You sometimes hear the term ‘boy next door’ and it gives you the idea of some sexy kid with floppy hair and a lop-sided grin who drives the neighbors crazy with desire as he mows the lawn.
Now, I’ve never met anyone like that, which isn’t to say you don’t see some kid at the mall or beach and notice everyone stop and stare as he walks by.
But I do have a boy next door and he’s not at all what I would have expected from the common image of some confident kid who makes your heart stop.
His name is Cody and when I first saw him I have to admit that my first thought was ‘cute’, but I quickly put him out of my mind.
After all, I had just moved to the neighborhood and was still busy getting settled. Plus, I don’t have much interest in younger guys. I mean, sure, a 20 year-old can be nice to look at but it makes for challenges when you have another 20 years of experience on top of his age.
I guess I’ve always been more relationship focused – if I’m going to be with someone I want it to be forever and to share some common ground.
So the day I was fixing up the pool area behind the house and saw Cody in the yard next door I didn’t think a lot about it. He was cute but not in a model-type way. It’s an over-used word but the one I’d use is wholesome. He was wholesome looking, slender and fairly small for his age. I do remember noticing his eyes…they were bright but had this kind of vulnerable look.
Cody was doing some yard work, wearing baggy shorts of some kind and a t-shirt. At one point I thought maybe he was glancing over at me from the corner of his eye but when I’d look back his head would be down-turned and focused on the grass trim or something.
And that was it. No big wow moment or desire blazing across the fence or something. Just some kid next door who I gave a little wave to before I went back inside and got along with life in my new home.
Wet In the Waves
Now, one of the reasons I moved to the coast was the beach. Having spent much of my life in the north I was sick of snow and slush and now that I had the financial means to pretty much live wherever I wanted there was no question that it would be somewhere warm.
Now don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t retired or anything. Who could retire at 43 anyways? But having sold my business I was able to work on what I wanted when I wanted to, primarily a few consulting gigs and writing.
Most mornings I’d head down to the beach, grab a seat in the sand and read the paper or a book. Usually it was pretty quiet but on weekends there’d be a bunch of kids surfing. They all seemed to know each other and ranged in age from 16 to 26 or so.
I noticed that Cody was one of the regulars. He wasn’t a bad surfer….or at least by my limited understanding. I mean, he didn’t fall, and he looked pretty smooth on the board, his slender body balancing and adjusting as he rode the waves.
He was usually wearing the same electric blue boarder shorts with some kind of surfer pattern on them. And I mention this because one weekend something strange happened.
I had arrived early. I love sunrise and it was a perfect morning, sun glinting off the surf, soothing sound of the waves.
Around 9:00 I noticed the kids coming down to the beach with their boards under their arms. I wasn’t really paying attention – if I remember right I was buried in a book. But when I glanced up Cody had peeled off from the others and had walked a few yards from the rest of them towards me.
He was looking down at his feet. Or I THOUGHT he was looking down at his feet.
But there was something odd because his boarder shorts seemed darker in the front as if, well, as if I had gone for a swim but that part of his shorts hadn’t dried yet. Which was strange of course because he was just arriving at the beach not coming out of the water.
I couldn’t be sure, the light was pretty strong bouncing off the waves by this point. He seemed to shuffle a little and adjusted his shorts at the waist and then pulled his surf board in front of him.
Just as he turned towards the surf he noticed me, and our eyes locked for just an instant and I swear the kid blushed as red as the early morning sun. He quickly pivoted on his heel and took a run towards the ocean, the surf board in front of him until he dove into the water.
I have to say I sat there puzzled for a few minutes. Had he really moved off from the rest of the guys for the reason I thought? Or was the light playing tricks? He hadn’t been in the water yet, so was that dark shimmer at the front of his shorts something else?
After a bit I figured I’d never really know and tried to shrug it off. But there was something in the whole situation that gave me a really odd feeling in my stomach – like a pang, almost, or the feeling you get of nostalgia when you smell baked bread and it reminds you of home.
The feeling passed although for a few days I would mull over what I had experienced before I convinced myself it was just the sun and surf playing tricks on me.
Gramma and the Accident
I guess it was maybe a month after the incident at the beach when I saw Cody and his Gramma pull up in their driveway.
