It was early spring and the rain dripped from the branches of the alders, ash and sycamores teasing the leaf buds to awaken as a man might tease a favorite lover’s nipple. Even in the rain, Springer Mountain was alive will prospective Thru Hikers, spirited, ambitious and in many cases ill-prepared. This was the time of year to begin the 2190 mile trek along the Appalachian Trail (AT) from this knobby mountain in George to the surreal rock monolith of Katahdin. One particular hiker who as yet hadn’t earned her trail name was Dawn.
She and her closest friend April had planned this trip since their dorm days when they huddled over a beer and books against the cold wind and snow that blanketed the UMO campus for what seemed like 14 months out the year. They could have been sisters; they looked so much alike but their temperament didn’t always align. April could be cajoled and, beguiled by someone she trusted and swayed into doing almost anything. Dawn learned that their sophomore year when she first seduced April and they became lovers.
Life happens to lovers, poets and dreamers and in the years since college, they moved apart, both with serious careers, distant husbands, and children with dreams of their own. But now in the 40s they joined again to reminisce and should Dawn have her way relive their lives once shared.
The clouds were parted by a ray of sunshine splashing down from the heavens as the two joined a party of six others on the first leg of their journey.
Around the first night’s campfire as the individuals became friends, April and Dawn shared a smirk as, Josh and his girlfriend Tess bid a hasty goodnight and retired to their tent. Their love making was barely muted by the 20 yards that separated them from fire. George was a tall lanky blond man, who Dawn mused might be gay. While Porter on the other hand, was stalky like a football player. April offered Porter his trail name, linebacker. And Dawn bestowed George’s with his ‘Stretch’.
As the air cooled, the fire dwindled and the sounds of moans were replaced by a distance lone hoot owl. The four bid each other good night. George and Porter left for their separate tents, and Dawn and April to their shared tent.
“I thought they were going to do right next to the campfire.” April blurted out. It was their dorm all over again, talking into the dark, through the darkness until the veil of sleep overtook them both.
As you hike the steps you take are your own. You’re responsible for yourself first and your companions second. And everyone’s pace is different. By the end of the third day Porter and George had left the others, surging ahead in the flats between peaks. Dawn wondered if Porter and George might hit it off. But she was mistaken.
Miles from where Dawn slept a grizzly event left a man crushed between a bolder, still in his sleeping bag, having been flung 70 feet into a river soak ravine.
April and Dawn were perched on a large boulder amid a field of boulders resting as Josh and Tess climbed. Tess was complaining about the poison Ivy and Josh about the blister on his heel.
April began, “It’s been two weeks and the only time they seemed content was when we slept over at that Inn. I don’t think they’ll make it.
As usual, April’s people sense was right. That evening, around the campfire, Josh and Tess explained they were packing it in.
The following gloomy morning, shrouded in a damp suffocating mist, the two pairs separated.
Dawn and April scrambled out of sight along the high ridge overhead as Tess and Josh headed down the mountain towards a distant village and the hope for a ride to a much larger town.
Josh and Tess walked like as if they were in a funeral, slow plodding, failures and quitters. Their spirits were low.
“You go ahead I have to take a leak.” Josh blurted out. Tess obliged. She was preoccupied thinking about what her dad would say when she got home. He had been so supportive of this adventure.
Since his stroke, he lived vicariously through her. He would again be supportive but she knew she would let him down.
Tess’s dropped into a small stream bed and began to wonder where Josh was, she turned to look back and to her surprise saw Porter only feet away.
Before she could finish saying, “What the…” Porter’s fist turned out the lights.
She woke naked, in the twilight, tied between two trees. Across from her Josh was also naked and bound between two trees. His face bloodied and hung to one side. “Josh she shouted out!”
A cool decidedly calculating voice sounded behind her, “Josh isn’t with us right now.” But let’s see if this helps. Porter’s strode by, like the cock of the walk, wearing only his hiking boots and glistening with sweat. His muscles, tensing as he carried Josh’s pack which was now filled with water. He poured the water over Josh’s head. Josh sputtered to life and finished what Tess was trying to say earlier, “Fuck, what the hell.”
