Learning To Fly
by J J Janicki
It was on a whim. Last week, at a yard sale, I happened across a box of LPs, so I was thumbing through it when there it was: Abba! Their eponymous third album, released way back in... 1975. That came as a surprise to me, because up until then I'd always assumed it had been released a year later, when I was ten; but no matter, I still had a turntable that could be easily reconnected, and at only a buck, why not?
Once home, the first track I played was "S.O.S", and with my eyes closed, it was as though I was hearing it the first time again, back when I thought it sounded just a little spooky. It was a wonderful kind of spooky, though, almost like being lost in a Grimm Brothers fairy tale.
Then, once that was finished, I next placed the needle at the start of the last track on side one – "Bang A-Boomerang" - closed my eyes again...
And when that was over, for a few seconds it was as though I was ten again, in West Berlin, on the tram, on my way to Tiergarten, wondering if I was going to chicken out once I was there. So it was a bit disorienting.
Only, in the interest of getting our bearings, now would probably be a good time for a few particulars. We – myself, my mom and my father - were in West Berlin because that's where my father was stationed. He was a Colonel in Army Intelligence, and while he never discussed what they did at the Teufelsberg listening station – beyond saying that it was usually a boring job - I was fairly sure he was actually a spy master and he knew all sorts of secrets. Out of uniform, he looked and acted ordinary enough, but if you know anything about the world of international intrigue, then you know that the best spies are the ones you don't notice. Like my father and also sort of like me back then. I was going to be a super-spy when I grew up... I was already working on it... some...
But nothing ever came of my covert surveillance missions, so I suppose that's mostly beside the point.
Except I still remained observant. So the man sitting across from me on the tram could have been an East German spy easily enough, and Tiergarten was probably crawling with spies, all looking very ordinary while passing on extremely sensitive information as they were pretending to be visiting the zoo or the botanical gardens or maybe looking around up at the top of the Victory Column. But I didn't think they'd be up to any dirty tricks while in one of the dark enchanted forests.
Unless maybe they knew my father was Col. Harte and I was his son, Colin, and they kidnapped me. In that case, one of those wooded areas would be the perfect place for an ambush. The first time I was in Tiergarten on my own, I could just imagine how that would make my mom feel, because she was the one who kicked me out of the house in the first place!
I mean, overall, I'd say my mom was pretty good, but she wasn't perfect and being long-suffering wasn't one of her stronger points. Even if by now I can understand how playing "S.O.S.", "Bang A-Boomerang" and "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" over and over and over - not really a hundred times like she said, but still a good many - now I can see how that might get on one's nerves. Especially if one's high-strung and very particular like she was. That probably would have tried even a saint's patience. So since I'd always loved visiting Tiergarten whenever they had the time to take me, she thought maybe I'd like to visit it on my own that afternoon. Right then, before she lost her mind entirely.
So on the one hand, I was proud of myself, because she finally thought I was old enough to go somewhere pretty far off on my own, and I didn't have to be back until about five. But on the other hand...
Well, never mind the part about being kidnapped, because it wasn't long until I was pretending to be sophisticated and worldly-wise beyond my years: that I knew exactly where I was going, so it was all very commonplace. And besides, I didn't really want my mom to be worrying about me. She was way too fragile and sensitive. And my father would probably be worrying some too, and not only that, he'd probably be blaming it all on her, and that would never do!
So sometimes, I willing to forgive.
But I wasn't always so perfect either, and when I was up on the observation deck of the Victory Column and saw what I thought I was seeing in a meadow not too far away in the park...
Well, the zoo really was of some interest, especially at feeding time, because there were literally t housands of wild and exotic animals, but after seeing just how much some of those Berliners liked being sun worshipers, I guessed I'd be one too.
If I could get my nerve up, and that first day I couldn't manage it. So of course I felt bad about being a chicken, but on my way back home, I told myself that it was only because I wasn't prepared. Seriously, did I want to get grass stains on my clothes? I wouldn't have minded, but my mom would've, so there was that. Next time, though, I'd take a beach blanket along. In my back pack. Along with some water, some sandwiches and a few comic books... and I'd spread my blanket under a tree near the edge of that meadow... and then if I could just get my nerve up... because it really was a big step... and I certainly didn't want anyone to think I was gawking at them, because that's not polite... and also if my mom didn't suddenly decide it wasn't safe to be in the park by myself all day...
