In a class full of oversexed boys, Willie was one of the most bizarre incarnations. He was on the smaller side, like me, scrawny, and usually clad in ill-fitting sweaters and corduroy pants. He wore his hair in a small, unkempt Afro, a stark contrast to the other black kids’ tight box cuts and fades. Willie talked and joked about sex even more than most of the other boys, but his role was more court jester and class clown than king and confident braggart.

His main act was “juggling [his] titties.” He’d cup his dark, spindly fingers under his chest and bounce them up and down slowly, as if each contained a huge overflowing breast that he could barely contain in his hand. Laughing uncontrollably, he’d cry out: “I’m juggling my titties, I’m juggling titties! Watch out, I’m juggling my titties!” Then he’d pantomime one of his “titties” coming off in his hand and pretend to throw it at the nearest kid. “Watch out, I’m going to hit you with my titties!” he’d yell as people screamed and dived away from him in every direction.

This joke never seemed to get old, to him or his victims. At lunchtime and recess, kids were often heard dashing down the hallway, their feet sliding as they careened around the corner, calling out desperate and giddy warnings to the others up ahead: “Watch out! Watch out! Willie’s juggling his titties again!”

Today, however, Willie’s titties were dormant under his lumpy gray sweater, at least for the moment. He sidled up to me where I sat, alone, at the lunch table. “Hey,” he said, “I got a question for you.” His eyes were hungry, his mouth a wide white grin.

“Yeah?” I said. I didn’t trust Willie. He had two other boys with him, who were both already on the verge of laughter.

“You ever had pussy around your neck?”

I squirmed on my stool—a sickly pale-green disk connected by a metal arm to the lunch table—and picked at a small piece of crud next to my tray. These kinds of questions always made me feel terribly small and uncomfortable. Around us was utter chaos, as usual, boys whooping and burping and punching each other, food flying, screaming, laughter. A combination of burnt pizza and cleaning solution hung in the air. My eyes rested on a large cherry pie stain on the lunchroom wall, and I thought about the question.

Pussy. The word offended me, and certainly made me nervous. Things I don’t understand often make me uncomfortable, especially if I sense they are important. At 11 years old, I didn’t understand “pussy” at all, although I could already tell it was tremendously important. I barely even knew what it was, and I was deeply aware and ashamed of my ignorance. All I knew was that it was a crude term for a woman’s private parts, but I had never seen one, let alone had one around my neck!

It didn’t sound possible. I had the impression that tightness was a virtue in a pussy, at least that’s what all the other boys were always saying. But all things sexual were very mysterious to me. My parents were both shy types who apparently thought sex was something magical, certainly not to be discussed. I gleaned what little understanding I could from the conversations I overheard at school, while trying desperately not to reveal my own ignorance, which I usually ended up doing anyway.

Where pussy was concerned, I knew you could stick fingers in it, or a penis, and probably a lot of other things too. But your whole head? That sounded absurd. And yet … I had also heard that you could “eat” a pussy, though there was fierce debate among the boys about whether one ought to or not. Some boys decried pussy-eating as disgusting or even “gay,” while others claimed it was a source of great pleasure and delight. I struggled with the terminology—surely they didn’t literally mean eating, did they? But at the very least I knew that “eating” a pussy involved the mouth. Perhaps then, I thought, as I wrestled with Willie’s question, if a person were to “eat” a pussy that was too “loose” (as I’d heard many, if not most, of the ones belonging to the girls in our class were), one’s whole head could somehow become lodged in there and one would actually have “pussy around [his] neck.” Still, it seemed unlikely.

“Well …” I said slowly, not wanting to commit myself either way. A small group of onlookers had formed around us. This was agony. What was the answer Willie was looking for? How I hated to be wrong! “No,” I said, “I never have.” It seemed to me that to say I’d ever had pussy around my neck would have been to admit being involved in some bizarre sexual act that I couldn’t even fathom. Since I had no idea what that might be, I couldn’t risk it.

“You haven’t?” Willie said theatrically, with mock surprise. For the benefit of his delighted audience, he repeated the question: “You’ve never had pussy around your neck? Are you sure?”

“No, I never have,” I asserted again, trying to sound more confident about my answer this time. “That’s nasty,” I added, as if to bolster my claim.

“Then how were you born?” Willie said. “What are you an alien or something?”

I still didn’t understand.

“Dummy, you came out of a pussy. Everybody has had pussy around their neck.” He looked smug. His two cohorts snickered at my stupidity. I was flabbergasted. He was right. I hadn’t even thought of that. Then he broke into a smile, cupped his hands under his chest and started bouncing them up and down impishly.

“Watch out!” he yelled, suddenly whirling around and charging toward the group of onlookers that had assembled to hear the answer to his strange and unsettling riddle. “I’m juggling my titties! I’m juggling my titties!”

And then, at last, I was alone again.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that wasn’t the whole story. When I was born, before I could be delivered, my umbilical cord had become twisted around my neck, and I’d actually been born by emergency C-section. I hate to think of my mother being sliced open like that, and part of me wishes Willie had been right, but he was wrong: In fact, I never have had pussy around my neck.

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ROB WILLIAMS is a mercenary copywriter and copy editor who lives above a meat market in the East Village in New York City. Find more of his stories at itmustbebobby.com.

5 responses to “Pussy Around My Neck”

  1. At my junior high, “our” tittie-juggling kid was called Justin, and instead of juggling anyone’s anatomy, he would model what he imagined yours looked like, then show it to you. By “model”, I mean he would pick up some object close at hand (a t-shirt from a gym bag, a leather winter mitten, a balled up wad of loose-leaf paper…) and tinker with it till he felt he’d fashioned a reasonable facsimile of your wiener or beaver or whatever he was calling your parts that week. Then, shoving the glove-paper-tshirt-wad into your face, he’d waggle it around, and then mock you for “smelling yourself”.

    This, too, happened in the lunch room. This, too, made me feel small and weird, probably much like the pussy-neck inquisition did you…likewise, because I was unsure…how…how, exactly, was this glove supposed to look like my crotch? My crotch looked *nothing* like that leather glove folded into a freaky crack!

    Rather than calling him on it, challenging that if THAT’S what he thought a vagina looked like then clearly Justin was a boy who’d never clapped eyes on one, I assumed he knew better than me what a vagina (which, to be clear, I do have) looked like, or that mine was, somehow, not built like it ought to be.

    Kids.

    (incidentally, I understand Justin grew up to join the police force in one of my city’s more aggressively troubled neighbourhoods…I like to imagine him pulling the “smell yourself” gag on hoodlums who least expect it)

  2. Great story, great characters! Do you know where Willie is now? This would be a great scene in a movie.

  3. Rob Williams says:

    I’m sorry to say, Willie and I lost touch over the years. Like probably after THAT year.

  4. Reno Romero says:

    rob:

    that’s a cool story. great characters. dudes are nasty. i remember the willies of the world. one of them was my cousin. i hated him. he was the worst. nevertheless, it’s folks like this that make up good funny stories. and this was both. thanks, sir.

  5. Gloria says:

    What an absolutely fascinating look into the mind of an eleven year old boy. Since I have two nine year old boys who are only just now beginning to understand the concept that a thing called sex even exists in the world, I’m delighted to hear that the innocence and the innocence-logic persists for a few years yet.

    Fun piece.

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