Two Boys

Rocco Paperiello


I think I have this down pretty good by now. This story is about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Go to some other Internet Site. (Of course some people actually cultivate being offended; if that's the case, read right on). As far as detailed descriptive sex acts, I think you may find some good ones in other stories right here on Nifty, but as of now I do not envision a lot of explicit detail in this one.

If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence four. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our derrieres.

Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it (whatever for I wouldn't know), please e-mail me and also give proper attribution. As of now no one has permission to put this story on another Internet Site.

This story is almost entirely fictional, and autobiographical ONLY in the sense that many of the incidents in the story really happened, but in some cases to different people and under different circumstances. In other words I've simply adapted things that happened in my life to a fictional story. In fact, some aspects of both main characters are in part modeled from my own experiences. Some of my family members are also in this story, and perhaps (definitely) distorted a bit (a lot) at times and sometimes approaching caricature, but since I really don't expect them to sue, I'm taking the chance. All other characters are fictional, except as noted).

PLEASE give feedback. Constructive criticism appreciated.

Rocco Paperiello


PART I -- Beginnings

Chapter 3 -- How Come a White-boy?

What started out as a small embarrassment may have ended up in a miracle. And I really don't believe in miracles anymore. But I met this really weird white boy today. I was taking a pee in the bushes, and suddenly there was this really skinny white boy right there. He was staring at me and he didn't even seem embarrassed at first, just surprised. I quickly put the equipment back in my pants and turned around. He was still there and staring. I was having trouble getting the zipper back up. Then he smiled as if it were all just a big joke. At first I was going to just tell him to mind his own business, but that smile. I don't know why but I just smiled back.

I don't even remember who started speaking first. I think it was him. He just started talking about us both being back in the "wilderness" as he put it, and said he really loved walking in the woods and looking at everything. He never once mentioned my hooks or that I was black. So eventually he just sort of wore me down and I finally started talking back. We eventually got onto talking about ourselves -- he started that too. We just went on and on about ourselves and what we liked and so on. And I don't know why, but I started liking him almost at once. I think maybe it had to do with the fact that I felt a slight kinship with him. I mean I kept getting the feeling as we talked that he was almost as lonely and hurting as me. And maybe I started liking him even more because he was so excited about everything. Here was this little boy, probably in the 5th or 6th grade, talking not only to someone several years older, but also a black teenager, without the slightest self consciousness whatever. And he talked about everything. I was intrigued. Eventually he asked where I want to school and what grade.

"I'm a Freshman at Lincoln High, but I'm 15. I lost a year when this happened," I said as I lifted my hooks. I can't believe I said that -- about my hooks I mean. I NEVER talk about them! At first, he just stared without asking a question. Most people would have asked a million questions. Now I was more than intrigued. Did he understand that I really didn't want to explain how it happened?

A while later, as he was watching me use my hooks, he asked: "Do you mind explaining how they work?" His curiosity was unbounded, yet he seemed instinctively to know when I wanted him to stay away from certain questions. He was so intrigued about how the hooks worked that I showed him. I even took off my shirt to show him how they went on. And I'd never shown that to anybody before. Then he got a strange look on his face and said: "My God you can't even put them on yourself!"

Just looking into his eyes I was certain he was even feeling my pain. I couldn't answer right away.

Then seeing my expression, he added: "I'm sorry if I reminded you of something that hurts. Sometimes I don't use all my brain cells."

I laughed a little. "Oh, that's OK. I was just surprised you could tell that it really bothered me that I always needed help putting them on and taking them off."

He said he went to Father Judge High School, the Catholic school not too far from Lincoln, and also was a Freshman. I knew he had to be lying. I guess he just wanted to show me he was near my age or something. I didn't feel like confronting him about it, but I guess my expression showed how I thought. He then laughed and said he was the smallest boy in the school. He was so earnest I started to believe him. I mean that he had to be the smallest kid there. But I must have looked so incredulous about him really being a Freshman, he proceeded to tell me about his classes and about the school. Some of his stories were really funny. He said he sometime liked to be the class clown. I believed him. He was so animated.

And then he said "How come you seem so nervous talking to me?"

"Because you're white."

He looked so totally puzzled; I just couldn't believe he was that naive.

"How should that matter?" And my god, he seemed so innocent when he asked that.

And then we even started talking about race things. Was that really me sitting right there talking to a white boy about race, and not even getting angry? He seemed genuinely interested in how I thought about white people and what it was like for me growing up. Also he didn't seem to care the slightest that I was a black Negro. And I don't know how I got the nerve but I even told him that in general I hated white boys.

