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My friends would return at the end of each summer with useful knowledge, like the meaning of “hook up” and how to give a handjob, while I played with dolls and occasionally took a break to ride my bike.
I studied them carefully, observing that Rafa had more acne than expected and Dan was more overweight than he appeared in photos.His friend Dan served as his online flirting copilot. Each day after school, Leah and I would hop off the bus, grab a snack, and scurry down the thickly carpeted stairs into the basement of her house where we’d flip on her i Mac and huddle around the stout, clear-and-teal monitor while it went through the lengthy process of booting up.This minute or so often felt interminable, while we racked our brains for bits of information about our days to share with the boys. Unlike in later years, where the politics of texting and online interactions would inspire hours of conjecture over cheap bottles of wine, Rafa and Dan were as dependable as golden retrievers and would always establish contact first.And true to pubescent boy form, they replied in broken sentences—“soccer,” “math, I guess”—while making nervous eye contact now and then. With the same obstinance I used to win a fight with my mom, I would not allow for a word to pass my lips. Perhaps it was 45 minutes or maybe it was six hours.I was judging their lackluster looks and Rafa’s shabby car and feared that the kids back home were watching a livestream (if such a thing existed back then) of this mortifying encounter while hurling snack packs at the screen. I did everything I could to forget I existed that day, which left little time to glance at a watch.But I was a late bloomer, and save for chasing my first-grade crush into the middle of the soccer field during a recess game, only to have him tell me to get the hell out of the way, I mostly stayed away from the boys in their Adidas pants and Gap sweatshirts.
I was a chubby only child, the only Jew from New York that didn’t go to sleepaway camp.
This time, we were playing young adults who were ready for relationships.
We parted ways with awkward hugs—ass out, pat on the back—and that was it.
So she gave me his screenname and I sent him a message. Well it turned out that Sean hadn’t been at the movies that night, but neither of us thought it was weird at all that I’d reached out to him completely out of nowhere, because this was becoming a normal part of our lives: strange names flashing across our screens at random, with no lengthy explanation necessary.
We began IMing incessantly until we finally agreed to meet one summer day at 2pm to see a showing of Legally Blonde, and after he briefly felt me up, I had my first real kiss.
A sleuth from a young age, I decided to investigate.