6. Passages/1

During the late spring and summer before my freshman year, I was spending a lot of time in the company of a beautiful sixteen-year-old named Staci. Staci had dark brown hair and piercing brown eyes. Hers was the proverbial face that could launch a thousand ships, and she had a figure to match. Staci’s family and mine went to the same church.

My parents and I have always been church-going people, although I guess you'd have to call us "left-wing" Christians. We're very much out of sync with the fundamentalist brand of Christianity that's endemic to the Bible Belt. My parents were both raised in the same denomination, one of the so-called "liturgical" denominations whose ritual isn't far-removed from that of the Roman Catholics. My father's academic background led him to look at much of the material in the Bible as mythological, yet full of all kinds of existential and ethical importance. He raised his kids in that same denomination, but through his guidance inoculated them against the intolerance and rigidity that characterize much religion below the Mason-Dixon line.

In any case, our family was highly involved in our church. We belonged to the largest congregation of our denomination in Dallas. Staci was a member there too, and one of the few kids I knew there who'd also gone to my junior high and high school. Although we had a fairly large youth demographic in our church, most of the kids came from different parts of Dallas.

At school, Staci and I were on different planets. She was a sophomore that spring, and I was back in junior high, so we'd never really known each other from school. The friendship we had came from our mutual involvement in our church's youth group. In early May, the eighth-graders in the church got moved from the junior high youth group to the high school group, and that's what caused our friendship to move forward.

By my fourteenth year, I'd grown into most of my adult height and had a pretty decent build. I wouldn't have had any trouble passing for sixteen or maybe even older. I noticed pretty quickly in our youth activities at church that Staci seemed to like me. She went out of her way to make me feel welcome and to introduce me to the older kids. From my end, the attention from this "older woman" was intoxicating.

But Staci had a seventeen-year-old boyfriend. His name was Dylan, and he was a real tough guy. He played football and baseball and hung around with a group of guys who had reputations for getting into trouble. So as far as I was concerned, between Dylan on the one hand and my young age on the other, Staci was just a set of butterflies in the stomach and a jerkoff fantasy. I figured the best I could hope for was "good friends." But, hell, I'd take it.

As the weeks went by, I discovered that Staci and Dylan were having some conflicts. He used to come to some of the church youth activities, but I saw him there with her less and less. She and I were also spending more time in each other's company at youth group activities. And I'd gotten brave and started calling her during the week.  Before too long, she began opening up to me about the problems between her and her boyfriend. By the time the school year was over we were talking for hours on the phone each day.

One evening near the end of May, I was outside shooting hoops with Matt. My mom poked her head out the door, looked at me with a curious expression, and said, "Andy, Staci Hamilton's on the phone; she wants to talk to you."

I looked at Matt, wide-eyed; Matt grinned and gave me the thumbs-up sign. I'd talked to him about my hopeless crush on her, and over the weeks he kept encouraging me to say "what the fuck" and ask her out.

As I turned to go inside, he said, "I want the full report when you get back."

I went in and walked upstairs to my room.  I took a deep breath and picked up the phone.  Putting on my best "confident Andy" persona, I said, "Hey, Staci, what's up?"

"Andy...hi." She sounded distressed. "I'm sorry to pull you away from your game."

"No big deal, it was just me and Matt; hell, we do that every day."

She paused, then said, "Hey, do you think...I mean, would it be okay if I came by and picked you up and we went for a Coke somewhere?" Again I heard the note of distress in her voice.

"Staci, what's wrong?"

There was another slight pause before she answered, "Oh, nothing. I don't want to make a big deal of it. But I just want to, you know, hang out and talk about some things, and you're such a good listener and all."

I had no idea where any of this was coming from or where it was going. But I answered, "Yeah, Staci; I really like talking to you and hanging around you and stuff. You've been pretty cool to treat a freshman right."

She laughed a little and said, "Well, I have plenty of time to pick on you next year, so you're not out of the woods yet."

I laughed and said, "Oooh, I'm scared."

She laughed a little too, and then said, "Anyway...would you go out for a Coke with me?"

Damn. A date with Staci. Regardless of what you called it, that's what it was. My palms were starting to sweat.

"Yeah, sure! But you're gonna have to give me some time to clean up. I smell like sh...I mean, I'm all sweaty from playing basketball."

"Okay...how 'bout if I stop by in half an hour?"

"Okay," I said.

"Sonic okay?"


"I mean, is it okay if we just go to the Sonic and grab a Coke?"

"Sure," I replied. "It's your car and your call. But I'm buyin'."

"Ooh, a big spender," she said. "Okay, then. It's a date. See you in a little bit."

I said goodbye and hung up the phone. A date. With Staci. I was floating about a foot off the ground.

I made my way back outside, where Matt was busy perfecting his layup. I must have looked as goofy as I felt, because Matt looked at me for a second, then said, "What the fuck, Andy?  You look like you just beamed down from outer space.  What the hell did she say?"

