I was not ever what you might call a macho kind of guy. Not as a child either. I was soundly playing outdoors with the others until the time I learned to read, when I suddenly became occupied with swallowing five books a week, and my pals stopped being able to understand what I talked about, because they did not read much.
I must say though, that I have never looked back. To me, philosophical discussion or a good book is way more intense and exhilarating than any physical activity. Not to mention art. But thats just me.
So I was not the one the girls came running to when they needed a male. Terminal shyness played a role here as well, of course.
But there was this camping trip I was on with two cousins, Minni, ten years old like me, and Karsten, 15. Karsten was not happy about being on a trip with two children, and let us do everything by ourselves. (His parents would have killed him had we ever told. He was supposed to take care of us.)
Around the camp fire, I started looking at Minni closely for the first time. I realized that she was actually very interesting to look at. (It was five years since I had seen her, and I thought of her primarily as a pain in the butt.)
She had shoulder-length dark brown hair, a bit of freckles, and big brown eyes. The firelight made it seem like her eyes had depths deeper than the universe itself.
We grew a bit closer over the evening, because our older cousin, whether because of girlfriend trouble or whatever, was bound on letting us know who was the adult around, which apparently meant bossing us around and generally being rude and nasty.
This also meant that he decided on taking the whole of the tent for himself, and making us put up the small extra-tent by ourselves to sleep in. The result was not pretty, and definitely not very large, but it was standing at least.
When we crept to bed, we were both rather shy. I forget whether the sleeping bag had not actually been invented yet or my parents were too cheap to buy any, but we only had a couple of blankets which we had to share. We undressed in near-total darkness, of course. We started a whispering conversation about how badly Karsten was behaving, but then went on with telling each other fairy tales of magic kingdoms and superheroes. (Guess who told which.) We lay with our faces close so Karsten would not hear us, and the moon lit up one side of the tent.
I fell asleep and dreamed I was Superman flying high over Metropolis, battling Brainiac and ten thousand killer robots. The sound of the robots being split to atoms under my heat-vision was deafening.
I awoke, realizing that the sound also was in the woods around us. It was a thunderstorm. Minni was shaking me, she was terrified. She asked me to go and fetch Karsten. I was a bit unwilling, for it was raining cats and dogs outside, but finally went.
Karsten did not want to come, and he did not want to have us inside the big tent, and he said that we were babies if we did not got to sleep immediately.
I went back with the bad news, rather wet. Minni did not take it well, she started crying.
A few minutes later, the storm climaxed, and the thunder and lightning was like being in hell. Suddenly Minni crawled under my blankets and snug up close to me. She was shaking like a little kitten. I held her, trying to sound assuring, even though she could not hear a word I said over the thunder. She was cold, especially her hands, but gradually she got warmer.
Gradually, as the storm quieted, she also started shaking less. It got warmer under the blankets, but I kinda liked it, what with the cold rain outside.
I expected her to disentangle herself and go to her own side of the blankets, but to my surprise she just snug closer. She put her mouth close to my ear and whispered things to me, telling me all kinds of things from her life.
I dont know if youll believe me, but I dont remember anything at all of all the things she told me. What I do remember is that I did not get any more sleep at all, even after she fell asleep in my arms, and I remember the amazing softness I realized that girls had. And I remember beyond all clarity realizing that girls were magical creatures put on Earth by the mighty one to save us from ourselves, and that it was our duty to always protect them from thunder and everything bad in the woods.