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True Stories: Notes of a Former Peeping Tom
In retrospect, my parents probably knew why I was heading out to the woods in a black sweatshirt.
By Damien Galeone
"Hey, you," the other boy said. "Hey, kid. I can see you." He was kneeling behind a tree to protect himself from the lights of the house. He pointed his binoculars at me, as if to prove my position. "I see you right there."
I was lying on my stomach, growing uncomfortable as the wet leaves soaked through my flannel. "Um, hi." I didn't know what to say. What do you say when you've been caught peeping into someone's house? I kneeled and looked at him, an entire series of explanations lining up in my head from most to least believable.
He was wearing a black Tilley hat and a black sweatshirt. His jeans were dark. When a screen door tapped against its frame on the house a few yards out of the forest, we both dropped on our stomachs like practiced infantrymen.
My God, I thought, he's another Peeping Tom.
For some reason, I would forever refer to him as Peeping Bob.
Peeping Bob was older than me and kept his head on a swivel during our conversation. "Any action?" he asked.
"Nothing much," I said. I was relieved that we had both somehow ended up on the same page. There was no need for discussion about our motives for being in the woods at night, dressed like snipers. "I thought there was something going on over at the Golinski house, but it turned out to be the TV."
He began scanning the perimeter of the woods and I rose into a crouch to depart. As I made a move to go, he nodded without turning his head. "Hey, watch out on your way home. The Carminos are out on their deck drinking."
"Thanks," I said, and left the woods.
My research into the sexual proclivities of my neighbors had ended — for the night, anyway.
I spent a great deal of my youth describing my penis to people who had not inquired about it. I spoke of its girth and length, and when that began failing to get the attention I desired, I shifted to its use. According to me, it was rampantly busy satisfying various members of the opposite sex. It was a wonder I could walk with all the action it got. No female was safe from my libido: neighbors, friends, and once, a veterinarian who was caring from my poodle.
Not only were these tales absolutely false, but after a while I began lacking the pragmatic experience to continue entertaining my classmates with my tall tales. It was okay to talk about the basics — most boys know about first and second base, with a rudimentary understanding of what happens at third base and home plate. I was twelve years old and my imagination was dangerously active, its attention to detail both magnificent and disturbing. But in reality, my experience was theoretical, and my appetite for actual sexual experience remained unquenched. I craved to see these things for myself, to gain some understanding of the lies I was spinning. At the very least, it'd make my stories more entertaining and more real. That's why I'd taken to the woods.
There were issues. First of all, I found that my neighbors were as boring at night as they were during the day. This meant that my carnal education wasn't advancing as rapidly as my education on local evening wear and TV viewing habits. There were, on occasion, a few moments of playfulness between husband and wife, but those did little to serve my descriptive needs.
Secondly, discretion wasn't something I really understood at that time. Leaving the house at night wearing black sweatshirts and jeans and coming back covered in leaves and dirt was not the best way to fly under my parents' radar.
In retrospect, asking for a balaclava for my birthday was probably a mistake. Nevertheless, the problem remained that I needed more in-depth research to keep up with my public persona as a smutty folklorist, and the life of a peeping Tom wasn't doing that for me.
I took to pornography with lubricated glee. Teens merely masturbate; I was doing research. I studied the movements, the changes that positioning demanded on one's anatomy, and the "dialogue." I reported to my classmates with well-researched detail, each week expanding the plots and scenarios as my education advanced with debauched fervor. I was the Garrison Keillor of spoken erotica.
Though I was usually the only one who told stories, I was probably the only person in the room not in consistent physical or, at the very least, conversational contact with girls. While my classmates were sticking their necks out with girls (sometimes successful, more often rejected), I resigned myself to the role of observer in the world of sex — a role I augmented with an almost obsessive imagination, but still, my fictions couldn't keep up with the other guys' real, physical experiences.