When you’re young and the summer nights are warm, romance fills a young man’s dreams.
All that’s needed then is someone to share the moments.
We sat on one of the benches we had back by the trees. It was shady there, and no one was around. The shade felt really good after the hot sun on my brown uniform.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
There was a time when I’d blush when someone would ask me that—when I was younger and didn’t know about it being OK to not always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Boys growing up don’t like to be in any way different, and Peridot was certainly different. But I’d grown up by now. “Perry,” I said. “Perry Tate. What’s yours?”
“Marta Anderson.” She stuck out her hand, and I grinned and shook it. “I don’t usually shake hands with girls,” I said. Being casual again helped. I felt my own composure returning.
She grinned back at me. “Well, I called this meeting—”
“That’s what this is?” I interrupted. “A meeting? Maybe I should put my tie back on.”
“OK. OK. So I wanted to talk to you. Here’s the deal. I’m here for the week. We arrived Saturday. Dad rented Cabin 12. He’ll be working this week in town. He’ll only be here a few nights, but my mom and brother are here with me.”
I nodded. What she was describing was pretty normal.
“The thing is,” she continued, “I don’t plan on hanging with my brother all week. And if I don’t, he’s likely to just stay in the cabin playing video games the whole time. See, he’s kind of shy, and meeting a bunch of new kids, well, it would be hard for him. He just turned sixteen but looks younger, like maybe a fourteen-year old or even younger than that. He gets teased about it, and that embarrasses him. Everything seems to embarrass him.”
“Yeah, but, so what? Maybe he’d be happier doing that. Staying inside. If he’s that shy.”
“Ah, you don’t get it. My mother is here, remember? She’ll get on him and nag him and force him out. He’ll be miserable. She’ll make him go to the beach and make friends. She might even go with him, dragging him along, which as you know would be terrible. Deadly. She’d be trying to get him involved with other kids, and they’d see her doing it, and, well, it would be ugly.”
I nodded again. I’d witnessed all sorts of social interactions over the years here. Most kids just hooked up on their own. If they were going to be here for a week, they had little difficulty getting in with other kids in the same situation. Seemed within ten minutes of their first meeting, they’d be best friends. But not everyone was like that. Just like at school, some kids made friends easily and some didn’t. I was lucky. I wasn’t shy like that but knew kids who were.
“But,” she continued, “if he doesn’t find some kids to hang with, my mom will insist I hang with him. And I have other plans. Saturday and Sunday I was on the beach, and I learned who was here for the day and who’d be here all week, and while I was scoping all that out, I also was picking out the boys I planned to have my way with this week.”
“Hey,” I said, in mock horror. “This is a respectable summer resort. We don’t allow random sexual activity among the teens here. It’s against the rules. Well, it might be. I’d have to check the handbook. But I’m on staff here and am supposed to enforce a code of conduct. I’ll have to keep an eye on you. You’ll have to tell me when and where you’re going to be having these illicit liaisons so I can come watch and make sure nothing untoward is happening.” I grinned, and she laughed, then asked, “You like to watch?”
“Well, no. I don’t think so, at least. I never have. And that sort of thing goes on all the time. The boys are always talking about which girl they’re going to get with. And they tend to succeed a lot, it being summer and all, if I can believe what I hear listening to them later in the week. Maybe that’s one reason this place is so popular. I guess the girls do the same, huh? Plan their conquests? Except you’re the first one who’s come right out and told me.”
“Of course we do. I’ve been looking forward to this week ever since my dad asked me and Sean if we’d like to rent a cabin here.” She stopped and gave me a look. “But back to the subject at hand, I need to find a way to keep Sean out of the cabin so my mother won’t be on him and be off my back so my own plans go… well… as planned.”
“And you think I can take Sean off your hands? Why me? And what makes you think I have time for that or any interest in doing so?”
She looked uncomfortable for a moment, but then sat up straighter, apparently having regained her courage. “Well, I figured you two might have a lot in common. He’s gay.”
“Huh? Hey! Wait a minute! Something in common? You think I’m gay?”
“Well, you failed my test.”
“You mean…” I sputtered, then stopped when I saw her grin.
“Yeah,” she said. “I mean.”
“So wait a sec. What you’re saying is, your plan for this week was to test various boys on the beach here. A sort of hard-on test to vet them? To find someone for Sean?”
“Hey, not only him! For me, too. I was only going to test the boys that I figured one of us would be interested in.”
I had the good grace to blush at that. She saw it. “You’re really cute, you know. A lot of the gay ones are. You and I could have had a good week.”
“I’m staff. We don’t do that,” I managed, with some dignity.
“Hah! I’ll bet!”
I thought about Amber and then about Alex. Had either of them ever screwed around with a camper? Hard to think about, but sure, it could have happened. Seemed more likely with Amber. I’d have to ask her. She’d probably tell me if she had. If I asked.
“So?” she asked, pulling me out of my reverie.
