My white shorts are blinding and binding as I sit on the bleachers, cheering my flingee on as he plays in the summer softball league. I am now one of the "girlfriends," which allows for a heady mix of inclusion and proprietary pride.
I am 19 years old, and while I've lived here my whole life, this is all new territory for me. My first boyfriend. My first summer as a size 12, as opposed to my previous size 22. My first experience with chronic hunger, vying with virgin feelings of attraction and power. The language of flirtation is showing up like a forgotten dialect buried in genetic memory. Because it is so newly hatched, it's awkward and enveloped with self-consciousness--what most girls go through at age 14.
Todd and I got together in a romantic situation--excitingly similar to the Silhouette Romances I have been burying myself in for the last six years. I was waitressing at the local diner and Todd intervened when one of the sleazy short-order cooks came on to me aggressively. Todd was that mix of shy integrity, humor and intelligence that I'm still attracted to. I created much of what happened that summer to fit the experience into a Silhouette story line. Even so, I still believe he was a kind, safe and loving person to have had my first romantic and sexual experiences with.
Looking back, I realize the summer fling was really about coming of age, hunger and my emerging hip bones. I was learning about appetite control and the thrill of losing that control. I was learning the age-old art of girl bonding over boys. "Fling" connotes an uninterrupted arch of movement. For me it was a start and stop test drive of sexual power, calorie charts and control that ultimately led to an unsatisfying, jerky ride.
When I think back to those white shorts, I feel a tinge of nostalgia with a deeper wash of gratitude for the well-fed, gratifyingly sensual life I currently lead. I would now spurn those shorts as too confining and ridiculously high maintenance.
My sun-kissed beach love
I was floundering around Greensboro in the spring of 2002, a graduate with a liberal arts degree from UNC-G and no sense of what to do with it. A friend and co-worker suggested she and I move to the beach for the summer for what was intended as a final hurrah before the real world and its full-time workloads set in.
We were to stay in her grandparents' beach house, rent free, as a graduation gift to her, and I'd be welcomed along to keep her company and out of trouble. Not having grown up in North Carolina, I was not familiar with Carteret County or Pine Knoll Shores, my new address. The move from Greensboro to Bogue Banks (the 26-mile barrier island that stretches from Fort Macon to Swannsboro) was an adventure. I felt so alive and connected to nature as I watched the geography gently erode from Piedmont to Coastal Plain. We both got jobs waitressing on the Beaufort waterfront.
Two weeks into my new existence, I was set up with Joe, a Beaufort local. We agreed to meet at the Dockhouse for a couple of rounds. A handsome, sun-kissed beach boy appeared and introduced himself. I remember a warm glow about him that was really special. By the end of the evening we'd talked ourselves into infatuation. When the bar closed we moved to the parking lot to sit on the tailgate of his truck. An older couple walked past and asked, "Are you two newlyweds?" We blushed in the dark.
The next few weeks were a haze of dates and spontaneous beach excursions. I learned of his childhood aboard a sailboat. I shared my stories of growing up military. I met his parents. His phone number was speed-dialed. Joe took me on his boat to Shackleford Banks to hike and swim. It was a crystal clear afternoon with a Carolina blue sky and we were alone and oceanside on an uninhabited island. Bobbing up and down in the waves, I felt so serene. I had fallen in love with the beach and was smitten with this man. Bobbing along happily, I was snapped out of my daydreams by an order to "Catch!" as a pair of swim trunks splashed me in the face. We embraced and floated weightlessly in the waves. I remember it well.
Certain things about that summer I will never forget, like the way his hair looked plastered to his face when he came up for air, or the location of the public access walkway where we kissed and held tight for hours.
We kept it short, our summer fling, and I left at the end of the summer. We were in touch for a while and I always remember his birthday.
Last fall I received an e-mail detailing his engagement and wedding plans, scheduled for this month, on the same day as my parents' anniversary. I am not supposed to forget, I guess.
Recharging on the rebound
I hosted a cookout at the Efland farmhouse I rented on the first Saturday in June of 1997, on the occasion of my best college buddy and his girlfriend visiting from New England. All of our college friends in the Triangle came. One of my friends brought a new friend from her Ultimate Frisbee Team. The new friend turned out to be a good friend from high school I had not seen in seven years.
