Memories 11: Maybe They Like Me
The kitchen was softly illuminated by the indirect sunlight which filtered through the tall trees in the shady backyard. I had never been in this particular kitchen before, yet it was familiar. The boy lived not far from me. The town had been built in stages, mainly of by tracks of speculative developments. Although the town claimed Dutch origins from the seventeenth century, few buildings in the town predated nineteen-twenty. In large plots, the houses had been built according to a narrow variety of floor plans. Since the boy and I lived in the same neighborhood, I was familiar with the layout of his house. It was not the same as ours, but it was the same as the homes of many of my friends since nursery school.
His family had moved to the town a couple of years ago, and somehow, despite having gone to elementary school together, I did not know him well. He was a quiet boy who did not stand out and I had little opinion of him one way or another, but he had asked if I would come over to his place after school. Although I was far from friendless, I was not so overburdened by popularity that an overture of friendship would be anything other than very welcome. Not knowing what prompted this invitation, I accepted as a matter of course. After all, this was not an odd thing. We were a little too old for someone to use the word “play,” but going to someone else’s house after school and playing cards or tossing a ball was a common way to pass the afternoon.
The walk from the junior high school was long and after a while his silence seemed odd. He was, as I mentioned, a quiet boy, but he was not friendless either and there had never been an odd quality to his silence, but that afternoon I took note of it. Although I can be quiet and timid in a crowd, in a one on one situation I’m quite chatty, however my attempts at conversation petered out after a sentence or two. Eventually, it was more comfortable to just walk in silence.
When we got back to his place, we entered through the back door directly into the kitchen. The kitchens in our neighborhood were not large. The small wooden table was set against a wall. He asked if I would like something to drink and then poured us two glasses of milk. We were young enough yet that milk was still the most common thing to drink. He sat in one chair and I sat in the other, facing him. More silence. At first I wondered why he asked me to his house if he didn’t want to talk and he didn’t want to do anything. Once we were seated, he seemed supremely contented to simply look at me. It would have unnerved me if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was so calm. It began to dawn on me that this was all he had wanted. He didn’t want to play cards, or draw, or show me a newly acquired pet, or any of the other things for which children typically wanted the company of other children. Rapidly, we were becoming something other than children. Six months earlier or six months later this scene could not have taken place. It occurred to me that he wanted me there because I was female, and I had the gratifying realization that he probably thought I was cute.
His calmness and sense of satisfaction evidently came from the fact that he had taken a risk when he asked me to spend the afternoon with him and I had said yes.
Over the course of the next few months, I would observe that other boys would begin to pay attention to me in ways that they hadn’t previously.