He struggled against the vines which only tightened further with his effort. “You probably don’t want to struggle against them, particularly the one around your neck. These vines will tighten enough on their own as they dry out. Just then, Porter threw some more wood on the now blazing fire. He said, “There that should take the chill-out.”
He turned towards Tess, completely engorged. I have something for you. Josh knew what was about to happen but before he could utter a word some foul-smelling plant was shoved in his mouth and another vine tied around his head so he couldn’t spit it out. Shortly, he was in a stupor, aware but unconcerned almost giddy. He smiled as Porter’s approached Tess with his huge cock.
Porter stood over her. Tess could feel his breath on her neck as he kissed her. She turned away but he slapped her hard, the sound rung out in the wood. He grabbed her face and forced his tongue down her throat. His fingers dug into cheeks and she could only comply. She felt his monstrous hard-on against her legs and thought she’d be torn apart as he entered her. After he finished he tied a soaked vine around her neck, gagged her and threw more wood on the fire.
Tess watched him get dress and turn the flashlight on and stealthy move off into the darkness. All she could hear was the crackling of the fire and all she could feel was the tightening of the vine.
It was a beautiful sunrise sparkling off the mirror like lake like fireflies dancing in the dark. They seemed to be the only two people on earth. Dawn stooped over the water washing the breakfast dishes as April decided to skinny dip in the lake. April called from the depths. “Aren’t you going to join me?” Dawn tossed aside the dishes along with her clothes and picked her way through the rock strewn shallows. Without another word they embraced, their warm bodies gyrating against the invigorating cold water. Their mouths pressed against each other’s with the long ago familiarity of undying lovers.
On the ridge over the lake, sheltered from sight by the firs and hardwoods, Porter trained his binoculars on their glistening bodies and handled himself through his shorts.
Since his dishonorably discharge, Porter had spent more time alone in his native Virginia woods then in company of people. In the service, he couldn’t tolerate the incompetence of his superior officer and that combined with his proclivity for violence lead to his court martial.
So it unleashed his demon when people broke his code. Quitting was one rule that cost the lives of George, Tess, and Josh. And there were other bodies, along the AT, that hinted to other radically held beliefs. Even as he stroked himself he angered mounted. Anger and eroticism is a dangerous combination as Dawn and April would soon find out.
Dawn and April decided to take a down day on the shores of the private lake. They lay exhausted on the granite outcropping warmed by the sun from both above and below and feel asleep in each other’s arms.
Dawn dreamt of water lapping up against her feet and the hot nose of a dog pressing against her leg. She didn’t wake until late afternoon, she felt euphoric sprawled out naked on her back, on the same rocks she had made love to April on. She turned her head to find April but a rope or vine kept her from moving far in either direction. She couldn’t see April’s body floating upside down in the reeds in the shallow. What she could see was Porter, dripping wet, standing over her.
Lots and I mean lots of my friends had sex in high school, or so I was led to believe. However, I did not have sex, well except with myself. I remember riding the bus after a track meet and Ben was showing ‘the guys’ the condom he always kept in his wallet. I guess, if he ‘always kept it in his wallet’ he may not have been sexually active, but that’s beside the point. It was the first one I’d ever seen. I did, thankfully know what it was. I was a junior and had barely survived my ordeal of explaining the female reproductive tract to a class of my sophomore peers the year before. Imagine my angst when my biology teacher, Mr. Whitney asked, “Kevin start us off."
Oh, come-on Eugene, I was, by far the shyest kid to ever look through one of your microscopes. Anyway, the vagina is the place to start, right, I’m a guy I knew that. However, the problem was I’d never heard it pronounced before. Of course, I knew many of the politically incorrect and offensive euphemisms and wondered if I could insert one of those in my description. But my mind could not find a suitable substitute for vagina. So out it came, “Well a woman has a VAG-IN-AH.” I tried to speed through the pronunciation but my class would have nothing to do with it.
I have no recollection of what else I may have said after that. But after that I lost all credibility on the subject. I can still see the heads of my classmates bent down on their desks, cradled by their arms, in a vain attempt to suppress their laughter. They were, after all, my friends. Perhaps it was the memory of my pronunciation challenges that lead to me being recognized as my class’s most shy?