"She said...I think she...I gotta go get showered up, Matt," I said. "She...well, she's coming to pick me up and we're gonna grab a Coke at the Sonic."

"No fuckin' way!"

"Yes way, dude. I'm goin' on a fuckin' date with Staci Hamilton."

"My man," Matt said. "I always knew you had it in you. Good thing I taught you everything you know about makin' the moves on the women."

"Fuck you," I replied. "I didn't make any moves; she called me up and asked me out. Anyway, she wants to talk about something."

"You know what it is: She wants to talk about Dylan, dude. Man, I'm telling you, this is your chance."

In my gut I felt Matt was right. But I wasn't sure I wanted to admit it. I didn't want to get my hopes up. Hell, she was this beautiful older woman, and I was just a freshman. And anyway, I didn't know that I wanted to be getting into any kind of situation with Dylan. That was a guy you didn't want to cross.

"Screw that," I said. "I'm just gonna go out and grab a Coke with her. For all I know she just wants to talk about the beach trip or something." The youth group was planning on going on a weeklong beach retreat in mid-June.

"Maybe," Matt replied. "And for all you know, she wants your body."

"Shut up," I said. "She doesn't want that. We're friends. That's all."

"Come on, Phillips," Matt said. "You're freakin' about this because she's older. Don't even think about that. Just make your moves, man...I'm telling ya, she wouldn't be calling you if she weren't interested. You know you got game; now pull your head out of the clouds and bring it."

I didn't know about that, but Matt was right about one thing: if I had any chance with Staci, I'd have to neutralize the "young, inexperienced freshman-boy" thing. I mean, she'd been dating a guy who pretty much reeked of self-confidence.

Well, fuck that and fuck him, I said to myself. I know a little bit about self-confidence.

"Okay, Matt," I said, trading "daps" with him. As our knuckles bumped, he finished off the gesture by turning his fist counter-clockwise and "locking it in." I grinned at him. "Thanks, man. I better go get ready."

He grinned back at me. "Yeah, Phillips, that's my boy. Dude...you play this right and she could teach you a few things, know what I'm sayin'?"

"Get the fuck outta here, Price," I said.

"Okay, I'm gone," he replied, "but I want the full report on this one too."

"Yeah, you'll be the first to know, asshole."

Matt tossed me my basketball and started jogging home.


Over Cokes and conversation, Staci spilled her guts to me, albeit with some reserve. Dylan had been pressuring her to have sex with him, and had been threatening to dump her if she wouldn't. She was a virgin and didn't feel she was ready. But she didn't want to lose him. The previous night, she'd finally given in; and the experience was horrible for her. She was in pain, and Dylan was brutish and insensitive. He got what he wanted and rode off in his car, unaware of, and unconcerned about, her confusion and hurt.

We talked about guys, and about girls, and about love, and about sex. I had little experience with sex, but plenty of opinions. The vulnerability she'd displayed in seeking me out to share this intimate problem only increased my infatuation; as we talked, it felt as though I had known--and adored--her forever. I was a captive audience. I was blown away that she'd felt such a bond with me that she'd tell me this story rather than going to one of her girl friends with it.

We must have talked for two hours. I listened to her vent about Dylan, about how complicated relationships between the sexes are, stuff like that.

When she reached a stopping place, I finally said to her, "He doesn't deserve you, Staci. He's a jerk. You need to dump him. You can do so much better."

She smiled, kind of wistfully, and said, "Oh, yeah? Who'd you put me with?"

I grinned and said, "Me, of course," then laughed quickly, in hopes she'd believe I was joking. I wasn't a big fan of rejection.

She didn't laugh. She studied my face for what seemed like an eternity, and finally said, "You don't seem like you're just fourteen."

Trying to dispense with the "little kid factor" as quickly as I could, I said, "That's because I'm almost fifteen; well, just three more months, anyway." Immediately I regretted it.  Damn, I thought to myself; how fuckin' juvenile!  I might as well have said "I'm fourteen-and-a-half" like some little grade school kid.  Idiot!

She didn't seem to notice, though.  She said, "You're as mature as any of my friends. More so, maybe."

I began to realize that there were some possibilities here. I liked where this was going. I was scared spitless at the thought of taking the next step; still, if I didn't...

I heard myself say, "Look, Staci, maybe I shouldn't say this after you've told me how confused you are about Dylan. But I...I really like you. I don't know if you'd go out with a freshman, but I like being with you. I'd never treat you bad and I'd never put any pressure on you."

Half-shocked by my own forthrightness, I looked into her eyes. She smiled at me and said, "You're so sweet, Andy. I've always thought you were a cool guy. And you're cute, too. Any girl would be lucky to get some attention from you. I really do like you. I feel I could trust you with anything...you always seem to understand things.

