Russ and I have been friends since kindergarten. We rode the bus to school together for 12 years until he bought a car, which reminds me that I still owe him gas money. As kids, we would spend the night at each other’s houses or get dropped off by the bus after school to spend the afternoon together.
The most magical thing about Russ’ house was that his dad had a collection of Playboy magazines. Stacks of them. All kept in a very large bottom drawer of a huge filing cabinet. The drawer would have been big enough to hold the both of us if it wasn’t half full of magazines. If no one was at home, Russ and I would sneak a peek or two at the magazines and quickly hide them away when we heard a car coming up his, just long enough, gravel driveway. Russ was very careful about keeping his father’s secret a secret, so he didn’t like to take chances and we only took calculated looks in the drawer. I liked to take chances and it was a constant battle to keep me out of the garage.
One day after school, I went over to Russ’ house. We were supposed to do our homework, but we were keeping busy with video games. Russ’ mom came in and said that she was running off for a minute and that we should stay out of trouble as father would be home any minute. As soon as she left, I suggested we hit the drawer. Russ balked with the looming arrival of his father. I gave in.
Then I suggested we play hide and go seek.
I think I counted first to throw him off my plan. After finding him, he began to count and I ran off to the garage. I grabbed a flashlight and pulled open the huge drawer of goodness. I crawled in the drawer and with a bit of wiggling, pulled it shut.
Russ couldn’t find me for that twenty minutes of dimly lit heaven.
It was pretty hot in that drawer and I decided I should get out. Quick as can be I forced it open and shut it without a look back. I put the flashlight up and went inside to find Russ. I did not give up my hiding space. An hour later, mom came and picked me up. I couldn’t wait for my next visit.
That night, mom asked me if I had any homework. I remembered the worksheet in my back pocket that I was supposed to have completed at Russ’ house. I went to pull it out and it was gone. I thought I had left it at school. The next day at school the sheet wasn’t there and I got in trouble for not doing my homework.
I quickly forgot about the homework and was only reminded of it when Russ called me to say that the homework had been found by his father in the stash of Playboys. It had fallen out of my back pocket when I was squirming into/out of the drawer. My name was at the top of it. Russ’ dad yelled at Russ. Then in an odd turn of events, Russ’ mom yelled at Russ’ dad because she thought he had thrown all of those magazines out years ago.
Russ shared with me a very sad vision. One of his father out in the garage at night, working under a lamp, throwing out all the magazines from the drawer, stopping every so often to lovingly flip through one of them and then toss it in the bin with the rest.
Russ got in trouble. I got in trouble. Russ’ dad got in trouble. And the whole collection of playboys was thrown out.
But it was worth it. I can’t think of a more vivid memory from my youth. My neck bent up with my chin in my chest. Knees against the top of the drawer above me. Magazines an uneven surface beneath me. The sound of Russ’ feet shuffling through the garage as he hopelessly tried to find me. The very slight smell of paper mold and glue. The heat. And the weak yellow of the flashlight on the pink of the flesh. It’s all still there.