Life’s predicaments- Chapter four: The first woman in my life- by Juan M.S.

I used to be a ladies man when I was just a kid. From the age of four, I was always surrounded by older girls who enjoyed having me around. All these memories are from the summers I always spent at my grandma’s. There were some other boys too, I remember, and I still remember some of the games we played. The most interesting one consisted in blindfolding someone and sitting them in a chair. Then someone else, who acted as a guide, called a person from the group and asked them to do something to the person sitting, for instance pull their hair or blow in their ear. The person sitting needed to guess who the perpetrator had been to get out of the chair. That game has obviously different levels of eroticism, but we played it innocently. Then I remembered hanging out with a girl called Miriam, she was two years older than me. I might have been four or five by then, and I remember playing water war with her. She was in my team, though, because we were friends, so we threw water balloons to everyone else, except for her neighbor, Milka, who was also in our team. That was the first time I was made aware of being playing with girls. A guy whom I had just thrown a water balloon asked me whether I was a girl, sarcastically, of course, because I had long straight hair and I was pretty, but not so much as to be mistaken by a girl, although some old women sometimes asked me the same. I answered “no” matter-of-factly, because I saw no offense in being called a girl, but then he went on “so then don’t throw water balloons to boys.” I wasn’t going to betray my team because of such a stupid rule; he was the enemy after all, so why would I believe him? But when I asked Miriam about that rule, she said it was true, but that they needed reinforcements because there were too many boys and just the two of them, so I stayed in their team. That afternoon, however, she started chasing me with a hose, dosing water all over me, and I learned that what by them had seemed to be an innocuous friend was actually the most treacherous enemy: a girl. I liked her very much; she taught me some card games and hand-clapping games, which I really enjoyed, so it was really sad when we didn’t see each other anymore.

It all happened one unlucky day in which I was throwing a tantrum at my mom, as I sometimes did when I didn’t get my way, when Miriam was suddenly announced. I was in my underwear because I had just woken up and among cries and sobs I hadn’t had time to dress, so I hid behind a door when I heard Miriam’s steps. I must have been five by then, and having a girl watch me almost naked was a new experience to me. I didn’t feel embarrassed as a girl would feel, but rather disoriented. I didn’t know what she thought when she saw me crying in my underwear, and when I saw her silently looking, first at my face, then at my underwear, then again at my face and mutely go away, I realized that she might have misinterpreted the situation, and that she might have thought that I was crying because she saw me naked and that she had ashamed me. Oh, what a tragedy these kinds of melodramas may be! My mother and grandma just laughed when they heard the story; they probably thought a good plunge in deep waters was the best way to teach someone to swim, but, alas, I never spoke to Miriam again after that. She never came back either and now she’s just a blurry memory of the first female friend I ever had.

But, although Miriam was my first female friend, she wasn’t a woman in my mind until later on in my life, when I’d already understood what a woman was. This happened in primary school. I must have been ten when I first saw Ana; I don’t know why I remember seeing her for the first time, when she was introduced by the teacher. I was in fourth grade and she’d just changed school. Maybe unconsciously I’d already realized that she was pretty, but consciously I just thought she was a girl, that kind of base and vile creature that one must avoid. I actually started hating girls in first grade, when some of them made my life impossible. I must remark that I was king of the class for my first four years of primary school. Every spring day we needed to choose a king and a queen of the class, so everyone voted for their favorite candidate. I didn’t care about this, because I wasn’t socially aware at that time, but I mention it because it helps understand my relationship with girls. They teased me and did everything to call my attention, though I was evidently not interested in them. I already had a girl who did that at home, my little sis, who was plainly a pain in my neck. I just wanted to be left alone and not to have to deal with all that female hysteria. I still recognized beauty in them, though; I remember the first time I realized that girls can be beautiful was in first grade too, when a girl dropped a rubber by accident and I picked it up and gave it to her. She smiled at me with her greenish blue eyes and separated front teeth, and I remember her name till this day: Maria Macarena, or simply: Maca.

But Ana, she was of a different kind. She was smart and, of course, as most of eleven-year-old girls, she was more emotionally and physically developed than boys of her same age, like me. She unsettled me so many times, but I still admired her and was attracted to her objective attributes, her beauty and intelligence. I think she was never interested in me, although she recognized my intelligence too; I was considered the smartest of the class. I still remember when we were chosen king and queen. I’d never cared before, but that day I asked my mother to prepare the best clothes I had because the following day there was going to be a parade of kings and queens at school. My mother ironed the same old jeans and T-shirt, which I always wore under the compulsory white uniform. She also had the brilliant idea of making a cardboard crown, which we decorated with glossy paper. I was sad I couldn’t do better in front of Ana, but I got sadder still the next day, when parade time came. She went to dress up to some empty classroom; I think her mother had come to help. Meanwhile I just stayed there, and a girl, Alejandra, who was watching her get dressed up, came to me and said: “And you? Aren’t you dressing up?” “That’s it,” I said, and she stared at me in puzzlement. I don’t remember whether she actually said: “You should’ve made an effort,” or if she simply thought that I was an irredeemable slouch, but I knew it all already, so I didn’t struggle against my shame. I just accepted it. Then I saw her pass by in her white dress, which looked much like a wedding gown, and I just internally collapsed, although I stoically remained in my wake position, undisturbed, as if nothing unexpected was happening. The same girl, Ale, came to me again and saw the crown in my hand. By that time she must have really thought that I disdained my queen and that I was like those men that prefer staying home to watch a football match to taking their wives out. I don’t even watch sports, but her budding female instinct thus had understood. “What’s that?” she said, when she saw the crown in my hand. I was a sensitive person, and I understood my shame and her intention. I couldn’t wear a crown in jeans; that would make just a fool of me. I said: “It’s for the queen,” and I got a smile of acknowledgment from that girl. I didn’t feel so sorry for myself at that moment. My queen was the most beautiful of all and I was contributing to it. But the crown was brought back to me, of course! It was a cardboard crown, what I was thinking of?! She must have felt embarrassed to be offered a cardboard crown. Fortunately Alejandra was diplomatic; she was a nice girl after all. She said: “Sorry, but the queen can’t wear the crown because of her hairdo.” I guess that’s what she was instructed to say by the teacher, but I appeased my mind.

Ana didn’t look once at me; at least not that I remember or noticed. During the parade we needed to grab hands and walk across the theater room, surrounded by the whole school. Then we needed to sit in a podium, along with the other kings and queens. I grabbed her hand and we walked across the room; it was ten seconds of joy, but when we got to the podium, she pulled her hand away from mine and rubbed it against her dress, symbolizing my dirtiness. I couldn’t say that affect me at all; I was already conscious of my lower state. I just realized that she cared about her image and that my presence beside her was tarnishing it. Just one year after, when her thighs started to develop their muscles, I realized that she was a woman and that I’d gradually become in love with her since the moment I first saw her. I also learned that she had an absent father, which was probably the reason why she had such a strong character and was so mature: The childhood bliss had been cut short for her.

 

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