"I know you like me," she continued. "I've known it since all of y'all moved up into the high school youth group. If you were a little older..."

Screw "a little older." I wasn't going to let that get in my way.

"Staci," I began, "I guess I don't have any right to tell you what to do about Dylan. Especially since I'm crushin' on you so bad. Y'all have been together for a long time, seems like, and so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. But I can't help it; I know he's a creep and you need to dump him. You think he's gonna change? He's not.

"We have a summer," I went on. "I like you. I'd love to spend more time with you. Don't think about the age thing. Can't we just go out a few times, you know, enjoy the summer together, hang out a little? You said you liked me and you feel safe with me. You don't need to be all hurting over your loser boyfriend all summer long. Summer's supposed to be about fun, and this guy is gonna keep after you now that you've given him what he wants. It doesn't matter to him if it messes with your head or not, long as he gets his."

A tear rolled down Staci's face as she stared into my eyes. Crap! I'd made her cry with my big stick-my-foot-in-it mouth.

"Aww, geez. I'm sorry, Staci. Please don't cry. I didn't mean it like it sounded."

She struggled a little to recover her composure. Finally she said, "No, you're right, Andy. He doesn't give a shit about me." I winced to hear her say "shit." She saw it and laughed a little. "And I'll tell you something else, too...I'd be happy to spend more time with a guy like you. I mean, you are gonna be fifteen soon. I'm only sixteen. My dad's older than my mom by more than that."

"Now, wait a minute," I said, smiling. "I'm just talking about going out with you, Staci, not any lifetime commitment thing."

"Hey, don't start what you can't finish," she said, looking at me totally seriously. My smile vanished and my eyes got wider by the second, which made her laugh.  "I'm just yankin' your chain, freshman," she said. The expression of relief on my face must have been pretty damn funny because she started laughing even harder.

"Oh, man, are you gonna pay for that one," I responded.

"Wow, Andy," she said, eyes wide in mock surprise.  "We haven't even been out yet and I still have a boyfriend, and already we've had our first lovers' quarrel!"

Lovers' quarrel: The words registered and lifted me ten feet off the ground.

She was kidding, of course. But what came through was this: I really have a chance with this beautiful, sweet girl.

As the reality of all this was sinking in on me, she said, "Well, it's getting late; we probably ought to get home."

"Yeah, I guess," I responded.  "Man, thanks for calling me, Staci. You're so awesome. I'm really happy that you trusted me to tell me all this. Can I see you again soon?"

"Well, you'll see me Sunday of course," she said, pulling her keys out of her purse. "But if you mean like this, well, yeah, I'd like to go out with you too. You're pretty cool. I guess I'll have to drive, though, right, little boy?"

I could feel myself starting to blush. "Yeah, I guess, old woman. Unless you want my dad to chauffeur us around."

She wrinkled up her nose.  "I think I'll pass on that. Tell ya what, you let me drive and I'll let you pay."

"Sounds like a plan," I said. "That way you don't totally rob me of my manhood."

She cocked an eyebrow at me and said, "Why would I want to do that? What good would you be to me then?"

I was sure my face got even redder. I had no idea what to say to that. I looked at the floor and muttered, "I...okay. Yeah."

"C'mon, let's go, silly," she said.

She started up the car and we pulled out of the parking lot.

When we got to my house she stopped the car. Looking over at me, she said, "Andy...thanks for talking to me. You've been great. I would love to go out with you this summer. I think I still have it bad for Dylan...but you're right about him. Everybody's been telling me. I just wasn't ready to listen. Thanks for helping me listen. And thanks for listening to me. Look, I'm not so sure about going out with a freshman.  I think it...it seems kinda strange. But when I'm with you it doesn't feel like you're so young.

"Part of me doesn't want to break it off with Dylan," she continued. Then she took my hand and held it in hers and said, "but part of me already has. I can't promise you anything, Andy. I like you a lot. But let's just keep it casual, okay? You know, see what happens. Call me in a couple of days after I've had some space to work this thing out."

"Sure, Staci," I said. Then she leaned over from the driver's seat and kissed me on the cheek.

Encouraged, I leaned over in her direction and moved in to kiss her on the lips. Her face met mine and we kissed, tenderly, for a quarter of a minute.

I could feel my dick turning to steel. I needed to make my exit before I lost all dignity. Pulling away from her, I stumbled through a goodbye: "I...wow. I better...I'll call you on Saturday, okay?"

"Okay, Andy. I may need a shoulder to cry on by then."

I smiled. "Well, I have big shoulders with lots of room for a pretty girl."

She smiled back at me as I got out of the car. "Bye, Andy. See you soon."

I watched as she drove away. Then, still half-dazed at the developments, I went inside the house, walked directly into my room, shut the door, and released the tension the evening had produced.
Copyright 2003 by Adam Phillips.  Thanks for reading.  You can email me at aaptx28@yahoo.com