when i was 10

Clanking beer bottles, cigarette smoke clouding the air, thunderous laughter, music so loud the floor vibrates… it permeates the house.

All the kids down in the basement running around, sweating; boys trying to kiss girls when they aren’t trying to beat the shit out of one another. A baseball hat shimmies through the air, a soccer ball slams against a wall.

One of the boys sneaks down a can of beer. One has some cigarettes. Our parents will never know. Every once in a great while, one of them—the parents—opens the door at the top of the stairs and shouts down, “Is everything OK down there?” Most of us respond, “Yeah.” The door closes until it’s time for one of us to get called up to go home.

I sit on a stool in the middle of the cold basement, feeling the vibrations from the floor above as everyone whizzes around. The boys taunt one another and me. I’m a girl. I’m to be kissed. Boys kiss girls. That’s what happens.

But I’m just as tough as the boys. If not tougher because boys aren’t supposed to hit girls.

I taunt them just as much as they taunt one another. One dodges in and gets pretty close before another shoves him out of the way… before I lunge toward the shover.

They can’t kiss me. They can try, but they can’t do it.

I feel like it’s just me and the boys, which is awesome. I hate girls. Their dresses. Their pristine behavior. I like the boys. I like pushing and swearing and spitting and stealing and smoking and drinking and playing baseball and soccer.

One of the boys, Darryl, and I start dating. His parents (host of the parties) and my mom shove us into the kitchen pantry one day. They want us to become boyfriend and girlfriend because it’s funny and cute. We’re around 10.

Darryl doesn’t talk much to me, but we date. We see E.T. eight times in the movie theatre. We play Asteroids on Atari a lot. Sometimes he and my brother Marco hang out and play soccer and I ask to play too, but Marco always says No.

When there’s another party and all the kids are in the basement again and the kissing game starts up, Darryl doesn’t even try.

Finally one day I write him a note: “It’s OK if you kiss me.”

I fold the paper and keep it tucked inside my wet palm. He’s in the basement playing soccer with Marco. I slither down the stairs a bit and watch before asking if I can play. Of course Marco screams for me to leave them alone. Darryl says nothing, doesn’t even look at me. I throw the paper down onto the basement floor and shout out that it’s for Darryl before running back into my room to hide.


The kiss never happened. Honestly, I’m not really sure what happened to the note. Mama kept partying, but I started staying home alone instead of tagging along.

I never was big on the whole party scene. Not then, and not 30 years later.







31 thoughts on “when i was 10

  1. This was a really great piece of writing. I enjoyed it…it brought back the projects and basements with screaming kids…I coulda been there…nicely done.

  2. mairzeebp says:

    I absolutely can see the scene! Great descriptions. Stay out of pantries I always say…unless there are gluten free brownies in there and peanut butter. Then I might venture in and write a note to the peanut butter which is probably why I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 23 :).

  3. This is so rich with emotion. It kills me wondering what happened to the note–did he see it? Not see it? I had a journal once that I left on a plane and I always wondered where it went. Did someone read it? Throw it away? Was someone laughing about my exploits or crying along with my struggles? Probably it’s in the trash. Now I’m doing to be wondering about this note too…

    • i’m sad i’m just now seeing this comment (it was in my spam folder). honestly, i’m not sure if he saw the note; I don’t remember. maybe I blocked it out b/c it was so mortifying? 🙂

  4. Great piece 🙂 Those party sound like fun. Not. I would be just like you. Its funny that even though you are tough, there’s still that part of you that longed to be kissed.

  5. So vivid and wonderful. I remember this as well. Many think being outside is dangerous when it’s the basement parents should be worried about! Hahah!

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