So in other words, as of Monday morning, June 28th, there were quite a few ifs involved, and for awhile it looked like that last one involving my mom was going to throw a monkey wrench into everything.
But after mentioning how much I wanted to see the big cats being fed - because I'd missed it last time – and also after asking if it was all right to at least play "S.O.S.", "Bang A-Boomerang" and "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" until I learned all the words by heart, she finally said it was all right for me to go that afternoon, right after lunch. Just as long as I didn't play those songs any more until I used part of my next week's allowance to get some head phones. She'd even talk to my father about advancing it to me.
So finally we reached a compromise. I'd leave at around eleven and just take along some sandwiches for early that afternoon in my back pack. Really, that worked out pretty well, because now I didn't have to worry about explaining why I was taking my back pack, and fortunately, she didn't check to see what else I had in it. So there was no "What's the beach towel supposed to be for?" And she might have been a little suspicious if she'd seen my Werewolf By Night comic books, and the suntan lotion would have been a dead giveaway. Plus trying not to act anxious and just a little excited was a bit of a problem, but finally I was out of the house, and after a short walk – except I started running once out of my mom's sight...
And so, a little out of breath, I was finally on the tram headed for my grand adventure. But I was still trying to act as though it was all very normal, and honestly, I suppose most ten-year-olds are often excited even when there's no discernible reason to be that way. And I definitely wasn't going to announce my intentions. No, for all the world I was nothing more that a fairly ordinary ten-year-old, nicely and casually dressed in open toe sandals, Boy Scout-type khaki shorts and an "I visited the San Diego Zoo" tee shirt that I was going to take off just as soon as I reached the park, because I didn't want anyone thinking I was just another typical American who thought their zoos were better.
So once I was inside the woods leading into the park it was off with that shirt, and it felt wonderful.
Then, about ten minutes later, I was on the grass with the Victory Column over to the side, and it was off with my sandals. And that felt awfully nice as well.
Even if I was starting to have some second thoughts as I got closer to the meadow. Because it seemed at as though the shadow of that column had been looming over me. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the statue up at the top looked a little like my mom! Golden Else as the locals call her. The Goddess of War, and she did not seem to be amused.
But one thing about being ten and not eight or nine is, you're not quite as prone to letting your imagination run completely amuck, so I bravely soldiered on. I was not going to chicken out!
Hyperventilating still wasn't out of the question, though, and that was especially true once I found a good spot, under a shady tree, at the edge of the meadow, all to myself. Even if I probably wouldn't need my suntan lotion after all and even if it was in plain view of close to a hundred sunbathers. At least!
Only no one seemed to paying any attention to me.
So I took my backpack off. Then I took the beach blanket out and studiously spread it out just so.
Then I smoothed it out.
And then I decided I needed some water. Because next came the really big step.
As long as I didn't chicken out - and I was definitely thinking about it again - but really, no one seemed to paying me any mind at all, so without giving myself any more time to think, I unfastened my belt, unsnapped the clasp at the waist of my shorts, zipped down, and then to my horror: Mein Gott! Ich habe meinen Unterhose vergessen! ("My God! I forgot my underpants!")
Except I hadn't, of course. I'd been acutely aware of my missing underpants from the time I woke up and decided not to wear any that day, so the German was just something I'd rehearsed in case I changed my mind at the very last moment. But just as before, no one seemed to be paying any attention, so facing probably several hundred German sun worshipers, I slid my khaki shorts down, stepped out of them, and after kicking them aside...
I was like everybody else. Naked. Well, aside from a few ladies who were only topless and three guys in Speedos, but they were probably tourists there only to gawk, while I was there...
Well, I'd at least try to be discreet about it, and with that in mind, I guessed it might be a good idea to lie on my stomach for awhile. Not that it seemed that anyone had noticed my stiffy either... but still...
Well, there's no particular order to this but, to be honest, there were more that just a few naked people that I would have just as soon not seen.
