4. Testosterone/Changes

As Matt and I got older, our individual sports interests went in slightly different directions. At the junior high level, in addition to recreational leagues, the schools also fielded teams for all the sports. During the rec years, both of us had played most of the recreation-league sports that were available, but as time went by we discovered some separate favorites. While he and I both played football, baseball, and basketball for our school, Matt was also on the swimming team, and I played soccer for the school team. Occasionally there was a schedule conflict, but the coaches were always good about making concessions to athletes' multiple sports involvements at that age. Outside school, both of us stayed with league baseball and basketball, but I discovered a genuine passion for, and ability in, both soccer and baseball. Matt, on the other hand, had grown tired of soccer and had begun more and more to get involved in rec league football.

In the fifth- and sixth-grade years, soccer players with ability and interest are scouted by the soccer clubs. Youth soccer clubs and club-based leagues have sprung up around the nation to make up for the dearth of quality soccer programs in the schools. They are fiercely competitive; a player has to try out for one of no more than twenty spots on the team.  If he makes the team, he has to sign an exclusive playing contract.  Each player's family is expected to pay in the four figures each year for dues, uniforms, out-of-state tournaments, and other associated costs. The clubs are run by guys who've had life-long experience playing and/or coaching world-class youth soccer. They're often British or Brazilian or from the Middle East, because not many Americans have the experience in soccer necessary to get the job done. It seems extreme to outside observers, maybe, but it's elevating the level of American play. Without the clubs, there's no way we'd be any kind of competition for the rest of the world's teams at the adult level. For my part, club soccer  eventually taught me the game well enough to get me a free ride through college.

During my early teenage years I began to invest more and more of my sports energy there. I liked the other sports, but in my opinion, soccer's the game that requires the most out of a player, not only in terms of athletic ability but also in terms of intelligence. In a way it's like high-speed chess. You have to keep running tabs on the variety of options open to you and to your opponent. While you're executing moves, you have to anticipate what the opponent may do in response. And this sort of calculation not only applies to you as an individual with the individual opponent covering you; it also applies to the teams as a whole. You have to understand what your move contributes to the position of the team, and how the opposing team is likely to respond, and you have to do it all lightning-fast.

I'd made it onto a club team in a neighboring suburb and spent most of my soccer days from then on as a midfielder.  Of all the sports I played, soccer was the one that inspired passion in me.  Matt, on the other hand, preferred to spend his fall sports season with American football. I played the game too, but never like Matt:  the boy had an arm on him, and was a great scrambler.  Not only that; he was also absolutely fearless on the field. The coaches tagged him as a quarterback almost immediately.

Our differences in the classroom in junior high were even more pronounced than they were in sports. Matt had never been much of a student, and junior high didn't change that. I had always enjoyed learning; Matt tolerated it at best. During these years, I began to love math, and discovered that I had a real aptitude for it. Matt was happy just to get through schoolwork as quickly as he could.

My education didn't end when my school day ended. On the home front, my dad was intent on turning me into a Renaissance man, so in addition to my academic load at school, he eased me into a ten-year reading schedule laid out by the University of Chicago's "Great Books" program. The idea was to cover the greatest literary works of Western civilization in a decade's time. Weekly he'd ask me to read one of the works, and once a week he and I would sit and discuss what I'd read.  I had no doubt that even when I was off in college he'd be calling regularly to see if I'd stayed with the damn reading plan. 

He'd also seen to it that I'd had some exposure to the arts. By the time I was in the third grade, he had me taking piano lessons. I continued those through my senior year in high school, so I'm a not-too-shabby musician.

As for Matt's education, well, I pretty much got him through school by forcing him to study with me. It's not that he was a total dunce; he just preferred "living" to "thinking." Abstractions weren't interesting to him; people were. But Matt had a pretty good musical sense about him too. He started taking guitar lessons and got pretty good.

