Excerpt from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope:
When I was thirteen my best friend Ricky Delgado asked me, “What do you think of Sally Perkins?”
“Sally Perkins? I dunno. Why do you ask?” Sally lived three houses down. When she was five or six, she pulled her pants down over by the lamp post. I hadn’t thought about her much since then.
“Do you think she’s cute?”
“I guess so.”
“Don’t you think she has nice boobs?”
I hadn’t noticed that Sally Perkins had boobs, nice or otherwise. “I guess so.”
“My old man tried to give me ‘the talk’ last night,” Ricky said. “God, was he ever lame.”
“Yeah, you know—the talk. That shit about the birds and the bees.”
“Oh, that,” I said, trying to sound knowledgeable.
Dad had attempted to give my older brother David the talk a few years earlier and David still laughed about it. My time had yet to come.
“Isn’t it hard to imagine your parents doing it?” Ricky asked.
“C’mon. I swear to God, sometimes you’re stupider than Hollowhead.”
That was saying a lot. Andy Hollingsworth, who lived across the street, was the closest thing we had to a village idiot. He couldn’t build a model airplane without gluing his hands together.
“I’m talking about sex!” Ricky said, an edge of exasperation in his voice. “Can you imagine your folks doing the ‘deed?’” He’d recently struck the coup de grace to my childhood by explaining the mechanics of human reproduction to me. I was still in a state of shock.
I had difficulty imagining my stern-faced mother smiling, much less having sex. As for Dad; his ability to vanish when my mother was in one of her foul moods (Dad's Disappearing Act) made it unlikely he could keep anything firm enough for sex. No, I couldn’t imagine my parents doing the “deed,” and I told Ricky so.
We were sitting under the sycamore tree in our front yard. He spat out the blade of grass dangling from the corner of his mouth and asked, “Have you checked the top drawer in their bedroom?”
“Why would I do that?”
Ricky looked around to be sure nobody was watching, then fished something out of his pocket. “I don’t suppose you know what this is?” He didn’t wait for a response. “It’s a condom, for sex, when you don’t want the girl to get preggers.”
“You found that in your parents’ top drawer?”
“Yeah, right near a tube of some cream shit. You can find interesting stuff in your parents’ top drawer,” added Ricky, “you should check it out sometime.”
A few days later, my folks went to check on Grandma who was having trouble managing her diabetes. David was off somewhere campaigning for class president. I had the place to myself.
I entered my parents’ bedroom, and just stood there, giving my courage time to percolate. There was only one dresser in the room—I figured it was my mother’s since it didn’t look like anything Dad would use. I opened the top drawer and prowled around. It was definitely my mother’s dresser; Dad’s things were probably in an Army surplus footlocker in the garage.
At first I was relieved to find nothing interesting. Underwear and nylon stockings but no condoms or tubes of goo. Then something caught my eye—a book.
I can laugh about it now, but back then I shuddered at what I’d found. Far worse than a sex toy or a package of condoms—a library book, one of those titillating bodice-ripper romances. The title was splattered in bright colors across the tattered dust jacket: Slave Queen of Tunisia. A picture showed a sultry vixen clutched tightly in the arms of a muscular sultan, whose bare breasts were nearly as big as hers.
With the book in hand, I dashed back to my room and scoured the pages as quickly as I could. I paused to read sex scenes written with an abundance of poetry, but with enough heat to convince me that Ricky’s description of human reproduction was more or less accurate.
Some of the steamy passages fired up my adolescent furnace, but icy water rained on my parade when I noticed the last date stamped on the check-out card. Ricky had explained how long it took for a woman to “pop a bun out of her oven,” and this unreturned library book had been checked out on the eighth of March in 1952—nine months before I was born.
My hands felt like they were burning as I jammed the seemingly red-hot book back into my mother’s dresser drawer. Now I knew the bitter truth; in spite of my best efforts to think otherwise, my parents had actually done it. Now my mind was polluted with a vision of my conception—Mother lying flat on her back as turbaned Dad worked up a sweat to satisfy her, a distracted look on her face as she absentmindedly leafed through her copy of Slave Queen of Tunisia.
My innocence disappeared like piss in a swimming pool.
How did you learn about the Birds and the Bees?