Letters from the Underworld Part 4 Rory and the Pea(stalk)

If you recall from much prior letters (pre-XMAS), I'd mentioned a rather handsome little rugrat named Pea, whom I'd met many months ago in the courtyard of Underworld while I was eating lunch with Mary Lou one Saturday afternoon. I normally don't "see" or give the time of day to such young children, as they tend to be scatterbrained, noisy, and uninteresting to me on almost every level.

Our encounters since then have been random and aperiodic, and yet they are marked with unusual bits of conversation where he tells me how he remembers a shared event between us, or asks me if I remember some particular detail of a prior encounter. I think it's his way of intoning the imagined/remembered into some tangible reality, in the way ancient magicians used to believe that verbal chants gave the abstract a solid material form.

By way of reminder, this is the boy whose single mother radiated S-I-N-G-L-E M-O-M from a thousand paces the moment I saw her. To her credit, she didn't regard me as the Harbinger of Paedogeddon, but instead actually expressed her appreciation for my spending time with her son and playing with him.

So this past Friday (last week almost to the day), I'm walking out of the locker room area towards the front desk, and sure enough, Pea is there. He leaves his stash of chocolates to come over to me and nearly throws himself into my arms. He's too well trained or self aware to complete the motion, but its mere attempt was blissfully heartwarming all the same.

He leans against me, and as his right touches my left, he seems to almost melt into me, as if I were a warm pan and he were butter.

He wants to go swimming with me, but it's after 8PM (adult lap-swim time only) and he didn't bring his swimtrunks. Mother says "you should have remember to bring them". He then asks to be carried up onto my shoulders - it's now his favourite position to sit up there, nearly 7 feet in the air at his eye level.

I toss him up onto my shoulders with complete ease, and I usually do it with a bit of a rapid flourish, which never fails to elicit a squeal of delight from him, and I take him on a little tour of the hallways, which have all of these dangling superheroes in various poses. From his elevated perch, he can now reach them - so he's taken with "tagging" them as we walk by.

I hold him by the outside of the legs, which grip the back of my neck - mainly to ensure he doesn't slide off during any of his more elaborate reaches for various things. He'll do very deep bends to the sides, almost to the point where his head comes down to mine, or leans over my head directly, draping his hands down over the front of my shoulders.

As we go by the chocolates on the front desk counter [which is about four feet high], we play a bit of the "you give me one/I give you one" where I hand an unwrapped chocolate up to him, and he does the same for me. He likes the idea of giving me things, which seems a little unusual for someone of his age.

So after a couple of chocolates, I reach up and cup his ears and ask if he's ready to whack Superman a few more times. He tilts his head into my hands as if he wanted to melt into them. It's a curious sensation, really - there is a momentary stillness and gentle bonding as if there is some electro-chemical transfer between us and the energy flying from my hand to his face were also welding them together.

When I release his face, he bounces excitedly and declares he wants to "get" all of the Superman mobiles down the hallway. I half-trot/run up and down the hallway, marking a "run trajectory" and preparing him for the rapid-fire assault upon the paper "Men of Steel" arranged in a roughly straight line down the 16 foot corridor.

We play like this together for a good 20 minutes. Pea climbs down, and up, and down, and up. And finally, when I'm ready to go, he turns to me, grabs my hand and asks if I'll be back next Friday (which is now today) because he wants to go swimming with me this time and that he'll remember to bring his bathing suit. He seems happy with the answer and asks me my name.

As he's talking, Pea leans progressively more and more into my side, threatening to melt again.

Pea is very well made, and a handsome boy. And despite his youth and the simplicity of our interactions, he has a sweet personality which never fails to make me feel a bit better for having spent time with him, despite the foolishness of it all.

When Pea sees me, I am reminded of those dogs who wag their tails in delight upon seeing their beloved master so furiously, that their entire bodies precess with the momentum of the primary motion. His face explodes in a huge smile, he waves (or runs) towards me and lets out a boyish whoop of delight.

I daresay, how can anyone fail to smile at such a thing? All of this from rolling a ping-pong ball back and forth with him at a table, which led to bouncing it across the courtyard, which led to a sort of "hand-ball" version of ping-pong at the ping-pong table, and ended with his getting me to use one of his TMNTs as a "paddle" for it.

At some point, I'll probably give him The Special Gift, the gift I give to all boys of single mothers I come to know since my time in Denver. It's an earnest plea to his mother: allow her little boy to grow up strong and independent as he gets older, and to avoid emasculating him with motherly protectiveness which however well intentioned, can seriously thwart his healthy development into a fully functional man. I do this as an ex-son-of-a-single-mother myself, and I've never been slapped in the face yet.

Post Scriptum:
I saw Antonio this past Wednesday, but the lifeguard had roped me into a longish chat, so I didn't get to play with him. He's as smart-looking as ever, and his "standard" swim trunks are getting tight on him. He's a VERY handsome pre-teen boy in the classically Mexican light-mocha complexion moda. He and one of the men frequently at the Underworld who I dub (Mr Pervert) had repeatedly veered towards me during their roughhousing, with Mr. Pervert falling against my side during one particularly close pass.

I don't think Mr. Pervert is ready for the same sort of roughhousing that Alejandro or Pea enjoy, however.

It's with no small amount of disappointment that I've seen not a sign of Alejandro - it's possible he only comes on the weekends.

Until next time....



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