And he laughed. The last thing I expected was him laughing. And he replied: "How can you hate me when you don't even know me?"

And I was really surprised. He made me think about that. I said that I hated white boys because they didn't even realize how good they had it merely by being white. And that they caused the whole problem by hating black people and keeping them poor and everything. He said I was probably right about them not realizing the advantages they had just because they were white. I mean he agreed! But then he said that weren't I also just doing exactly what I disliked white people for -- prejudging them. He said sure, some white people hated Negroes but many weren't like that. And he sure wasn't. And it was amazing -- he talked like we were merely engaged in an intellectual discussion. If anything, he seemed at times to actually LIKE the idea that I was a Negro. Now isn't that weird?

But most of all he acted like my hooks not only didn't matter but he seemed to even forget about them as we talked. He didn't even ask a single question about them except how they worked! We talked a lot about what it meant to grow up black but because he was just curious. But he never hardly even looked at my hooks!

Mostly he just wanted to know about me. I wonder if I can chance letting him know the REAL me? I almost had the feeling it wouldn't matter to him. But there is a chasm between almost and certainty that I wasn't prepared to even try to cross. I was afraid I might loose him before I even had him. I know that sounds selfish but I can't help it. I NEED a friend SO MUCH! Even a white one.

Our conversation went from school to our families -- my side went very fast -- and then what he liked and what things we liked doing, and just everything. And I couldn't believe it, except that he really liked sports a lot, we were a lot alike. I can't believe I just said I was like a white-boy. And I don't know why, but that's what I kept calling him -- White-boy -- as if it were his name. I think it came out that way because I was still having a thing about not liking white-boys. I don't know what actually made me keep talking to him. It was strange, at the same time I kept disliking him because he was white, and I kept challenging him because of it, at the same time I kept liking him. You figure it out `cause I can't. My first thought was that it was merely desperation. Like this was my very last chance to find a friend that liked me. But thinking about that a little more, there was much more than that. I started to REALLY like him. He just seemed so earnest, so real, like he was saying: "Here I am, what you see is what you get."

I'm so much all mixed up inside; how can I hate white-boys in general, and really like this particular white-boy? Strangely, he even seemed to LIKE that I kept calling him White-boy! I said he was weird. And I think he's really smart. Not just how he talked, but I found out he gets straight A's in school. I told him I got straight D's. (Well maybe A's or B's in Math, but that's just because it's so easy). I also kept talking like they make Negroes in the movies talk. Like they're so ignorant. But I think he saw through that. Or more likely I think he purely didn't care like he never took notice. And he kept wanting to know how I thought about things. He really seemed fascinated that we thought so differently about things. And he didn't even mind when we really disagreed, but just seemed so curious that when we didn't agree it just got him more curious. And god he seemed interested in EVERYTHING! He made me almost feel alive just being with him. It was like my brain started to come back to life after being dormant for so long. I know I said I thought he was sad, but he also was like this different person when he got interested in finding out something.

And he's a white boy. I REALLY liked that white boy! "Who woulda thought!" As Mama says a lot. She also says: "Sometimes God works in mysterious ways." Can this really be God answering a prayer that I couldn't even make myself ask lately?

I made sure we would see each other tomorrow. I'm a little embarrassed to let him see how poor we are so we are meeting in the park again. And I would feel a bit strange walking through the white neighborhood. I know some of the kids around here actually do, and nobody there seems to care, but I would feel really strange. But then it feels really strange to be friends with a white boy at all.

Chapter 4 -- Today I Got Put Into a Trash Can

I guess I should describe myself a bit. I'm small and slender. (OK I'm actually pretty thin, OK ALREADY, I'm down right skinny. There -- are you happy now?) I'm about 4' 11' and weigh about 70 pounds. (That's if I have all my clothes on plus my winter coat, and maybe I'd need my galoshes too. Gees, there's a kid in the first grade at my old school who's even bigger than me). My Mom sometimes remarks that I would always be able to get a job by posing for Care Package pictures. Otherwise I guess I'm mosty average loking. I wished I was better looking. I don't realy turn heads for any reason.

We're only into the second week of school, and I've already been picked on at school because I'm so small, but nothing really bad. I guess I can't really say the trash can incident was even that bad. In fact, and now another confession, I guess I like certain kinds of attention, and I sometimes like being the class clown. As so. . .

I just got to Home Room, just a 15 minute period right after first class. They take roll here and make school announcements etc. Well anyway a couple bigger boys -- well all the boys are bigger, but these were really big -- thought it would be funny to force me to sit down into the trash can. I was small enough to just fit. (I guess I actually could have stopped them, but I thought the whole thing was funny enough that I didn't struggle very much). Then they lifted the can, and me, onto the teacher's desk. Everyone was laughing, even myself, as I struggled to get out of the can -- but I found I was STUCK! I had just maneuvered myself to the edge of the desk, about to drop to the floor, when the teacher walked in. We were now the only two not laughing.

Now do you really think it's fair that I should have gotten detention? And now I was mad. (I have a fast temper at times that I have been trying to control). Jade and I were supposed to meet at the park and I was going to be late. And then I got scared -- I mean terrified scared. I didn't know where he lived nor his phone number. What if he thinks I decided not to come and goes home, and I never see him again?

OK, so I just HAD to fix it. I'm the fit-it type guy after all. (That's another thing you'll find out about me soon anyway, so I may as well tell you. I'm pretty proud of how smart I am. And I always believe that I can "fix" things). I figured I had a couple hours to think. And even if I couldn't get out of detention, I decided this was too important. I just would NOT risk being late to meet Jade. If I had to, I would simply not go to detention and risk getting suspended. It was that important.

Next was Algebra Class. I like the teacher and I think I'll do well. The class is so easy I usually just start the problems at the end of the section we are on at the start of class, so I don't have any homework to do later. So far I've been able to complete them all before the end of class. Of course the teacher asked to see me last week, and I wondered if I was going to be in trouble for not paying attention to him during class.

"Mr. Rocco, (God I hated that -- see about my name? Everyone else was Mr. Cutter, or Mr. Donovan) "why are you doing all the problems? You do realize that I've been assigning only about half each day?"

"Oh, I just wanted to do them all so I learn it better. I hope that's OK?" (OK, so I'm a terrible liar, but it seemed harmless enough. Actually I think I'm a really good liar, if you get my meaning). I just lied so not to be embarrassed, or to avoid having to explain, or if it would help keep me out of trouble. I'm generally a religious person, but I never said I was perfect.

The teacher just looked at me a few seconds and said if that's what I wanted to do, just that I still didn't have to. I assumed that as long as I did well in class he really wouldn't hassle me, and so long as I didn't disrupt class. But I wish my name was John! or David!

People make fun of my name a lot. I guess I just don't fit my nickname -- Rocky. (Sometimes Rocks) I wish I did.

At lunch I have to be careful where I sit. I get terribly sick even being near peanut butter -- I'm so allergic to it. But the place is so big, it's merely an annoyance. I still don't know anyone to sit next to. I finally saw someone from my class sitting alone, but I can't remember his name. I took a chance and said: "Anyone sitting here?"

"No." Big reply.

I started my lunch -- a couple sandwiches I brought plus milk that I bought. I really wasn't a big eater. "So what do you think of the school so far?"

"I hate it. We just moved here."

"I think I'll like it here. I think I'll try to join the Chess Team when I find out where they're meeting. Why not join one of the clubs after school or something?"

"I just don't fit in."

Well so much for that try. A few more questions, and a few more desultory replies. And I still didn't know what to do about detention. They actually call it "Jug," whatever that's supposed to mean.

Next is History -- a subject I hate. And the teacher, Mr. Glod, everyone calls him "the Golb." He is sort of boring but his first quiz was pretty easy. All really easy straight forward questions. I barely bring the book home.

I was later thinking about detention. OK, I thought I'd try the straight -- I'm a victim -- approach. I went to see the school disciplinarian after History. I had a free period before the last class English. (I just remembered the 500 words I have to do yet, so I have to hurry).

"I need to see Father Brand," I tell the secretary. She actually smiled. I didn't know any of the staff smiled. I finally got to see him. He is big and intimidating. But even though I'm small, I was usually NOT intimidated. But I was then. I simply asked him, "I got `Jug' from Mr. Cutter, because some big kids thought it would be fun to put me in a trash can and put it on the teacher's desk. Can you cancel it for me?"

He just stared for a few moments, and said he would look it up and went into the next room. A couple minutes later I heard him and a couple other people laughing. (Actually, he just sort of rumbled, the others were laughing). Maybe if he though it was funny I had hope. He came back and read the slip to me: "Disrupting class by sitting on teacher's desk."

