What did this chubby Bronx girl know about a 12-year-old Latin lover?

The first day Carlos arrived from the Dominican Republic, he set his eyes on me. He strutted into my junior high school about a month after the term started, and I knew that my life would be changed forever.

Carlos was different and gorgeous. Gold-colored jacket. Kinky hair. Small, solid body. I watched him move through the room; his mannerisms sensual and mature. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, and he caught me looking several times.

When we passed each other in the hallway, his bold stares made me nervous. When he tried to talk to me, I blushed and dodged. He passed notes to me in class — some in English, some in Spanish — always accompanied by a handsome wink and a naughty smile.

On the way home from school one day, my friends and I gathered at our neighborhood candy store. We sat at the counter and ordered our usual chocolate egg creams made of milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer. The jukebox played “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay and the Americans. Would I see Carlos today?


The doorbell jingled, and I looked up. Carlos sauntered in, and our eyes met. He glided toward me as his mouth silently formed these words: Come a little bit closer, I’m all alone, and the night is so long. I ran past him and out of the candy store, short of breath and dizzy with excitement. I heard his laughter’s playful echo as I looked over my shoulder, but he didn’t follow.

After a while, Carlos convinced me to go steady. My parents would never have accepted this union at such a young age, so it was a secret known only to our friends. We strolled through the school hallways, hand in hand. I felt my classmates’ stares and enjoyed every minute of my popularity and their envy.

One time, I wore a red, buttoned-down dress to our friend’s party. Carlos tried to undo those little buttons, one by one, starting from the bottom. I took his hands away, again and again, and nervously joked about it.

Carlos was a terrific dancer. At one event, a slow song came on, and I became lightheaded because I knew what was going to happen. He pulled me close as we bumped and grinded our young bodies together. I tried to make sense of my grown-up feelings as I cautiously glanced at the other dancers, wondering if anyone saw what we were doing — or knew what I was feeling.

Then, during a school assembly, Carlos didn’t sit next to me. I scanned the room, searching for him among the sea of young faces, and spotted him a few rows down. He was sitting beside a beautiful, tall, slim, blond girl. She smiled at him in a way that I hadn’t dared. They spoke the same language. She was not nervous.

I was history.



© 2010 Joanne Shwed