So, like every boy, I crushed on girls, usually large breasted ones, and often associated my fantasies with a popular song of the day. “Oh What a Night.” was playing when I first saw Deedee in the cafeteria. Phew, she wore a pale pink angora sweater; it fit her perfectly. Did I say it was too tight? Tight, fit Deedee perfectly. Deedee was my real-life fantasy that I thought of as I looked over my brother’s Penthouse, Playboy and Hustler magazines. How lucky are the boys of today that have easy access to internet porn? Did I mention I’m still a boy? I’d look at those glossy images and did a mental photo shop of Deedee’s head over those arousing bodies. Oh, what wonderful nights perfecting my presumed knowledge of female anatomy.
Like the school’s marching band, my years quickly marched on playing a tune that wasn’t always in tune with my friends, until the week before my senior prom. The last bell just rang, homeroom was over and I was packing up my books. When Ann came in saying, “Kevin, wait a second.”
She sat backwards on the seat ahead of mine and I looked into her dark eyes and became lost in their depth and mysteries.
“Kevin are you going to the prom.” She asked?
If it had been John or Scott that asked that very question it would have made both of us laugh. Imagine Kevin going to the prom. But this was Ann. Deedee was now only a midnight memory. Ann was my everyday fascination. Immediately, I thought, OMG where is this going. And I imagined holding her against my chest as we danced to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”.
“No, Ann I’m not.” I was scarcely able to breathe.
“Well Leelee isn’t going either and she’d really like to go with you.”
I know what you’re thinking, “Deedee and now Leelee”, he’s making this up. I kid you not. This is Maine 1978. If this were Alabama, I suppose they might have been Mary Ann and Mary Ellen.
My heart dropped, my towering hopes immediately sank to somewhere between the lost city of Atlantis and the Titanic. Leelee was great, and we did share the same click of friends, and we both battled the perennial teen scourge—acne. But she was not Ann, she did not occupy my day time thoughts and my night time dreams. But how could I convince Ann to go with me instead?
If you will, picture Eeyore saying, “Sure, I’ll go with Leelee.”
My senior prom took place at Evergreen Valley, it was a small ski resort, now defunct, located in Sweden Maine. I picked Leelee up at her house on Long Lake and did all the things my mom told me to do.
“Tell her she looks lovely.”
“Compliment her dress. “
“Offer her the corsage.”
I held the white flower thingy up to her face, Leelee smiled and her mother came to my rescue saving me from the difficulty in trying to attach it somewhere on Leelee’s body. I failed to ask my mom where it was supposed to go.
Leelee was pretty but the whole time all I could think was, She’s not Ann. We arrived and danced. Then I saw my best friend dancing with Ann. I hadn’t even thought to ask who he’d be going with. To his credit he had no idea I crushed on Ann. I had so many unrealized crushes my friends would have been bored to know them all. Seeing them dancing stabbed me like a stake in the heart. Envy took over my heart and I must make a long overdue apology to Leelee. I’m sorry for how I behaved the rest of the night.
Before I left for the prom, my mother said, “Remember to give her a gentlemanly kiss when you say good-night.” Sorry Leelee, I was an ass. A handshake, really?
I graduated high school. My score in fantasy sex was 872, while my real sex was 0. I went off to college at the University of Maine at Orono. Gee there were lots and lots of Deedee’s there. I offered to ‘coach’ a girl’s intramural football team from my dorm. I remember how embarrassed I was following them to the field as they walked arm and arm, like some absurd New York City Rockette line singing, “My balls are swinging between my legs.” That’s when I discovered that girls could act like boys. The only thing missing were the actual balls. I secretly hoped that something might have come of my willingness to ‘help-out’, but it did not. Through my freshman year my sex score was a depressing 885 dreams to 0 reality.