He and I both had a high profile of involvement in student leadership. We were always in student government, and, under the leadership and sponsorship of various teachers and coaches, we took charge of a wide variety of student-led service projects. Although we were solid in the "in-crowd" at school, we never turned up our noses at anybody, and spoke to everyone with respect and cordiality.  I'd be lying if I didn't admit that Matt was totally responsible for this.  In any case, we were both fairly well-liked by the various other factions that had begun to emerge in the student body: the "goths," the "stoners," the "Jesus kids," the "nerds," the kids in band and choir and orchestra, and the wood-shop and auto-mechanics boys. Everybody.

Throughout all the changes of these years, we continued to be best friends and constant companions. Although we'd irritate each other from time to time, the days of the explosive "I-hate-you-asshole" fights were gone for good. Along with that came some personal growth. My own sense of paranoia over real and imagined threats began to level off somewhat; also, with Matt's constant example as a guide, I became less abrasive and more accepting around kids whom I felt weren't pulling their weight.

For his part, Matt was growing into a guy who was remarkably self-possessed, even during the storms typical of the teenage years.  Occasionally, however, there were dark days where he was quiet and seemed to lean on me just to get through the day.  From that night in the third grade onward, I never forgot the tragedy that haunted him, and during those times where he seemed cloudy and troubled, I hung out with him quietly and kept him company, taking my cues from him.  It was understood that he didn't want to talk much during these episodes, so I just stayed with him, working on homework with him, or playing a video game or shooting hoops or watching TV, never talking a whole lot.  Once in a while when he got into these moods he seemed to need to say something, but I don't think he knew how to express in words the depth of his despair.  Sometimes his attempts to talk about it would end up in tears.  I never knew quite what to do, and couldn't even begin to think of what to say; so usually I ended up going over to him, awkwardly patting his shoulder or trying to hug him, letting him put his head on my shoulder and cry it out.  During these times he always struggled hard to get control as quickly as he could, and often seemed embarrassed for having "lost it."  But I never said anything much beyond, "It's okay, Matt."  It was all the comfort I knew how to give, and it seemed to be enough.

The dark days came only occasionally, though, and usually passed without incident.  He never talked much about those moods.  I would discover much later that during these years his internal struggle was more intense and desperate than he ever revealed to me.  I didn't know it at the time, though.  As far as I could tell, except for his infrequent moodiness, Matt was like me: a typical middle-class American white boy, enjoying life.

Adolescence begins to shape a guy into the man he's going to become, on a number of fronts.  Matt and I both got the hormone surge toward the late-middle of sixth grade. By seventh grade, we'd both been catching the girls' eyes for a couple of years.  They liked our faces.  On top of that, we had solid muscle, and the physical grace that comes from years of athletic play. Our voices began to deepen, our dicks got bigger, and we sprouted hair under the arms, on our legs, in the pubes region. I'm assuming that, anyway; I couldn't speak from firsthand knowledge regarding Matt's pubes or his dick. At that point I'd never seen him naked. Even at sleepovers we never stripped down beyond boxers.

During this period, as if someone had flipped an "on" switch, we began noticing the girls the same way they'd been noticing us since fifth grade. It all seemed to wash suddenly over me late in the sixth grade. From then on, I felt like a walking hard-on. I discovered masturbation on my own as a really young kid, but never did it much. Beginning in late sixth grade, though, more and more of my life and awareness seemed to center itself on my dick and its constant ache for release. I had my first wet orgasm the summer after my sixth grade year, and the locker room that next year grew more and more to be dominated by sex talk; the other guys had apparently discovered their dicks, too.

Matt was in my gym class in seventh grade. The locker room in our junior high had communal showers, and there was one at each end of the fairly large dressing area. At the beginning of the school year the coach assigned us lockers; Matt and I had been assigned lockers on opposite ends of the locker room, so during gym period we never really ran into each other except out in the gym, or on the playing field, depending upon which season it was. Showering with other guys was no big deal for me. Some of the guys, it was obvious, were kind of ashamed and made a few lame attempts to hide their nakedness. It never bothered me, though; by the beginning of seventh grade, I already had a little pubic hair, and my dick was a pretty good size already. It had grown in length and thickness already during my sixth-grade year, so I wasn't nervous about letting it hang out in front of people. I wasn't particularly interested in seeing other guys naked, except for the standard compare-and-contrast thing all guys have going on. It was naked girls that inspired my own hard-ons and jerk-off fantasies. I did notice, however, that I got more than my share of furtive stares in the locker bay and in the shower.  I knew what that was primarily about.  Unlike most of my peers, my parents had decided to allow me all the sensitivity that nature intended me to have: I'm uncut.  So the guys, though they tried not to show it, were curious.

