This entry is a continuation of Mr. Goldberg, Part IV.
To repeat what I said at the beginning of these essays: I'm applying some basic ground rules for this series of memoirs. You may not agree with what happens in them. That's fine. I don't agree with everything that happens in them, either. Expressing that sentiment in a rational and adult manner is okay.What's not acceptable is over-reacting to events that happened thirty-six years ago with fear, alarm, name-calling, and cries for someone to be lynched or castrated or prison raped. These are sentiments that have been expressed in my comments section before, and this time around, I won't tolerate them.
“You know what I think about, sport?” By now I knew what he was going to say, almost word for word. “I think spending the night with you. Like, you coming over after school, and us grabbing a bite to eat, maybe watching some television or seeing a game, and then . . . spending the night. If only we could, huh?”
It was the winter of sixth grade. The school year’s first few months had burned away from the heady atmosphere of sex and attraction, like tissue paper over an open flame. Three months before the same confession had made me melt. By now, though, I’d heard it so many times—always the same thing, always the after-school, always the bite to eat, always the vague euphemism of ‘spending the night’—that all I could do was look at my homeroom teacher with hard and jaded blue eyes and think to myself, Why can’t you just fuck me?
As an adult, I look back on that year and think that if Mr. Goldberg was some kind of hardened, predatory hebephile, he was really incredibly bad at it. If sex were all he wanted, if all his flattery and rides home and supplications of chewing gum had been orchestrated solely so he could get his dick in my ass, it could so easily have worked. He could have had it. I would have given my body to him without question or hesitation, nervous and inexperienced as I was. If he’d wanted to see me naked, to fondle me, I would have let him. If he’d announced he wanted to tie me to his bed and pee on me, I might hesitated, but I would’ve gone along with it.
I was ready, and anxious, and chomping at the bit for him. He had me in the palm of his hand, but for whatever reason—fear, an unwillingness to cross the line with a student, a genuine moral repugnance at his own feelings, whatever—he refused to consummate the affair.
Mr. Goldberg’s idea of enjoying our relationship was not the same as mine. I intuited fairly quickly in our relationship that Mr. Goldberg wanted to court me. His tribute of sugared gums was as colorful as any bouquet; the manner in which he would hold my hands in his car, while he looked at me very seriously and told me again and again that we had to take things slow, reminded me more of Almanzo Wilder courting Laura Ingalls than anything I’d witnessed in the twentieth century.
I liked our secret romance, though. When I’d sit in his classroom during before first period, waiting for the roll call to be done, he and I would exchange smiles and knowing glances, and indulge in the intimate satisfaction of the something special between us. It was sweet, and fun. It didn’t have to announced, or talked about. A quick wink or a smile was all it took to make me weak for him again.
And in the afternoons, parked behind my parents’ house in his hatchback, he’d often read to me, or recite poetry, when he thought I was pushing too hard for anything more than our amorous kissing. “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments,” he’d say, holding my hands between his. With big, dark doe eyes, he’d speak meaningfully and from his heart. “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” I would listen, and nod, and keep a sober, attentive face while I tried to convince myself that holding off was all for the good.
All the while, though, I was thinking, Less poetry. More fucking. Close to the time one of my parents was due home, I’d stumble out of the car, hard and tenting, wave him off, and then rush to my room. There I’d sodomize myself with the broom handle until I’d shot the loads that should have been his.
I was one frustrated twelve-year-old.
I suppose lots of gay men, at the blossoming of their sexual feelings, wish for someone strong and experienced and tender to take them in hand and educate them in the act of love. I was one of them. I’d fantasized for months about getting up the nerve to give myself to one of those older men haunting the several tearooms on my parents’ college campus. I hadn’t trusted any of them enough. In Mr. Goldberg I had not only a handsome, athletic man who was something of a physical ideal—he was masculine, built, and handsome—but a man who was totally infatuated with me. Over and over he told me of the dreams he’d had about me, of his visions of a future where we could be together and do whatever we wanted. He made me fall in love with him, hard.
Yet he seemed unwilling to indulge in any physical activities.
Beyond, that is, some tender yet rather adolescent demonstrations of affection in the back seat of his car. He liked to hold my hands, and stroke them. He would lower his head next to mine and rest our foreheads together as he ran his short, stubby fingers over my face, or let his fingers trail over and over again through my long and sloppy hair. Sometimes he would let his hands drift to my neck, or shoulder, but they never ventured to the areas I begged him to touch. If I became too importunate, he would terminate our make-out sessions altogether, and merely nuzzle at my neck and my ears.
