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the late afternoon program

For 5th and 6th grade I went to a private school in Rockford, IL called Keith Country Day School. Since both my parents worked full time, I would stay after school in a kind of glorified daycare supervised by a grade school teacher called The Late Afternoon Program, or more commonly called LAP (each letter pronounced).

Calling it a "program" was truly a bit of a stretch, since it was mostly just time we could run amok on the campus and entertain ourselves. It was a little boring, but actually kind of nice. I had two LAP friends who provided me with vastly different kinds of entertainment.

One was T.J., who would play with me an elaborate realtime role-playing adventure called simply, "The Spy Game". It was sort of an ongoing set of missions...we would just sort of lounge around on the playground equipment and tell this storytelling game where I was a master spy and he was...well...everything else. I can't really describe how fun this game was, but I really looked forward to it, 'cause T.J. was a really good storyteller and always kept it compelling. He was only there a couple of days a week though.

A couple of the other days of the week, I would hang out with Lynn, the most sophisticated 5th grader I had ever met. She would tell me stories like:

"So I was at T.C.B.Y. and this guy was, like, totally winking at me. So after a while I finally walked over to him and said, 'Do you have something in your eye?' and he said, 'uhhhh, yeah, I guess,' and I said, 'Well, get it out!"

She was already deeply into the dating scene at age 11. She would always impress me...she was one of the few people in this world where I would just shut up and listen and mentally take notes. In retrospect I wonder what was behind her persistant need to impress me. Maybe she liked me. I'd like to think that, cause I liked her, even though I totally considered her out of my reach.

Okay, so I know I'm already several paragraphs into this, but here's where my real story begins:

There had recently been a school vacation, and, since like I said, both of my parents worked, they were forced to find some other child care options. We ended up hanging out at this daycare run by a presbyterian church. While I was there, I flirted deeply with one of the other kids there. She was really cute and sort of compellingly sexy for a gradeschooler. I asked her in code if she would be my girlfriend (big dork!) and she said yes. She gave me her phone number, and in not too many days I was back in The Late Afternoon Program with Lynn.

Eager to finally have a story to share, I told her about the girl, who I was now "going out" with. Lynn laughed at me, "Really? What's her phone number?"

I rattled it off, just to prove that such a thing existed. She laughed again and asked me to repeat it. She repeated it a few times to herself like a threat.

The next time I saw Lynn at LAP, she looked at me with a gleam in her eye, "I called that girl. She says you never asked her out, and that she wouldn't have gone out with you anyway 'cause she's only eight." She laughed.

I had previously thought that "being someone's girlfriend" included "going out" but at that moment I realized my painful lack of sophistication about the subject. I couldn't understand why Lynn had chosen to pointedly humiliate me in this way, and I still don't.