I’m lying in the sun on rough grass, my feet downslope toward the lakeshore. My sports bra and bikini bottom were practical for changing in the car, but reveal more of the lumps and stretches of my belly than I’d like, so I’m covered partly by a dusky purple sarong. Not that I mind Rigby seeing any of me; if his eyes were the only ones to see me, I’d be naked all the time. But while I wait for him, I’m listening to families playing in the water nearby.
I sense movement and see him, smiling warmly, and my own grin at seeing him is instantaneous. His kind eyes, the scruffy grey and white goatee, and his smile that melts my worries, his voice—full of sparkle and humor and gentleness. With him, I have no self-consciousness, and being vulnerable emotionally feels as natural as taking off my bra after a long workday. We are a week past our 5 month dating anniversary, and meeting at a lakeshore beach 15 minutes from my summer job and 45 minutes from his house. He’d just given me a house key this week, and the green plastic frame with his address labelled on it makes me deeply happy to look at each time I pull my keys from my bag.
Today is our first time swimming together, but our lives seem to have overlapped in a way that makes it feel like it could not be, if I dream it hard enough. During his high school summers, he was a camp counselor and lifeguard at the Episcopal church camp in his diocese. When he was working at church camp, I was an awkward middle schooler, precocious looking and curious about boys, a target of attention I wanted out of curiosity and loneliness; boys four or more years older were drawn to me, and startled at the answer they got when they asked my age, usually after I’d been touched in some new way or place that left me wanting more. I became a swimmer in high school, and lost my virginity at 16 in my boyfriend’s bedroom in a stolen hour before his parents came home from work. While I was in high school, Rigby was in college, working at the radio station between journalism classes, occasionally finding himself in bed with a graduate student. At this point, if our ages don’t match, the difference no longer matters enough to startle anyone. Meeting together at the lakeshore, though, feels very much like a date for teenagers.
He spreads his towel on the slope next to me. We kiss our greeting. Kissing him is like falling into a hammock; I feel safe, swept off my feet, and suddenly fully present in the new view—he is my sky, and his blue eyes are a view I effortlessly fly into. The feel of his hands on my arms and face is both familiar and electric. He always leaves me satisfied, but I also feel insatiable for his touch.
“How was your drive? I’m glad you found me.” I’d sent him my location and hoped he had enough signal in the eastern Kentucky mountains to receive it.
“No problems,” Rigby answers. “How was your class today?” And as usual, I find myself telling him the details of my day first. I always aspire to focus on listening and crave hearing his voice, yet his own genuine interest and concern lures me into feeling that he wants to hear about me first. Even on our first meeting at a well-lit pub, I found him extremely interesting and still somehow found myself talking more than my fair share about subjects well beyond first date material—my sister’s and dad’s deaths, my complex relationship with my mom. When I told him I was an emotional mess, he didn’t flinch.
The heat and the sun shimmering on the water lures me back to us. “Should we swim?” Rigby asks. I happily get up, thread my way down through rocks to the shoreline, and drop my coverup before wading in. I can’t remember the last time I’ve held hands in the water with anyone other than my daughters. The water is cool enough to be refreshing yet not cold enough to require effort to adjust to.
We kiss, chest-deep, shielded by the rain-fed cloudy water. My breath catches, as it so often does with him. We laugh at the joy and lust of being together, in the perfect clear skies, the mountains around us, the sparkling water.
“This place is like church camp,” Rigby shares, “the dock, the rocky shore. We used to jump off the dock and lie in the sun.”
“I have wished so many times that I knew you sooner,” I confess. “What would it have been like, if we’d been there together?” I venture.
One of my favorite things about Rigby and my relationship is that we both like sharing, and hearing about each other’s previous partners. Somehow it makes me feel part of his experience, in a strange time-traveling threesome of memory, I feel included in memories that were previously just his. He tells me about the first summer he lifeguarded, when he got together with a camper younger than him, and they made out in the summer darkness, in one of the hidden places, crossing boundaries of each other’s bodies and of camp rules. She recently reached out to him on Facebook; she’s married now, but asked if he remembered her, and said she remembered him fondly.
The shared age gap, the fact that she remembered him well, my regret about all I’d fallen into between high school and my divorce, makes me put myself in his story. I wish it could have been me.
We walk into the dark from the camp dance, music fading as we thread through the trees.
“Do you want to go to my bunk, Phoebe?” he asks.
Once there, we close the screen door behind us and kiss. He gently uses his tongue, penetrating the edges of my lips and tasting me. I don’t know quite what I want, but I know one word—“More.” I feel his hands on my waist, moving gently; I find my hands on his back, tracing and digging in turn, while he moves his lips to my ear, my neck.
He steps back to look at me. “You doing OK?”
Glazed, I look at his gentle, laughing, blue eyes. “Yes. Kiss me more.”
He leans in with more intensity, kissing deeper now, letting his hands explore to my bra strap, and down just beneath my waistband. I put my hands at his waist, teasing the edge of his t-shirt up so I can feel bare skin, stroking his back again and pulling him toward me, feeling the heat and the hardness of his erection. I don’t think, instead, I pull his shirt up, and he automatically lifts his arms over his head. He looks at me again as the shirt comes off over his head, and grins with a sparkle in his eyes. He takes my face in his hands and kisses me gently, while my hands explore his ribs, up to his nipples; tiny hard points.