I was a horrible host at that party; she and I talked the whole night! She had recently moved back to the Triangle to start a new job and escape the ravages of a relationship gone south. I was an aimless 24-year-old who had just been given walking papers by a longtime girlfriend. We had a lot in common.
I spent every day that summer with my old friend. After work, I would drive from Efland to Carrboro where she lived. We would walk all over Carrboro and Chapel Hill in search of fun. Someone we knew was always hosting a cookout or potluck. I dragged her to see the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Son Volt and Ben Folds Five and the Two Dollar Pistols at the Cat's Cradle. She taught me the fine art of sneaking beer into the $1.50 movie theater on Rosemary Street, which we did weekly until we made the mistake of going to see Austin Powers. We laughed so hard that we kept dropping the beer bottles, and we were promptly kicked out.
We'd eat at either Crook's Corner or the Colonial Inn in Hillsborough to satisfy our Southern food cravings. Thursday nights after work were spent at the Weaver Street After Hours Celebration. We'd sip wine and giggle at the little kids dancing to the music. Saturday nights we'd gather friends and all go to Carrburritos to eat and get smashed on margaritas. If we could, we'd walk down to the Cave and play pool. Sunday mornings we'd get up and go fishing on the Eno River.
On the off night we weren't out, we'd invent fun at each other's home--swimming in the pool and watching Elvis movies at her apartment or making mix tapes and telling each other our deepest secrets at my house. We'd talk and talk and talk, to 3 or 4 in the morning, then make it into work by 8 a.m.
We were having so much fun we forgot to make our relationship anything more than inseparable friends. In four months' time we had restored each other's faith in relationships and the value of sharing your life with someone. In the fall I moved out West for a time, and as fast as we were inseparable we were 3,000 miles apart.
Eight years have passed, and the few times we have seen each other we always grin, remembering a time only we share. Then one of us will whisper to the other, "That summer was the best of my life. "
The summer of '77
We had barely closed the door before she had me pressed up against it and was kissing me passionately while removing her blouse.
"I've wanted you since Dawn first introduced us," she breathed. Now she was pulling my shirt off and working on my belt. Within minutes, we managed to get undressed, turning on the TV only to ignore the thumpa-thumpa music and cheesy sex blaring from the box. We chose to screw in the armless padded chair by the desk, never making it to the waterbed.
Nancy was 38 and could pass as a look-alike older sister of her daughter, Dawn, though there were 17 years difference between them. Nancy knew that we were dating and approved of me because I respected Dawn.
On my 22nd birthday, I was out in front, hanging out with college friends and Dawn. Nancy pulled up around 9:30 saying it was time to head home. She called me down to the car as her daughter retrieved her things from inside.
"I have a present for your birthday," she told me. "Will you be here in another half hour?"
"Probably," I told her. "We're talking about heading out to Charlie's Bar."
"Oh wonderful! I can buy birthday-boy a drink!"
As she turned toward me, I noticed four buttons undone rather than two, revealing most of her left breast through the opening.
"OK, sure. I don't see why not."
Just then, Dawn appeared, kissed me goodbye, got in the car and they drove off.
Forty minutes later, Nancy returned just as we were discussing who went in which car. "You can ride with me," she cooed.
At Charlie's, we drank, listened to the band, danced and played our inevitable pinball marathon. Just before closing time, Nancy bought me another drink and then handed me the present: a key attached to a large plastic fob. I read the name of the hotel--the Pioneer, an infamous, South-Chicago-suburb no-tell motel that featured waterbeds and X-rated movies.
I looked at Nancy.
"Let's go," she said.
I waived at my friends and got in the car with Nancy. On the way, I simply asked, "Why?"
"Because I've asked Dawn what you two do. She said you've never pressured her for sex. I know you've got to be horny, so I want to show you I'm grateful."
Just how grateful, I soon found out. We made love on every single piece of furniture in that room except the waterbed!
While we never repeated that night and Dawn broke up with me when I moved to California two months later, Nancy taught me more about sex than I had learned during my two excursions overseas in the Navy. She taught me how to seduce and excite a woman, how to kiss properly, and how to cuddle afterward, basking in the glow of wonderful, passionate lovemaking. Every female since has her to thank for the erotic experience they've enjoyed with me.