Recess. I am going down the big slide with most of my class. Boys and girls together, because everyone loved the big slide. Except maybe the kindergartners, and some of the first graders, but not us. We're in third grade.
As I come down, he's standing next to the slide, near the bottom. He puts his arm out, extends his fingers. His hand goes up and under my dress, between my legs. He squeezes. Hard.
I get off the slide. I am immediately defiant. Screaming at him. That was a bad thing, a wrong thing. You're not supposed to do that thing.
My classmates, even the boys, rally behind me, shocked and scandalized. He looks for an ally. He is angry that none of the other boys are taking his side. He tries to deny and backtrack and explain. I spin around and march off to find a grown up.
Our teacher that year was a man. Mr. W. I didn't like him all that much by the end of the year -- he liked the boys better than girls, I concluded for some reason -- but early in the year I adored him and wanted nothing but his approval. He reminded me of my dad.
I tell him what happened. I name names. I demonstrate graphically with my own hand so there is no misunderstanding what that boy did.
There is immediate action. Talks out in the hallway, then down in the principal's office. Parents are called. At some point I am outside our classroom with him, our teacher, the principal, our mothers. He is to explain himself and apologize.
It was just something the boys were all joking about. Joking about grabbing the girls' private parts as they came down the slide, then yanking on them, pulling them out. He mimes this last action with a swoop of his arm.
It is clear at this point that the area between our legs is still very much a mystery to the boys, but I am mostly just shocked to hear that the other boys were even making these jokes. The other boys are my friends.
He didn't realize it was supposed to just be a joke. That it was supposed to stay as just talk. He thought they'd think he was cool if he actually did it.
You know, if he actually grabbed a girl by the pussy.
He cries a little. He says he is sorry.
I don't remember what, if any, other consequences he faced. I think he might have been suspended for a few days, or maybe not, but we never spoke of the incident again. He remained in my class until sixth grade, when he memorably chose to tan a deer skin in our classroom for an enrichment project. It made the room smell terrible for weeks and grossed everybody out. (My enrichment project was a slightly obsessive and fully illustrated biography report on New Kids on the Block.) I remember he hurt my feelings that year by saying my hair in barrettes looked like cat ears, then issued a confused non-apology as I pulled them out and cried. It was just an observation, jeez. You're so sensitive.
Then we moved on to different middle schools and that was that. I've never seen or even thought of him since.
Until now. I wonder why.