I was trying without a lot of luck to put up a new mailbox by the front door in the shade of the front awning. When I saw Joan get out of the car I gave her a wave, but she clearly didn’t see me – I realized that with her in the bright sun and me in the shade of the porch area I probably just blended right into the dark shadows.
I had chatted with Joan a few times over the fence or in the front yard. Nothing major – just welcome to the area kind of stuff and talking about the best grocery stores, where the movie theaters are, that kind of thing.
She was a nice woman. Not what you’d picture for a grandmother at all – great energy, warm smiles and very active it seemed like. From what I could gather she had taken Cody into her home when some stuff had happened with his parents but I never quite got the whole story – whatever it was, it didn’t sound pretty, and even though I didn’t know Cody at all other than to see him, I felt glad he was with his gramma instead of whatever other mess he’d escaped from.
So here I am waving and she can’t see me, and I’m noticing her come around the side of the car and open the passenger door where Cody is sitting. He isn’t moving and has his head down. She kneels down beside him and seems to be chatting with that kind of concerned tilt to her head as she looks at his face. Cody isn’t looking at her at all, and I have to say I felt a little angry at the kid – why’s he ignoring his gramma, she’s a perfectly nice woman, no need to show attitude like that.
But he nods his head softly and I swear he took a hand to his cheek and wiped a tear away, but I was a little too far away to be sure. Then I realized he wasn’t giving attitude – he was upset about something. When he stepped out of the car I realized why.
With his gramma’s arm gently on his shoulder he sort of slouched himself out of the passenger seat. It was then that I figured it out: he had very clearly wet his jeans. And not just a little spot or something. There was a circular dark stain about 6 inches across with spreading fingers of wetness down his leg.
Joan kept an arm on his shoulder as they walked towards the house, and she seemed to be saying reassuring things to him until they disappeared inside.
Something about the whole sight floored me. I slipped quickly inside and looked out from my window. After a bit, Joan came out with a towel and seemed to be cleaning up the passenger seat.
Meanwhile there I was standing inside feeling, well, almost immobile. For some reason I was having trouble breathing and my heart was racing.
Now, you have to understand – I get it about kinks and fetishes and all that stuff. Nothing wrong with it, but I personally get what I need from hugging and kissing and normal stuff. And so the sight of Cody walking into the house in wet pants wasn’t some turn-on. It wasn’t that at all.
Instead, what I was feeling was a powerful desire to go out and tell him everything would be all right and to give him a hug.
Now, maybe there was a little flushed feeling but it wasn’t excitement really. Or not THAT kind – it was some sort of ache that seemed to grip me as I thought of the kid in his wet jeans looking down at his feet as he walked into the house.
The moment had opened the door to feelings and experiences that I never expected.
Protection and an Invitation
The next few hours were a kind of blur. I was sort of sleep-walking through it, in a sort of weird daze. My mind couldn’t quite reconcile what I had seen and the feelings I was having.
I really wanted to discount it as some sort of sexual thing. It would be easier to just say it was some sort of impulse like seeing a model in a magazine or fantasizing about some guy in a suit – you’d never DO anything about the sudden idea passing through your mind but it didn’t mean you couldn’t have the thought.
But like I say, a 20 year old doesn’t get me excited, I’m not much for kinks or whatever, and this was completely different. It was like everything inside me suddenly wanted to be OUT – as if any instinct I had for loving someone and being ‘married’ and cuddling in bed and reading the paper together had suddenly changed into something else.
Instead, all I could think of was, well, I think the best word is protection. Actually, for sure that’s the word: I felt incredibly protective, and instead of that protection being of my own feelings it was for some kid who wet his pants.
I mean, who hasn’t shut down a little after they’ve been burned once or twice like I had by relationships. It makes you shut down a little and protect your OWN heart. But here I was and didn’t care about what I was feeling – it suddenly seemed like the most important thing in the world to protect someone else.
I suddenly felt a certainty about this. I remember nodding to myself.
The nod was like saying to myself “yeah, that’s IT, this is the place I’m supposed to be” and just like that what I thought I wanted from life with the beach house and the pool and the imaginary lover just sort of washed away and I knew that what I wanted was to give someone protection.
But what confused me was Cody himself.
Because he was some 20-year old kid and I knew next to nothing about him other than what little his gramma had said. And the only thing that kept looping through my mind was “it can’t be HIM, he’s not my type, but it MUST be him, he needs me” and I had no way to figure out which of those thoughts was true.
