For my generation, sex was a dark secret like the
atomic bomb that our parents wisely kept from us, but which was revealed in
flashes now and again at the revelries that took place under the boardwalk or in
clandestine visits to the library. The Green Bus Line that took us from Far
Rockaway to Arverne would change all that.
I, of course, knew all about sex. I had a kind of girlfriend for a few weeks in sixth grade. At least I knew a girl that somehow excited me, strangely. She didn't understand why I rode my bike to her house just to see her and talk to her on her porch, and neither did I. Her mother and various aunts were amused by my ardor and seemed to echo William Saroyan's character, Uncle Khosgrove, who said, “Pay it no mind, it is no matter.” She was a little wisp of a girl named Pauline Bulgar and over the weeks my attention seemed to please her even if neither of us understood what was going on or why. After sixth grade, I went into an SP program and attended junior high a year ahead of my regular class. It wouldn't be for another year that I saw Pauline Bulgar again.
It's safe to say that 50% or more of the boys in my junior high school English class were in love to one degree or another with our teacher, Barbara Rappaport. The other half or fewer either hadn't begun to produce any male hormones or had significantly other tastes. She had flashing dark eyes, dark hair and the pert and luscious figure of a twenty-five year-old woman blossoming from within those halter-top dresses of the time. It was definitely a superb introduction to the Wild Kingdom, and in a kind of quid pro quo, we boys worked our hearts out to learn sentence diagramming, mythology, the rules of grammar and a touch, here and there, of poetry.
A few of the girls in our class had begun to develop into females by the seventh grade. Joan Blum's cherished adolescent bosom was her distinguishing feature. She wore a heavy brass medallion over tight angora sweaters to emphasize her newfound cleavage with which she beguiled the boys and lorded it over the girls. But she was no Bobbie Rappaport. For one thing she scowled like a spoiled child. For another, she didn't have the grace, the panache, or the carriage of what we saw, prima facie as a real woman. Bobbie Rappaport was like a kindly mermaid whose gleaming smile welcomed the boys to the distant, implied world of men. It was widely, if very abstractly known, that Barbara Rappaport, being a married woman, had had or at least understood about sex, whatever that was.
I was walking down the hall of Benjamin Cardozo JHS 198 chattering with Harvey Ehrlich when I noticed a girl coming my way carrying her books. I recognized Pauline's face but the rest of her had undergone some kind of incredible metamorphosis. She was about six inches taller, her hair was thick, her face wider and she had honest to goodness breasts poking about under those books. I was stunned like a deer caught in the headlights as she passed by.
High school, it occurred to me, promised to be one dark, dangerous, exciting place.
Copyright 2008 Richard Herbst
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