The Adventures of
Me and Martha Jane
By Santos J. Romeo
Copyright © 1994, 1996
**** WARNING **** WARNING **** WARNING ****
THIS DOCUMENT IS A SEXUALLY GRAPHIC STORY ABOUT AN INTENSE SEXUAL, EMOTIONAL AND INTELLECTUAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A TEENAGE GIRL AND A YOUNG BOY AND THE COURSE OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP OVER A PERIOD OF 10 YEARS. IT IS A DRAMATIZATION ABOUT REAL PEOPLE AND THEIR CON- FLICT WITH SOCIAL EXPECTATIONS. IF THIS SUBJECTS OFFENDS YOU OR IF SEXUAL LANGUAGE UPSETS YOU, OR IF YOU DON'T WANT THIS MATERIAL SEEN BY UNDER-18 OR OTHERWISE UNQUALIFIED PERSONS, DELETE THIS DOCUMENT.
THIS DOCUMENT IS COPYRIGHTED © 1994, 1996 BY SJR. SO--HEY, YOU CAN COPY IT BUT YOU CAN'T CHANGE IT OR SELL IT UNLESS I SAY SO.
THE ADVENTURES OF ME AND MARTHA JANE
The story herein is told as best as I can recall it. It occurred during 1948-49-50. There are continued incidents that occurred 1952-58. Over the years I have relived these events countless times, carefully reconstructing in my mind many forgotten details and conversations -- at one point undergoing hypnosis to recall details or events that lay buried under a lifetime of other thoughts and concerns.
What follows is presented as clearly as I can remember...
During this first period, 1948 to 1950, I ranged in age from 6 to almost 9. This doesn't make me an "old man" -- fortunately, a youthful look runs in my family (though we tend to lose our teeth early, for some damn reason). I look 35. I am 5'8" and appear slightly taller because I am muscular but slim. When I was age 8 to 13 I actually looked older and was often mistaken for 12 to 18. Luckily, that trend later reversed itself.
Over the years I've discussed these incidents with professionals (i.e., headshrinkers and other counselors), most of whom were scandalized by my tale. In discussing it, and in going back over childhood memories with parents and relatives, I managed to gather a number of facts about me as a boy:
I was mentally and sexually precocious. Not that I was a young Einstein or a certifiable "prodigy", but I was quite bright and mentally overactive. From the time I was able to crawl along the floor I was poking my nose into everything. In this regard I was difficult to manage; my mother couldn't keep pace with my endless questions and habits like peeking under everything in sight. When entering a new room or building the first thing I did was wonder what was in the closets. I used to look under the sofa and the chair cushions just to see what was there (I found lots of pennies doing this, and a wedding ring lost by a visiting aunt). I also loved listening to the 78rpm records on Mom's then-new Philco tabletop radio-phonograph. The Philco was on several occasions a source of wonderment to my Mom and relatives -- whenever they brought me a child's record, I would set it aside untouched and start playing a symphony (Dvorak's Eighth was my favorite) or the Peggy Lee album, and I listened to Tex Ritter platters until I wore them gray and had to ask for replacements. I knew more about the Philco than Mom did, once producing for her a crayon drawing of how the old vacuum tube "tuning eye" worked. My hearing was sharply developed: I could tell when the steel-tipped phono needle was beginning to wear before anyone else could hear the difference and I knew how to change the needle myself -- something my mother was never able to figure out.
Before I started grammar school I would read the morning paper to Mom while she fixed breakfast. This was something I picked up from my godfather, who every Sunday read the comics to me, pointing at each word as he read. An Italian immigrant who never finished grammar school, he was a slow reader who always read that way, his index finger leading him along word by word across a page. The first time he read to me I was curious about how the printed letters corresponded to what he said aloud, so each time he went through the comics with me I made him break down the words he pointed to, and soon I had him breaking down the syllables in the words until I learned to put words together on my own. The first words I learned to recognize by myself was the phrase, "You betchum, Red Ryder!," a phrase I used until everyone around me grew sick of it. My great-aunt Frances once caught me in her back yard trying to lift a heavy old castiron Underwood typewriter that someone had abandoned. I was barely six then, and the ancient 1920's-vintage machine was almost as heavy as I was. She wanted me to throw it away, but I insisted on keeping it and cradled it heavily on my lap the day I found it as she drove me back to my Mom's and stared at me, amazed that anyone would want such a piece of junk. But the old machine's feel and construction fascinated me, and did so for years. Quickly and easily bored, I drew my own comic books (mostly stick-men and outer space battles), once filled the apartment with acrid smoke and ruined a pot trying to manufacture my own crayons -- the odor made Mom sick for days, and it took weeks for the stench of paraffin to fade. These and other feats of my daring and heedless youth caused most of my stodgy family to consider me a holy terror. They labeled my behavior as weird and inscrutable.