So, I returned home for summer vacation and worked at the State Park. At the park I worked the Bowl Patrol. It was about as glamourous as you imagine. I worked nights, driving around the campground, moving from one bathroom to the next cleaning and disinfecting them. The only ray of sunshine, through those long summer nights was my co-worker, Danielle. Her name still rolls off my tongue as my imagination sees her body glistening in the moonlight with Sebago Lake as her canvas. She had the beautiful female characteristics you’d expect would intrigue a shallow teen male. Through the course of the summer, I believed we had become friends. She even confided in me a secret that I’ve kept long enough. Imagine my thoughts of her curvaceous body spinning around a pole after I learned she had been an exotic dancer. And imagine the imagery when she regaled me with her recollection of time when she was working a fire tower in the western Maine mountains, while a pilot, practicing a water pickup in his fire patrol plan filled the planes belly with water. Then he hugged the side of the mountain and climbed towards to the tower knowing she often sunbathed naked. As she described it, he dropped the water spot on.
I was close, so close to asking her out. Until one damp summer’s night when we approached each other in the dark, and I playfully called out, “Friend of foe?”
And she replied, “Neither.”
Strange how heavy that one word felt.
I filled the next few weeks with runs and bikes, scorching beach days and rigorous mountain forays but there were no girls. My brother’s stash of mags, was no longer available, that was lost in the move to camp. And still no World Wide Web, or at least not with the sites available that a 19-year-old boy could benefit from. So, until July my score remained the same. Then the phone call. I was out in the backyard making the basketball hoop clatter more than the net swish when my mother came out of the camp, her hair up and curls and beaming, the proud mother.
“Kevin, you have a phone call.”
My next shot clattered off the backboard and rebounded off the bark of the tree and shot back at my groin. I deflected it into the bushes.
My mother, smiling from ear to ear, tried to calmly add, “It’s a girl!” “
A girl?”, I said, trying to act cool.
“Yes, you know, like the opposite sex.” She winked.
Fully engaged now, “Who is it?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps you should go and find out.”, she smirked.
I bolted inside, any chance I ever had of being cool around women was lost with VAG-IN-AH. Slightly out of breath, I picked up the black heavy rotary phone and said, “Hello?” as if doubting this day would ever come?
“Hi Kevin, it’s Ann.”
I could feel a walnut sliding down my throat and an ulcer forming just above my duodenum. I turned back to the door and realized mom was sitting on the couch next to me in the den.
I managed to put my hand over the receiver just before I imploringly shrieked, “Mom!”
Mom’s smile was compressed to a pinched-up smirk. She knowingly left the room. This wasn’t her first rodeo; I was the last of seven chicks in her nest and the only one still flightless.
I’d like to say I conversed with Ann in the very composed and dignified way of my sex, but is that ever true? I’m sure there was much stammering and confusion but I did manage to retain the key fact that I was going to visit her at her house. Her dad owned some antique cars and we were going to wash and wax them for the July 4th parade. Who was I to say no to that enticing offer?
On the drive to her house, in nearby Casco, I lowered my expectations about the upcoming wax-on wax-off mating ritual. Perhaps I was one of many people she had invited to help out? But to my surprise, and glee, I was the only one. Oh, I bubbled I’m sure. Ann had a special place in my heart. She was both beautiful and bright and we had the added bonus of already being friends. The details of the conversation are now just dust in time, but I do remember we had planned to go to a drive-in movie.
During the week leading up to the drive-in movie my anxiety grew like a snowball gathering momentum and size as it rolled down an enormous hill. Until Friday, the only article of clothing I was concerned about was my underwear. If it is important to wear clean underwear in case you had an emergency and needed to go to the doctor, then certainly the underwear selection was instrumental at a drive-in movie. After-all, one of the clichés of a drive-in is ‘making-out’, and that would lead to touching and feeling, right? So, what would be the best underwear to wear?
Somewhere in my history I had acquired a skimpy light green heavy cotton brief. It probably fit me when I was 4 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. I pulled it on. My manhood, was now contained in an itty-bitty loin cloth. As I looked in the mirror, with my junk itching to get out, I thought that would be the right look.
I can’t recall what the movie was. I bet I didn’t even know what the movie was then; I was preoccupied with expectations and conflicting thoughts:
Expectation, the man has to make the first move.
Mother’s influence, be a gentleman Kevin.
Expectation, put your arms around her shoulder and reach down to touch her breasts.
Mother’s influence, Kevin, be a gentleman.
Expectation, lean over and pull her towards you kissing her with your tongue probing the inside of her mouth.
