The Boys

When I was little, my sister and I grew up next to some boys close to us in age. Their names were Joey and Alex, and I can’t remember which name belonged to which boy, only one was Danielle’s friend and one was mine. And I say “grew up” next to loosely, since the boys likely only lived next door to us for a year. Still, it was a year or a season in a time when we were all young enough to still be small, but big enough to have a little freedom to play undisturbed in our backyards and shared driveway. Small enough to not think each other had cooties, big enough to break rules, trap frogs, pick flowers, and be simultaneously fascinated and afraid of the beautiful woman who was a bona fide witch who lived next door to the boys. She was named Storm, and had a cat named Midnight. Storm was one big thrill of many small ones on our street, her main competition being a creek under the railroad tracks we were strictly forbidden to play at, and a terrifying across-the-street neighbor who got drunk in his front yard and liked to show off a tattoo of a rabbit he had around his belly button.

I’ll let you figure out what part of the rabbit’s anatomy the belly button stood in for as I try to get back on track to these boys, these wonderful boys at the edge of my memory and at the root of every close friendship I’ve had with a man.

I used to have more memories of these boys, crystal visions of things they said or the way they laughed, and now I mostly just remember little images of us and them, and an overwhelming, general feeling of completeness, comfort, and adventure.

These memories, in and of themselves, are likely mixed with other peoples’ stories, all crossed and wrong and mix-matched, but the true ringing thing is the feeling of being known and facing the unknown, Together. The kind of Together only children seem to manage easily- or at least, without being so afraid.

I don’t often go “aw yiss childhood dawww” but this little window of it is drenched in the magic hour of memory and the envy of a time when little minds let themselves hitch up to other little minds to create a big one, a sparkling miniature network of imagination and collaboration, something borderless but individual all the same.

I wish I had some concrete example of What It Was to point to, but instead there is only a flash of me and My One quietly picking violets (weeds), Danielle and Her One playing on our swing set, the sound of them distant while me and My One tried to spy on Storm.

And as an adult sometimes this feeling has rushed through me, during a conversation or event or memory in the midst of being made. It is a dawning feeling, with certain friend-men who let themselves float in a perhaps childlike space of tenderness and play, sensitivity and brashness, goofy, quiet, fun adventure, men who give the gift of relaxed respect and vulnerability to their friends and hopefully themselves, though it is so much harder to do when you’re not small.

I am thinking of those boys I lost, but find again sometimes, without even looking. TBT Y'ALL.