Most of these activities were the result of prolonged self isolation and boredom. I was as impatient with adults as they were with me. They addressed me as if either they or I were idiots, mumbling among them- selves as if they didn't think I understood what they were talking about (some of them knew that I knew, so they would mumble in Italian -- which of course I didn't understand and which infuriated me!). They usually answered my questions with religious myth, fantasy, or old wives' tales -- none of which I accepted, especially quaint tripe about storks deli- vering babies and women getting big bellies from eating too many popsicles. I soon learned that adults -- especially my overly religious mother -- could not be trusted. I became emotionally and intellectually estranged from them at a very early age, probably around age four. Rather than ask questions, I did my own investigating. This often got me into trouble: I once jammed my arm into the ancient Westinghouse laundry machine Mom had in the kitchen corner, the kind with a mechanized feed-by-hand rinser-wringer attached to the top of the washtub. The thick rubber rollers on this machine happened to be engaged at the time, and the rollers pulled one of my arms through the wringer, threatening to squeeze the rest of me along with it. My mother heard me yelling, ran into the kitchen, smacked the roller release lever, and rescued me.
Unfortunately I learned absolutely nothing from this incident. I kept right on distrusting the advice of any and all elders and continued to snoop, probe, and experiment. My active spirits were so unpredictable that my mother arranged for rest on weekends by sending me out of the house to spend time with my grandparents and godparents. I gave this Puritanical crowd the same case of the heebie-jeebies, so they placated me with plenty of money for movies, comic books, magazines, and whatever else would keep me occupied in a corner or otherwise out of their hair.
I was not mean-spirited or destructive. In fact, I considered other children to be insensitive, dense, selfish, often brutal. My feelings were easily hurt by name-calling and arm-punching. I had a nauseating fear of violence, whether directed at me or at anyone else. Yet physically I was fairly muscular and aggressive, tending to spend my time in risky games such as purposely dashing back and forth across Lauderdale Street, the 6-lane, heavily trafficked main boulevard that ran through our project, and early on conducted my own far-flung explorations of the nearby downtown area without the slightest idea how I would find my way back home. I once wandered around the downtown Memphis waterfront until I truly got lost; I didn't find my way back until 9 o'clock that night and on returning home I found my Mom had called every relative in sight; several of them were pacing around our living room talking with some cops. I casually entered the front door and walked across the room with a carefree "Hi, folks!" and everyone immediately descended upon me with yells, threats, moans and tears of consternation. And though I knew this would be the result if I ever wandered off again, I wandered anyway -- but not without first studying a map of the city and learning all the routes of the city bus lines -- not so I would not get lost again (I did on several more occasions), but so I could find my way back in time to avoid their hysteria.
My neighborhood was a Federal housing project. But It was nothing like modern projects, so it's difficult to describe. The place was in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, and was built in the 1930's to house retired veterans, their widows and children, and government employees needing housing. World War II made this housing available to war widows and disabled vets and their families. The rent was $30 a month, which in the 1940's was still a fairly hefty sum for a widow or disabled vet. The housing staff maintained the area almost antiseptically inside and out. It consisted mostly of small, single-level housing units with 4 to 6 1-bedroom apartments in each unit. The project extended 6-by-8 city blocks. Each apartment had its own small backyard, which some tenants equipped with picket fences and even flower or vegetable gardens. Housing staff inspected the interiors of each apartment every 30 days to make certain the tenants kept them maintained. The grounds were webbed with sidewalks, dotted with trees, shrubs, and benches here and there. Those who are familiar with the life of Elvis Presley will recognize this project near downtown Memphis as the same one Elvis lived in during the early 1950's, at roughly the same time I was there.
In the late 1950's, a few years after my mother and my new stepfather moved out of the neighborhood to suburbia, the Feds handed the project over to the state. Housing for military and government people had been moved into the 'burbs, so the project became tenanted by state welfare recipients. In the 1960's the project was turned over to the county and city, at which point it was populated only by the homeless, the chronic- ally unemployed, and those living strictly on the dole. By that time it had decayed into a crusty slum and looked not at all like the well kept, flowered neighborhood I remembered.