Then came my internal dialog, Okay, Kevin, if I kiss her should I probe her mouth with my tongue? Probe, what an idiot.
Then Ann spoke, “Kevin? You seem far off?"
While she was ever present in my thoughts, I had managed to take my mind on an out-of-body trip to Mars. “Yes Ann?”
“Your windows have sure fogged up a lot.”, she said smiling.
I could see a twinkle in her eyes reflecting from the windshield.
She continued, “Why don’t you sit closer to me.”
Now, firmly grounded on Earth, I slid next to her. Okay we’re touching now. This feels nice. What’s next? I had never sat so close to a girl. Her skin was soft and she smelled pleasant and peculiar in the way of a new puppy. I managed to clumsily touch a breast at some point before the credits. But this is where my underwear plan backfired.
By now I was extremely uncomfortable. The more excited I became the more uncomfortable it was, in a case of diminishing returns. And when Ann reached down my pants to try to feel my junk, she didn’t find it. It was painfully restrained in my underwear. So, I achieved entirely the wrong effect. Although the drive-in was memorable, I was still held scoreless.
As the leaves changed to their emboldened shades of brilliant yellows and their lustfully needy deep tones of red, I returned to school. Ann, who still occupied my shortsighted view on the future, set her attention on someone else, who undoubtedly did a lot less thinking and a lot more action. She became a cavernous pot hole in my rearview mirror. Someday, I’ll figure out how to stop driving in reverse.
Dorm life worked for me, empowered by a tennis racket, I marched down my male wing of the floor to the mysterious lair of the female human. I stuck my head in one door and then another asking if anyone cared for a game, until I looked in one room where a blonde girl sat cross-legged looking over a disarray of her stuff strewn across the plush white rug in her room. My immediate thought was wow, messy like me, my second thought was how beautiful she was.
Once again, I remembered the sage advice of my mother, “It can’t hurt to ask.”
I asked this beautiful minx if she wanted to play a game. We did played tennis, we went for runs, we saw movies and ate meals. We watched repeats of the TV show Paper Chase from my bed. We drove to Acadia national park to cross country ski the boundary road.
But I, clinging, rather glued to a notion of my pimply faced and limp dicked inadequacies never asked the obvious follow-up question that swam just below the surface of my furtive imagination. We remained close friends that entire year. She must have thought me disinterested, or perhaps she thought me gay. But we fit, we really did—if she just wasn’t so damn beautiful, I would have had the courage to ask.
In the spring of that year, she needed to make a foray to the University of Fredericton Canada, she was after-all, a foreign exchange student who was attending Orono for just one year and she asked me to go with her. Thankfully, memories of pain are dulled by the years because even though she initially asked me, at the last minute she drove off with someone else.
The next fall, I learned from her roommate, that she had a crush on me and wanted me to ask her out. I filed the Laurie lesson under the heading, Seize the Day, and vowed to act in the future.
I was 20 when my junior year started, and Michele was formed out of the clay of my imagination and the fire of my passion. She had a plan for a man, and for some reason that man was me. I think her goal was to take my virginity before I turned 21. She just succeeded.
Mark was my roommate. He was outgoing and … we’ll he was outgoing. It wasn’t long into the fall term that he instructed me about the notecard. If we reversed the notecard on the door so the name was hidden, it meant we had someone in the room with us. Mark used it almost weekly. So much so that I wore a familiar depression in the lounge chair in the centrally located study lounge.
I don’t recall when Michele and I started to date, but it got really serious in February, a week before I turned 21. Really serious meant we were naked in my bed, which was the top bunk in the bunkbed Mark and I shared. I inverted my notecard name just as Mark had so many times. And while Michele and I were fast in the throes of passion, I heard the tumbler on the door click and realized Mark was coming in. I vaulted off the bed, naked and threw myself against the door.
“Mark the name tag!”
“Ah Kevin?”, he said questioningly. “I thought you were kidding.”
“No, I’m not!” I said emphatically.
With Mark gone, I pushed the door closed, and being only 20, had no problems getting my groove back on. When the evening ended, I finally was able to add 1 to my tally.
It’s cliché, but in a very real sense I stopped being a boy and became a man, and stopped counting trivial things.