“Forgetting the fact that you’re only assuming I’m gay because of some sort of empirical evaluation that signifies nothing, I don’t know your brother at all, and he doesn’t know me. I don’t think it works like that, anyway. There has to be mutual chemistry even to just be friends. Mutual interests. Compatible personalities. And if you wanted—he wanted—it to go further than just being friends, and assuming I was gay, well, I can’t imagine that happening. I’m not the sort who’d just get down and dirty with anyone passing by.”
She looked at me for a moment, and I saw judgment in her eyes. Then they lit up. “You’ve never done it with anyone, have you?”
“Hey, that’s sort of personal, you know!”
“Yeah, but I’m cruising you for my brother. And it would be perfect; he’s never done anything, either. He told me it’s harder if you’re gay. I told him it couldn’t be; the ones I’ve been with were as hard as they possibly could be.”
“Marta! You’re terrible.”
“That’s what my parents say. The boys don’t, though.” She laughed, then frowned. “But you keep changing the subject. You’re both gay—stop shaking you head like that. You’re gay, both of you are inexperienced, and or you’re both probably horny as billy goats in mating season. So what’s stopping you?”
I shook my head again. “I just said. We’ve never met. We might not like each other at all. I’d have to see him, and he’d have to see me before either of us would have any idea of how well we might get on together. And besides, Dad doesn’t want any of us messing around with campers. That is one of his rules.”
“And you do what he says?”
“Yeah, most of the time. Not 100%. Like I don’t wear my tie, but most of the time.”
“Well, maybe it’s time for some of that teenage rebelling we’re all supposed to do. I do, and it’s great! You need to prove your independence, I think. Oh, and you’re wrong about the other thing, too.”
“What other thing?”
“The thing about you and Sean not knowing each other at all. Yesterday, Sean and I sat on the beach pointing out boys we thought were attractive and might like to mess around with. The one he was most interested in, couldn’t take his eyes off, was you.”
    
Marta had arranged it with me that I’d meet Sean on the beach that evening. I was off work at four. Most of the swimmers were leaving by then. Crowley left at four, too, posting a sign on the lifeguard chair that read “Lifeguard off duty. Swim at your own risk. No children under the age of 13 permitted in the water without a lifeguard on duty.”
I was nervous. I’d be meeting a gay boy my age. Marta expected us to hit it off. Sean liked my looks.
I’d been hoping for a boyfriend. But could Sean be a boyfriend? Did he want that? Or was he like Marta, someone who wanted a summer fling, a quick roll in the hay? And more to the point, did I want that?
That was the real question. What did I want?
I was sixteen. Sixteen and never been kissed. Wasn’t that supposed to be a girl’s line? And wasn’t it outdated by about a century? Hadn’t all girls these days been kissed well before they were sixteen? And if they had, hadn’t it been boys who’d done the kissing? Which left me… where?
Well, Marta had said Sean was in the same boat. I wondered: how could she be sure? I mean, Amber and I were close, but I didn’t know if she’d been kissed. If she had, she hadn’t said, so I didn’t know. We’d stopped telling each other everything a couple of years ago. In fact, maybe that had happened because she’d suddenly had things that she didn’t want to share. Things like getting kissed.
No, that wouldn’t have been something to hide from me. I’d have been happy for her. But, maybe she’d been kissed—and more. Yeah, I could see her keeping that from me. Maybe because she’d have been embarrassed. Or, more likely, because she’d have known that I hadn’t been kissed—and, dammit, more—and didn’t want me to feel bad about it. That was much more likely.
But all this was avoiding the issue. What did I want?
Well, actually, I was pretty sure what I wanted. I wanted a boyfriend who liked me as much as I liked him, and I wanted to fool around with that boyfriend. I wanted that a lot.
But it wasn’t reasonable to expect that to happen. Certainly not with Sean, who was here for a week, three days of which were already gone. Sean might be someone to fool around with, but not someone to like and be liked by in the way I wanted. There wasn’t enough time for that, even if it could have happened, which seemed a bit remote to me.
But I had a date set for this evening. After dinner. On the beach. With no idea what to expect or really what I wanted from it. The more I thought, the less I wanted to go.
This was Marta’s fault, my having to worry about this! I had half a mind to call Cabin 12 and ask for Marta and tell her it was off. Except there was a little part of me, or maybe a lot of me, that wanted to meet Sean. I mean, you never know, do you? And most sixteen-year-olds were optimists. I was.
I’d wanted a boyfriend for a long time now. But I couldn’t begin to envision how a boy who’d be here for only a few days could become that. It wasn’t possible, not for what I wanted, at least. Yeah, I might end up with the opportunity to mess around a little with Sean, but I wanted so much more than that. Just messing around had been enough when I’d been fourteen. All I’d been ready for. But it would just be frustrating now. I wanted a meeting of the minds, of the souls, as much as of the bodies.