Now my temper flared. "That's NOT FAIR! That's not what happened!" Then I apologized for my outburst. "But I really don't think it's fair." I started to explain.

A few seconds after the last bell, I was hurrying to my locker, being on the lookout for people trying to trip me or knock the books out of my arm. I successfully navigated the mine field, threw all the books into my locker, and ran to catch the 66 trolley on Frankford Ave. (It was now a trackless trolley). Normally I walk but I wanted to get to the park as fast as possible. (I did all my homework in class and free period, which they call study hall).

Thirty minutes later I was in Holmesberg Park, sitting on the top of the "monkey bars," looking down the street waiting. You would think I was waiting for my date to the prom, I was so anxious. He just HAD TO SHOW UP!

"What you doin' up there?" I almost fell off. I turned around and there he was behind me. He had a huge smile.

I smiled back. All my torturous thoughts vanished. "Hi."

"I only gave you a fifty-fifty on showin'," he said.

"How come?" I asked.

"Let's walk down to the creek and talk there. I really like the woods and trees and the creek and I guess nature."

"That's fine by me. I didn't ask before, but where d'you live?"

"Down near the tracks past Ditman St." We were headed that way right now.

"But I never saw any houses down there, only a few big shacks." I couldn't tell if he were blushing he was so dark, but he went very still and looked at the ground.

"Well, we live in one of those shacks. My Mama can't work sometimes and we can't get enough money from the State. So that's all we can afford."

"Oh. (pause) I didn't mean to embarrass you." Gees Rocco, don't make an enemy before you even have time to get to know each other.

We passed near his house and he pointed it out. (Actually Jade nodded towards it. He never lifted one of his hooks). It seemed pretty small to me. And needed a painting five years ago. We walked and talked about a lot of things but nothing really personal this time. We talked a lot about the things we talked about yesterday but in much more detail. School, teachers, any brothers, sisters. All the stuff you talk about when your just learning about someone. A lot about his Mama. I almost brought up playing ball and other sports again, and just stopped myself in the nick of time. Then: "What TV shows you like to watch? My favorites are Perry Mason, Maverick, Get Smart, and sometimes Disneyland." I talked about the really funny Maverick show the other night, about Maverick robbing a bank and then having trouble trying to get all the money back into the bank again.

Jade didn't seem to get very interested. "Our TV broke a few months ago and we can't get it fixed."

I could guess why so I didn't ask. We kept walking, looking at everything, turning over rocks for snakes, and stuff. I started skipping stones across the creek. And then I finally did my first bad move. I started to hand him a stone and asked if he could skip it more times than I just had. I looked down suddenly at the hooks he had for hands and froze speechless. I couldn't look at him. I just sort of then mumbled. "Gees I forgot again." He started laughing. I went totally puzzled.

"Look, I've had these hooks for almost 4 years; I'm used to people doing these things all the time. In fact you went the longest, of anyone I just met, in quite a while."

"Wow, thanks for not getting mad. I'll try to remember."

I started liking him even more. Anyone who can laugh about not having hands (well you know what I mean), has to be really strong. And I always felt so weak. That's not right either. I think I mean that in so many ways I was a coward.

"And now we broke the barrier about my hooks, I have a question. How come a white boy even wants to pal around with a nigger?"

Now it was my time to get red. I never expected a Negro to use that word. EVER! And then I saw the corner of his mouth twitch up a little and his eyes crease a bit. He was laughing inside! And sometimes even I am quick witted. (Quick but sometimes without a monitor on what I say until too late). I sort of blurted out without thinking too much. "Simple. I'm a nigger-lover!" He just stared a second and I started wondering if I read him wrong. And then he really started laughing.

"I think we'll do really well together. I never though a white boy could feel so at ease around a black boy to even say something like that back at me. And I was just wanting to see how you'd react." Then he added as almost an afterthought: "I get so lonely at times, since I lost all my friends, but if you couldn't feel easy around me than I didn't think it could really work anyway." Right after he said that it looked like he wanted to take it back.

I started crying, my emotions started to engulf me. (I said I was very emotional). It was the combination of everything. I was overwhelmed realizing I could have really found a good friend. And then I felt I REALLY liked him -- and this is actually a different thing, I started really feeling the pain of his having no hands and no friends. I almost know about no friends -- no close friends anyway. I played ball and stuff with some of the neighbors, but I always felt like I wasn't quite a real part of the group. I was always picked last -- I was so bad at sports because I was so small. But mostly I could actually feel what it might be like having no hands and not being able to do anything -- at least physical -- with anyone. I was so embarrassed I turned away, wiped my eyes and REALLY TRIED to stop but couldn't.

