Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Headlock (1993)

Here's another touching moment from my masculine childhood . . .



Jeff and I are not hip and we know it, but we both see a future in which we’ll be hip. We go on giving each other flattops and shearing team logos into our scalps. He spends the night at my house three or four days a week, even during the school year. Most nights, he asks for deermeat for dinner. Most nights he gets it. He’s one of few players in our school’s history to make varsity his ninth grade year and scores more points on the varsity team than I do on the junior high team. Which is neither here nor there, except that we played games of one-on-one to fifty almost every day this past summer, and I never lost by more than three points.
            His mom remarries the June after our ninth grade year, and he moves to a very nearby school, but still he moves. That summer is just like the last three, playing one-on-one to fifty, playing ping pong for hours, eating cookies late into nights while we play Nintendo, huddling in the dark until dawn talking about the great things we’ll do with women and other parts of our future.
            In the garage out back, we lift weights and throw darts and play ping pong and have an eight-foot-high basketball hoop we beat each up trying to score on. We keep a posterboard full of personal goals and competitions like most pushups in a minute, most situps in a minute, most pushups in a day, most chin-ups, height, weight, bench press, jump rope, most free throws made in a row, and anything else that comes up. He’s an inch taller than me, weighs half a pound more. He does sixty-one pushups in a minute, I do sixty; a hundred and fifty-six chin ups in a day, after I do one-fifty-five: the chart reads entirely like that, except for the mile time, which he refuses to measure.
            In the fall, his desk at school is empty and I survive, but I feel his absence. We talk on the phone and spend the weekends together and eventually we don’t talk on the phone and only see each other when he needs a haircut. He plays varsity at this new school, and I play j.v. Both of my school’s teams lose to both of his teams. He spends that weekend at my house, and we play one-on-one to fifty, win by two, which he wins 73-71. He asks about the tits and asses of all the girls he had crushes on at our school, though, to the touch, neither of us can tell a breast from a buttock with any real certainty. I tell him they’re wonderful. He tells me about the breasts and buttocks of all the girls at his new school. And they sound wonderful.
            He makes some new friends at school and tells me about Neil Sloss who’s new to the school and short but really strong looking. He’s a pretty cool guy, but some jock has a problem with him. The jock sucker-punches Neil in the gut, and Neil jumps up and puts him in a headlock. They hop around in a holding pattern for a minute or so, and finally Neil says, “Do you give up now? Do you want to be my friend.” The jock, on the brink of tears, yells out, “That’s all I ever really wanted.”
            Even into our thirties, Jeff’s on a short list of people I’ll schedule visits with when I return to PA. And it doesn’t make sense to me as a teen, but much later I’ll realize that every day for years, whether we knew it or not, Jeff and I held each other in submission moves like this, both of us knowing what we really wanted.

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