water tank was a great, gray thing. Later, it would be painted a
light green, in hopes, I suppose, of camouflaging it among the short
pines and sagebrush that grew in an arid jungle around it.
Camouflage or not, the new paint job would wipe out
the graffiti that animated the back side of the metal tank. The
adults in the neighborhood had no idea about the veritable gallery
of stick-figure porn in their suburban oasis. The kids, however,
knew all about it and were regular patrons, especially when some
new "piece" was added.
My family had moved into the area just a few weeks
earlier, so my sister and I were confused when our game of neighborhood
tag was ruined as one boy began whispering about a "new one
on the water tank."
"A new what?" I wanted to know.
I was told it had something to do with (voices were
lowered) S ... E ... X.
OK, I thought, big deal.
My sisters and I had been raised on a version of sex
involving a man, a woman and "special feelings" that,
in a mysterious combination, somehow produced a new human being.
The power of "special feelings" boggled our minds. At
one time, we might have liked a definition of the term, but our
curiosity was squelched by the moony way our parents said "special."
After a while, we just didn't want to know.
Although it would be a few years before I understood
the "feelings" aspect of sex, I received a thorough and
graphic lesson of biological componentry when I rounded the corner
of the water tank with my friends.
The more experienced neighborhood kids were standing,
facing the tank, in an attitude I can only compare with that of
adults at a museum. They nodded to each other in communal appreciation
of the display.
Oh boy. I was not prepared. I had no idea which of
the many drawings that covered the gray metal was the "new"
picture. To me, they were all new. The conversation went something
"Are those people?"
"OK. That one has boobies, and that one has a
big stick? Why is he hitting her with it?"
"He's not hitting her, you moron."
"OK." I was trying to sound as if I knew
what was going on. I shut my mouth and opened my eyes wider without
meaning to. I took in all the pictures. I felt like I should be
getting it, but I was not getting it. I began to babble.
"OK, in that one the man (it's a man, right?)
has the big stick again (wow, that's actually more like a club or
something), only he's not really hitting the woman, but maybe it's
not a stick, it's a hose, because it's spraying or something
"Are you retarded or what?" my new friend
said, looking at me with great disdain. "It's not a stick and
it's not a hose, idiot. It's his wiener!"
His wiener. Those two words ushered in a flood of
understanding that hit me so hard I thought I was going to vomit.
Oh man. Oh man, oh man, oh man.
I stood there an hour, maybe, dazed and staring. There
were so many pictures to study. Everything started to make sense
terrible, horrible sense.
My mother's voice calling me for dinner snapped me
back into reality. I ran down the hill and into the house where
everyone was already seated around the kitchen table, waiting. I
Someone said grace. While everyone but me was eating
and talking, I looked at my mother. I looked at my father. There
were words forming in my throat, moving up to my tongue, threatening
to be shouted.
"Special feelings, my ass!"
But I bit them back down and started eating.