In fifth grade, I had an admirer named Norman. I didn’t encourage him. For Valentine’s Day, he put a cheap necklace from the toy store into the envelope of my valentine, and I knew I was in trouble.

Since he had gifted me with jewelry, Norman assumed we were an item, going steady, boyfriend/girlfriend, or whatever fifth-graders call it. On the strength of that, he thought he would walk me home from school, even though he’d ridden his bike. As he accompanied me down Karesh Avenue toward my house, he showed off by riding his bike off curbs and pulling wheelies—all those antics that testosterone causes men and boys to do.

As my house neared, I got more and more nervous. For one, I didn’t want Norman to know where I lived. For another, I was a latch-key kid, and no one was at home to receive me. I would be alone in the house.

At every corner I tied to get rid of Norman by thanking him and bidding him good-bye. “Is this your house?” he’d ask. I considered saying yes and going up to the strange neighbor’s house. Perhaps some nice housewife was home and would offer me sanctuary from Norman. But I balked at approaching a strange house.

He escorted me all the way home. I unlocked the door, entered quickly, and closed and locked the door in his face. To my horror, I saw him heading up the driveway to the back of the house. As fate would have it, my brother had left the back door unlocked when he got home ahead of me, and Norman came in. We stared at each other, him smiling and me pale.

In fifth grade I experienced the terror a woman feels when she discovers a man has violated her space unbidden. I screamed at Norman to get out of my house and ran out onto the front lawn, not wanting to be enclosed within walls with him. He must have registered my fear and determination finally because he fled on his bike. And that was the end of my relationship with Norman.

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