Luke had come from another school, the "other one", where "problem children" were sent, and a hush followed him when he walked through the corridors at Katoaad Elementary School. He was a year or so older than most of the sixth grade class, and it showed: he was a full six inches taller than any of the other kids, his chest deeper, his shoulders a bit broader. Even without that, you could see that there was something wrong with him: he spoke little, and in soft toneless bursts, and his broad Black Irish face held the surly expression of a feral cat. His eyes were blue, and had that "lights on, but who's answering now?" look, as coldly distant as the night side of Pluto. He lived in a beat-up looking house in the woods on the end of one of the old roads, his father was "away", his mother worked.
My best informant, Jamie, told me that he'd been there, once. "Wouldn't want to do it again. It looks...I don't know, like a hideout or something. Beer bottles everywhere, dirty magazines, pictures of trucks...dirt everywhere."And then: "You know, he kills rabbits."
I, on the other hand, had my own problems. Another early developer (I had smallish, painful breasts, and a bit of bush) I'd found myself having strange, overwhelming feelings of lust. Not love or limerence, or even as sweet as a crush, I was obsessed by, and would do anything to experience, sex. Everything sexual intrigued me, whether it was as clinical as a biology textbook or as sensually delectable as my stepdad's Eros Magazine collection. After some months of finding excuses to hump another girl (we'd play "Murder" a LOT), in the first weekend of February, in that saucily named year of 1969, I'd lost my virginity (to a slightly older friend-of-a-friend). Not having any reliable data to tell me otherwise, I figured that I, like Barbarella, should embark on a life of sweet, swinging, casual sex: after all, sex is a wonderful, human, natural thing, that almost by definition meant love and trust and...well you get the idea.
Of course I knew it was wrong, wrong, wrong but then, so much else was: swimming less than an hour after dinner, going into my parent's room without permission, reading Eros (or for that matter, almost anything in the grown-up section of the library), drinking beer...heck, I couldn't even get pregnant yet!
And yet you couldn't just flat-out ask someone, it seemed. (Most boys I knew didn't like girls around anyway.) So I hinted at availability.
Most of the boys, including the ones I'd been friends with, declined. And one day...
"I've heard you...do it." His eyes stared down at me, from a great height.
"Mm." I said, trying to seem casual.
"Want to...do it again?"
It was a lot more difficult than it looked: where the suburbs meet the exurbs, getting private time with someone who doesn't live on your (loosely defined) block is almost impossible. It's even worse if your parents don't know their parents, and there's no well-defined place to meet. Just about the only place where we wouldn't be getting in the way of the poison ivy and copperheads would be back at school: luckily, good old Katoaad had enough odd additions, basements, annexes and gerrymandered walls to hide an elephant. I came early in giddy, flushed, exhilarated expectation: Sex! Sex! Sex! my heart sang in hundred-voice rapture.
My personal Prince Charming arrived on his bicycle, and wordlessly steered me to a small niche formed by the smokestack from the boiler room. Dress up, fly down. His hands passed over my body appraisingly. I tried kissing him, but he remained lockjawed and impassive.
I think I tried being my usual chatty self, but he shushed me. "Be quiet."
It didn't feel like much, Dr. Kinsey. Maybe some cervical stimulation, pressure on the Skene's glands -- I can't really remember any discharge on his part. We humped and banged with as much result as Raggedy Ann and Andy. (At least they were married...)
The lack of flowery love talk was beginning to grate on my nerves. Also, he seemed to have no idea of the design constraints of the the human frame: in short, he was rough.
And that's when things started going really wrong. As I stood up I saw old Mr. Equitone, the school janitor watching us with his face frozen in a kind of puzzled awe.
"I-uh, well, it's been nice, but..." I said, having a sudden urge to be home, in bed, catching up on my reading assignment.
"Stay." His eyes flashed cold fire. "You're not going anywhere, hear?"
I ran, with Luke in hot pursuit. Only, I somehow was running the wrong way around the block, away from the drugstore, the bikeshop, the fire station...He grabbed his bike and chased me, a figure from nightmares, him crying murder, and me crying help.
"I'll tell everyone you fucked me. You're going to never hear the end of it..." he growled.
Eventually, I was in home territory and right by the bike shop when old Tom, the shop owner, came out. "Heard the ruckus." he said. "What is this all this clowning about?"
"Uh, nothing." Luke said, suddenly looking more respectful than I'd ever seen him.
"We're just playing a game." I said, trying to look charming. "He was, uh, trying to catch me..."
Luke even tried to manage a smile. It made him look even more like a rabbit killer, trying to hide his joy at the fact that the rabbit wasn't quite dead yet.
"Well play nice, OK?" Tom said.
"I was just...going home." Luke said, pointing his bike north.
"Me too." I said, looking westward up my hill, and estimating how fast I could get home.
Well, I got dragged to the Principal's office, where Mrs. Robinson, a doughty old Irishwoman, gave me a long grilling with lots of Significant Pauses. I love him, I said, but didn't even convince myself, and she told me to keep it off school property. The school social worker asked me if there was anything 'special' happening in my life, and indeed there was, but I said, no, of course not, and there it ended.
I shot Luke a look or two when I got back into class, but he'd already gone back to being just another guy in the back of the room. A few months later, I found another couple partners who I could trust to keep their mouths shut (except while kissing) among my guy friends, and Luke dropped out of my radar. Soon I was embarked on a disastrous teenhood, with a lecherous stepdad and a lot of unhelpful older female relatives, which still haunts me to this day.
A year or so ago, I found myself looking for a homeshare.
An email came in, telling me that there was indeed, a room available in a comfy suburban home, no real reason to need the extra income, but if you want...
I called, and he gave me directions in a soft, toneless voice that came in little bursts.
It was a long way off the beaten track, in a fading tract house development from the 50's, a neatly-kept house with a green lawn in a sea of brown grass, wrecks and derelicts, with an old, but very clean pick-up truck in the driveway.
"Hello..I'm...Luke, and...I think...we may have gone to high school...together...or with my brother..."
He showed us around. "This place is my pride and joy. I was a long-distance trucker...saved up for years."Despite its age, the place was virtually a museum piece, with vintage built-in appliances in the kitchen and sun-damaged (but still lovely) walnut panelling in the living room. "Needs a woman's touch." he remarked.
It was certainly different than any bachelor pad I'd ever seen. Most men approach their surrounds as if they were teen boys set free to build the ultimate clubhouse: their bedroom usually contains some nod to 60's Playboy passion-pit decor, the living room, at least one beer or sports-related item, and the home office at least one nod to gentlemen's entertainment, from a calendar to a box of porn downloads marked "Cindy - Sybian". Everything is badly kept, or at least cluttered, with overflowing cardboard boxes stacked in the corners. This place was of Shaker-like cleanliness and simplicity: there were no pictures, even family ones, on the tables or the walls, the office only held, other than an extra ream of printer paper, a very neatly stacked collection of truck magazines. His bedroom was equally spare and orderly, and through the open closet door, I saw only clothes. "Don't worry," I said, "Mom and I will make curtains and such. How long has it been since you moved in?"
"Been about four years now."
I felt a strange unease, and walked out to get my mother.
"Where were you in school? I don't remember you at all." I said as she fluttered around taking mental measurements, calibrating future color schemes and the like.
"...Hung out...in the Ramp...in the Caf...you remember..? All the...hoods were there."
"Why didn't I date you? Or at least..." I'd learned a few things about sex since then.
"No...musta been my brother...Brian..."
I looked at the worn dark-haired man. So expressionless, so quiet...had he been in prison?
"Do you...drink at all? I generally...don't."
"Would it bother you if I did?" I said.
"Maybe we can go out sometime. There's a real Chinese teahouse in New Haven right now."
He sighed. "I get the feeling...we live in different worlds."
On my way out, I gave him a "Still friends?" smile for no reason at all.
He responded with a smile, but not a pretty one. It was slow, and hesitant, but held a touch of...what? Hidden menace? Lust? I had the image of him very carefully and neatly, burying some very large bones in the crawlspace...
Just wait until I get my hands on you read another thought. I thought of a late night, in a blizzard, with the nearest reliably home neighbor a half-mile away, and no land-line phone...No, I wouldn't dare. I called the next day, and told him that I couldn't possibly, I had had another offer I'd kind of promised...and well, it was somewhat off the beaten path...but, well, we should keep in touch...
I lost his number, and when I tried finding it again, I'd been told he'd moved, no forwarding address, as mysteriously as he'd come.
It was a few months later, when I figured out just who he was. The Rabbitslayer. For perhaps the first and last time in his life, he'd shown compassion. We'd both lived in hell, and tried to control it as best as we could, but while I'd lived a shallowly flashy life, with nothing much to show for it, he'd somehow managed to find a niche where his dark thoughts would affect no one but himself, to live quietly, moderately, and decently. And he'd wanted to pay me back for hurting me.
I knew he'd never speak to me again, and I could never make the first move on him. If I'd stayed, he'd still have been just as cold and distant as the night side of Pluto, but he'd never, ever hurt me again. I'd failed him.