasionally, but never became friends, I think because there were so many bigger, bolder guys around. It was one of those relationships that might have gone somewhere, but didn't.
I have three good memories of David:
1. One day at recess we all decided to take nicknames. David wanted "Muscles."
"But you don't have any muscles!" I protested.
"Sure I do. I'm real strong! Feel."
He flexed a small, hard bicep. I cupped it with my hand.
"You're right. It's really big." Flushed with an warmth that I didn't understand, I moved quickly away.
2. In the spring of sixth grade, shortly after we went to "A Little Bit O'Heaven," Joel invited some of us over for a sleepover. His small twin bed was only big enough for two; everyone else had to make do with sleeping bags. We spent the evening wondering who would be the Fifth Boy, the boy invited to share Joel's bed.
At bedtime, Joel said "Everybody else here has been in my bed before, so it's David's turn."
"That's ok -- I like the floor," David said. "Why don't you let Boomer?"
Joel glared at him, and my boyfriend Bill glared at me, but neither of them could say anything as I took my place beside Joel.
3. In junior high, we had gym class together, and I got one of my first sausage sightings of David in the shower.
And three bad memories:
1. We were playing once when a middle-aged woman appeared. "Your father won't let me in the house," she told David. "There's food cooking -- I need you to go turn the stove off, so it won't burn." Weird and creepy.
2. David never invited anyone over to his house to play or watch cartoons. We were intimately familiar with every other house in the neighborhood, but not his. So one day Bill and I knocked on the door, ostensibly to invite him to go to Schneider's and look at comic books, but really to get a glimpse inside.
"We were just..."
"Get out!" he whispered. "Get lost!"
3. One day in junior high gym class, David was stripping down, and I saw a large red-and-purple bruise on his chest.
"Wow, how did you get that?" I asked.
"What, this?" He quickly covered it up. "That's nothing. We were just playing around. It happens to everybody."
"Who was playing around?"
"Um...my cousin and me. Just playing around, no big deal."
I couldn't imagine what kind of playing around might cause a bruise like that.
Ok, I get it now: these are obvious signs of domestic and child abuse. But what kid in the 1970s would think of that?
And one mixed memory:
During our senior year in high school, Bill told me that David went crazy. All of a sudden he forgot to how speak English, and he only knew a few words of Spanish, so he started yelling "Te amo! Te amo! Te amo!"
We went to visit him at the East Moline State Mental Hospital. We were directed to a big, airy room where patients in bathrobes were playing pingpong and foosball. At the far end, several sat on chairs watching One Life to Live.
But he didn't act shy or wounded!
"Hi, guys!" he exclaimed. "Rapley let you out early, huh?"
Bill and I glanced at each other. Mrs. Rapley was our fifth grade teacher.
David laughed. "I'm just joking with you. I know what year it is. Let's have a hug."
He stood and gave us each a bear hug, and sat us down on either side of him.
"So, what's new with you guys? You still an item?"
"An item?" Bill repeated. "What...what do you mean?"
"An item -- you know, like giving each other flowers and chocolates and carving your names into trees with little hearts!"
My face burned. "David, you know that we're both boys, right?"
"What are you talking about?" Bill asked in a curt, angry tone.
"David is confused," I told him. "He doesn't mean to imply anything."
"Hey, just because I'm crazy doesn't mean I can't see what's right in front of my eyes! Now you gonna kiss, or what?"
"Um..actually, we broke up awhile ago." I figured that was the only way to end the uncomfortable conversation.
"Yeah. We're still friends, of course, but we're dating other...um...guys now."
"That's too bad. You make such a cute couple! Maybe you'll find each other again later on, in your next life."
We chatted for awhile longer, about other things, and then left. In the parking lot, Bill said "Wow, David is worse than I thought!"
"Completely delusional! Where'd he ever get the idea that we were...you know?"
"Next he'll be claiming that we're little green men from Mars!"
Two months later, I finally discovered what David had known all along.
The adults are lying -- only real is real.
We stop the fight right now -- we got to be what we feel.
See also: I Figure It Out; and My Top 15 Sausage Sightings