Even if there were still quite a few that I wanted to see all I could of, and that included both sexes. At ten, I was very much an equal opportunity voyeur and I'd never seen a naked lady or girl in person before, so I was wondering if they looked liked the pictures I'd seen of them. In the case of paintings and statues, if it showed between their legs, there still didn't seem to be anything to see. But then in the case of a couple of dirty magazines I'd seen... briefly... as in, "Ewhh! Gross!" … as in: I don't think I was ready for quite that much information...
But out there, some looked fairly interesting.
And some of the men looked very handsome and masculine as well. Even if in the case of the grown-ups, I was mostly interested in seeing how big their penises were and how much hair they had, and while some were pretty hairy, I didn't see anyone who was as hairy as my father was. I thought he had way too much hair. But out there, some didn't really have all that much body hair and there were two who didn't have any!
And there was also this: as far as I could tell, I was the only male without a foreskin. Everybody else was unbeschnitten. So this made me feel a little awkward.
(Side note: A good way to learn a foreign language is to start with the really interesting words.)
But anyway, there were a few about my age, but they all seemed to be with their families. The girls didn't look like much of anything and I had seen boys before. But there were a couple of boys I wished I could be friends with.
Except I still had that stiffy. It wasn't going down one iota, and I was starting to think that I might need to go to the bathroom before long.
When I was eight, during recess one day a boy in my class was telling me and some other boys about how he'd seen his parents screwing. Only, I had no idea what he was talking about, so that evening I asked my father about it, which led to "the talk, part one".
So after that was over, I guessed I could wait until I was a lot closer to being an adult before getting to part two.
The disconnect didn't come while he was explaining how babies came to be – that much was interesting – but once he started explaining the screwing part...
Well, he said it was enjoyable, but using rabbits as an example I could easily grasp was...
Unfortunate. My mom was very proper, sometimes to the point of being almost Victorian about it, so the idea of her and my father going at it like rabbits was something I didn't want to think about, and two years later I hadn't changed my mind, which should explain why I'd not yet asked him about that funny tickling sensation I'd start feeling if I was imagining people without their clothes on for too long.
Except usually it was just boys about my age that I thought about. Sometimes girls, but more often it was boys, and okay, I might have thought it wouldn't be a good idea to mention that to my father. That's because he was hard to figure out sometimes. For example, not too long before – just before my adventure at Tiergarten, which I'm about to get back to – I was with him at the Officer's Club, about to go swimming. It was one of those father-son deals, and it was often fun, but this time, almost as soon as I was out of my clothes, I popped another stiffy. It went up just like that! And at least I knew enough about it to be embarrassed, as in: "Oh, geez!", but my father just laughed and said it was nothing to worry about, that at my age it could happen for no reason at all, and not only that, as I got older, it would be happening a lot more often.
So back to me on my stomach in Tiergarten, still thinking that I might need to go to the bathroom pretty soon. That, and wondering how I was supposed to get there if it was where I thought it was. There was a small building on the other side of the meadow, but to reach it I'd have to walk past all those sunbathers, and if I still had a stiffy, that wasn't going to happen.
So I guessed if it came to that, I could always pull my shorts back on... and then once back to my spot I could take them off again.
Only if I did that it would probably look like I was ashamed of being naked.
So okay, stiffies could happen for no reason at all, just like my father said. Even if there really was a reason for it – in Tiergarten – as opposed to at the Officer's Club when there wasn't – but still, if I had one, then I had one, and it wasn't a big deal.
So I rolled over and sat up. And I could see a few people heading towards that building, and almost all of them were still naked as the day they were born, so I was going to do it! Just as naked as they were, but with a stiffy!
Or maybe not. Because while the thought of parading past who knows how many naked sunbathers was making that funny tickle feel a bit more urgent, another problem occurred to me, and this one was a major! What if, while I was in the bathroom, somebody ran off with my clothes? Backpack, beach blanket, everything. The others could leave their clothes behind without worrying about it, because it seemed that everybody else was with at least one other person, but I didn't know anybody! Darn it! I should have thought of that before I even came out here!
Curiously enough, though, thoughts like that served to dissipate both my erection and that tickling sensation. Not entirely, because I could see another family group with two boys about my age approaching – so of course I wanted to see them too – but at least it seemed that I could stay a little longer. Maybe even for two or three more hours.
So to that end, I decided to read one of my comic books. I could see some other people reading, so I guessed I would too. That way, I could act like I was used to being a naturist. In fact, maybe I could get used to it. Because if you're popping a stiffy almost every single time, then obviously you're not used to it.