I saw Amber at the house when I came in for dinner. She knew my moods, didn’t need to see anything more than my posture and came up to my room with me. I started undressing; it had been a hot day, still was, and those brown unis weren’t all that comfortable. I stripped down to my boxers while we talked. I told her about Marta—and Sean.
She was on my side, my support system, but thought in this situation I was being way too much in my head and not letting my fun side come out to play at all. “Come on, Perry. Go and enjoy yourself. What do you have to lose? Don’t go meet him cautiously. Go with a laugh, with eager eyes and a hopeful heart!”
“When did you get all alliterative?” I asked. “Or flighty?”
“Summer. I’m always a little giddy in summer. You know that. When did you get so serious? That’s a better question. You’d better not be turning into Alex. I’d have to kick your ass.”
That was a joke. I’d grown some between fourteen and sixteen, and she’d sort of not. I was considerably bigger than she was now. But her eyes—they showed she meant it. She wanted me to be happy and didn’t want any backtalk about it.
“OK, OK,” I said, not wanting to argue and not wanting a pep talk. Maybe I wanted some sympathy, but I sure wasn’t getting it. “I’ll try. Now I need a shower.”
I reached for the elastic waistband on my boxers, meaning it was time for her to go, and she laughed. “Is that a threat?” she said and then, after a moment, turned and left, still laughing. I don’t know why she was laughing. She had no idea what I looked like now. At 11, she had known. I’d known what she looked like then, too.
We had dinner. Dad was back and asked how things had gone and had to listen to Alex take the floor with his self-importance, complaining about the staff for the next half hour. I left as inconspicuously as I could when he started in on which of the horses he didn’t like.
The night was soft, with a half-moon just rising. Very little breeze. Warm. Perfect.
I ambled down toward the concession stand where we were to meet. The beach was deserted, which wasn’t unusual. Sometimes campers strolled there after dark. Sometimes teens, couples that were still getting acquainted, would be there. Tonight it was empty.
I didn’t see anyone around the concession stand. I glanced at my watch and saw I was right on time. I walked to and around the stand. No Sean.
I was surprised to find I was as disappointed as I was; I’d about convinced myself not even to go. But perhaps I was relieved, too. Anyway, it was what it was. I waited a few minutes, then turned and headed up the beach. I was used to walking alone here at night. I enjoyed it. The stars were out, filling the sky with pinpricks of light and the imagination with wonder, as always. I could lose myself, looking at them.
Further down the beach, I came upon a young couple. They were staying with us for two weeks. I guessed they were in their twenties. She was quite pretty, he was just a guy, but they had a Golden Retriever which was handsome as all get out. He had his ball, and when he saw me, ran up and dropped it in front of me.
I looked up at his owners, and they nodded. She laughed. I picked up the ball and threw it out into the lake, a fair ways. The dog took off like a shot, leaped into the water and took off faster than you could believe if you’ve never seen a Golden Retriever swim. He got to that ball, bobbing in the gentle swells of the lake, far sooner than I could have. He brought the ball back to me, dropped it by my feet, then looked up expectantly. I’d never seen him tired, no matter how often or far anyone had thrown his ball.
I patted his head, spoke to him, and then walked on.
Where the lake curved back towards the trees, I was by myself. Most people didn’t walk this far because the going was a little hard once you left the sand. We didn’t bother clearing the undergrowth here, and it grew all the way down to the water. If you wanted to walk here, you had to do it in the lake. I took off my shoes and socks. The water was warm and reached halfway to my knees, nowhere near the bottom of my shorts.
I waded past where the undergrowth came down to the lake, around the point to where there was grass on the bank. I climbed back up. This was a place where I liked to come to be alone. I’d never seen anyone else this far from the resort and right then that pleased me. I was feeling… I don’t know… but being alone seemed right. I’d been stood up by someone I didn’t even know, and it gave me a feeling I didn’t like. I’d been rejected, and it stung.
Boys need places where there’s privacy, for, well, you know what for, and being outside made it more exciting. So, being a boy who’d lived here all his life, I knew some private places, and this was one of them. No, that wasn’t the only reason for liking private places, and I certainly wasn’t going to do that now. But I wanted to sit on the grass and just let the warm night soothe my hurt feelings.
I lay back on the soft grass and watched the moon rise, let the majesty of the star-filled universe do its magic, bring me peace with its strange, cold, awesome, unfeeling comfort.
I sat and didn’t think, just existed. I did that now and then. I always felt calmer afterward.
I was doing just that, relaxing, not thinking, existing, when I heard a splash.
A fish, I thought, and didn’t even open my eyes. But then there was another splash.
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This story may contain occasional references to minors who are or may be gay. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG (in a more enlightened time it would be rated G). If reading this type of material is illegal where you live, or if you are too young to read this type of material based on the laws where you live, or if your parents don't want you to read this type of material, or if you find this type of material morally or otherwise objectionable, or if you don’t want to be here, close your browser now. The author neither condones nor advocates the violation of any laws. If you want to be here, but aren’t supposed to be here, be careful and don't get caught!