Wyatt Bonikowski ~ Teenage Boy in Polaroids

The teenage boy drove a black Trans Am with an eagle on the hood. He was friends with my babysit­ter Rita and her friends, and she would invite them over to drink beers and blast David Bowie and T. Rex on my dad’s stereo sys­tem. One night the girls raid­ed my par­ents’ bed­room and dressed me in a wig and a glam­orous old gown and paint­ed my face with lip­stick and rouge. The teenage boy had long brown hair just like the wig I wore. “Look at us with our love­ly locks,” he said, shak­ing his curls. The girls took Polaroids to show my mom, and the pic­tures bloomed on the lit­tle black squares like oil on rain.

Rita took pic­tures of the teenage boy lean­ing again­st the Trans Am with his thumbs hooked in the pock­ets of his jeans. She unbut­toned his shirt even though it was win­ter and the wind was cold. He spread his arms wide as the eagle’s wings.

Rita was in love with the teenage boy. She made me promise not to tell. She took me to his house up the street when his par­ents were away. “Check it out, guys,” he said, spin­ning him­self on the lit­tle stool behind his drum set. He turned on the strobe light, and while it pulsed like a cam­era flash, he pum­meled the drums and crashed the cym­bals, and didn’t his arms look cool frozen into rapid snap­shots? He watched him­self in the mir­ror and made Rita and me watch, too. Then he took Rita into his bed­room while I wait­ed with the drums.

The next time he came over, Rita told him to get lost but he came in any­way. He said, “Let’s leave the­se girls to their music and beer and do some­thing for us men for once,” and he led me around the house on a search for porn. He found some mag­a­zi­nes in a draw­er in my par­ents’ bed­room.

What do you think of those?” he asked.

He real­ly enjoyed it, so I felt like I should, too.

Yes, I like those,” I said. “Those boo­bies.”

Shit, we should look for Christmas presents, too,” he said.

It was two weeks until Christmas, and my mom hadn’t tak­en me to the mall to see Santa. I want­ed to ask him for an Atari so I could play Space Invaders. I told the teenage boy.

Well I’m here to tell you a spe­cial secret,” the teenage boy said. “I’m here to tell you your par­ents are Santa. You knew that, right?”

He found the Atari in the hall clos­et, cov­ered in mit­tens and scarves. “I tell no lies,” he said. I was ecsta­t­ic.

My par­ents banned the teenage boy from our house for ruin­ing Santa and sex. They banned Rita and her friends, too, for every­thing else. My dad moved the porn mag­a­zi­nes to a dif­fer­ent draw­er, and the next Christmas my mom hid the presents in a dif­fer­ent clos­et. But after a few years I knew where all the hid­ing places were.

I became a teenage boy. I grew my hair long, and it puffed out thick and wiry like a scrub brush, so I cut it short again. Kids in gym teased me for keep­ing my under­wear on in the show­er. No one took pic­tures of me. No one unbut­toned my shirt. I didn’t have a Rita or a teenage boy of my own to love.

One night I found a stack of those old Polaroids in the back of my dresser draw­er. I didn’t remem­ber keep­ing them. In one, the teenage boy drapes his arm over Rita’s shoul­der as she press­es her lips to his cheek. A lit­tle boy in a brunet­te wig and sparkling green gown stands in front of them, lip­stick-smeared and rouge-cheeked, look­ing up with his mouth open. The cam­era flash­es before he can speak.

~

Wyatt Bonikowski’s sto­ries have appeared in Atticus Review, Fairy Tale Review, NANO Fiction, Necessary Fiction, and oth­ers. He teach­es lit­er­a­ture and cre­ative writ­ing at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts.