Thus, as Sue and Melissa drifted off to sleep, I “Slept” with both eyes wide open in the dark. As if ordained by the Creator ,Lisa was closest to me, and using her sleeping bag for padding rather than warmth. I slowly rolled over so she was just within an arms reach. I moved my left hand like a crab or spider, inching toward my target, that being her hand. I got an elbow instead. If it was her left elbow she was on her back, if it was her right elbow she was lying on her stomach. I slid my hand up toward her hand. There was no resistance. She was asleep. Her hand was half open. I decided to flip over again, thus putting my right hand much closer. This time I found her fingers outstretched. I was sure this was not by luck or coincidence. I slid my hand into hers; she intertwined her fingers with mine, then curled our hands together. This was the beginning of a two year romance.
Lisa: So Barry, Cathy Martin was telling me your family has some wild fights and loud screaming matches. Is it true?
Me: Wow, that’s a long story, but my brother just got out of the hospital a couple of years ago. SO that was five years with Adam fighting for his life. Mom was in the hospital 24/7 and came home only one or two days a month. She came home mostly to sleep, but it meant the boys were on our own, and with the stress and all, she snapped. Before snapping she could bite your head off over nothing. She was always tough, but the arguments got worse, and louder, and longer because there was never a clear way to go to save him, so on good nights we’d just sit around crying, on bad ones, the blame game filtered into every aspect, every subject, every bit of our house.
With that, I had put a damper on the romance and possible sex talk. Fireflies were blinking outside, and mosquitoes were easily heard buzzing around inside the tent. Mosquitoes are so much easier to extinguish when there is a hard wall or ceiling to smash them on. It was about 65 degrees, so eventually the topic of sleeping arrangements came up.
Sue: I’m getting sleepy.
Silence ensued. It was the kind of pause that can kill a co-ed conversation at that age. I started to think it was going to be an early departure if the other tents were going that same way as ours. They weren’t though.
I found out during the boat ride home the next morning that both the other guys stayed awake until the girls started to sleep one by one. When all were sound asleep, both employed Thomas’ strategy: wait out the whole tent, then pick the girl of your choice. Both ended up making out quietly, and never got caught, nor did the girls raise a peep of protest, nor a scream, not wake up and kick the guys out. And there it was: a perfect example of mutually accepted lying.
As for our tent, the conversation jolted back to life.
Lisa: Isn’t there a way to learn each other’s language and communicate in a way that is understood?
Melissa: So you think men and women have entirely different languages?
Lisa: It’s not so much different languages, as a completely different set of ideas about who is the right type, and how to date the one that’s right for you.
Melissa: Maybe we worry too much about who is exactly right. I still think people who hardly know each other can fall in love in an instant under the right circumstances.
Me: If both are hormonally distressed with “Maximus Horny-Apes-Among-Us Disease, then sure, one glance is all it takes.
Sue: But it has a better chance of lasting if they’ve been friends a long time. Love at first sight, leads to break-up at first fight.”
Sue: But that’s the problem. Guys will date especially when its dating with sex, for a long time, maybe forever, without ever committing openly to the relationship.
Me: I gotta relax, and unwind. Lisa, can we grab some beers from your parents’ refrigerator? I’m sure they won’t be home for a while.
Lisa: But then everyone will want some, and my dad doesn’t keep count, but sometimes my mom does, and she’d notice if they were all gone.
Me: Why would I tell the other tents?
Sue: Oh you’re just rude.
Me: Ok Ok, I’ll drop it, where were we?
Lisa: We were at the different ways guys and girls approach each other.
Melissa: Right. Is it personality match, all about looks, blind luck? I think the girls who think they are not pretty sometimes make things worse by adopting negative personalities. Boys can still be jocks or even respected if essentially negative, but it’s harder for girls to pull off, don’t you think?
Me: But the less pretty girls are rumored to be very eager to please, and loyal, so who would want to date a stick up cheerleader?” I insisted, noting that there were no cheerleaders in Lisa’s tent, albeit too late if there had been one.
(Oh, I surely stepped in it with that line. Three babes, and I’m talking up the merits of the also-rans. What an idiot! And looking back, what a wildly adolescent generalization.)
With this Lisa looked at me, and without even having to put an upward-angled nod on her head, I knew her idea was to have us three boys boat home right away, even if it was 4am.
Me: I’m fine without a sleeping bag, I’ll just crash over here on this side of the tent.
Lisa: Isn’t it better if you take your friends home . Your parents will be missing you.
Me: I doubt that. After a deep alcoholic sleep they will wake up and see the boat gone and figure out we’re out messing around on the lake somewhere.
Lisa: You mean they don’t know you came down here at midnight?
Me: Your mom knew, but otherwise, except for longer lines at the bar, I bet no one noticed.
Lisa: Then that’s worse.
Me: Oh? But your parents have already come home, and they never even bothered ot look in on us. If your mom was worried about what we were doing, don’t you think she would have come up to say hello?
Me: Well, either we have parental approval, or the other guys are asleep already, or both. It’s more dangerous to try to get home in the dark than in daylight. I haven’t heard any of the girls scream, so it appears everything is under control, right?
Lisa: I guess so Barry; you sure have a gift for persuasion.
“I have an idea,” Thomas said. “There are three boys and three tents, if we put one boy in each tent, that wouldn’t be a problem would it? Just to talk.”
“Wait, I’ll ask, “ Lisa said, walking back toward the tents.
“Nice thinking,” Jerry said, jabbing an elbow into his ribs.
“I’ve got Lisa’s tent no matter who else is in there,” I said.
“How do you figure that?” Thomas asked.
“My parent’s party, my boat, my lake knowledge, my pick,” as the snob in me woke up for a late night stroll.