And fortunately, the issue I decided to read again was one of the best Werewolf By Nights ever. My opinion, of course, but it was the Marcosa of Death issue. Belaric Marcosa is the arch-nemesis of Werewolf, so we're talking about evil personified. As opposed to Werewolf, who's usually at least a little troubled once the sun comes back up. I mean, you wouldn't want to invite him to spend the night, because he does have some issues, but whatever, I was at the part where Marcosa was snarling, "SLASH at me all you want, moon beast! It will do you NO GOOD!! ...and Werewolf was snarling back, "How can you hope to KILL a man who is already DEAD!?! … when... (scene shift)...
… I noticed a shadow looming over me, and with the circumstances being what they were, I was startled almost out of my wits. And of course, my head jerked up and my eyes were almost certainly about as big around as they could possibly be!
But at least it wasn't my mom or my father. And it also wasn't an irate adult staring daggers through me with his or her arms akimbo, it was a boy who appeared to be in his early teens, and he was looking at me... quizzically, I'd say.
And he was also fully dressed. Except for his shoes and socks. Those, he was carrying, but aside from that, he had on a white shirt... carelessly untucked on one side... dark dress pants... stylish ones, much like the ones my mom was always wanting me to wear if we were going out or having company or something...
But anyway, he was fully dressed and nice looking and I was completely naked and he was staring at me, so I was having all kinds of really negative thoughts.
But then: "Let me guess," he said, "You're an American."
And in reply: "I... um... well..."
So I was still trying to sort all those thoughts out.
Fortunately, though, "It's all right, I come in peace," he added.
So that was good to hear. Assuming that he wasn't thinking in terms of me being a naked savage, of course... and preying at the edge of my mind there was this idea that he could be an anti-nudity crusader or something... and if he was militant about it, then it made sense that instead of going after the entire herd, he'd start out by picking off somebody sitting all by himself at the very edge... someone small and weak and...
And then he interrupted my out of control thoughts by getting back to his first question. "But you are an American, am I right?"
So in reply, "Um... I... uh...how can... I mean..."
"How could I tell?"... and then, before I could stammer out anything else, he continued, "I noticed your comic book, and I also noticed that it's in English, and beyond that, I don't really think comic books have caught on over here. … But do you mind if I join you for awhile? Just testing the waters, so to speak."
And then he started unbuttoning his shirt. Surely he wasn't thinking of...
Well, he might be. "Um... no... I mean... well, I don't guess..."
And then he pulled his shirt off and tossed it on top of my backpack. And paused. Almost as though he was modeling, and: "So far, so good. Possibly not the ideal physique..." (he looked almost as underdeveloped as I was, and I was small for my age) … "but with a strenuous regimen of physical exercise, there might yet be some hope."
And then he started unfastening his pants.
But he was also becoming more talkative, even if I was having trouble following him. I mean, I'd been having trouble right from the start, but now...
"Mumsie would be having a right proper fit by now..." (as he pushed his pants down below his white briefs) ... "but as my dad would say..." (past his knees) … "there's hardly a point in doing anything if you're not going to give it..." (he was stepping out of them) … "your all."
And then he folded his pants neatly, leaned over – right in front of me – and placed them atop his shirt. And then...
"But now comes the moment of truth," he continued … (and he hooked his fingers under the waistband of his briefs) … "and inasmuch as there have so far been no unfortunate stirrings... even if it wouldn't have been entirely unexpected... due to my age and the novelty of it all..." (he took a very deep breath and closed his eyes) … "Truth shall prevail!" (And down they went!)
And then as he was stepping out of them, he finished, "Or something shall prevail. I have no idea what. But... how do I look?"
Truthfully? He looked stunning. Frail-looking... or slender... and that was good, because his less than ideal physique wasn't likely to make me feel inferior... and he had a small rectangle of dark hair right above his uncircumcised penis. And even if it was larger than mine... quite a bit larger... it wasn't huge. So it wasn't likely to make me feel all that inferior either. And besides, the fact that my penis was pretty small hadn't ever bothered me, because that's how it had always been. But still, in answer to his question, I guessed simply stating the obvious was the best idea, so I said, "Well... you look naked."
