It’s fall and I drive through the winding countryside squinting slightly as the warm late afternoon sun hits the golden leaves. Suddenly I am brought back to a memory…
I was in college, a sophomore and coming into my own in many ways. At that age there are revelations almost every day, or at least what your 19-year-old mind thought was a revelation anyway, in its ever-changing and growing state. It was fall and like today the sun was radiantly shining, lighting the world aglow with the colors of the Berkshire trees. I had recently come to terms with my homosexuality and accepted it as something that was not going to change. Not that I wanted it to, but there was for me a certain definitiveness in which I decided that year to embrace my sexuality, even celebrate it. I had had sexual experiences by then, many nights of groping and touching, moaning and sighing, wishing, desiring, and getting. I knew already the physical sensations of being touched by another boy, but I wanted to know what it would be like to be touched by a man rather than a peer, someone who wouldn’t be as much exploring as showing me sex.
Living in the middle of nowhere coupled with being under the drinking age makes it difficult to meet gay men. Sure there were a few boys on campus to roll around with but they did not have the same appeal as an older man so I turned to where else but the Internet. I had been frequenting chatrooms since the tender age of 15 and was, as many of my generation, more versed perhaps in the ins and outs of online etiquette than in actual social interactions. I don’t recall how exactly I came upon “Jim”, but somehow we found each other and agreed to meet on a sunny autumn afternoon.
My dorm was a small house on the edge of campus, near a lake. We had agreed to meet at the parking lot by the lake. I vaguely recall Jim working at a car dealership and he was to meet me during a late lunch break, but honestly I’ve come to be weary of even my own memories. Creative minds have a proclivity to allow imagination to replace facts. Not that there is anything supremely sexy about meeting a car salesman, but there was a hint of Americana in a married 40-year-old car salesman that appealed to me.
I went to the lake before our appointed meeting and smoked a joint. I was high for most of my college days and meeting a stranger for a “walk in the woods” definitely called for something to take the edge off. I laid down on the grass by the tall reeds and spread my arms underneath me like a pillow and let the sun warm my face while feeling the gentle cold touch of the fall air. Eventually I heard a car swerve into the gravel parking lot, but I decided to just let Jim find me rather than make myself be known. Perhaps I was also getting cold feet. Jim found me however, and with the sun in my eyes I saw the silhouette of a man standing over me smiling. I smiled back and said hello and he extended his hand to help me up. He had a mustache and fine light brown hair. I cannot remember a word we exchanged if any before we took the path into the woods, Jim looking back every few yards to see if anyone was coming along.
Eventually we made it pretty far in to a spot that had a fallen tree that sort of served as a bench. I smiled at him, knowing that he must be dying with anticipation. For me, I was more thrilled than anything, the danger of walking alone in the woods for sex with a stranger titillated my teenage sensibilities more than it made me scared. He leaned in and started to kiss me, his mustache rough against the soft hairless skin of my upper lips. He tasted like coffee. Knowing we didn’t have time to waste he got down to business and unbuttoned my pants. I was soon in ecstasy. I have no idea how long we were there for, it could have been five minutes or twenty minutes but eventually we finished and he got up off his knees and brushed the leaves and dirt from his pants. He smiled at me and I smiled back buttoning up my jeans awkwardly trying to fit myself back into my underwear. He walked out ahead of me, not wanting to seem suspicious, so I lingered behind and watched him go. He didn’t turn around and I got tired of watching his back grow smaller and smaller so I turned my attention to a sparkling silver spiderweb woven on a nearby branch. I stood there and started counting the threads before I lost interest and decided I could head back as well, hands in my pockets whistling contentedly and quietly to myself.
I emerged from the woods not so much changed but perhaps just a little less innocent than before. I felt accomplished, knowing that here I was, master of my own universe and destiny. It is a powerful realization for a teenager to know that one can not only dream but take actions to turn those ideas into realities, whatever they may be. I looked back at the clearing in the woods at the edge of the parking lot where the trail began and laughed softly, knowing that I had added a small memory to those trees and leaves that afternoon. A secret that would fall like a withered leaf to the ground with the rustle of the wind.