"Holy smokes, how come you cryin'? I'm sorry but I really wasn't laughing AT you, only at the way you sort of got me back with what you said." He then did something that would later scare me to my soul when I started thinking about it. He put his arms around me and hugged me and said not to cry.

I finally stopped and started telling him what caused me to cry. After trying without much success in explaining myself I finally said: "It's really complicated. But part is feeling sorry about your hands. And I know that pity really hurts, and that's not it. It's just I imagined how you could loose friends that way, and then get really lonely, and then I knew how I really felt lonely a lot, and so it was like I was you and could almost FEEL your pain. That's the best I can explain."

"Holy smoke White-boy, that's the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a hun'ert years." And he hugged me again. (I'm deliberately trying NOT to think too much about the hugging. My thoughts about it started to really scare me). "And I was thinking all day long how in the world would a white boy and a Negro EVER be able to be friends."

"How come you keep harping on this white boy-black boy stuff? What in the world's so important about us being white and black?"

"Oh White-boy, do you need to learn things! And I think I will just be the one to teach you. I got a question. As soon as you cross Decatur Street, what do you see?"

"Depends on the direction. Frost Street one way, and Hartel Avenue the other. Why?"

"I really didn't expect that answer. I think you're too literal minded. But I think you just made my point anyway. I will tell you what I would see. All white people on one side and all coloreds on the other. And how often you walk through our neighborhood? And ever at night?"

"I don't know, not -- not often, but I just don't have anything much to do there."

"And why not?"

"Well, it's all colored."

"Well, that's what I am trying to teach you. We all live here all our lives and we never mix."

"That still don't answer my question. Even if we never mix, I still don't all the time keep thinking of you're black and I'm white. What's that all about?"

"I'm not sure if I can get you to understand. How do you think about yourself all the time? What nationality are you? Or what religion?"

"I'm part Italian, and part German. And I'm Catholic."

"So do you keep thinking about yourself as Italian, or Catholic, or white?"

"Not really, I'm just me. Although I sometime think about being Catholic because it is so different from many other religions and sometimes I feel people sometimes don't like Catholics. It's the only true religion you know. All the others have broken away from the Church and don't really follow true Christianity."

"Do you really believe that? But let's forget that for now. OK now. I'm Negro, Baptist, but don't really go to church much, and that's it. But above all I AM A NEGRO. I think about that ALL the time. And possibly for the same reason you think about you being a Catholic sometimes. Because it MATTERS. It is the cause of how I have to grow up, how I can fit in with all the other people in the country, and affects how everybody reacts to me. As my Uncle Mike keeps saying: 'It's a white man's world. We just live in it'."

"Wow. I never thought of those things. But how come if you don't like white people so much, how come you still want to be friends?" I asked.

He looked, and I could see the corner of his mouth move up, so I knew something was coming. "Shear desperation," and he burst out smiling as he said it.

And we both started laughing. I was liking him even more. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE has talked about so much personal stuff to me EVER! And I started telling him that. And asked him how come.

"Holy smoke, I don't know. I've never even talked about this stuff to anybody -- black or white. I think I just feel so -- I don't know -- so . . . well like I can tell you this stuff and you would listen. I mean really listen. And I have kept these things bottled up so much I feel so angry at times about a lot of things. It's hard to explain."

I didn't know how to react. I looked at him and was walking backwards and almost slipped right into the creek not watching. I barely stopped myself from falling, and I instinctively reached out to Jade, and I was really shocked to see him pull his arms back. Barely keeping my balance, I then asked: "Hay, how come you didn't try to help me from falling? I could have got soaked?"

He looked and I thought I saw one of what I now thought of his "sad-moments." Gees, what did I say wrong now.

He was looking down and finally said. "If I had tried to help there was a chance you'd be hurt worse if I hit you with one of my hooks."

Now it was my turn to feel bad. "I'm sorry, I just forgot about them again."

He smiled.

"OK, now why are you smiling?"

"Most people CAN'T forget about my hooks and its just too depressing to be with them."

I don't know why I did what I did next, and later when I thought about it, I got really scared about it, but I hugged him. It just looked like he needed it. And the only reason I got the nerve was because he had hugged me.

"We better start heading back; I didn't realize how late it was getting." I said.