I feel his finger tracing my collarbone then dip down, running over the surface of my tank top and thin bra. I stiffen with anticipation—this will be the furthest I’ve gone with a boy. All my life, my nipples have just been sensitive skin, sometimes painful. Suddenly, they have connections straight to my clitoris; all three are electrical pleasure centers. “More,” I think, and I realize he has moved back to watch my face, and that my eyes have closed and my hands have frozen on his chest as he traces my chest’s small curves with his fingertips. I grin, and shyly pull my shirt over my head. He looks at me, now in bra and shorts, and his eyes sparkle again. “I take it that feels good?” he says, nearly laughing at the fun of my eagerness.
His hands are back on my nipples, now only through my bra, and he kisses me gently and again leans back to look at my face. “Do you want to sit on my bed?”
I take his hand and back up to sit down on his narrow camp bed. He sits next to me, and kisses me again, gently, while his hand traces from my shoulder, down my collarbone, then along the my bra’s sloped edges. I am breathing shallowly, and he is listening to my breath and my body as he feels my skin tingle under his touch. I have lost focus on him, though I keep a hand stroking the skin of his back mindlessly to anchor myself in space, the way a soccer goalie might reach back and touch the goalpost while watching the play at the other end of the field.
I whisper, “Take off my bra.”
He gently touches my shoulders and turns me slightly away from him so he can see the clasp. His fingers fumble for a moment, and I feel the back let go, and the shoulder straps slump. He ever-so-slowly pushes the shoulder straps toward the edges of my shoulders until they fall off my arms to my elbows, and I wiggle out of them. His hands rest flat on my back a moment, stroking gently in widening circles, until he reaches around my ribs and slowly pulls me to him, palms soothing over my electric nipples. He kisses the back of my neck, and my head slumps forward; I am boneless, held, secure, and wanting.
As his palms begin to move, slowly and lightly, over my breasts, my own hands find purpose again, reaching back to his knees, thighs. We are both in shorts only, our flipflops lost on the floor. I turn to him, needing his lips again.
He again leans back a moment, looks at my eyes. I am looking back in his eyes, open, reaching toward him. He leans onto his back and pulls me onto him; we no longer have four feet on the floor, but only his one foot, and I am lying on him, kissing him, chest to chest, while one of his arms steadies me on top of him and the other hand explores a breast, circling the nipple and grazing it. I shudder with pleasure when he hits my nipple, and he laughs. “Sorry,” he says, and I laugh back: “No you’re not.”
This is new territory for me, and I am shaking slightly with nervous excitement and want. I don’t know what’s next. I know we can’t have sex—I haven’t done that yet, and even my most rebellious self sees this as too young to start. But we have hands. And Rigby is gentle, and kind. Whatever we do will be safe.
He rolls me off him, next to him, and traces my breasts with his hands, dipping down my stomach. He is watching my face, and I am watching him, trusting and craving more. His hand pauses near my navel, palm resting, and he inches his fingers under my waist band. “May I touch you here?” he asks.
“Yes,” I half-whisper, not trusting my full voice.
He uses his wrist to stretch my shorts down slightly and his hand inches lower. I feel his fingertips in my pubic hair, and back up, and then down again onto my outer lips. I can feel him watching me, but my eyes are closed. I don’t know what’s next, but “More” is the closest thing to a word in my brain.
He inches his fingers down my labia and dips inward for a moment. I feel the slide of him hitting smooth skin inside, and then he glides up to my clitoris with a wet finger.
He leans in and kisses my cheek, and down to my nipple. He licks my nipple, and takes it gently in his lips, and I arch my hips up to push his finger inside me again. My hips find a rhythm, and he keeps light pressure in the oval he draws from clit to entrance and back. I find one of my hands drawn to the hard heat at his groin, and when I grasp gently around his penis through his shorts, I hear his indrawn breath, but he keeps tracing my wetness to my clitoris. I am breathing heavily, and then holding my breath, aching for something, and the word “more” finally swells and explodes in my brain as the pressure builds and then pulses into waves of release.
When I open my eyes, his hand is still on and in my wetness, feeling aftershocks. He is smiling at me, and I laugh at the surprise of seeing him. “Oh. my. God.” I say. “Wow.”
“So, you liked that?” he asks, smiling still, as he clearly knows the answer.
“Holy shit, yes.”
I watch the happiness in his face change shape and direction as I tease my fingers at his waistband. He’s wide-eyed, still smiling, and curious at what I will do. I don’t quite know, myself, but I know I want to touch him, to feel him shudder and gasp and feel that same joy.
And soon he does, with gratitude and surprise.
And then he walks me back to my cabin, where I slip into the chatter of my bunkmates back from the dance, smiling dreamily.
I find myself looking longingly at Rigby. We’re both nearly laughing, looking in each other’s eyes, between kisses. My arms are around his shoulders, and my legs wrapped around him; he’s holding me in shoulder-deep water; I feel him hard against me through our swimsuits. Children splash and laugh several yards away, their mother’s voice in the background of their play.
Once out of the water, we go out to dinner, and then I leave to teach an evening class and he drives home to prepare for morning meetings. At 48 and 51, we don’t have a curfew, though our dates are limited by our jobs and our own teenaged children. But the next night, I drive to his place, and we undress and take our time with each other’s bodies. Neither of us are in the same shape we were as teenagers, and we never did get to see each other’s bodies then. The body he has right now is the one I get to know, and one of my favorite things is waking up next to him, and remembering what his body felt like against and inside mine, just a few short hours before.
But still, I have a pretty good idea of what it would have felt like, if we’d known each other then.