I wrote recently about older guys. Specifically those I encountered when I was young. I’ve thought of two more related stories.
There was a candy-cane themed playground in my town. I really liked it, both for the red and white striped décor, and the equipment (I’ve always been fussy about playground equipment, having favorites, well, heck, to this day). It was fenced in and had a sign at the entrance bearing its name. However, and this may sound funny, it attracted a “bad” crowd. Not kids, i.e., bullies and other jerk-offs. No, the crowd that hung around by this playground and in the adjacent parking lot, was an older group, comprised of Vietnam vets and bikers. They were a rough-looking group, especially to a little girl. This was their spot, but it was an oddly public location for a daytime hangout and all the more peculiar for the backdrop of the cheery playground. A patch of woods sat beyond the playground which had a reputation for giving cover for private goings-on, but I don’t recall a steady stream of these guys moving in and out of the trees. I remember them staying in the open. I’m pretty sure they were drinking, but other than that, I couldn’t really say.
These hardened fellows never specifically bothered me or my friends – to my knowledge there weren’t leers or “I’d-like-to-get-me-some-of-that” comments. I don’t remember them paying us little kids any mind at all. Still, because of the guys, there came a point when my mother forbid us to go to the playground. I was very sorry to have it become verboten and I’d look over forlornly when we passed by it. (The irony of being banned from a place called Candy Cane City…) Eventually the playground was torn down – to encourage the “element” to move along? – and the guys stopped hanging out there.
When we were 10, my best friend got a crush. We both had crushes all the time, so this wasn’t anything unusual. However, my friend set her sights on an older guy who rode a motorcycle. He may have even had facial hair. A mustache maybe? I thought she was out of her mind. This was a man! What was she thinking? Still, she was my friend and I’d support her. I went with her when she decided to leave a note on his parked motorcycle with her name, phone number and the message “call me up.” It felt very scandalous. That phone number, mind you, was the family phone number, for the only house phone (as was true for almost everybody back then). Like me, my friend lived with her parents and a mess of brothers and sisters. This wasn’t a covert operation.
A short while passed. My friend told me someone, a stranger, had called for her. When she came to the phone he asked only, “How old are you?” “Ten,” she truthfully said. That was the end of that call. But here’s the weird part. My friend did not believe the caller was the motorcycle guy. I was sure it was. How could it not be? And wasn’t his question, no doubt spurred by the hand-writing and syntax of a fifth-grader, an obvious clue? She wasn’t convinced. To this day, I’m certain it was him. I’ve sometimes wondered what he must have thought when he got that note and realized (confirmed?) he called a little girl.