That fact also fueled an interesting encounter with Matt in the second semester of my seventh-grade year.

After Christmas break, we came back to gym class to find that our lockers had been re-assigned. One of the other gym sections had to be added to ours because a coach had quit mid-term and his class had to be absorbed into ours. In the resulting shuffle, lockers had been re-assigned.

On the first day after break, Matt and I were walking to the locker room, talking trash to each other as gym period began.
  After consulting the locker assignments on the bulletin board, we realized quickly that we were heading in the same direction, and pretty soon we found ourselves in the same locker bay. Our banter died down as it dawned on us simultaneously that we were about to strip down in front of each other for the first time ever. I stripped off my shirt, and then down to my boxers; Matt followed suit. But neither of us seemed to be able to go the next step toward getting our jocks and gym shorts on, so to delay the inevitable we attempted to continue the small talk. It was clear, though, that both of us had our minds on the same thing. We were stumbling around with our words, until finally Matt looked me in the face, grinned, and said, "What the fuck, Phillips, it's just a little skin; we might as well whip 'em out and get it done."

That broke the ice. I leered at him in response, hooked my thumbs under the waistband of my boxers, and shot back, "Yeah, it's just skin, but ain't nothin' little on this boy!" And with that, I shoved my shorts down to my knees, stepped out of them, and thrust my hips forward in an obscene "check-this-out" move.

Matt was stepping out of his boxers at the same time, and I checked out his package. He had a respectable cut dick hanging between his legs. Average-sized for that age, I guess, or maybe just a little more, but definitely more in the way of pubes than I had. I quickly re-directed my gaze to his face, and noticed to my amusement that he was still staring at my dick. An involuntary "wow!" escaped from his lips.

I couldn't resist; Matt was my best friend, but I was gonna make him squirm over this.

"See something that interests you, sport?"

He mumbled a response: "Dude, you never told me before you aren't circumcised."

"Well, shit, Matt, you never asked me before, now didja?"

"You're kinda big, too."

"Aww, honey," I quipped, "I didn't know you cared."

Matt looked at me with malice. I realized I was pushing it, so I quickly added, "That's not a micro-dick you're packin' either."

His gaze softened and became inquisitive. He opened his mouth and began to ask, "How does...how does the..." Then he stopped, as if recognizing that this wasn't a conversation he was even remotely interested in having anyone overhear.

He stepped into his gym shorts, pulled on his t-shirt, and said, "What the fuck. Let's cut the 'peeping tom' shit and get our gear on and get the fuck out there."

"Fine by me, sweety," I smirked, and pulled my shorts on.

"Fuck you, Phillips."

Laughing, I arched my eyebrows and said, "Well..."

"Oh, shut up," he laughed, and shoved me hard in the back, pushing me toward the door to the gym.

At that point in the year we were playing basketball in class. Matt and I got picked to captain opposing sides and we spent the hour playing hard against each other. Matt's team won. At the end of the period we showered up and dressed for the rest of the day. Before the bell for next period rang, Matt said, "Meet you outside the gym after school. Your place or mine?"

I thought for a moment then said, "Dude, let's go to yours. Remember, your mom said she was leaving a new batch of cookies out for us."

"Oh, yeah," he responded. "Okay, see ya."

"You already did," I said, and arched my eyebrows at him again. He responded by saluting me with the middle finger of his right hand. I laughed and headed on to science class.

Copyright 2003 by Adam Phillips.  Email me at aaptx28@yahoo.com and I'll do my best to answer.