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edward palmquist

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more honest than an “I love you”

2009

The corn grew dense in the field behind my childhood home. Their rich leaves rustled as I brushed them aside. Where had you gone off to? I looked up at the sun that was then directly overhead.

Earlier that afternoon, I had waited anxiously for the doorbell to ring. Though my mother watched a few of the local children while their parents were busy, you were the only one that was my age. You had blond hair, cut short in a sort of sexless manner. I too once had golden hair, but over the years it darkened into “dirty blond” and finally settling into a rather generic brown with a few rare blond strands.

If I remember correctly, you had brown eyes. At this point it’s really nothing more than a guess, yet it would sort of explain why I’ve always felt drawn to dark eyes. On a child such as yourself, the brown is accented by a glint of innocence and mischief. On a woman, the glint is still there, yet there seems to be a richness of emotion which cannot be conveyed or possibly even understood by a person with say blue eyes (a color which always makes eyes seem so cold.)

It was getting late, and I figured we should probably head home. From the corner of my eye, I caught movement. Calling out your name, I followed the trail of still trembling greenery.

At school, we hardly spoke to each other. I suppose you could attribute it to the fact that at such a young age, it was uncommon for a girl and a boy to be very close. So at recess I would usually be off exploring the small wooded area surrounding the playground with the other boys while you were elsewhere.

Even then I had difficulty connecting with boys. I was raised around girls; mostly the daughters of my mother’s friends. They always seemed to be able to hold a more interesting conversation. Over the years, girls grow more mature than boys, but what the latter lacks in maturity, they make up for with inappropriate comments concerning the former.

I suppose it’s unfair to label all boys as such, however I’ve always just felt so awkward and forced around them. While I can carry on conversations with them, the topics tend to be rather limited.

“Come on, let’s go back to my house. It’s getting late,” I cried out.

No answer came, other then the steady sound of footfalls against moist soil getting farther and farther away. I quickened my pace in hopes to catch you. Your’s was an even faster gait.

Examining locust exoskeletons and collecting acorns was about the extent to which I would engage in the usual rural male activities. Due to a mild case of asthma, I couldn’t become too involved in sports. On class trips to the local pool, I was forced to just watch. Some condition with my ear canals had made it dangerous for me to be submerged in water for long periods of time… something about air pressure I believe.

As with most children with health problems, I never really understood the nature of each ailment, I just learned to accept their implications. So while the other children swam, I would sit alone at poolside and make simple picture books with the markers and paper I’d brought along. My parents didn’t want me to miss out on the social experience, so staying home on those days was out of the question.

The coppery taste of fear filled my mouth as I continued my search. My body began to seep perspiration-due partly to the humidity in the air and partly from sheer anxiety. The top of my head burned as the sun, the sole witness to our game, shone down upon me.

People who have never actually walked around a corn field never realize how unique experience it is. Like that found in a greenhouse, the air is especially warm for the most part. However, just inches above the soil (which is constantly kept moist,) there exists a cold, an organic cold that urges one to lie down and embrace the earth. Yet one mustn’t become too comfortable, as there always remains the possibility of a combine coming forth, tearing through the field with blades that are unable to tell the difference between plant and human life. While in truth such a tragedy rarely actually happens, simply standing amongst the corn -at least to a child– is at once relaxing and terrifying.

Suddenly in the distance, a cry of pain. I called out your name again, hoping for a hint of where you were. No answer, and the corn was suddenly motionless, nervous. I slowly started to walk once more. Quietly, ever so quietly a sob rose up from an unknown point up ahead. As I drew closer, it grew louder and more urgent.

It’s strange how being surrounded by corn can make one feel so helpless. From any particular vantage point, one can only clearly see forward and right or left while the rest becomes a blur of green. In that sense, the helplessness felt is similar to that which every child faces at some point while anxiously tracking down their mother in a grocery store.

Many people are reportedly afraid of confined spaces. I’ve always been partial to smaller areas. I like the security that comes with knowing there is a definite amount of space around me. At least in a small room you can tell you’re alone, whereas in an open area there is no way to know everything that is around you; everything that could possibly be watching you.

Anxiously, I glanced down each new path that opened up beside me; each seemingly endless and all the more oppressive. I finally found you sitting on the ground. You were crying and nursing a sprained ankle.

As usual, your stay at my house started with a quick lunch. I believe we had Speghettios that day (a thing of fleeting charm if there ever was one,) and were still sitting at the table when it came time to decide what to do next. I don’t know if you remember, but we used to have this special way of communicating at the table. One of us would spell out a message by “writing” it upon the surface of the table with their finger, while the other would try to figure out what was intended.

It was your turn to choose that day. I watched, paying close attention as the letters were forming yet never going beyond mere movements of your finger. You were even more focused; slightly sticking your tongue out as you tried to will the words into existence. Not a word was spoken for this was a sacred ritual. All that mattered in that moment was the word “corn” as it was clumsily traced by a seven year-old girl upon the water-worn surface of an oak table.

“I guess I lost,” you said through sniffles.

I smiled and told you to forget about it. With my help you shakily stood up and I asked you to “get on.”

The one physical advantage I’ve always held over my peers has been my size or more specifically my height (which could also have been a cause of my asthma as my lung capacity could not keep up as the rest of me grew steadily larger.) It was with little difficulty that I supported your boyish frame as I passed through the field. Your lightly tanned arms were draped around me; the golden, nearly invisible down covering your wrists softly tickled my throat.

“Everything’s going to be alright” I said over one shoulder as you pressed your face against the other. The maze of green seemed less intimidating with you there and soon the roof of my house came into view.

There has been much research done on the subject of childhood sexuality. Though infant girls have been observed exhibiting behavior similar to masturbation and boys of the same age often have erections, little is understood about the psychology behind such things. At such ages when a child is ignorant of all things sexual; this behavior must simply be purely of the sub-conscious and done only out of primal pleasure.

Anything bordering on lust as felt by a child is probably nothing more than a feeling of unease. It is possible that this is the reason young boys tend to mistreat their female peers; to them, a girl’s presence actually makes them sick. After a certain age, the nausea felt by a child turns into a thrill and desperate hunger for the individual as a teenager.

As we emerged from the corn field, I sighed and felt the warm sensation of a kiss on the back of my neck.

“Thanks,” you whispered.

My mother came rushing out to meet us with questioning eyes. I started to explain what happened, and she took you into her arms. As she carried you away, I watched your smiling face over her shoulder.

Thanks. That one word was all I could hear. And that was all you needed to say. Much more honest than an “I love you” for such a statement cannot come close to truly conveying the innocent feelings of a young child. My chest became tense with worry and excitement. Overwhelmed, I averted my gaze to the ground. I knew then that everything really would be alright save for a scornful lecture from worried parents. Ignoring such things, I smiled back as your face disappeared through the doorway.

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