Judy Jurgensen was not like other girls, but I loved all eighteen feet of her terribly.
That is, I was terrible at loving all eighteen feet of her.
This was not a result of any perceived lack of passion on my part, but rather, a simple matter of logistics. Unzipping her sweater was a bit like riding a zip line to nowhere, and even after I overcame the first obstacle, there were always further obstacles beneath—bras that knew no entry point, clasps requiring combinations. I spent evenings burrowing shrew-like through the tunnels of her blouse, shouting up to her, “Judy, does that feel good to you?” though I never heard much in the way of replies.
The problem with Judy was that there was simply too much of her to love, and even when she steadied herself against the oak trees in the park and gave me free reign of her body, it still felt a bit like mountain climbing, me searching frantically for footholds in the dark, leaping from crevice to crevice. Not only was I inexperienced in lovemaking, but I was shoddily equipped for the task. When people jokingly asked if we were using protection, they didn’t mean contraceptives, but harnesses, pulleys, carabiners, and safety clamps. Ours was a love like no other—one with vertical boundaries—and even when I scurried up her pant leg to her jacket to her lips, I was never quite sure what to do upon my arrival.
We met at the start of our ninth grade year, during fourth period gym class. She was rumored to be a foreign exchange student, though all we knew for certain was that a mysterious wooden ship had recently docked at the harbor and nobody knew from where. We left that mystery for the coast guard, while we in gym class much preferred the mystery of the girl herself.
“Bet she’s a killer on the basketball court,” Cody Thompson whispered, though as we would discover later that morning, she was a killer on the dodge ball court, too. After Coach Gibson dedicated several minutes to explaining the not-so-intricate-rules of the game (“You grab a ball, then you chuck it,”), he popped the rust-covered whistle between his lips and blew. Judy Jurgensen responded to the sound, flinging the foam balls mercilessly at everyone, sparing no one the wrath of her blitzkrieg.
The result: A few dozen victims clutching arms and fractured ribs, rolling lengthwise along the gymnasium floor. Blood spouted from noses and lips, from ears even, and by the time she awoke from her competitive trance, she could hardly bare the destruction she’d caused. A low moan escaped her, and I watched from my place behind a trash bin as she thundered into the locker room.
Coach Gibson was beside himself. Not only was he suddenly overwhelmed by a snowstorm of injury reports, but he also had an eighteen-foot tall student barricaded in a room. He responded the only way he knew how, by offering three short shrieks from his whistle, though when that proved ineffective, he ordered some of the less-injured girls to limp near the locker room to negotiate an exit. The locker room door remained shut, but those broken, battered girls lined up loyally on the other side, assuring Judy that none of their wounds were mortal; that none of the conscious students, at least, blamed her for not yet understanding her strength.
Despite her difficulties on the dodge ball court, Judy Jurgensen attempted a peace offering by providing a wide array of services for the school. The janitors, in particular, regularly took advantage of her height, calling upon her to assist in replacing the hallway’s forever short-circuiting light bulbs, sparing them the ladder. The cafeteria workers, too, pleaded with her to startle the wayward sparrows that resided in the lunchroom rafters. When asked, Judy was more than happy to unclog the highest vents, retrieve lost balls from the rooftops. She even managed to clean the “Go F-yourself” graffiti that had been scrawled on a ceiling tile sometime during the Reagan Administration.
Thus, through her good works, Judy Jurgensen became beloved by teachers and students alike, and her usefulness extended throughout the community. She became the go-to girl for untangling kites from the uppermost branches of trees, for wooing down the most stubborn of kittens. Even the mayor took note of her faithful service, awarding her the prestigious Key to the City, though the enormous, novelty-sized prop appeared to be of normal proportions when slipped into her oversized palm.
