Molly was “moving”. That meant that she and her mom were going to live in a different house and not their house across the street anymore. It would be “sold” so other people could live in it. Molly’s mom had told us when mom and I had gone over to Molly’s house with David too. Her mom did all the talking because Molly was sad and mad and didn’t want to say anything. I tried to look at Molly but she just looked down at the floor. I couldn’t feel anything, though I figured I must be sad too.“Oh dear”, mom said, “That is such big news!” But it felt like mom was only pretending to be surprised and already knew this was going to happen.
Mom and Molly’s mom were always telling each other secret things. They used to tell those things in our kitchen when I was playing in the basement, but I would sneak up the stairs near the top where they couldn’t see me but I could hear them even when they were talking really quiet. Molly would do the same kind of thing in her house when mom and her mom talked there. Marybeth and the other older girls in the park had told us that it was called “spying”, and “being a detective”, and said it was really fun and you learned lots of interesting stuff.
But I think mom and Molly’s mom had figured out we were spying, because they didn’t do that kind of talking in the house anymore. They would take “walks” together down the street, so they could tell Molly and I weren’t around listening.
Molly’s mom looked at me and said, “I know it’s not the same as living right across the street, but you will always be welcome at our new house young man, whether you bring your parents along or not.” I was going to nod, but I looked at Molly and she was still sad and looking at the floor so I just nodded a little bit.
“And certainly the same for Molly here”, mom said, looking at Molly, “You have an open invitation to come over here anytime.” She pushed her lips together and looked sad and worried as she looked at Molly and then at her mom. “And your mom and I will work it out so you two can visit each other often. Right Joan?”
“Of course Jane”, Molly’s mom said nodding, “There’ll be school starting in September on weekdays, but every weekend, we’ll make a plan to get them together at your place or ours.” Mom nodded with her lips pushed together. She did that when she heard something that she didn’t like but wasn’t going to get mad about.
Molly and I had been best friends for as long as I could even remember. I couldn’t remember the first time we were together, we just always had been. Whenever we wanted to be together, I just had to go over to her house or she would come over to mine. But now the grownups were going to be in charge of when we could play with each other.
“Uh oh”, David said, pulling on mom’s arm.
“Oh dear”, mom said, wrinkling her nose, “David needs a diaper change. I need to take him back home.”
“Okay”, Molly’s mom said, “But Cooper is welcome to stay here.”
Mom looked at me. “You want to stay here with Molly?” she asked.
Without even looking up at us Molly nodded even before I did and said, “He does. I know.”
Mom saw Molly do that and said, “Okay then.” She stood up, took David’s hand and looked at Molly’s mom with a worried look on her face. “Well Joan. A new chapter for all of us”, she said.
Molly’s mom nodded and then shook her head, like she was saying yes and then no at the same time. She stood up too and said, “I’m hoping it will work out for the best, but life gets so darned complicated, doesn’t it?” Grownups said “darned” when they wanted to really say “damned”, but they didn’t want to do it with kids around.
Mom closed her eyes, nodded and moved her hand through her hair. “It does indeed Joan”, she said, “So do you have a move date?”
“Probably Labor Day weekend”, Molly’s mom said, “I still have to settle on the date with the movers.”
“Okay”, mom said to Molly’s mom, David pulling on her arm, “Let’s take a walk later. Hang in there lady. Things will all work out. I’ll be there for you, whatever I can do, you know that.”
“Thanks Jane”, Molly’s mom said, nodding with her lips pushed together, “You’re a good friend, and I REALLY appreciate your understanding of all this. I would never have thought things would turn out this way, but maybe somehow it will be for the best.”
Mom nodded, and she and David went out the front door to walk home.
Molly’s mom looked at Molly and me and said, “I’m sorry things are turning out this way. I know Molly that you’re still upset about this, and Cooper, I imagine this is difficult news for you too.” Then she tried to make a smile and said, “Things change in life and we have to roll with the punches and make the best of it. We’ll just have to keep talking to each other and share our feelings, even if they are sad feelings. Okay?”
You’re supposed to say something when people ask you a question, or at least nod or shake your head. But Molly didn’t do either and I just nodded a very little bit.
Molly’s mom clapped her hands together and blew air out of her mouth. “You two going to play in your room?” she asked. Molly still didn’t say anything or look at her mom, but she nodded just a little bit and then ran to the stairs and then up them, like she wanted to get out of the living room as fast as she could.
I felt strange still and looked at Molly’s mom, who looked back at me with a sad face and nodded, like I should follow Molly up to her room. That’s what I did, but I walked instead of running. It felt like it wouldn’t be nice to Molly’s mom if I ran upstairs too, like I didn’t want to be with her.
When I got up to Molly’s room she was sitting in one of the two puffy chairs, so I sat in the other one that was across from her. When I did she looked down at the floor instead of looking at me. I wasn’t sure what to do so I just sat there and didn’t say anything, and looked down at the floor too, which was a rug like the downstairs of her house instead of that wood floor like my house. We both just sat there for a while not talking. I figured I’d just wait until she said something, and when she did, I would say something back.