The more desperate for sex I grew, the bolder I got. When he would nibble at me chastely, my hands would wander all over his body. I would marvel at the firmness of his muscles. I’d never touched a grown man’s developed chest before, and here was one of the best, warm beneath my hands, separated from them only by a layer of cotton. I would run my palms over his biceps, and let my fingers walk up his solid thighs. Eventually I got so bold as to grab between his legs. He resisted at first, but I was persistent, and eventually he let me wrap my hands around the thick—but not extraordinarily long—bulge in his pants.
The first time it happened, he was so surprised at my forwardness that he gasped, pulled away, and pursed his lips in a round O shape. A long hiss of air escaped from his lips, and his eyes popped so wide open that for a few seconds I was convinced I’d damaged him in my enthusiasm. But then he began to shudder, and shake, and convulse, and I realized what was happening. As he gripped my hands and wrists I could actually feel the heightened pulse of blood through his body. Then his eyes closed. Though the shudders continued for a few seconds more, they gradually subsided. “You shouldn’t have done that, sport,” he panted. “I didn’t want you to see that.”
“You came,” I told him. “You had an orgasm. I know what it is. I’ve wanted to do it to you.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. He kept repeating the words over and over again. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He shook his head, and soon shooed me from the car. From then on, he’d let me repeat the performance every once in a while, but it was as if he allowed himself a small ration of it and no more. One orgasm through his pants every two weeks, followed by massive apologies and promises that we’d never do it again. That was my allotment.
For a forbidden couple, we actually were as chaste as Puritans in a bundling bed. It frustrated the hell out of me. Time after time I’d limp from the car with a hard-on so red and distended that it was painful to touch as I rammed the broom inside me in the privacy of my bedroom. I wanted dick, not Shakespeare.
Virginia’s mild winter turned into spring, and the days grew warmer and longer as my sixth grade year petered out. “I keep thinking about that idea I had,” he would say week after week. “About maybe getting a bite to eat and going out to a game, then, you know. You at my place for a sleep-over. If only I could figure out a way to get your folks to agree. I know it’s tough. It’s all I think about. If only we could.”
Every time he would shake his head, and sigh, and we would go back to our hand-holding and nuzzling and, if it was one of my lucky days, my brief and always successful frottage of him. When it was over—even while he was still in my presence—I would pity the man.
There were a lot of firsts in my life that came with my relationship with Mr. Goldberg, but not least among them was a certainty that even at the age of twelve, sexually I was vastly more mature than he would ever be. I knew that he’d invested all of his fantasies into that one vision of a perfect night together. The meal, the basketball game, the inevitable moment when our sleep-over would begin—he’d committed so thoroughly to the vision in his head that he never was able see that I was willing, wanting, and just as infatuated as he.
I was in front of him, in his hands, right there and present. Yet even when we were alone together, the me he wanted was dozens of miles and hundreds of if-only-we-coulds away. That I was able to see, understand, and mourn it at the age of twelve is something of a miracle.
June came and school let out. I lost my virginity that month in a less-than-ideal way, and that was okay; my top accomplished in the space of a few minutes what I’d ached to happen for almost an entire semester with Mr. Goldberg. It might not have been perfect, it might not have matched anyone’s idealized fantasy of how a deflowering should go, but it was real. Reality is what I needed. Within days, I’d abandoned the broomstick and was taking dicks in restrooms and down at the park. I’d gotten over that hurdle of fear and was having an actual sex life.
The following school year, when I was in seventh grade, I was a jaded young thing. I’d spy Mr. Goldberg in the hallway and regard him with much the same mingled annoyance and regret as someone who took home a two a.m. trick from the bar for some really mediocre sex and ran across the guy the following week in the same spot. We would talk. He’d still slap me on the shoulders and call me sport. He’d still look at me with those shining dark eyes and I could tell he still dreaming of that perfect, unattainable night when he could let himself go and be what he wanted to be, with me.
But we didn’t have any quiet classroom time, and he didn’t give me any rides home. We never talked about it, but we both seemed to sense the window of opportunity had closed. By the time I was in eighth grade, Mr. Goldberg had transferred to another school. We heard it was a higher-paid position. I never found out where he’d gone, or what happened to him after that.
Our time together ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, and it was a shame. But I never begrudged a moment I spent with Mr. Goldberg. After that not once did I think of him with anything but fondness, and a great deal of gratitude. I learned from him that to the shiny promise of sex, beautiful and exciting as it is in that initial rush, we humans bring all our weaknesses, fears, and fallibilities, and that the end result is not always what we imagine. That’s not so a bad lesson to learn right from the get-go.
But oh, for over three and a half decades how I loved the man, and looked back on our clumsy times together through an unabashed haze of nostalgia and affection.
Save for one brief moment some months ago, however, when a few chance words made me reevaluate everything I thought I remembered.
(This series will be concluded next week.)