But the certainty I was feeling grounded me. For the first time in years I felt like I was on truly solid ground. Everything suddenly seemed firm, and certain, and doubt-free. It was like I had been floating before and drifting on whatever wind took me – and now everything just made sense, and I didn’t need to ask questions, I just knew what was right.
So without hesitation I picked up the phone and called the neighbors and got Joan on the phone. She seemed a bit distracted but she quickly flipped into friendly-neighbor mode and accepted my invitation for the two of them to join me for dinner.
Dinner and Discoveries
I had prepped the burgers and made sure the fridge was stocked with pop. I had made great salads and had put some wine on ice in case Joan wanted a drink. And then I waited.
Now, sure, there’s that ‘fashionably late’ thing but around 6:30 I found Joan popping her head through the gate to my back yard.
“I’m really sorry Josh,” she said, “We’re running a little late. Cody, um, gets a little nervous with strangers some times but we’ll be along in a minute.”
I reassured her and settled back to wait.
Meanwhile, my heart was racing because of what she said. Somehow, Cody wasn’t some 20 year old surfer kid at that moment, he felt more like a 5 year old to me: I pictured him in his room pouting and scared, and even though he was still the same boy I saw at the beach I associated his feelings with those of a little kid, and it made me surge with a sort of protective caring feeling that filled me to the core.
So when Cody and Joan finally showed up and I saw him standing awkwardly behind her, all I can say is that something triggered inside of me.
My body loosened a little and flowed, as if I was being careful not to make sudden movements to scare the little guy. I said hello to him in a soft voice, and led them to the patio table. It was like I was creating some kind of invisible cushion around the three of us, and I felt like I was being drawn along on instinct: I just knew how to be and act and even the conversation had this gentle way of being focused on Cody’s gramma but pulling him into it carefully.
A comment on the weather, for example, was followed by mentioning that it was a great day for surfing without putting him on the spot, although I saw him nod and smile a little.
As I spoke with Joan I’d keep an eye on Cody. It made my heart swell, it’s the only way to say it.
Emotions seemed to almost flicker across him: first I’d see him look at me and blush deep red, and then look down at his lap. Then I’d say a certain thing and he’d look up with a curious kind of look. I’d notice him glance around the yard….quick glances before his eyes returned to his lap, or to his gramma if she was speaking, and then quickly at me.
And each flicker of emotion seemed to be inside me too. When his eyes brightened my heart lifted. When he got all shy I felt gentle and careful. When he dug into his burger, I felt nourished myself.
Now, I remember thinking that Cody was cute. But as we sat there new feelings about him arose.
It was as if how he looked wasn’t what I was seeing….somehow, there was a new layer to him, and what I saw wasn’t just a 20 year old with a surfer tan and nice eyes – he was a little kid instead with curiosity and fear and an almost helpless need that I don’t even think he could name himself if you asked him. It was like I was seeing two people merged into one, and I couldn’t help feeling that the little boy that I was seeing was somehow more real than the body in front of me.
I tried to keep some perspective. I was probably imagining all of this. He was probably sitting there thinking I was just some boring adult and he was just along to be nice to the neighbor guy. I resolved that this would be OK: he’d go off, find a girl friend, go to school or work, and if nothing else I’d have learned that I had a side to me that was more caring and protective than I realized – lesson learned, life a bit better because of it.
By the end of the meal things felt more at ease. Cody had eaten two burgers and drank three pop and had picked at the salad. He had a satisfied look on his face. There was something adorable about how he had focused on his food, like it gave him his own little world to concentrate on. I was feeling happy, relaxed, and not quite as pressured to be careful around the two of them.
I suddenly had an idea and almost on a whim turned to Cody: “How about I go see if I can dig up some ice cream. Cody, want to come help?”
He looked at me and it was funny – his smile turned quickly to a concerned kind of frown, he turned to Joan who nodded assuringly. Cody kind of shrugged “OK” and got up to follow me into the house.
Ice Cream Sundaes and a Diaper
Cody almost bounced into the house behind me. He seemed lighter somehow, at ease. He said ‘coooool’ when he saw my large screen TV through the doorway to the living area and yelled ‘awesome’ when he saw I also had a Playstation 3. (Maybe I’d get him to show me how to use the darned thing).