He giggled. "How strange. But now that you mention it, why yes, I do feel naked. And also a bit awkward, so... there's enough room for both of us on your towel, so do you mind if I sit with you for a while? We can talk, or we could share your comic book..." (I was probably looking thunderstruck - not in a negative sense, but still open to interpretation) … "or you might happen to have some others with you, or we could marvel at nature and congratulate ourselves on being very progressive - and I can assure you that I have no dishonorable intentions. ..." (snicker) … "Or at least none that I'm likely to be bothering you with. Age difference and all that, you know. But as it is, I feel... rather awkward."
"I don't care," I said shyly.
And then, as he was settling down beside me, and right after his bare hip brushed up against my bare hip: as in whoa! … in a very positive sense, even if neither of us wanted to let on... apparently, because while he didn't jerk away, he did move away a teensy weensy bit... but yes, the plot still seemed to be thickening... or something...
But anyway, "I'm James. And you are...?"
"Colin," I managed.
"So that's out of the way. So, what's next? Age and nationality. That might be important. So I'm thirteen, I'm visiting from England with mum and dad, mum's out shopping with some very dear friends and I'm to meet her at the park entrance at 3:30 sharp, which should give us..." (he looked at his watch) … "almost two and a half hours baring anything unfortunate."
And then, almost to himself, he added ruefully, "And it would probably help immeasurably if I stop thinking about it."
So naturally, I was dying to know what he wasn't supposed to be thinking about, but: "Well, I'm Colin... except I just told you that... and I'm ten... well, almost ten and a half...in a couple of months... and you're right, I'm an American, except right now my father's stationed here in Berlin. Because he's a Colonel in the Army. But the thing about being an Army brat... because that's what they call us... Army brats... and that's what we call ourselves, so it's not like bad or anything, but anyway, I've just about lost count of how many different places we've lived in. Okinawa, South Korea, Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Nebraska, California, you name it, but I guess that's why I'm kind of shy at first because my parents, they say I'm an introvert and I shouldn't worry about it, but sometimes I do, because if you're moving all the time, it's kind of hard to make any real good friends. And... well, I guess that's about all."
"O...kay." Then after a pause, "My head's still spinning."
"Oh. Sorry. Um... well, I got some more comic books... if you want to look at them... for awhile... but I got a question, all right? "Almost everybody else is naked out here... even if at first I think I was like you were... because today was the first time I ever did anything like this either, so I was way nervous until I went ahead and just did it... but my question is: you said something unfortunate could happen and then you said that maybe if you didn't think about it, it wouldn't. So in way, I think I might know what you're talking about, because a while ago, when I was here by myself, I was feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom pretty bad, but I was afraid to because I was afraid that while I was gone somebody could run off with my clothes and everything. So is that what you're worried about? Because there's two of us now, so we shouldn't have to worry about it, but anyway..." (And then I looked at him questioningly.)
… "Well, for starters, are you sure you're an introvert? You definitely seemed to be that way at first, but now, not so much."
"I just haven't had anyone even close to my age to really talk to for awhile, I guess."
"Makes sense, because at your age, I was a bit like that as well. Only, here we are, both experiencing the joy of social nudism for the first time, and if I had to guess, I'd say your parents would be every bit as thrilled about it as mine would be if they ever found out. Not very. Mum would faint!"
"My mom would too, probably. But first, I'd probably hear her yelling at me about a mile away... I mean, she's all right most of the time, but some things... like this... I don't think so. She would not be happy, that's why I was worried about somebody running off with my clothes, but... well, maybe this was what you meant when you said if you didn't think about it so much, it wouldn't happen, because once I started reading, it wasn't long until I stopped thinking about having to go to the bathroom. … And that's weird, because most of the time, if you have to go... you know, pee... well, then, you just do. … Has that ever happened to you?"
James looked over at me, then after a few seconds, "Shit. I can't believe this. Other boys at my school might have had extremely interesting holidays - aside from the 50 or 60% who are obviously lying - but until now, my holidays have always been exceptionally boring! So for the sake of propriety, I'm going to roll over on my stomach, because I have a feeling..." (then hurriedly and already on his stomach), "I think I just now set a new personal record."
"What, for turning over on your stomach?"
"Maybe that too. But what I mean is... I just now popped another."
