Chapter Five

I guess anything can happen. I had a girl fall in love with me.

Seriously. It happened. Right in our house.

She was 22 years old, she was a hab worker. Her name was Casey. She was working on her Masters in Child Psychology and doing hab work to pay the bills. She loved children.

She wasn’t that cute, I must say. She had mousy brown hair and blotchy skin. She bit her fingernails. She wore glasses whose lenses were completely covered with fingerprints. But she was very nice. She was patient. That’s the main thing.

She taught me how to draw different geometrical figures, how to do simple math problems. She was very good at her work. Naturally she was impressed, like everybody else, at how quickly I picked things up.

I showed her those digital pictures that I told you about, and she was very impressed.

“You have the eye of an artist, Max! You may grow up to be the next Alfred Steiglitz.”

I had no idea who that was, but it sounded exotic, so I smiled.

After a while she started talking about herself.  She would tell me about her friends, her parents, her sisters. I always looked into her eyes, and this had an effect on her.

“I went to Boston last week to visit my grandmother,” she told me, twirling a lock of her hair as she looked at me. “She isn’t well. She has a terminal — she has a disease.” She gave me a quick glance, she didn’t want to upset me.

Of course I knew what a terminal illness is. I wasn’t born yesterday. And I wasn’t shocked. It takes a lot to shock me.

After a while she talked a blue streak, because she couldn’t be sure how much I was understanding. She talked about her first boyfriend, her second boyfriend.

“Paul was a good boy,” she said, “but he was too full of himself. All he cared about was sports. Chris is much better. He reads, like me. He likes to make me laugh.”

I tried to imagine this. She didn’t seem to me to be the kind of person who laughs. She seemed like the ultimate geek.

“Sometimes I close my eyes,” she said, “and just wish and wish and wish for things I’ll never have.”

Something in my expression must have told her I was following this, because she went on.

“My life has been so humdrum,” she said. “So predictable. I want to be different, Max. I want to feel different. I look in the mirror, and I’m just like everybody else. I can’t stand being like everybody else.”

She turned to me and asked, “Do you understand?”

I did something that must have looked like a nod. Her face brightened.

“You do understand,” she said. “You understand because you’re different. You can feel, Max. Most people are so anesthetized, they can’t feel anything. But you can feel.”

Then she kissed me. On the lips.

“Oh!” she said. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m so sorry, Max.”

I pointed to my lips and smiled. She kissed me again.

AFTER THAT she always held my hand when we talked. That is, when she talked and I listened.

Her thoughts became more feverish, more intense. I began to realize how unfulfilled she was. Her parents didn’t think much of her, her few friends found her boring, the other hab workers made fun of her behind her back.

“Max, am I really that dull?” she would ask. “Tell me I’m not that dull.”

I drew a picture of her with a big smile, big eyes, big hair.

“That’s me!” she said.

She kissed me again. This time her tongue slid into my mouth.

This was quite new to me. As you can imagine, I didn’t exactly know about the birds and the bees at my age. My eyes opened wide.

I could see she was worried about what she had done. She held my hand and looked away. “Max, I will never do that again,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “You’re just a little boy.”

But she did do it again.

When she came in the door there was a conspiratorial look in her eyes, a little sparkle. As soon as she knew we were alone she would take my hand. She kissed my hand a lot. She looked at it, turned it in her own hands, separated my fingers, studied them one at a time.

“You have such a beautiful body,” she would say. “You’re fresh and young and beautiful, and you understand everything.”

She would bring her eyes close to mine and stare into them. She would tell me to close my eyes and kiss them. She sang part of a song, “to be kissed upon the eyes…”

She would hug me very close, squeezing me against her. “Oh, Max, don’t let them take me. Keep me here…” I didn’t know what she was talking about.

“Max, I want us to be together forever…”

One day she leaned over me and opened her shirt. She wasn’t wearing a bra. I saw the first breast of my life. The swell of white skin, the nipple.

“Touch me here, Max. Make me happy.”

I was fascinated. I touched the breast, then the nipple, which hardened under my finger.

She was letting out a gasp when the door opened.

It was my mother.

They fired her, of course. She was kicked out of the program. I never heard anything about her after that. The big shots at the school had a conference with my parents. They had several meetings with me, telling me over and over again that it wasn’t my fault, that Casey was a disturbed girl. They considered having her arrested.

If I had been able to talk I would have told them she didn’t mean any harm. But I couldn’t say anything.

I felt sorry for her. I also felt important. I had meant enough to her for her to dare things with me, things that broke rules and got her into trouble.

Also, in a way, it was funny. All those people so worked up about me. I found it amusing, though I didn’t show it. I am always amazed by the effect sex has on people. You can take a group of people who haven’t done anything in years except go to work and read the paper, and if something sexual comes up, they wake up in a hurry. They freak out.

The troubling memory of the tongue in my mouth, the hardening of the nipple, the look of longing in her eyes, stayed with me. It made me feel special. If I could have an effect like this on an adult, maybe there was more to me than I thought.