A Night of Romance?
It was nearing the end of our summer project. Our group was slowly and
somewhat sadly breaking up. We had developed a closeness over the summer
that was hard to see coming to an end. Kathy and Lorraine left first, and
Jake, Mary Lynn and I had taken the two women out for a final drink after a
farewell dinner before they left. Now it was just Mary Lynn, Jake and
me. We went out and had a final southern dinner for her, drank too much
beer and staggered towards home.
It had been a long day and I was weary, so I said I was going to call it a
night. Jake and Mary Lynn weren’t done for the night, though, and decided
to go out for a last, late-night drink and some dancing at the bar down the
An hour later, Jake burst into the bedroom where I was just putting down my
novel, ready to turn off the light. “Can I borrow your car?” Jake
pleaded. “I have a hot date.” He raised his eyebrows lasciviously,
“Have a good time,” I said archly as I threw him my keys.
“I intend to,” he said with a grin.
It must have been 1 a.m., when Jake stumbled into the bedroom smelling of sex
and beer, making enough noise seemingly to wake the neighborhood. He
fumbled with taking off his clothes and climbed into his side of the bed.
“Thanks for the car,” he said somewhat loudly.
“Hmmph,” I mumbled, still half asleep. What I intended to say was: “Go to
sleep. It’s 1 a.m.” What came out was something
unintelligible. Jake took my attempt at words as an invitation to
talk. Maybe he would have taken the opportunity to talk anyway, he was so
keyed up, as I was about to find out.
He lay on his back in the dim light and put his hands behind his head, his
white boxers contrasting with the tan he had picked up over the summer.
He proceeded to tell me the intimate details of his evening and how great it
was and how great he felt and that he was in love with love. It sounded
as if he were in love with lust instead. I said as much. All the
lines were there about love and Jake was reciting them perfectly, but it was as
if he were on the stage speaking from a script.
“Jake,” I said, groggily, and I thought more forcefully, “good night!”
He went on talking. But the more he talked the more I realized he was
just talking out the lover role he was supposed to have played.
I was being forced awake, despite my wish to continue sleeping. Finally,
I was awake enough to realize that there was something odd in what Jake was
saying. “Sawyer, you doth protest too much,” I said.
“We went to the swimming hole, and the bugs were awful,” he finally admitted.
“No wonder you’re miserable. You probably have a million mosquito bites
on your butt. Go to sleep.”
Jake turned over in the bed and faced me, resting his head on his elbow.
I could see his face in the dim light from the street that filtered through the
manila-colored shades. He looked at me for a long time, starting to say
something then stopping.
“I just don’t feel good about what I did.”
“For Christ’s sake, Sawyer. You just got laid, the dream of every college
man. Go to sleep.”
Nothing, it appeared, would stop him from saying what he wanted to say.
“It was lust—a one-night stand. It was purely mechanical. I used
her. She used me. We were just two animals rutting.” There
was a pause. “Shit!”
“Okay, so maybe it wasn’t too romantic, Sawyer, but you got your rocks off and
you’re starting to make me horny anyway.” My penis was erect from the
discussion and from general horniness.
“It was a one-night stand. If we had truly made love, do you realize I
wouldn’t be talking to you now about it.”
“It wasn’t exactly a one-night stand. You’ve known Mary Lynn all summer.”
“Yes, it was a one-night stand. I didn’t think about her in a romantic
way, and until tonight, I didn’t think about her much sexually.” There
was another long pause. “Why is it that talk of love seems to be private
and talk of sex not?” Philosophy at, now, 2 a.m, I thought?
“If I had loved her, I wouldn’t be saying anything at all. Is there
something wrong with me?” Jake asked.
“Maybe both sex and love should be private, Sawyer. Certainly, they
should be private at 2 a.m. I know you well enough to think that you are
not telling me this just to announce a conquest. Something must be
“Yes.” There was another silence. I think Jake expected me to say
something more. I didn’t.
The silence continued.
“So I shouldn’t have said anything about tonight?” he asked, finally.
“No problem. That’s up to you. I think we’re closer than drinking
buddies, and something’s bothering you, so I’m willing to listen.