Yet despite her efforts, there were those who remained uncertain of her intentions. I regularly witnessed full tables opening up for her in the lunchroom; noticed, too, how even the linebackers of the high school football squad often quivered in her presence. In mid-September, one of the more outspoken members of the Parent Teacher Association distributed a widely-read email stating the “very real possibility” that Judy Jurgensen was a Communist spy sent to America to uncover the “innermost secrets” of our education system. This claim was proved false after it was revealed that America’s test scores paled in comparison to Russia’s, and certainly any information pertaining to our “innermost secrets” would only be useful if her mission was to bring down Russian test scores.
Of course, many parents shared far more reasonable concerns, but Principal Carter reminded the mobs that Judy Jurgensen’s attendance was perfect, her grades were top-notch, and there was little he could do beyond that.
“Can’t you check her birth certificate?” one cried. “See if she’s an illegal?”
Principal Carter admitted that he could probably do that much, though in truth, he had little motivation to—he hadn’t seen such a well-lit hallway in years.
While we never learned the specifics of her homeland, Mrs. Kelper and the rest of our social studies class deduced that most likely she hailed from some unexplored island in the Baltic. The island remained undocumented on modern maps, though this didn’t discourage a frazzle-haired Kelper from bringing in a wide array of them, unfurling their coiled shapes and allowing Judy the opportunity to reveal her true coordinates to the class. Kelper’s maps came in all varieties—both physical and geographic—though each time Judy was called to the front of the room and handed what, for her, was a toothpick-sized pointer, she always directed our attention to the same impossible spot.
“This,” she whispered, hunching over, “right here.”
“But that’s just water, dear,” Kelper explained. “The sea. Surely you don’t live in the sea.”
Judy nodded as if to confirm it.
Meanwhile, the class watched on as Kelper moved to the next map, and the next, waiting for the giantess to remember from where she’d come.
There was no question that Judy frightened people, though their fright turned to anger once she began associating with me.
Your relationship is unnatural, we were told, abnormal.
And as Cody Thompson informed me, I was a “disgrace” to all ninth grade boys of regular height.
“What do you even like about her?” Chris Harper asked one day after gym class. “Is it the enormous breasts? It’s got to be the enormous breasts, right?”
But it wasn’t, and when Donald Cordon asked if it was some kind of “vagina thing”—”I mean come on, it must be like you’re spelunking in there,”—I didn’t mentioned that our relationship had yet to progress to that phase.
“You know, sweetie,” my mother advised days later, “there are plenty of girls to choose from. Why, just yesterday I was talking to Audrey Kinsmore’s mother. You know, Audrey. She’s about 5’6″—plenty tall if you ask me—and the thing about Audrey is…”
As I would soon learn from my mother, there were plenty of things about Audrey.
But despite her baton skills and synchronized swimming skills, etc., Audrey was no Judy, and even if the world refused to acknowledge our love affair, I assured Judy that the world didn’t have to.
“Like Romeo and Juliet,” I explained one night as we hid in the shadows of the oak trees. “We’re just a couple of star crossed lovers.”
She nodded thoughtfully, though it felt odd explaining the concept of “star crossed” anything to someone who, if she bothered to raise an arm to the sky, might be able to pluck one and place it in her pocket.
As a result of the harassment, we became far less public, taking our rendezvous to undisclosed locations—primarily the janitor’s closet—though there was always the problem of space. There were only so many ways to fold and unfold a body, and we tried all of them, oftentimes jamming our feet in mop buckets or sending the paper towels sprawling.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, watching that solitary bulb cast light on all the soap refills. “This isn’t as romantic as I’d hoped.”
She nodded in silence, draping a heavy hand over my head as if to agree.
For weeks, people continued to call me the Giant Slayer, and when I tried to explain—”No, no, there is no slaying about it,”—the others just laughed and repeated it louder.
“Gi-ant Slay-er! Gi-ant Slay-er!”
It was hard to argue when invisible swords sliced through the sky.
Afternoons I took the long way home, composing love letters in my head, though I soon realized the absurdity of my tiny words meaning anything to someone as vast and worldly as she.
