“Nightswimming” by R.E.M. from Automatic for the People
In the distance I could hear the familiar sound of a fish breaking the surface of the lake, no doubt looking to feast on a low flying bug. I was surprised how familiar the sound was. It had been years since I sat on this porch, years since I watched the sunset over the lake.
Two teenagers ran by down the dock and leapt in, an awkward mix of pinwheeling legs and arms, peels of laughter and declarations of “it’s sooooooo cold!” dancing on the summer air. Inevitably, my mind went back to my teens. More specifically, my mind went to Brenda.
The August heat. Her slipping out of her clothes in the lengthening shadows, daring me to do the same. Trying not to stare at her but wanting so desperately to see her naked. Worried what she’d think of me, but hoping she would look. Glancing one more back at the summer house, making sure the lights of my parents’ room were still off.
Then we were in the water together. The startling cold quickly being erased by the surprisingly still tenacious humidity and her body drawing close to mine. I can’t remember who kissed who first. I imagine it was her, I always a bit of a scaredy cat back then. But I know once we started, I did not hold back. It was my hands that found her breasts first, I know that for certain. She was never one to back down from a challenge though, so she escalated next, her fingers grazing up my legs, between my thighs…inside me.
My eyes snapped open and I looked back to my family’s cottage in the distance. Part of me, strangely, wished to see my dad on the shore. I did not want to get caught. I did not want to get in trouble. But if he did catch me…if he knew…at least I wouldn’t need to say the words.
That idea disappeared quickly as her lips found mine again, as I lost myself to the moment. As we lost ourselves to each other.
I sigh. I sit back against the hard back of the rocker. Even now, I try to resist going back all those years. The memories are too thrilling, too wonderful and thus, paradoxically, too painful. They’re heavy with the pain that followed, the missed opportunities, the failure to realize their dreams.
There was college. Brenda’s family’s hard time meaning they didn’t come to the lake that next summer. There was Eric. The revelation that there was a term for who I was, for how I loved. “Bisexual.” The relief of that. Followed by the shame when I heard people call it fake, just a way to make being gay easier, just a way to get boys’ attention.
Me hiding it. Burying it deep. Finally admitting it in a rush, practically screaming. Eric’s understanding. Their marriage. The kids. The cancer. The funeral.
I loved Eric. I loved Brenda. I miss them both.
“Sarah, you gonna show me how to swim or not?” a voice breaks my reverie. My new fiancée. They smile at me, a challenge on those lips, in those eyes.
I take off running after them. It turns out I can’t turn down a challenge anymore either.