Whenever we visited my parents' family in Indiana, I wanted to stay with my Cousin Buster, who lived in the Trailer in the Deep Woods. He was almost two years older than me, and much more adventurous, dragging me into adventures in the cornfields and patches of raw trees. We made magic swords, dug for buried treasure, caught frogs that were really witches in disguise.
When I was little, I liked to stay overnight in the trailer, crammed beside him in his narrow bed, giggling and talking and reading Casper comic books. I always waited for him to fall asleep first, so I could watch his bare chest rise and fall, his eyebrows flutter, his lips purse together in a dream.
When I grow up, I thought, I'll sleep like this every night, with a boy next to me, warm and hard in the night, reading comic books.
Once we arrived late, and he was already asleep. I slipped out of my clothes and slid into bed and put my arms around him. He smiled.
But the last few visits, we stayed with my Aunt Nora in Rome City, who had "plenty of room," so there was no need for me to "bother" my cousin by spending the night in his bed. We just dropped in for brief visits.
He was built, with a hard chest and thick biceps visible under his brown t-shirt. He a round face with thin blond hair and blue eyes. Big hands.
We sat in his bedroom -- the comic books and G.I. Joes were gone -- and talked about classes and Adam-12 and the cute girls who hung out at the Blue Moon Drive In.
Cute girls? What about spending the night with boys, reading comic books, cuddling, falling asleep in each other's arms?
"I have a date tomorrow," Cousin Buster said. "To go ice skating. She could get a girl for you, and we could double."
I didn't want to date girls! "Um...thanks, but we're staying in Rome City. My parents wouldn't want to drive all the way back here to pick me up afterwards."
"You could spend the night. Just like when we were kids."
Now I wanted to go! I ran out to the living room to ask my parents if it was ok.
So on December 27th, I went ice skating on a frozen pond with Cousin Buster and two girls (I don't remember who drove, somebody's father or an older kid). Then we stopped for hot chocolate, the girls on one side of the booth and the boys on the other.
Eventually someone's father or an older kid dropped us off at the trailer.
Finally the ordeal was over! Now we could get back to our real life, the only life that made sense, two boys together, cuddling in the night.
Cousin Buster's Mom and Dad were already in bed, so we quietly raided the refrigerator for leftover Christmas pie. Then he pulled some blankets and pillows out of a closet and made up the couch for me.
Wait -- we're supposed to sleep together! I thought frantically. Two boys cuddling!
But I didn't say anything. I gamely slipped out of my clothes and climbed onto the couch. Cousin Buster said "Goodnight" and vanished into his room.
It was a small trailer. From my couch bed, I could see the light from under Cousin Buster's door. I expected it to go off in a few minutes, but it didn't.
Was he reading? Watching tv?
The light stayed on.
Maybe he was lonely. Maybe he wanted two boys together, in spite of our evening with girls. Maybe he wanted me to join him but wasn't sure how to ask.
I got up, walked gingerly across the bare floor, and pushed open his bedroom door.
The light inside was very bright, like a fluorescent lamp in a schoolroom, illuminating everything. The first thing I noticed, oddly, was an open jar of Vaseline on the nightstand.
The second thing was Cousin Buster's chest, pale, smooth, with hard pecs and prominent nipples.
He was sitting up in bed, completely naked, with a magazine open in one hand and his penis in the other.
Fully aroused, straining as his hand stroked the thick shaft, easily a Kielbasa. The head was purple, glistening from the Vaseline. His testicles bobbed up and down, round like two apples.
Our eyes locked. He continued to work, his jaw set, beads of sweat on his forehead.
We looked at each other for a long time. I was afraid to speak or to move.
Then he whispered "Shut the door."
Did he want me on the inside or the outside?
I took a step back, carefully closed the door, and returned to my bed.
Something that I've regretted ever since.
In the morning, neither of us spoke about what happened.
We continued to have brief, cordial chats, but during high school, my visits to Indiana became sporadic. I was old enough to stay home alone, and often I had other things to do.
Eventually I stopped going to Indiana altogether.
He died in 1996, at the age of 38.
I didn't go to his funeral. I couldn't afford to fly out from San Francisco on short notice, and besides, it was too late -- he was a stranger.
See also: The Naked Ghost at the Crossroads; Lloyd Hooks Up with a Male Witch; and Sausage Sighting of My Cousin Graydon, Almost.