So we started back and I was telling him about school and what had happened about the "trash can incident." He laughed with me.

And when I told him about getting out of detention and how, he said. "Wow. This school disciplinarian as you call him, is a real human being with feelings? And even FAIR? How did your school get so lucky? At our school, you don't even want to look at most of the office people. And our vice-principal hates kids! And especially colored kids."

We kept talking about a lot of stuff. He said he liked math the best too. I said "Now I KNOW we were destined to be friends. So there's actually two of us who like math."

"I'll bet you could never guess why." Jade challenged.

"Ok, but what do we bet?"

"Well I really don't have any money."

"Ok, how about whoever looses has to tell the other a secret about ourselves. But it has to be something you've never told anyone."

He looked at me for a bit and finally said: "But you already know all my secrets." And laughed. Gees, it sure felt good to see him laugh. He keeps having those "sad-moments."

"Ok, you're on!" I guess I was too confident. "This is too easy, you may just as well give me your darkest secret right now. Everyone really likes math only because they're really good at it. OK, what's your secret?"

He smiled. "Wrong! I like math the best simply because I can do it the best, but NOT for the reason you said. Look at my hooks. I have SO hard a time doing my school work, that math is the easiest because it's the least amount of writing! So, White-boy, tell me YOUR darkest secret."

I was surprised, shocked, and scared all at the same time. Surprised because now that he explained it, it should have been obvious. Shocked, because he talked so nonchalantly about his no hands. (But never said how he lost them). And scared because I suddenly realized, I simple could NEVER tell him my one real SECRET! And then I was overcome with grief that I lived in a society where my SECRET could NOT be talked about. You know I think I'm as angry about my secret as he is about being black.

I looked at him and I think I must have frightened him.

"Holy smoke White-boy, I'm sorry. You don't have to tell me anything! You just turned all white, and that's not meant as a joke." Jade really looked concerned, and I got so scared and also so sad all at the same time, I think that I couldn't handle my emotions. I started to cry again. (Gees, I think he will really think I'm just a little kid, crying all the time).

We just walked a bit more without saying anything. I was sort of lost in my thoughts. I wanted to confide in him so much, but now that I think I have finally found someone who actually LIKES me, I could NOT jeopardize our friendship before it hardly began. But I wanted to say something.

"OK, promise me we'll still be friends! You have to promise or I won't say."

"That's easy. I can't think of ANY secret you can have that would make me not want to be friends, now that I've found you! You aren't really a serial killer that targets colored boys are you?" He smiled. "OK, I promise!"

Oh my god, did he actually say that. "Now that I've found you"? That's just what I was thinking about him.

"OK." I was trying to figure how to say it. I thought a bit and finally mumbled "I actually can't even say it. See there's another secret about me. I'm a coward at times."

Jade looked at me and his expression changed ten times in two seconds. Now I think I've blown it. I started crying again. "You promised!" I said.

"Look, I did promise, and I meant it. But boy, White-boy, I am stumped. I was trying to think, but there simply CAN'T be something that bad."

I was really relieved but still scared. I wished I hadn't said anything at all but it was too late now. "Jade, could you promise me something? Please never say anything about what I just said. Maybe some day I will get the courage to tell you, but please I'm too scared to tell you now." I was real anxious. "And that's two secrets for the price of one. As I said sometimes I'm a real coward!"

"Hay White-boy, we're all cowards at times. We all have things we don't let anyone know about."

"And Jade, I really HATE my name. I like it when you call me `White-boy.' I really like that. But I'd feel really silly calling you `black boy.' And I really like Jade."

"You know I never liked the name Jade too much either, but if you like it, I would really like you to use that name. Most people don't even know my name is Jade. I've gone by Noah for so long, which is really my middle name."

We were all the way back to the play ground by then and we talked some more especially how to meet again. I wanted to go to his house but he seemed really reluctant, and he said he would really feel weird going into "a white boy's house in the white neighborhood." We finally agreed to meet here the next day.

"Look, my parents really aren't that bad. They actually both claim that they aren't prejudiced but my father says some embarrassing things sometimes about colored people. You know the usual. `Yeah, he's quite a ball player even if he is colored.' That kind of thing. So if I ever do talk you into coming over to my house, please ignore what my father says."

"Don't worry. I'm just glad your parents seem to be trying. At least you grew up without being prejudiced, so they must have done something right."

I never thought of it that way before.

"Well that's really my secret. I really hate black people, they're so . . . so . . . well black."