“Oh what an ass, “ Thomas said. “Let’s shot rock, scissors, paper.”
“You and Jerry are free to play for the last two tent, but Lisa’s is mine,” I reiterated. “Since you have no idea who she invited, what’s there to fight over?
Lisa’s flashlight came back in graceful motions its owner displayed, seemingly at all times.
“OK we’re agreed you can stay, but no monkey business with my friends,” she said. I grabbed at her hand, she pulled it away, but I followed closely to her tent where Susan and Melissa were giddy with anticipation, or so it seemed to me. She re-zipped the tent, hung a flashlight by a cleverly constructed intertwine of bungie cords.
They screamed, then one said “who are you, go away, this is private property.”
“Is that you Lisa?” I asked. “Your mother sent us down here from my parent’s party.”
“Get out of here, she did not,” Lisa belched as she said.
“It’s Barry, I’ve seen your dad out at the jazz club, we’re just out late to have fun, we’re not criminals.
“Let me take a look at you,” Lisa said, as she unzipped a six-man tent, her flashlight ablaze. “Oh bit’s you three, I see. Well then, why exactly would your parents let you drive a boat so far at night? And why would my mom send you down here to ruin our slumber party?”
Never shy around women, Thomas spoke the truth: “she sent us down on a panty raid..”
“OK, that’s it, get out of here!”
“But wait,” Jerry protested, that’s exactly what she said, but that doesn’t mean that is what we came down here to do.”
What the hell Barry, it could be any of these places,” Jerry chirped in the cool night air. Canandaigua’s water only gets to about 67 degrees in a good August, so at night, the lake cools the air.
“But I know their dock is square and they have a boathouse with a bedroom over it for guests. Sure enough this place fits that, and I know I’m right.”
“I hope, Thomas said in testosterese. “Throw me a line,” which he tied to a dock post in a hasty but accurate bowline.
“OK boys, here we go, but if this is the wrong house, we just turn and run, right?”Jerry asked.
As soon as we got up the steps I knew I had gotten lucky because I recognized the compound which included two wooden houses carved out of a hill that led up to the tennis court.
“You can hear them up there,” I said, pointing to the tennis court. At full pace we jogged up and Thomas yelled “We’re here ladies.”
So I put my clothes on while Cathy stared right at my groin.
“Do you need a ride to the lake, we’re heading down now,” he said. Now Mr. Martin was a second Dad. He knew all about the emotional fights that emitted loud noises toward his kitchen door. He hadn’t fully gotten over the times I had chased Ann all over the two yards and beyond trying to get a kiss. “Kiss Tag” in my mind…terror in hers, I’m sure.
I refused the 45-mile ride out of embarrassment. Canandaigua didn’t seem like a long way to hitch hike that day. My mind was split between going to Canandaigua and the idea that I was free to do anything that day, having been sprung from both parental and super-ego barriers, I was, by any measure, out of my mind.
Thus I didn’t remember how I walked a mile down east avenue to get to the I-490 Linden road on ramp. And still don’t remember much about the man who got me as far as Victor, the philosophical, if not geographic halfway point to Canandaigua. From there, another universally-sent ride got me to the northwest corner of the city of Canandaigua, located at the north end of the westernmost of the picaresque Finger lakes. It was probably anything but a beautiful drive for the 50s couple who picked me up in Victor. They would have left me by the cornfield on the far side of Boughton Hill if it was up to the driver. But, the second happy-to-help lady in a row saved the day. She managed to get me calmed down enough so I could tell her I lived on West Lake Road, and it was at the beginning of this 20-mile road that I was dropped off. I got out and started walking, but my outstretched thumb wasn’t working anymore.
featured image by Anna Podris, Raleigh, NC
So, using the “follow your heart” command I took my semi-psychotic self up to the attic, where parties with Mark and his older friends introduced all of us to better music, alcohol, marijuana and kissing. There were drinking, smoking and kissing games, with variations that inevitably led to the older attendees laughing at the younger ones.
I don’t remember taking my clothes off, or how I ended up lifting and dropping the barbells that made enough noise for Mr. Martin, who was home form work to pick up his youngest daughter, Cathy, and who had come into the house without me hearing it, two stories up. But he heard it and came up two flights with Cathy close behind.
“I wonder what that was,” she said, and I recognized the voice without realizing I was buck naked.
“Put your clothes on Barry, what’s going on” Mr. Martin asked, somewhere between furious and humored.
So, while two hockey rinks kept us skating in the winter (both the McQuaid and Baume kids built rinks every winter), hot-box baseball, soccer, lacrosse, touch football, and basketball kept us moving in the non-snowy months. It was a type of heaven, but how could we guess that playing outside everyday would become a luxury, and often overlooked in favor of PC games, cellular phones and 2500 “friends” on Facebook? I was in no way a jock like everyone else, but I still had a great time playing every day.
One the corner of Trevor Court and Georgian Court Sandy lived, and he lived to play lacrosse, so he had a goal set up in his back yard. Even well into his 30s when he was home visiting he’d take a jog around the neighborhood with stick, ball and trusty golden retriever. The guy could run forever, cradling, playing catch with his dog, or trying to set new records for the bounciness of a ball…distances measured in kilometers if the throw was straight enough.
“If you’re going all the way to Clover Street, that would be super. I live near the corner of Clover and East Avenue,” I boldly announced at circus barker volume.
“Oh we can swing that way right honey?” she said, with a look that acted like a nudge. Leaned back and imagined I looked relaxed, even if running on 14-year-old testosterone. Ten minutes later, maybe less, there we were, in the very green and well manicured neighborhood.
“Thanks,” I said, closing the door of their white 1970 AMC Ambassador. Funny door handles, kind of square, that pulled open like the latch to an old freezer, only sideways.