It wasn’t my first erection, but none of the others made big, strong, manly ideas sprout in my brain like this one. Trailers from the HBO adult channel I’m not supposed to watch. Close ups, still shots, three-D images, starring fourth-grade girls with high school breasts—names and faces optional.
It all seemed pretty weird, but I didn’t care, because suddenly I was faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and owned a body that was way to cool to keep under wraps. For the first time in my life, I could stand naked in the shower room of the Public Swimming Pool and look people in the eye.
I shouted something unintelligible in a voice that cracked like it just ran head long into puberty. Other boys were shouting too, but for the first time ever, my voice was the deepest, hardest, scariest of them all. The voice of some one who insults girls and beats up sissies on the playground. The voice of a country and western singer accepting a grammy after a fistfight in a redneck bar.
I usually changed carefully from my swimming trunks to my regular clothing, like a super hero trying to maintain his secret identity, because the dressing room was packed with naked boys. Their eyes were full of ridicule looking for a target, their mouths full of judgment waiting for someone to condemn. My older cousin Billy was one of them; he knew everything I hadn’t known until that moment.
Normally I’d hold my towel so my soft parts were protected, I’d disguise my vulnerability as modesty, but that didn’t seem like such a good idea any more. Now I had the opportunity to stand naked in a crowded room feeling loud and proud. Who could blame me for an ear splitting Tarzan yell?
Cousin Billy whispered, “Jack,” but it sounded loud in the silence that followed my jungle scream. “Jack,” echoed off the tile walls; it penetrated the steamy air saturated with the smell of jock straps. It felt good to hear my name that way.
“Billy!” I didn’t even try to whisper, so his name sounded louder but nowhere near as important as, “Jack.” My older cousin was naked too only he was backed against a wall, bent over, with his towel clutched over his middle like he’d been shot in the stomach and was trying to keep from bleeding to death.
I noticed everybody’s penis at the same time—circumcised and not, hairy and hair free, brown and pale. Mine was the biggest in the room, or at least the most rigid. Mine bounced and bobbed like a trained seal when I walked over to cousin Billy and snatched away his towel. I pointed my super penis at his wilted one, daring him to make comparisons.
“Billy—Billy—Billy.” I took a step toward him every time I said his name until I was only three penis-lengths away.
“Who’s your buddy?” I punched him lightly in the arm, whirled like a ballet dancer and walked away swinging my hips like a very sexy girl. I’d never been sure why they walked like that, but suddenly I knew. I knew a lot of things right then and all of them as sweet and sickening as chocolate covered cherries. Lots of mysterious things that didn’t seem mysterious any longer—like where babies come from and why people bother with all that. It was pretty much the way Billy told me, but I understood it now. I had a grasp of the whole thing radiating from a place between my knees and bellybutton that held the secrets of the world in a grip as hard and tight as my brand new erection.
I put Billy’s towel around my waist, sort of like a skirt and practiced my hip swinging walk some more, and then it was time to show my fabulous naked body to Billy again in case he’d forgotten. But I wanted to do something with the towel so I twirled it between two hands and popped it at my older cousin like a terrycloth whip.
The drama needed a nasty word to make things perfect.
I said, “Ass,” mostly because I couldn’t think of anything worse.
Pop, on the tile. Pop on the wooden bench next to Billy. Pop on Billy’s leg, and once on the butt with everybody watching. Billy was three years older and four inches taller, and fifteen pounds heavier than me—none of that mattered because my brand new erection changed everything.
“Ass!” I’d never realized how powerful a naked boy with a towel could be, but Billy got the picture fast, running and dancing, holding his hand over himself, because I could pick a fly off of a wall if I wanted to.
“Asssss!” The extra s’s frightened Billy into a corner where there was no escape from the wild manly boy with the exceptional penis and the deadly towel.
“Common Jack.” Pleading—I liked the way it sounded.
I was on a rollercoaster ride, going up a steep incline to the top of something that’s way too dangerous to be legal, higher and higher while I wound my towel so tight it could deliver a lethal blow when I popped cousin Billy for the best and final time.
“Everybody’s watching Jack.”
I didn’t tell him, “That’s the most important part of the whole thing,” because I was busy winding up my towel for the fatal blow and wondering if the room would break into cheers when it happened.
“Look,” somebody behind me said. “That little kid’s got a boner.”
I’d heard that word before. So this was what it meant.
All of a sudden the room sounded like the laugh track of a television sit-com. Lots of laughs from everybody but me and Billy. We were targets and the laughers’ aim was true.
All those boner-feelings wilted between my legs like a time-lapse film of a dying flower.
“Let’s go Jack,” Billy snatched the towel back. He wrapped it around his waist and walked away, leaving me in the exact center of attention.
I don’t know who asked me, “How was it kid,” because I was looking at the forest of boy legs blocking my way to the pile of clothing I’d left on the wooden bench a thousand miles away.
“How was your first trip to boner land?”