'EVERYTHING'

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Ah youth..a new adventure around every corner.

Submitted: December 02, 2017

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Submitted: December 02, 2017

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‘EVERYTHING’

A memoir by Lionel Walfish



 

We were in the eighth grade of Montreal High School, Manny and I, and having just turned thirteen that Autumn, the prospect of getting laid was both a new and frightening one for me. Not that the idea of sexual intercourse hadn’t crossed my mind before. It was just that I had never associated myself with any commission of the actual act.


No sooner had I completed one ordeal of symbolically attaining manhood (my bar-mitzvah) that I found myself faced with this new and daunting endeavor. I tried occupying my mind with more constructive thoughts, but my friend Manny was of absolutely no help in the matter.

“Hey, did you see the boobs on that one?,” Manny would ask, leering at the girls in their somber black uniforms on the other side of the high school  courtyard. These uniforms were structured in such a pleated way as to conceal whatever special virtues a particular girl might be endowed with; but somehow Manny always managed to single out the qualities of several black-garbed beauties. Perhaps it was the advantage of the extra year that Manny had over me, for at thirteen I wasn’t really all that knowledgeable, and had only a few months prior begun to risk blindness and insanity with the help  of my persistent right hand. If at that time I had been told that girls could do it as well, I would have considered it inconceivable, for everyone knew that they didn’t have anything down there to do ‘it’ with.


It was after gym class on Wednesday afternoon that I heard my name echoing through the basement corridor. “Hey, wait up, will ya?” It was Manny. I lingered by the stairwell until he caught up, all red faced and excited. “It’s all set up, big guy. She lives on Rachel Street and all we have to do is call her the night before. Her name is Jenny and she does it for almost nothing.”


 By this time Manny had caught his breath and stood there anticipating my reaction. He had spoken with such enthusiastic conviction that I found myself quickly replying, “That’s terrific Manny,” and wondering at the same time why little beads of perspiration had suddenly broken out on my forehead.

It was all lined up for a Friday night, a weekend being more sensible than a week night just in case anything went on after ten o’clock, for I would doubtless be questioned by my parents  if I were late and there was school the following day.

 Manny was never questioned, and since he’d been around much more than myself, who hadn’t been around at all, I had put complete faith in him.

“This one’s really something,” he confirmed the afternoon before our scheduled rendezvous, “and she does everything too!” “Everything?” I managed to half question, not wanting to appear too ignorant in such a worldly matter and forgetting my concern about the possibility of having failed the Latin exam I had just written. My ‘everything’ consisted of information memorized from several well-worn pages of Erskine Caldwell’s ‘God’s’ Little Acre” and Irving Schulman’s ‘The Amboy Dukes’;  looked at and studied in secret moments on the toilet seat and slipped between the pages of Life Magazine for undetected conveyance. As far as I knew, there was only one thing to do and I racked my adolescent brain trying to remember something that I might have overlooked.


That Friday evening at dinner I could barely contain myself. The combination of excitement, apprehension and a bad case of jitters caused me to choke on each morsel of food that went into my mouth. Fortunately, the conversation revolved around my mother and sister’s recent shopping trip to Toronto so the silence on my part went by unnoticed. I had the uncomfortable feeling, however, that my father was eyeing me more than once with an inquisitive look.





I met Manny as planned, at seven-thirty on the corner of Cote St. Catherine Road and Bellingham Avenue.  He was already there waiting for me and greeted me with a broad smile. With masterly pride he reached into his jacket pocket and produced a small flat tin container. It snapped open when he pushed at it in a certain way, and with careful fingers he reached for one of several small paper packets. He handed it to me and closed the lid of the container, putting the small tin back into his pocket. I started to tear open the printed wrapper in order to discover the contents. “Not here, stupid!” Manny said, stopping me. “Later, when we get there.” I put the little envelope into the back pocket of my pants deciding that it would be better not to question the gift. I was too nervous in any event, and was very pleased when the number 29  bus came screeching to a halt in front of us. We boarded the vehicle, put our tickets in the receptacle, and raced each other down the aisle for a window seat.


The ride across town was carried out in silence, broken only by a whistle and a jab from Manny when he spotted a group of girls clustered around a candy store on Park Avenue.

 “This is it,” he finally said, when the bus came to a stop at the corner of the playground around the lower eastern level of Mount Royal. Several boys were tossing a football, and I had a quick and sudden urge to join them as soon as we disembarked. Slowly, I followed Manny along a road that severed the park, and soon found myself in a totally unfamiliar area, both geographically and architecturally. The houses along the street seemed to be connected to one another, all being very similar in appearance, and each having its own separate staircase leading to doors on different levels of the building. Some of the staircases twisted their ways upwards with series of curving banisters. In my later years I was to learn that this architectural feature was unique to Montreal, but at this particular moment, I was more concerned with my own unique problem.  


“It’s gonna be great, you’ll see,” Manny said, slapping me on the back and pointing out the house of my impending undoing. “You can go first,“ he said. “I’ll be sloppy seconds this time. I want you to get the works.” The works, I thought. Was that the same as ‘everything?’

 I tried to work up as much enthusiasm as my nervous stomach would allow and at the same time stifle a sudden attack of hiccups. Just the one basic procedure that I had heard and read about had brought on this panic seizure. “Oh, boy!” I said, trying to react to Manny’s excitement and taking long gasps of air into my lungs. At that point I wanted to ask Manny about the small envelope that he had given me, but then I decided on a new strategy. “Manny, I said, “maybe you’d better go first. I mean, you know her and everything, and it might be easier.” “You’re not chickening out, are you?” he questioned me, squinting his eyes ever so slightly and searching my face for a tell tale sign. “Of course not,” I hiccupped, doubling the pace of my steps so that we were no longer side by side, and I could avoid further interrogation.  

 

It was a four-storied building but, unlike the others on the street, it had no outer staircase. “Just act natural,” Manny said as he pushed open the front door. We stepped into a small hallway that housed a panel of names and little black buttons. Manny followed the column of names with his finger and, pausing at one of them, pushed on the button beside it. We were immediately welcomed by an ear-piercing buzz which instantly cured me of my hiccups and allowed Manny to push open the inner door. We began our trek up the first long flight of stairs. “She lives on the third floor,” he said. By the time we reached the second landing I felt my knees beginning to knock and my legs almost buckled underneath me. I stopped for a moment and placed my hand firmly on the wooden banister for support. The sound of a door opening and closing came from the higher landing and, for several moments, the dimly lit stairwell was flooded in a bright orange glare. I thought Manny was a good half flight ahead of me when suddenly we collided head on as I continued my upwards climb and he made his way back down, jumping three steps at a time. I didn’t have to think twice before bolting after him.

Manny’s complexion was almost white. In trying to keep up with him, I almost found myself running. “What’s the matter, Manny?” I asked with really grave concern. I felt much steadier now, a curious sense of accomplishment having overtaken me. Manny said nothing, but kept on walking quickly, looking straight ahead. “What happened back there?” I tried asking again.


He was completely silent throughout the bus ride that would take us back home and just stared blankly out the windowed side of his seat. After we got off the bus, Manny finally turned to face me, red-eyed. I could see traces of dried tears on his face. “I saw my father,” he said blankly. He was halfway down the street before I could fully comprehend.


I had to wait quite a few more years before I found out about ‘everything.’ I saw Manny a few times after that night, but a month or so later I heard that he had quit school and taken a job somewhere. I never saw him again.


Perhaps in those days it was better not to have known about everything.

 


© Copyright 2018 Lionel Walfish. All rights reserved.

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