Okay?” Unfortunately, I was by now fully awake and wished I wasn’t.
Another long silence.
“Rob, I’m sorry I said anything. I don’t believe in abstinence. But
I don’t believe in casual sex. And I feel bad that I acted like I cared
about her—in some way besides sexually. But I really didn’t. Is
something fundamentally wrong with me?”
Nothing that a good night’s sleep wouldn’t cure, I thought to myself.
“Look! I feel the same way you do,” I said. “But the boundary isn’t
entirely clear between casual liking and affection. It wasn’t as if you
didn’t have any feelings for Mary Lynn. I’m sure you had some.
However, in the middle of the night, you’re having second thoughts.
You’re reconsidering and deciding you weren’t close enough. That’s
alright. Last night, with a few beers and a willing partner, you
were close enough. You’re a sweet, wonderful person, Sawyer. I’m
sure Mary Lynn feels the same way about you. Which means, she was
probably pushing your sex button. Don’t worry about it. I probably
would have done the same.”
By this time, my hard-on was getting out of control. I rolled out of bed
and headed toward the bathroom. “It’s a bit hard to sleep. I’ve got to go
relieve the pressure.”
“You can do it here if you want. I won’t mind.”
I hesitated. “That wouldn’t feel right.”
Jake started giggling. “I think it feels the same whether you do it in
the bathroom or here.”
I opted for the bathroom. It took just a few pulls before waves of
pleasure pulsed from my penis. I cleaned myself up with toilet paper,
flushed the toilet and returned to the bedroom. I noticed the tissue box
was on Jake’s side of the bed, and, in the dim light, I could see two wadded up
tissues on the bedside table. “So you tested your theory, too?”
Jake started giggling again. “Felt fine to me here.”
I leaned over the bed slapped his butt through the sheet. “Move back on
your own side.” I lay down.
“Good night, Robbie,” Jake said. And, then, he turned over and kissed me
on the cheek. That confirmed my suspicion that he really had had a bit
too much to drink.
“Good night, Sawyer.”
In the morning Jake was his old self, and we never mentioned the subject
again. But I still get turned on by my memories of that smell of sex and
our talk that night.
The Sawyer Magic
“We’re going to paint the house,” Jake announced. “I’ve been thinking
about what we can do for Grannah before we leave. Yes! We’re going
to paint the house.”
No consultation again, no what-do-you-think-of-this-idea-Rob, just “We’re going
to paint the house.” I didn’t know how much the “we” was going to turn
into me painting the house and Jake supervising, but I had to admit it to
myself that it was a good idea for a thank-you gift for Grannah. The
paint on her house was flaking, and her windows needed caulking and putty, so I
couldn’t agree more—except about the absence of consultation.
“This sounds awfully close to a Mark Twain book I know,” I said.
“No. No. I really will do my full share.” Jake
laughed. “But I do get a point for the idea, yes?”
“Okay, okay. If you show up to paint. So now you will
only be 2 points behind.” I had to rub my point lead in. Thank God
That evening we announced to Grannah that we were going to paint her house
before we left. She protested, then protested again, but there were tears
of joy in her eyes and warmth in her voice as her “Thank yous” poured forth in
a tumble. She offered to pay for the paint, but we said that was not
allowed. So she offered to make us all the food of hers we liked.
We said that was allowed, so she was beaming-happy.
Jake, Grannah and I climbed into my car and drove to the paint store so Grannah
could pick out the color for her house. She seemed in heaven as she
looked through all the selections, frowning in concentration as she would take
the color chips to the window light. She selected a number of colors,
laid the chips out on the counter and paced before them. She finally
decided on a light, golden orange brown shade. Jake and I split the cost
of the paint. She asked if we could stop at the store on the way back to
her place so she could buy the fixins for a special dinner to thank us.
No problem there, Jake and I nodded eagerly.
That night we had fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, okra, corn bread
and peach pie. A good trade. I really love peach pie, and Grannah’s
was the best I had ever tasted.