We laughed. I'm glad he took it for the joke as I meant it. I gave him my phone number -- DE 8-1618.

When I got home I snuck upstairs since I was a half hour late and I was trying to pretend I was home all the time. But my brother Carl was there. "You're late. I won't tell Mom if you do the dishes for me tonight." We all take turns doing the dishes. Very few people actually had dishwashers. My Mom said she already had four dish washers -- us kids. I just ignored him -- that's what I had to do most the time. We REALLY did not get along too well sometimes. I always seemed to get into trouble if I did anything else. He did things so sneaky, and I simply reacted, and I was the one caught all the time, and according to my parents, Carl NEVER did ANYTHING wrong. Yet he always goaded me into loosing my temper.

While we were eating dinner, my Mom eventually asked, "And how was your day, Rocco, you seem really happy all of a sudden."

My Mom usually knew what I was feeling, but rarely knew why. However, whenever I tried to hide something, she picked up on that right away. That part of her ESP usually worked. But this time I had nothing to hide and I realized that I really WAS happy. Boy what a difference having a close friend makes. "Thank you God again." I thought.

"Well I just met a new friend and we did a lot of stuff together today. I really like him. He's a really nice person, and he's smart. He gets A's in Math." (Well, maybe a few B's). What a dumb thing to point out but the really good stuff seemed just too personal.

"Well that's nice. And I'm glad you could do `stuff' with him." She smiled. I just realized, I don't think I've ever heard my Mom really laugh. "How old is he and what classes does he have?"

Why do adults ALWAYS ask how old someone is? "He's 15 but is a Freshman since he lost a year. And he has all the usual Freshman classes."

"Do you have any classes with him?"

"No, he goes to Lincoln."

My father suddenly looked at me. "I'm not sure I like you being around a boy who isn't Catholic."

"I never said he wasn't Catholic. And I can't see how that should matter. Gees, Aunt Valley isn't Catholic and we see her all the time."

Then my Mom jumped in. "Well let's not argue. Just make sure you stop seeing him if he does anything we don't approve of. But why can't you find a friend from your own school? And how come he missed a year of school? Did he get left back one year?"

"How come the third degree? I . . ."

But before I could continue my father said: "It seems you're already learning bad habits from him. You know better than to talk back."

Gees. I only said how come all the questions -- that's not talking back. But I just said "OK." And I never did answer my Mom. But she persisted.

"Well how come he's a year behind? And we would really like you to find someone at your own school. Maybe you should really stop seeing him. I think maybe that would be for the best."

Wow, my temper went from zero to sixty in one second. I yelled: "Best for who? I won't stop seeing him. I finally got a good friend and I won't." And I had to run from the kitchen because I started crying in front of everyone.

I could hear my father remark behind me. "What's that all about? I don't like this." My brother started saying something, probably something mean, but by that time I was starting up the stairs. I threw myself onto my bed crying, but determined NO ONE could stop me from me seeing him again. Never.

A while later I started my Journal again. I couldn't stay unhappy for long. Not while thinking about Jade.

Journal of Rocco P

September 15, 1959
OK, since nobody else will read this. The really first thing I noticed about Jade was his REALLY BLACK penis. There, I said it and I'm still alive. No lightning bolt. He was actually peeing in the bushes when I first saw him, but I was embarrassed so I didn't say hello `till he finished. I hope he didn't think I was spying on him.

Wow, a lot of things happened today. And even if my parents are not too happy about Jade not going to my school, or not being Catholic -- my Mom always thinks that all the kids at Lincoln are mostly "hoodlums" is the word she uses a lot. But anyway Jade is so great. We talked a lot especially about him being black. Why does he always have to talk about being black so much? Maybe because I'm white? To me it simply doesn't matter. Why should it? I have to figure out how to make him understand that. I never REALLY thought how it would be to grow up black. I'm going to have to ask more about that. I just know Jade won't mind. I can't believe how much I like him in just two days. He also has no hands. I said that already. And I told him I was a coward. I am sometimes. I seem to be always a little afraid in the back of my mind about a number of things. Like my SECRET for instance. But I won't think about that for now. And gees, I told him I actually HAD a Secret. I think maybe I should not have. Now he will be always wondering. But I asked him to promise never to bring it up again, and he did. So I guess I'm safe. And anyway maybe I really DON'T have a secret. Maybe when I get older everything will be OK. I just hope. Gees, I'm not even close to puberty yet. I look more like a sixth grader.