My mother was a World War II widow. In many ways this contributed to my early feelings of isolation from her. I distinctly recall receiving from her the impression that, since my father's death in combat earning a Silver Star in the B-17 battles over Europe, I had been a great burden to her (There was more to this story than his death in the war, but that's another tale.) Certainly, my Mom being suddenly left alone to raise me and my younger sister could have had this effect on her. She never openly voiced any of this, but I clearly remember having received this "message" from her in many subtle ways. I had a sister almost two years younger. The two of us in that small apartment were too much for Mom; so it happened that by the time I was 5 or 6 my sister wasn't around often, having been taken under the wing of her very large godmother, who allowed my sister to spend months at a time with her and her husband. My sister wasn't enamored of life in the project, preferring to be thoroughly spoiled and pampered by her doting godmother (who did her best to play the role, usually to excess). Sis, whom we called Miss Priss, would stay at our apartment for a while, then ask to stay at her godmother's for prolonged periods, until at the age of 12 or so she practically moved in with her semi-permanently. This same godmother was also our great-aunt. I seemed to barely get along with this shrill woman, and our relationship probably survived due only to the fact that she had a great affection for her favorite nephew, my departed father. I found the woman too smothering and exacting for comfort.
So I was left most often with Mom, whom I didn't trust. I had the feeling I was in her way. She was attractive and quiet, but a sad and moody woman, usually too tired or worried to spend much time with me. I can't fault her; she married too young, got caught up in the tragedy of the War, and was simply doing her best to cope. With my sister usually away and with most of the kids in the project being too roughneck for my taste, I was left pretty much to myself from a very early age. Very likely this same attitude caused me to leave home later, at 18, and strike out on my own.
The single bright spot was the family next door. Another war widow lived there with her two daughters. This woman and my mother became close friends, a relationship that continues to this day even though the lady moved to St. Louis years ago. Her oldest daughter was a tall, attractive, brunette young woman nearing her twenties at the time and whom I seldom saw. She possessed a highly valued high school diploma, enabling her to find work and help the family financially. In the South in the 1940's women could expect only minimal pay at clerical or similar jobs. But she earned enough to keep her younger sister in high school. This younger sister was Martha Jane. My earliest memory of Martha Jane was when I was 6 years old and she was 15. I had a very serious crush on her.
I don't mean that as a 6-year old sexpot I had the kind of crush that centers on sexual fantasy. I don't recall ever sitting around fantasiz- ing sexually at that age about Martha Jane. I simply had a strong and memorable affection for her. And she had similar feelings for me -- in later years my mother would say to me, "Yes, I remember Martha Jane -- she just LOVED you! She thought you were the sweetest, cutest thing on earth! She was the only one who could make you behave."
It was true. With little instruction or any warning that I can remember, Martha Jane's presence seemed to soothe my savage beasts. I would knowingly do nothing -- nothing -- to upset her in any way. Actions that I knew were upsetting to others were automatically filtered out of my behavior when I was around her. By the same token, Martha Jane always approached me as though I were a person rather than an imbecile. She gave honest, practical, concerned answers to my endless questions and she had a fondness for stories and science and movies and music similar to mine. Obviously my insistent questioning and troublesome behavior were attempts on my part to get attention and establish some sort of meaning- ful communication with a mental soul mate. Most of my large family of relatives were half-literate, working- or middle-class folks -- nothing immoral about that, and such is the human stuff that gets work done and is often referred to as the "salt of the earth." There was no lack of a certain modicum of family attachment and devotion. But they and I lacked, shall we say, compatibility and understanding. Martha Jane apparently fulfilled many of those needs and shared my mental interests, sometimes sitting for hours telling me stories or reading to me or simply listening. After spending some time with her I usually felt serene for a few days. My frequent bouts of instant boredom and hyperactivity were, for a while, minimal. Martha Jane reciprocated by treating me with intelligence, playfulness, and a seemingly endless supply of affection. And she and I simply seemed to establish an instant rapport together. Adults were boring and stultifying: she never was. She never raised her voice or hand to me, and she never had reason to.
At 15, she was a sunny faced, fairly short, trim teenager with a very poised manner and auburn hair that was so light it often appeared blonde. She often wore black horn-rimmed glasses. Her hair was medium length and usually frizzy (I called it fuzzy-cute) rather than long and curled like most women and girls I knew. She had strong eyes that appeared alternately hazel or bright green, depending on the light and on her mood. She wore very sparse makeup, and had a soft musical voice that I found hypnotic. Pugnosed, a little delicate and with a bright face that hinted of a few tiny freckles, she was the typically pretty, early 50's teen. She also had a very evident West Tennessee Southern twang, which her older sister didn't seem to have.
