Kim was the first girl I publicly admitted I “liked.”
But even in sixth grade, the expression of those affections took on a distanced,
even fetishistic quality. By that time,
Robert was back to liking Chris, our third grade Cootie Queen. And
he was in the powerful position of having janitorial duties at our school,
and so, after-school access to classrooms. When everybody was gone,
we would sit at the desks of our respective beloveds, running our hands
along the desktops, kissing them, and searching the insides for notes,
diaries and other clues that might help our individual quests.
I wasn’t prepared for what we found.
On a page in Kim’s notebook she had paired up sixth grade boys and girls.
Dan and Merry, Chris and Robert, Kenny and Maria and Kim and Terry.
“Kim and Terry?” I fumed to Robert.
“How can she like Terry? How can I compete with somebody who’s dead?”
Well, of course, I couldn’t. And so I continued to pine for Kim,
hoping that eventually her affections would turn again to the living.
They did. But as fate would have it,
Kim’s affections turned not to me, but to Robert. She started
hanging around with our group, and at first I thought it was to be near
me. I had discovered the Marx Brothers the year before and had taken
to walking like Groucho. I would stride in a crouching lope across
the playground, wiggling my eyebrows and flicking an imaginary cigar.
Nobody else had ever heard of the Marx Brothers. They thought I was
just being crazy Peter. Once, in a playful mood, Kim said, “Hey,
let’s walk like Peter.” And she followed me around imitating my Groucho
walk. I was in seventh heaven. For to me, this was as good
as an admission of love.
The next day, Kim picked a flirtatious fight
with me. It wasn’t very different from the disastrous incident with
Merry that led to me giving her a swollen jaw. But now I was mature,
and understood the rules better. I don’t remember what we were fighting
about, but I do remember how I blissfully allowed Kim to pummel me on the
back with her clenched fists.
“You were loving every minute of that,” Robert
later observed. But the bliss was short lived. For soon I learned
through the 6th grade grapevine that all Kim’s attentions and flirtations
were just an excuse to be near Robert. Once again, I was furious.
And once again, I vented my confusion and hurt at Robert. He had
been my only ally and champion, and didn’t deserve my anger. But
passion does strange things. I stalked up to him on the playground,
mouthing words I must have heard in old movies on TV.
“Now you’re in for it, pal. This is
the last straw. You’d just better watch your back that’s all I can
say, you double-crosser.” Once again, Robert must have thought I
had lost my mind.
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