* * *
The next day was going to be hot, so I had set the alarm for 6 a.m. It
went off, of course, in the middle of a really interesting dream, the end of
which I will never know. Why aren’t there dreams that follow on to dreams
that came before, like soap operas on television? I wondered.
“Sawyer, get up. Time to scrape paint,” I said as I pushed the button on
There was something ironic about waking the consummate persuader--a.k.a.
Sawyer--to paint a house. I slipped on my oldest cutoffs and a T shirt,
gave Jake a light kick and went out to the refrigerator for my first glass of
iced tea for the day. I got one for Jake. By the time I got back,
he was sitting on the side of the bed in his boxers, looking blankly at the
floor. I gave him another kick, which caused him to raise his arms and
stretch, then flex his muscled arms and abs. He took the iced tea from my
hand and downed half of it in one gulp. Eventually, he got dressed.
We grabbed a piece of toast and some juice. I went to get the tools from
the shed out back. When I got back, Jake was busy drawing vertical lines
about every three feet on the side of the house with a carpenter’s pencil.
“Huh?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.
“Points!” Jake answered. I must have looked puzzled. “I’m marking
off sections of the house for us—me—to earn points scraping.”
“Huh?” I repeated. Sometimes I couldn’t believe how competitive Jake was.
“I’m behind. I need opportunities to win points before the summer
ends. I scrape well. I did our house in Boston last year.”
I started to laugh at his desperation. “Do you realize what the
temperature will be today? Can’t you feel the humidity already? We
would die if we raced today. We would last about an hour before we
exhausted ourselves. Well…you would, anyway. I’d last two
Jake grinned at me in resignation. “You can’t say I didn’t
That diversion disposed of, we started by chipping out the old putty from
around the loose window panes. Then we began the long job of scraping the
old paint off—first from the south side of the house while it was reasonably
cool. Working side by side, we would each take a narrow section of the
wall. Then, as we finished one section, we would leapfrog over each
other’s section to a new one. We talked, joshed with each other and set up
low-keyed competitions as we worked. Grannah brought fresh coffee and
home-made doughnuts out after about an hour, and we sat for a break. But
we wanted to get as much done before it became too hot, so we were quickly back
to work, moving to the west, then the east and finally the north side of the
house with only a short Grannah sandwich break and a few time-outs for
We stripped off our shirts as the temperature rose and went back to the
task. The idle talk of the morning gave way to just heat, hard work and
the smell of male bodies. The silence was broken only by the back and
forth motion of our arms, the rhythm of the long and short strokes of our
blades, as we continued scraping the loose paint off the house, our bodies
bathed in sweat. The sweat raised a sheen on the planes and curves of our
bodies, accentuating the flexing of our muscles in the bright light of the
day. The work and the warmth had matted the hair on my chest, and my
underarm hair was wet with perspiration as I felt my muscles working hard at
the thrusting of the scraper blade. Slowly and surely, the rhythm of our
effort brought us to the final section, the final push to completion.
We were both sweaty, dusty and tired from the hours of hard work, but
satisfied. We were done with the scraping. It was about 3 in the
afternoon and very hot.
Time for a Swim
“It’s time for a swim,” Jake announced. Announced, of course, not
asked. And, as usual, I couldn’t object because I didn’t want to.
“A swim, but only if you buy a beer or three, Sawyer. A deal?” I
countered to save a little bit of face. Jake grinned at me. It took
no persuasion for him to agree to the addition.
We stopped by the store on our way out of town, picked up a six pack and drove
to the swimming hole, which lies off the main highway into town down a long,
flat, dusty, largely deserted road that goes alongside cotton fields. At
the end of the road, I pulled off the gravel and parked the car on what passed
for the swimming hole parking lot: a dusty, deeply rutted widening at the dead
end of the road with room for about six cars. No other cars were
there. The swimming hole was deserted despite the heat. Maybe it was
too early for people who had to work regular hours.
The swimming hole was at a bend in the small sluggish moving river, with a
narrow sandy beach rimmed by tall weeds and shaded by large oaks.
We climbed out of the car. I pulled out a couple of beers, then set the
rest of the six pack under a tree where it would stay cold—probably for about
15 minutes in this heat, alas. I pulled the tops and passed one beer to
Jake. We sat on the bank of the stream enjoying the quiet and the thought
that the dust and sweat on our bodies would soon be washed off.
