I fell in love with the girl next door when I was too young to put words to it. But it wasn't platonic. Grownups don't want to admit this but children can feel the stirrings of the inner animal long before they reach high school.
Where we lived it was always hot and humid and so, like all of us, the girl next door lived with her blinds and windows open in the evenings to let the cooling air circulate. The difference between her and those of us who had grown up in that extravagant, luscious environment was that we knew to dim the lights when we undressed.
There was a poetry to her night-time rituals and a reverence with which I watched. At 9.45 we would both take up our positions: me, kneeling on the end of the bed in my pajama bottoms, with my own lights dulled to nothing as she entered the room opposite, removing her makeup and, like a television set whirring into life, would switch on the overhead light bulb to begin the hunt fo