(The following is an excerpt from Porn Again: A Memoir,by former Hollywood executive Josh Sabarra, pictured left.)
What Spanish Cultural Day at Forest Hill High School meant to the student body was nothing more than Cool Ranch Doritos and a jar of tomato dip.
"?Quien va a llevar la tortilla chips?" Ms. Hudson asked.
"I'll bring four bags," I said. I always made sure there were enough crispy triangles to keep the class snacking for its entire 55 minutes; otherwise, we might have actually had to learn a foreign language.
"I can grab the salsa," Andy Webber offered, equally as averse to following the lesson plan.
"!Perfecto!" Ms. Hudson replied. A good-natured dingbat, she was easily convinced by our honors Spanish class to shelve the conjugation textbooks in favor of a daytime fiesta.
"Should we run to the grocery store after school to get the food?" Andy whispered towards the end of our class period.
"I'm sure my mom can give us a ride," I answered. Fortunately, the supermarket was within the two-mile radius that my mother's anxiety disorder would allow her to drive.
Andy was a tall, lean blonde with soulful, blue eyes and a runner's body. His expertly trimmed hair sat on top of a round face, and his shaded stubble made him look more like an adult than a teenager. He wore knee-length board shorts year-round - not out of the ordinary in Florida - and I was mesmerized by the hair on his legs. Thick and defined, his calves were dusted with blond wisps that gave me a tingle every time the wind brushed past them. I often daydreamed about what he would look like naked; I was certain that he had a full bush of pubic hair, considering that the rest of his body had not only met puberty but welcomed it in.
From the store's front register, after the Doritos, salsa dip and sodas had been scanned and paid for, I noticed that Andy left the checkout lane. He was discreetly milling around the exit.
"Paper or plastic?" the bagboy asked. My eyes moved from Andy to the groceries on the conveyor belt.
"Paper in plastic," I said, never wanting to commit to one environmental detriment over the other. As I looked up, I realized that the teenager bagging the food was a classmate.
"Are you and Andy spending some quality time together?" he said with a sneer. "It looks like the two of you might be working up an appetite." He moved his tongue back and forth against the inside of his right cheek, simulating what it would look like if an erect penis was pushing in and out of his mouth. He was probably the same football-playing meat-head who had scrawled the word "fairy" across my brown paper math book cover.
I averted my eyes, not looking at his face while he placed the snacks inside double bags. It seemed like an eternity as I stood there, my body tense with embarrassment. The school sports star was making fun of me, implying that Andy and I were likely to be trading blowjobs before washing the semen down with corn chips. I wished Andy hadn't been distracted by the vending machines at the electronic doors; I would have felt less like a vulnerable, open target with a show of friendly support.
"Why'd you walk away?" I asked Andy, when I raced to the exit as soon as I grabbed my bags from the school jock.
"I wanted to see what was in these machines," he said. He pointed to a line-up of quarter-hungry, glass canisters that featured glittery stickers and small bouncing balls for the toddler set.
"Did you see who was bagging the groceries?" I continued.
"No, why?" he replied, looking away from me. It crossed my mind that Andy might be lying. I had only a few seconds to feel sick to my stomach because, otherwise, I would have to explain my flushed skin and queasy unease to my mom.
"Oh, nothing," I answered. "Let's find my mother; she's waiting in the car outside." I decided to believe that Andy was, in fact, interested in the toy machines. After all, he had a younger brother, and perhaps he was going to be thoughtful enough to buy the four year-old a gift.
Andy and I met at Roosevelt Junior High School, and our friendship survived the transition to ninth grade. An athletic boy's boy, he had a surprising interest in independent films and the performing arts that drew us close. Throughout the weekdays, he would be busy with the basketball and track teams, but we'd spend the weekends at each other's houses watching movies and eating pizza. Part of his appeal was that he was the kind of friend I was supposed to have - a male who was my age and who was discernibly heterosexual. It wasn't until a rainy Saturday at the end of our sophomore term that I was faced - head on - with the unhealthy nature of our relationship and the subsequent, years-long impact it would have on my social and sexual development.
"You have to get your dad to take you to The Rocky Horror Picture Show," Sandra told me. "It plays in downtown West Palm Beach every Saturday at midnight." My former babysitter and next-door friend was still introducing me to all things hip and cool. My first orgasm was inspired by the Caligula screening in her parents' living room, so I had every reason to believe that her latest suggestion would yield similarly exciting results.
"I'm going to see if my father will go with Andy and me this weekend," I said. "Is it really dirty?" I wanted to make sure that it wouldn't create uncomfortable viewing with my dad or the high school athlete I secretly wanted to kiss.
"It's not dirty," she said. "It's more of a rock musical with some racy scenes." Sandra gave me the lowdown on the interactive experience - I gathered a spray bottle, newspaper and uncooked rice - and my father, Andy and I enjoyed Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry in the cult spectacle.
At 2:30AM, on the ride home from the movie theater, my dad stopped his white Chevrolet Celebrity at a traffic light, coincidentally just alongside the Forest Hill High campus. In the adjacent lane, a car chauffeuring two kids from our school came to a stop at the same red light. Andy and I both noticed our classmates.
"Don't those kids go to our school?" I asked.
"Um, I'm not sure," Andy mumbled as he leaned down to reinforce his shoelaces.
"Look inside that car," I said. "I'm pretty sure I see those guys in the halls every day." Andy didn't move from his crouched position, his head below the back door window. In that horrifying instant, I experienced a humiliating jolt: he was ashamed to be seen with me. The food I'd eaten at the movies moved into my throat as I flashed back to the grocery store two months earlier. Andy didn't want the bagboy to see us together - I knew it then but didn't want to process the hurt - and his loose laces were a cover for the embarrassment that was attached to his association with me. Other than a handful of chubby girls and my adult pals, Andy was the only age and gender appropriate friend on my rag-tag roster - and he wanted to hide me as though I was a garbage bag that had to be out of view when guests visited. I was his dirty secret, the friend whom he enjoyed spending time with but who could tarnish his reputation as the campus golden boy.
From the driver's seat, my dad couldn't tell that the small amount of self-esteem I had left had been asphyxiated in the back of the car. The air was heavy; breathing in and out seemed like a Herculean undertaking. I turned my face to the side and purposely banged my jaw into the glass of the rear passenger window. The physical pain, I thought, might talk my mind into ignoring the expanding sickness in my stomach. I clutched my midsection with both hands as I knocked my head into the glass a second time. The dizzying effect of the blow anesthetized me for the remaining 10 minutes of the ride home.
"Thanks so much Josh and Dr. Sabarra," Andy said as we dropped him at the front of his house. "I had a great time tonight." We avoided eye contact in silent acknowledgement of what had happened.
"You're welcome, Andy," my father replied. "Happy to have you join us anytime." I wanted to scream otherwise from the open car door, but nothing came out - I felt like I was in "kidnap mode." There was a phantom gun to my head, and I couldn't yell, "Help me! I'm back here!" for fear of being wiped out entirely.
Excerpt from the chapter "Things Cum Up" from Porn Again: A Memoir by Josh Sabarra. Available now from J|B|S Books at Amazon. More information about Josh Sabarra can be found at www.joshsabarra.com.
Meet the author June 25 at 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble in Union Square at 33 E. 17th St., New York, NY 10003 for a special discussion and signing to kick off New York City Pride.