For some reason, when directed at Judy, “Roses are red, violets are blue,” always came out sounding like some kind of botanical cataloging rather than a testament of how I felt. I continued struggling to show her my true feelings, and so, I began dreaming of gifts in their proper proportions. When I gave her flowers, I bought them by the bushel, and instead of a box of chocolate, I usually just sprung for the crate. There were other difficulties, too, and sometimes, when I was too far below her, I had to resort to whispering sweet nothings into her ear via megaphone.
“Your legs are like lovely lampposts,” I announced to everyone in the tri-country area. The screeching feedback didn’t much help, though it didn’t distort the message, either.
It was clear that the external pressures were beginning to wear on both of us, and on the night we scheduled our final rendezvous alongside the oak trees in the park, I’d hardly crawled halfway to her belly button before the bottle rockets lit up the sky. The Roman candles followed shortly after.
“These are what you call shooting stars, yes?” Judy asked, and how was I to tell her that they most certainly were not; that this was a public display of our classmates’ cruelty, a grand spectacle of their intolerance.
I could just make out the flashing orbs while lodged in the insides of her sweater, but by the time I crawled out the lights were even brighter, and the boys’ cackles echoing from the trees. I told Judy to run, and when she asked why, I admitted that they were not shooting stars.
“Roman candles,” I explained.
“Roman…candles,” she said slowly, training her tongue for the words.
Then, I grabbed her hand (by which I mean she picked me up in one smooth motion), and she took a few tentative steps away from the trees, exposing us to the brunt of their assault.
The colored orbs whirred past us, a smattering of blues and reds and oranges.
When one blurred particularly close she tried out her new vocabulary.
“Take heed of that Roman candle, love!”
God, I loved when she talked dirty.
She flung me beneath her arm, but as I directed her toward the water—”take a left, now a right, now a zigzag”—the harbor remained little more than a faraway glimmer. Meanwhile, the hoard of boys followed close behind—all those wind sprints in gym class clearly paying off.
Judy hunkered low beneath the tallest tips of the trees, pressing me into her chest. There was nothing there but her heartbeat, and I listened to it quicken as she tore deeper into the dark, carving a clear path for the others to follow. And then finally, just before us, the harbor, and in it, the vast wooden ship she called home.
The pack of boys were gaining on us—all sweat and grit—and while Judy Jurgensen had sworn off all forms of violence as a result of the dodge ball incident, I pleaded with her to reconsider.
“Just pick up one tiny boulder,” I tried. “See if you can’t give it a nice hurl in their general direction.”
Instead, she just sat me down on the shoreline while her hands worked fast, thumbing up and down the thick, snaking ropes until the ship rocked free from the dock.
She leapt onboard, her layers of blonde hair falling around her in waves.
“Wait! Let me come with you!” I begged.
She would not, so I changed tactics.
“Well, how about sticking around here?”
She shook her head, shrugged her shoulders.
“But…what if we love each other?” I called, and then, in a more desperate attempt:
“And who’s supposed to change the light bulbs?”
There were fireworks between us, literally, as my giantess hefted herself starboard and raised the sail. The timber creaked beneath her, the entire ship a bit less buoyant with her on it. The wind picked up, bullying the sail away from me, so I cupped my hands and shouted once more, but she didn’t hear.
Her own hand resembled an enormous compass as she held it out for me, waved to me as the fog swept over the mast.
The pack of boys caught up, spotted me alone on the edge of the shore.
“There he is!” they cried, “light’em up!”
I turned slowly, watched as they aimed their Roman candles once more, the fuses lighting their pale faces. I heard the sizzle, the whir—it didn’t matter.
All that mattered was that I was alone on the shore, while my giantess bobbed off in the ocean. I tried not to think about it; it was far easier when there was no thinking. Instead, I just puffed out my chest as big as I could, prepared for a far less injurious blow.