(* P.S.: In later years I became an accomplished astrologer, and eventually astrology combined with my computer skills. Astrologically I calculated her birthdate: Martha Jane was a Virgo, born September 9, 1933. I later found out that this birthdate was correct. But I hope I never again have to do the amount of work required to figure this out!)
Martha Jane didn't spend a great deal of time with me or in my mother's place. She was an avid student. At that time, poor kids who wanted to get anywhere in life -- especially to move out of Federal housing projects -- had to get through high school, or else! It was that simple. We would usually see each other on our shared front porch if we happened to be entering or leaving our apartments together. She would greet me out front and spend a while talking to me there, and we'd go on our way. It was always a pleasant exchange, though today I remember little of what was said. I do remember that she would often hug me, kiss my nose, let me give her a kiss, or in some other way express herself affectionately and attentively to me. On a few occasions she visited my mother for an afternoon. They would sit in the small kitchen and chat over tea or coffee while I played elsewhere in the apartment.
Martha Jane and I did not spend time alone together until late in my 6th year, when my widowed Mom began dating the man who eventually became my stepfather. This started in late 1948. Mom and my future stepdad didn't date often, since they saw each other regularly during the week when she did her grocery shopping at the supermarket on the corner; my stepdad-to-be was manager/owner of the place, with others in his family. They dated only every few weeks or so; and as staunch conservative Catholics, they had a long and leisurely courtship that continued for years. When she did have a dress-up date, Mom engaged a sitter for me.
Originally my sitter was my maternal grandmother or one of my mother's younger sisters. But grandma moved to the distant 'burbs and my two aunts found husbands. My mother could only occasionally afford to pay a babysitter, and she refused to accept as little as a dollar or two from my stepdad-to-be (now I know where I got most of that independent streak of mine! It was her own independence that kept her in the project for so long. After my father's death she was too embarrassed to accept help and was determined to make life work on her own. Unfortunately the right to that streak wasn't looked upon so favorably in my case).
So it turned out that my sitter became Martha Jane, who offered her services freely. My Mom tried slipping her a bill or two now and then, but Martha Jane would have none if it. "You don't have to pay me to stay with him," she'd say. "I love Speedy!"
This brings me to my nickname. Why I found this name so embarras- sing, even then, is a mystery to me. But I came to be known as "Speedy." My other nicknames were Mikey (from my godmother) and Butch (from my great-aunt). Where the name Speedy came from has many myths behind it, but most people say it had a lot to do with the legendary speed with which I ran away when caught at something. Martha Jane addressed me by Speedy and sometimes by my proper name, Steven. Being called Speedy by most people deeply annoyed me, but I didn't seem to mind when Martha Jane did it. I have no explanation for making an exception of her when it came to my otherwise despised nickname. She said she liked both names, and that was OK by me.
During these infrequent babysit sessions she would usually study. Sometimes she would do a little cleaning or straightening, purely out of a desire to help my Mom, and I would always help. I felt "right" with whatever we did together. I do recall the one time that I upset her during a babysit session: I was in our small bedroom. There was a black phone set in the room and I wanted desperately to find out what happened when I dialed 411. The telephone directory listed it as a free public information number. So I picked up the phone and dialed 411. An operator answered.
"Number, please?" said the voice on the other end.
"Oh," I said nonchalantly, "I don't want a number. I just wanna talk to you."
Martha Jane must have heard this ridiculous conversation, because right away I heard her cry out, "Speedy? What are you doing in there?" She rushed into the room and stood in the doorway, stunned and shocked. "What are you DOING?"
I was so alarmed that I immediately said into the phone, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bother you, Miss," and hung up. Martha Jane quickly came to me and took the phone away. I told her I had only called 411 and was talking to the operator. She looked at me blankly, and then couldn't help but giggling. "You did WHAT?" All I could do was look up at her (she was not that tall, but she was then taller than I). I took the hem of her skirt and scrunched up against her; I was really afraid I had offended her. I kept saying I was sorry. She knelt down to my level and patiently explained to me about telephone operators and how the poor overworked gals got so many crank calls. "I'll call up one of my girlfriends sometime, okay? And you and I can talk to her together and you'll see what it's like." I said it would be fine, and I hugged her and apologized again and again, and she accepted and hugged me back and got me ready for bed.