I opened the freezer and grabbed the carton of ice cream. Pointing to a cupboard I asked Cody to see if he could dig out some chocolate syrup which I was sure I had buried behind the soup. Meanwhile I rummaged in the fridge for maraschino cherries and chopped nuts and one of those cans of whipped cream which I couldn’t quite remember buying.
We threw all the fixings on the kitchen counter. It was one of those eat-at counters with the stools and Cody climbed up on one while I grabbed some bowls and spoons.
“Let me go check if your gramma wants a sundae,” I said and headed back to the patio. Joan politely declined with a laugh – somehow I suspected that a big gloopy chocolate sundae wouldn’t be her thing.
“You guys go ahead, I’m a little worn out actually it was a bit of a long day. If it’s OK I’ll just relax a bit.”
So Cody and I had fun making sundaes. I sat next to him at the counter as we dug in. I’d glance over at him, noticing the smear of chocolate beneath his lip, and the look on his face – I don’t know if I’d call it glee exactly but he sure seemed happy.
Then something happened.
Leaning forward to grab the chocolate sauce his shirt lifted up a little at the back and above the waist of his jeans I saw the unmistakable white crinkles of a diaper of some sort. It had some kind of bluish pattern but I was pretty sure I knew what I was seeing. I almost choked a little on the sundae and thoughts rushed through my mind.
The boy beside me was diapered. Or maybe not diapered but wearing one of those Pull-Ups or whatever older kids wear when they need some protection. But wasn’t that the same thing? Was it the same thing? Did you call them diapers, or did you call them protection? Was he wearing them because of the accident in the car earlier? Was he forced to or did he want to wear them?
My mind was reeling. Thankfully, Cody was too immersed in eating his sundae to notice I had suddenly gone quiet as I tried to process that he was diapered beneath his jeans.
When Cody said “This is goooood” it sort of shook me out of the state I was in and I smiled at him and pat him softly on his shoulder, just this sudden instinctive move.
He turned and smiled at me and there was something in his eyes that was almost, hmmm….well, I guess it was almost like an opening, or a hopeful look of some kind, I can’t really say.
I watched as he finished his sundae, carefully spooning every last drop. As he sat looking at his bowl, though, something happened. A little look of….well, I can only call it panic.
There he was, a happy guy eating a sundae and suddenly he went all quiet, staring at his spoon or whatever, and a look of fear or emotion or tenderness or all of those things rolled into one came over him.
Then that blush again. A deep red. And he turned to me with a sudden darting glance.
“Um, thanks for the sundae. I better go.”
I was heart broken. Scared myself. What had happened? Something had gone wrong. Maybe I had done something to scare him away.
As he climbed down from the school and started towards the patio door it dawned on me.
“Hey Cody, one sec.”
He stopped in his tracks, uncertain, one foot still towards the door, pivoting to turn back to me. I got up and walked towards him. He sort of shuffled his feet and looked up at me with a slightly scared look mixed with shy expectation maybe, it’s so hard to describe, nothing can capture that moment.
And then I did something that just came out of nowhere. I was standing beside him, close, looking at his downcast eyes.
“You’re a really good boy, Cody, I just wanted you to know that,” I said.
And then – the instinct, the moment I didn’t even think about, it just happened. I patted his bum softly with my right hand, feeling the soft padding of his diaper beneath his jeans, making a barely audible thumping type sound.
This boy beside me who had just wet his diaper and was about to run off in shame looked up at me then. I think he was gauging me, trying to see if it was true or not that I had noticed. Maybe for an instant he thought it was just a gesture and I hadn’t noticed that my hand had met a padded bum. But the slight nod and understanding look in my eyes must have told him: I knew he was diapered and it was fine, he really was a good boy in my eyes.
Suddenly, his eyes brimmed up with tears and then with what I can only describe as a sort of collapsing motion he turned and wrapping his arms around my neck, gave me a hug. I held Cody tightly, gently stroking his back. His body felt limp almost against me, I felt him pulse with sobs, and I felt both the warmth of his little body and a warmth inside as I held him protectively.
We hugged for a good 10 seconds and then I felt his body sort of shrink somehow as he broke off from me.
He looked at me. I looked at him.
Then he nodded. Just one nod before giving the slightest but most amazing smile I’d ever seen, and he turned to exit through the patio door.
I stood then in the kitchen staring at the door through which he had vanished. And in that moment knew that my life had truly changed forever.