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