… "I'm not sure what you mean."
"I mean, I'm boned up again."
"Oh. … What's that mean?"
"I... ah...have an erection."
And fortunately, I remembered my father using that word when he was talking about stiffies, so, "Is it the same thing as getting a stiffy?"
He giggled again. "Yeah, Colin. Except as we get a little older, we don't call them that, because that's juvenile."
"Okay, so what do you call them? Because whatever it is, I'm starting to get one again." Just talking about it could give me one.
Or maybe it was him talking about his. That seemed to be a lot more likely. And if he'd let me see it... because I'd never actually seen one on anyone after they'd started puberty and all...
"If you want to be almost formal about it, I suppose you could simply call it an erection. If you wanted to be very formal, then I suppose you'd call it something else entirely. Almost anything, just as long as it's diverting attention away from the fact that you actually have one. Because by nature, erections aren't very polite."
Then after glancing up at my lap, he started giggling again and added, "But actually, I think right now, you do have a stiffy. That's probably the best way of describing it, but in a couple of years, it'll be, oh... either a hard-on or a boner. All sorts of names for it once it starts growing, but personally, I think I'd go with one of those two."
Then after another pause, "And I also think you should roll over on your stomach now."
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking too."
Then after I did so, "But not long before you showed up, there was a boy maybe eight or nine... it was hard to tell, really, but he was with his family and running around and he had a boner or a stiffy or an erection or it was just sticking out in front of him or..."
"I think you've made your point by now, Colin."
"No I haven't, because I haven't finished yet."
"Damn Colin, you are... are you sure you're from this planet?"
"No, not always, but anyway, that boy I was telling you about, the one with the erection, it was like nobody cared one way or the other. And I guess his was probably a little bigger than mine. Not that it matters, but my mom... well, I have to wear pajamas in bed at night... except sometimes, I don't, I just take off everything and rumple them up real good... and sometimes she gets upset if I even take my stupid shirt off outside, so yeah, I think she'd care if I had an erection. … `Erection'. I think I like that the best.
… "Except being on my stomach like this is making me feel like I need to go to the bathroom again... so if I can get my nerve up and as long as you stay here so I don't have to worry about somebody going off with my clothes, I might... but see, I wish I could be like that other boy I was telling you about just now, but I'm still not sure if I can ever be like that. And the thing is, it's like a part of me wants everybody seeing it, but then another part of me doesn't, you know?"
"Yeah, Colin, I know about wanting something and not wanting it at the same time, and I'm not sure if we'll ever completely outgrow it. Sometimes I hope I will and the sooner the better; at other times I hope it never happens, because it's as though I would have lost something, and I'll never be able to get it back.
"But aside from what we probably can't ever change to the here and now, you're not about to piss yourself. It's something else."
"What?" It was definitely sounding interesting.
"It'll almost be like magic, and I can take you there. Just as soon as we find someplace else. We can get ourselves slightly lost in some woods, and then once we get out of our clothes again... well, then you'll see. So do you want to?"
"Yes!" Almost like magic? It was sounding very interesting.
Then James started giggling almost like crazy, but...
It wasn't almost like magic though, it was magic!
Really, it started being that way from the time he got out of his clothes. And then when he was lying right beside me, it was even more magical. And once I found my tongue, more so than that.
And it also felt that way while we were hurriedly pulling our clothes back on. We had our backs tuned to the meadow and we were still making wise about our unfortunate conditions.
Even if his seemed to be a bit more unfortunate than mine. Not hugely so, but still something to look forward to.
And once we were sufficiently lost in a wooded area about a mile from the meadow, getting out of our clothes again was still magic!
Even if our conditions were still "very unfortunate".
And then he asked, "Can I touch it? You can mine, if you want."
And when I first felt that electric SHOCK... it was beyond magic.
And then... "You pull on it, like this" … and he started doing it.
And I started doing the same to him.
And then even stupid questions started being like magic. Like for example, when he asked me if it was starting to feel good. Starting? Jeez!
Only it kept feeling better. And better still! It can't POSSIBLY keep building this way, it IS magic!
And then it happened – after his had just happened – and...
And at that point, the spell could have easily been broken, but it wasn't, because he was hugging me up close. God, that felt good!
It really did.
Because it was magic.
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