Well, maybe I guess I am too self-centered. I keep talking about myself. But I actually hugged Jade -- what was that all about? I refuse to believe that it should have anything to do with my secret. Anyway he hugged me too, so I guess it really means nothing. I can't believe it but he actually said "Now that I've found you." I think I'll going to sleep tonight with those words repeating in my head. I think Jade must be really poor. His clothes are pretty shabby, and there's a hole in the back of his shirt where his harness has rubbed through. Boy it must be really hard without any hands. He said he missed a year of school but never said why. I bet it had to do with loosing his hands. (When my Dad was eight, he also missed a lot of school when he was in the hospital so long when he got gangrene in his leg. The scars are huge! He broke it when he jumped from a trestle and didn't tell anyone for a while. They didn't have antibiotics back then).

Jade talked a lot about being black, and yet he mostly doesn't talk about his "hooks" as he calls them. And I was too embarrassed to ask about them and how come he lost his hands. And more than that I could tell he just don't want me to ask him about what happened. That's why he probably missed a year in school. It must have been something really bad. But no TV and he said his Mom, or Mama as he called her, was too sick to work. Boy, where did they get any money? He never mentioned a Dad. And gees I never even asked. And he has no brothers or sisters. I really wonder what his house looks like inside. I think he's ashamed to let me see it, but I wouldn't care.

And I couldn't believe it. As Jade said, Father Brand may actually be a normal person. Well anyway I was really surprised when Father Brand believed me over a teacher, and ripped up the "jug" slip.

I was just putting away my journal when my Mom came into the room. Gees, she never does that.

"OK Rocco, I know you. What's really the matter?"

I was suddenly trying like mad not to break out crying again, so I let myself get a little angry. "Mom, I'm sorry if I did anything wrong, but you don't understand. Jade isn't just some other friend I pal around with or play ball with. We really like each other. I always wanted a really good friend and now that I have one you say it's for the best not to see him. Well it's not the best for me."

"Look, we didn't want to make you so unhappy. Just make sure that he's not the kind of person to get you into trouble. You should realize that a lot of people don't believe as we do and don't really try to be good people. Will you do that much for me?" This was a common theme with my Mom. Someone was always being a bad influence on us.

"Sure Mom, but please don't you or Dad say we can't be together. That's just not fair."

"All right. I saved your dinner for you. You must still be hungry. And don't fight with your brother. He's doing the dishes. He said that you were late coming home today, and threatened him if he let us know. You know I don't like that, so stop causing him trouble. I know you don't get along so well, but you never try. Why can't you be more like your brother?"

"Mom, that's not fair -- Carl was lying. How come you never believe me? You always take his side!"

"Look, just get along. You're the one who always starts fighting."

"Mom, I AM telling the truth. I didn't do anything. It was Carl who threatened ME."

"But you must have done something to start it; I know Carl wouldn't do anything like that, so please just behave."

I gave up. My parents ALWAYS believed Carl over me. Life isn't fair. And he's so mean sometimes. (Oh gees, that's what Jade said: "Life's not fair!" Maybe I should rethink things. I think life's been a lot less fair to him than to me. I'm starting to think everything is relative).

I went downstairs and Mom got my supper out of the oven. I really was hungry -- I just wish for once that she wouldn't overcook the meat.

"All right so tell me about your new friend."

"Well he lives on the lane that runs down from Ditman just passed the tracks. And he's really a great guy. He has a great sense of humor. And the way he thinks, I think he's really smart. I told you he gets A's in math. He said he doesn't have a lot of friends. And he's worse in sports than I am. Oh yeah, his mother is a practical nurse, but hasn't been able to work at lot lately. I'm not sure why. And I think that's why they're so poor."

"How can you know a thing about how poor they are? And nurses can make pretty good money."

"Well, the place they live is almost a shack, and his clothes are pretty shabby. And they don't have a TV or nothing."

Mom seemed a bit embarrassed. "I hope you don't keep mentioning that."

"Gees, Mom. I'm not dumb."

We talked a bit more, and Carl came into the kitchen to start the dishes and had to say a few really mean things. How come Mom and Dad don't realize how mean he is? Carl actually said that if he and I got along it had to mean that we were both blind. And he said other things like nobody could like me because I always complained about things. And when I complained about how mean he was he said: "You see!" I can never win. Then my mother said for ME to stop bickering, but it was Carl that started it!

Copyright 2006 by Rocco Paperiello