It didn’t take Jake long to finish his beer. He stood up, took off his
shirt and shorts and kicked off his shoes. He looked around, then slipped
off his boxers and ran, buff, into the water, his bubble butt showing itself to
me for just a few seconds. I took a couple more swigs of my beer,
stripped all the way as well and followed him into the water. I hadn’t
been skinny dipping since the summer before college.
There’s something erotic about skinny dipping no matter who it’s with. I
don’t know if it’s the forbidden nature of it—though it’s not really forbidden,
I suppose—or the potential of discovery or the play of water directly on the
genitals or the occasional brush of flesh against flesh. Only the
vigorous activities of diving and swimming themselves seem to keep things under
As I got into the river, Jake shouted: “Race you across the river!”
Before I could react he turned quickly and pushed off. All I could see
were arms, legs and butt cheeks flailing across the river. I knew then I
was the better swimmer, and by the time he was halfway across the river, I was
even with him, and I led him by nearly a body length as we neared the other
shore. Suddenly, I felt something grab onto my ankle, stopping me dead,
and before I could recover, Jake used his purchase on my ankle to pull himself
past me and beat me to the shore. He turned around in chest deep water,
raised both arms in a victory gesture. “One for me,” he gloated, raising
his finger and marking his side of the air ledger.
“Unfair, you bastard!” I shouted. “Zero for you!”
“Under what rules, Robbie? Who said defensive tactics weren’t fair? Huh?
HUH?” Of course, when he said ‘huh’ the second time he opened his mouth
wide, giving me the perfect opportunity to cup my hand and send a narrow blast
of water toward his face. Perfect shot. One for me. I marked
my side of the air ledger.
“Unfair!” he shouted as he leaped after me. But I was faster and beat him
fair and square across the river. I stood up on the other bank and marked
another one for me.
That defined the tenor of the afternoon. We competed to see who could
swim underwater the farthest. We raced again across the river and the
best man won—me. We splashed around like the teenagers we recently were
and maybe never would outgrow. Time flew. We bumped and rubbed
against each other. It was wonderfully refreshing.
About an hour after we had jumped in the water, Jake dived and grabbed me by
the legs pulling me under. I grabbed his neck and kept him down until we
both could hold our breaths no longer. We broke to the surface
laughing. I jumped for his head to push it under water. He ducked,
and my full body slid along his, sending sensations through me that I didn’t
expect. As I passed, he pushed my head down and held it there until I
freed myself and emerged, sputtering.
As I came to the surface, Jake had swum off a few yards and was treading water,
just gazing at me, his auburn-red hair slicked back, warmth in his eyes and a
serious look on his face. The mood in him had changed. I slowed down,
too, treaded water and smiled at him. He smiled back. We looked in each
other’s eyes in silence for what must have been two minutes, simply treading
water, drifting slowly towards each other, our breathing steadying after the
exertion, listening to the quiet lapping of the river against the shore and the
songs of the birds, and feeling the sun’s warmth on our heads. Something
was starting to change in our relationship. I felt an erection stirring,
and I was now drifting within an arm’s length of him. Our eyes were
locked together. The situation was getting complicated.
Just then, we heard the sound of a car coming down the dirt road to the
swimming hole. The spell was broken. “Shit!” we both said almost in
unison, which caused us to laugh giddily as we swam back to shore and scampered
up the river bank. We hastily donned our boxers and shorts, opened
another beer and took a couple of swigs, and dived back in, becoming just two
young men taking a swim after work.
We swam a short while more, then climbed out of the water just as a family of
five that we recognized from town had finished setting up blankets and coolers
on the river bank. We nodded hello, picked up the rest of our things, the
beers and the empties, climbed into my car and headed back to town.
Jake and I finished painting Grannah’s house over the next two days. We
worked side by side, sometimes talking about nothing in particular, sometimes
about serious world issues, but most of the time just enjoying each other’s
companionship. There was no mention of those few minutes in the river.
Thanks to Sharon for editing!