Shawn was twelve when he met Cindy. Her black skin did things to his young body that no white girl could. Her eyes stood out more. Her face didn’t redden with embarrassment. Her butt was bigger, which made it wiggle more. He liked the wiggle and would walk behind her to and from classes, and he never failed to get a boner when he looked at her in tight shorts in gym class.
Shawn was not cool. Ever. His older brother Josh was funny and popular and good at sports. Shawn once tried to make a joke. He hadn’t even thought of it, really. Josh had had people over, and he said something about the female anatomy and his friends had laughed. Shawn stored it in his memory and decided to use the same joke when he could.
The time he could was in history class, when the teacher asked him something about Queen Elizabeth’s ruling style of England and he’d replied that ‘he didn’t care as long as she had tits’.
No one laughed and Shawn was suspended for three days. He had to write a research paper on Queen Elizabeth’s reign – which was easy because the truth was he thought what he’d read about her on Wikipedia was pretty interesting – and read it to the class. He also had to apologize to the class, which included Cindy.
Though the school’s principal hadn’t required this, the teacher – a self-proclaimed feminist – made Shawn listen to a long lecture about how women and men are equal and how he shouldn’t say things like that to any woman. His own mother agreed, and so did his dad. “Especially not in mixed company,” his dad had added, whatever that meant.
When he apologized, Cindy seemed to glare, and her eyes – which really stood out of her black skin – seemed to see that his mind liked her mind and that his body liked her butt and boobs. And her boobs, in seventh grade, were big. Bigger than sixth grade, that’s for sure.
He’d been keeping track for two years.
Josh and his friends called black kids the n-word.
Shawn, twice, to be cool, also used that word to speak about people with black skin.
Both times he did this, he felt guilty and apologized to God and Cindy both. He did this on his knees at night. When he prayed to God, he said, “Dear God”. When he apologized to Cindy he said, “Dear Cindy”.
Once night when he was thinking about Cindy wearing gym shorts he got a boner that wouldn’t go away and finally he touched it. It felt good, so he touched it again. After he repeated the same process four or five times, a weird substance was on his hand and he felt a mix of pleasure and guilt that he’d never experienced.
Ever since, he’s associated these feelings with Cindy.
Shawn promised himself he was going to ask Cindy to the first dance of their high school career. Shawn heard that other boys started asking girls to the dance, so Shawn said out loud one night, “I’m going to ask Cindy to the dance”. He said it to himself while looking at the mirror in the bathroom in the front hall of his house.
He then took a shower and touched himself while thinking about Cindy.
He had a hard time sleeping that night, mustering up the courage to ask Cindy to the dance.
He’d never talked to her before.
Shawn’s dad, also – but only when he was mad - called people with Cindy’s color of skin the same word that Josh often said and that Shawn had said twice.
Cindy’s butt really was, objectively, nice.
Other boys at school talked about it, too. The major change Shawn noticed between the summer of eighth and ninth grade was that a lot of the kids started calling ‘butts’ ‘asses’. Shawn didn’t say ‘asses’ because he thought it was a swear.
In gym class, which Shawn was in with a lot of older kids - juniors and seniors, some of the boys would say things they’d like to do to Cindy’s ass.
Shawn didn’t like when the older boys talked like this, but he never did anything about it.
The worst thing one of the boys ever said about Cindy included the f-word. For two weeks after he heard the boy use the f-word and parts of Cindy’s body, Shawn felt off.
Shawn was still building up his courage to ask Cindy to the dance when he heard the worst news he’d ever heard. He also heard this bad news in gym class. One of the senior boys, in response to who he was going to the dance with, said, “I’m going to ask that hot, black ninth grader.”
The hot, black ninth grader was Cindy.
Shawn guessed correctly that Cindy would say yes to this senior boy that every kid at their school knew the name of.
The news got worse for Shawn when Cindy started to date this boy after the dance.
Shawn also liked Cindy’s lips and hair. Her lips were bigger than the other girl’s lips and he liked how they looked when they were in the normal position. Instead of looking tight like a lot of the other girl’s lips, hers seemed to be resting, ready to smile.
They seemed more like a part of the body part than like a piece of trim.
“What’s it like kissing a black girl?” the popular senior was asked one spring day, after gym class, in the locker room.
“So awesome!” the boy responded.
“Is it different?” he was asked.
“Yeah,” the boy replied. “It is.”
Shawn hadn’t kissed a girl, so he didn’t know what the boy meant, but the word that kept going around his mind when he thought of kissing Cindy was the word ‘magic’.
Josh went to college the summer after Shawn’s freshman year. Shawn still hadn’t talked to Cindy, but she was the only girl that he could think about when he touched himself.
He worked at a factory that summer. He pushed the same button over and over. When he pushed the button, a machine made a cut on piece of plastic. Every time he pushed the button, the machine made another cut. While he pushed buttons, he thought about Cindy.
As he though about her in August, just before the start of school, Shawn started thinking about homecoming again.
He promised himself that if Cindy wasn’t still dating that older boy, he was going to ask her to the dance. He had to. That’s all there was too it.
For the next month, the only thing Shawn thought about was asking Cindy to the homecoming dance.
At night he plotted ways he could ask her. “Hi Cindy,” he thought he might start, “I’m Shawn. We’ve gone to school together since third grade but haven’t talked. I would like to take you to homecoming.”
That might work.
Or else he could just walk up to her, and ask her to the dance.
If he did ask her and she did say yes, the best part was that he could dance with her. And to dance with her meant that he would get to touch her. Which meant that his hands would be on those hips of hers. The thought of his hands on her hips, which had even gotten better from 9th to 10th grade, made it hard for his lungs to breath. The thought also made his penis hard.
After one month of thinking of different ways to ask Cindy to the dance, Shawn decided, come hell or high water, today was the day he was going to ask her the thing he most wanted in the world.
So he rode his bike to school early and chained it to the bike rack.
He walked to his locker and waited.
He scanned the hall, more alert than he’d ever been. Finally, he saw her.
He stood up straight, watching as she walked toward him. Her hips swayed to the rhythm of her walk.
When she neared, he took a step forward, cleared his throat. “Uh,” he uttered, “ hello Cindy. Will you go to homecoming with me?”