While I waited I would peek up at her, but the way she was looking down it was hard to tell what she was thinking. One time when I was peeking up at her she also peeked up at me. We saw each other’s eyes but both quickly looked down. Finally she said something.
“Mom is STUPID!” she said, still looking down at the floor. I nodded but didn’t say anything, but I think she saw me nodding.
Still looking at the floor she said, “She says we’re going to live in this different house because now is the time to move before I go to regular school. But I want to stay HERE. It’s NOT FAIR!” She finally looked at me after she said that, like she wanted me to say that it wasn’t fair too.
So I shook my head and said, “It’s not.” She liked it when I did that.
Still looking at me she said, “Jill says you’re my boyfriend”, like she was wondering if I thought so too.
I had heard older boys in the park talking about how, when you were older and you had a girlfriend, you showed her you “loved” her by taking off your clothes in front of her. I don’t think any of them had done anything like that for real, but they liked telling that to their friends because it sounded kind of exciting, and like they knew a lot of important stuff that all of us needed to know too.
I had been thinking for a while what Molly would look like if she took off all her clothes, would she look the same as me or not. I was thinking that now, and though she couldn’t tell I was thinking exactly that, she could tell I was thinking something about her that was different somehow.
“So what are you thinking about?” she asked. She had never asked me that question before, that was a question that I had heard grownups ask each other. Molly either knew what I was thinking already or she would just say what she was thinking and wait for me to do the same.
I wanted to tell her what I was thinking, but I was worried that she might think I was bad or even naughty. I wasn’t sure if saying something to another kid could be naughty, or if it was only when you said it to a grownup. I didn’t want to say anything to Molly so she wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore. But then her eyes looked into mine like I had to tell her the real answer. I felt like if I said anything else, she would know that wasn’t what I was really thinking and would be mad at me, and she wouldn’t feel the same as me anymore.
So I just said it. “Some of the older boys in the park say that when you have a girlfriend you show her you like her by taking off your clothes.”
She looked at my eyes with a flash of fierceness in hers while she thought about what I said. I could tell she was thinking that grownups would think it was bad that I said that to her. That I was being “naughty”. I could tell she was trying to figure out if it was okay that I said that, and I hoped it was okay. I was just telling her what older boys really said, and we always told each other the real stuff.
I guess she was okay with me saying that because she asked, “You want to do that with me?”
That was a different thing to answer because it wasn’t about other boys, it was about me. I wanted to nod because that was how I really felt, but I knew my mom, my dad, her mom and other grownups would think I shouldn’t feel that way. I could tell Molly could see my worried look and all the thinking I was doing.
She was quiet for a moment, thinking too, but still looking at me really hard. “Okay”, she finally said, “That would be neat.” Then thinking some more she said, “But no kissyface stuff and I have to take my clothes off too.”
I nodded. I wasn’t worried anymore that she thought I was bad. I WAS still worried that we BOTH were bad, at least that grownups and other kids would think we were. But they weren’t really in charge of us, though grownups thought they were. I knew mom and dad figured that I would only do good stuff, and that’s why they let me do so much by myself.
But I wanted to do this and Molly did too, so that was what was important right now. I wanted to see what all the parts of her body looked like and she I guess felt the same way. She was a girl after all, not a boy like me, whatever that really meant. I really wanted to know how we might be different, even though we always liked being the same.
“So who goes first?” she asked, like the older boys must have told me how it was supposed to work.
I didn’t know. I lifted my shoulders and let them go down again. She put her thumb in her mouth and bit down on it thinking. I hadn’t seen her do that in a long time.
She took it out. “Let’s do it at the same time, okay?”
“Okay”, I said. That made sense.
“I’m going to hide behind this chair and take my clothes off”, she said.
“Okay”, I said, “I’ll go behind the other chair. Then when we are both ready…”
“We’ll show each other”, she said, finishing what I was going to say. But then after thinking some more she said, “But we can’t tell anyone at all, especially not our moms and dads!”
I nodded and said, “Okay.”
“You have to promise”, she said.
“I promise”, I said nodding.
“I do too”, she said, also nodding.
She got down behind the blue chair. I sat down behind the red chair, my back against it. I had a moment where I wasn’t sure, and looked at my shoes and socks, still on my feet.
“Okay, I’m ready”, I heard her voice behind her chair.
“Just a minute”, I said and quickly took off my clothes.
“You ready?” she asked.
“Uh hunh”, I said, looking at my naked body.
“Should we do one, two, three?” she asked.
“Okay”, I said, crouching naked now behind the red chair, getting very excited at what was about to happen.
She started counting, “One… two… three!”
I stood up, still behind my chair, and she did the same thing, so we could only see the naked top parts of each other’s bodies. They looked completely the same.
She looked at me and asked, “But we’re going to show the bottom part too, right?”
“Should I count to three again?” she asked.
“Okay”, I said. It felt like electricity was running through every inch of my body. Before she had a chance to count I stepped out from behind my chair so she could see all of me.
She looked at me and her eyes were drawn down to my penis. I liked that she was looking at my naked body, and especially that part. It felt wonderful, like nothing I had ever felt before. I felt shivers and goosebumps on my arms and my thighs. I could see in her eyes her seeing my excitement.
“Okay, my turn”, she said, stepping out from behind her chair. Where I had the little penis thing sticking out and the tiny thing underneath, she just had a little slit. I looked at that part of her that was different from me. It didn’t seem like it was that big of a difference.
“Your pee pee is different than mine”, she said. “That’s because you’re a boy and I’m a girl”.
I nodded. I wondered if that was the only real thing that made us different. Those grownup women like mom and those older girl kids like Margie also had that “figure” part too on their chest that stuck out. Some of the older boys in the park called that “boobs” or “tits”, but that sounded pretty silly. The grownup men would say that a woman had a “nice figure”.
So was that why grownup women were “moms” and grownup men were “dads”? Why grownup men went to other places each day to do “jobs” while women stayed at home to do “chores”. Why boys and men were supposed to have short hair and women were supposed to have long hair and wear different clothes. It didn’t really make sense, and I wondered if that was why a lot of the other stuff that grownups did didn’t make sense.
But also other boys worried about girls a lot. Boys thought girls had “cooties”, and worried that if boys got cooties too, they would turn into “sissies”, and none of the other boys would like them. I remembered Kenny saying that being a sissy was the worst possible thing that could happen to you. But that was all strange because the really older boys, some of them REALLY liked girls and got kissyface with them, but no one called them sissies. And most grownup men liked grownup women a LOT, and would get silly with them at those parties, and even sleep in the same bed together like mom and dad did.
So Molly and I just stood there looking at each other. I figured Molly must be thinking the same kind of things I was about girls and boys. Then I wondered if we should put our clothes back on and I could tell Molly was thinking the same thing.
“We better put our clothes back on or we’ll get in trouble”, she said, “but that was neat.”
“It was”, I said nodding.
Still standing across from me naked, she said, “After we move to that new house you’ll still be my best friend.”
I nodded again. But then I thought that wasn’t enough to just do that, so I said, “Good. You’ll still be my best friend too.”
“That’s good”, she said, and her eyes got fierce, “Make sure you come over a lot. And I’ll come over to your house too.”
“Okay”, I said, “Bring your dinosaurs and Tinker Toys when you come.”
“I will”, she said, “The more dinosaurs and Tinker Toys, the more you can do.” I nodded.
She looked at me, thinking, then said, “Maybe when we’re older you can be my boyfriend too. If you want to be.”
“Okay”, I said. I wasn’t sure what that really meant, and if she was thinking about kissyface stuff. But I didn’t want to ask her, because I just liked being her best friend.
“We better put our clothes back on”, she said again. “I’m going to do it right now and you should too.” So we both went behind our chairs and put our clothes back on.
“Let’s do Sky King and Tom Swift with Tinker Toys”, she said, coming out from behind her chair. “We could do dinosaurs too but mine are all over in your backyard.” She went over to the shelves in her wall and took her two big cans of Tinker Toys and dumped them on the floor. Then she sat down and started putting them together to build a Sky King plane. So I sat down across from her and started building a rocketship.
As I put the pieces together, I wondered if I’d ever figure out why most kids and grownups thought boys and girls were really so different. But for now, I was glad Molly and I were only just a very little bit different. I felt sad that Molly and I weren’t going to live next to each other anymore, and that if we both had to go to school, we couldn’t do it together. But I was happy that we would still be best friends. It was good to have a best friend, even if you didn’t see them all the time.
I felt really good that we had talked about taking our clothes off, and then both wanted to and had really done it. Even though other people would say it was bad, it didn’t FEEL bad, so I didn’t worry about it too much. And since we both had promised not to tell our moms and dads or anyone else, it was something that THEY didn’t need to worry about. Molly and I could do all the worrying about it, if we wanted to.
I also figured I could do other stuff now that maybe mom or dad or other grownups didn’t think I should do. If it was fun or interesting and other kids thought it was good, then I could do it, if I wanted to. Kids did lots of stuff in the park that grownups didn’t know about, and maybe wouldn’t like, because the kids were in charge there. If those grownup “coaches” were around, they only were in charge of the baseball diamonds, and kids were still in charge of the rest of the park. And if kids were in charge, if you didn’t like what they told you to do, you didn’t have to do it. That was the best way. People should only be in charge of you if you wanted them to.
I still didn’t know about going to regular school, because the older kids said that grownups were always in charge there. But I really wanted to finish figuring out how to read, and mom and dad were doing too many other things to help me very much, and mom said the teacher at school would help me. I didn’t like grownups to be in charge of me, but at least that teacher would only be in charge of me at school, but not the rest of the time. Maybe once I learned how to read I wouldn’t have to go to school anymore.