The Treehouse + The Cave

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005


In 1994, early summer, I had been living in West Virginia for 5 months. For being the new kid (which I remained even years later, and remain to this day when I return) I'd had great success finding like-minded peers, though they were not yet friends.

On a Friday night, one I expected to spend in front of the television with my family, I got a call, my mom covering the lower portion of the receiver with her palm and bellowing "And, phone." It was a girl named Laura, the most social of my new crew, and the one hell-bent on assimilating me as quickly as possible. She and maybe 6 other kids were heading to Jacob's to swim and smoke cigarettes, she wanted me to come.

I don't recall whether I managed to ask my parents for a ride, or whether Laura and her father went out of their way to collect me. I'm guessing that it was the latter. When I arrived, everyone expected was there and already strutting about comfortably in their bathing suits. I dropped my things in the the kitchen, exchanging a few words with his still united parents before I was beckoned, through plate glass, towards the pool.

Still not entirely calm in the presence of my new friends, I took my time removing my shirt, placing my flip-flops side by side and neatly draping my towel over the edge of a planter or chair. I said my hi's, slipped into the pool and gravitated towards whichever person I had shared the most words with thus far (getting distracted along the way by the self-propelled cleaning apparatus clinging to the pool wall like a lamprey).

After maybe 15 minutes of small talk, probably about Kurt's suicide and what could possibly come after, the rest of the gang had grown tired of the wide space between one another, and suggested migrating to the hot tub, a change that I had not anticipated. I immediately realized that their chief aim for the evening was not to cool off, nor even kill suburban time, but rather to flirt and hope for the occasional moment in which your submerged flesh touches the flesh of another, neither of which I was secure enough to appreciate.

Excited, they splashed out of the shallow end and I remained, saying something to the effect of "there's not enough room in there, you guys go ahead." Relieved to have escaped the anxiety I associated with flirtation and social subtext, I leaned backwards and floated on my back, letting them forget about me. I floated that way, happy to be alone, for hours, the bugs biting me only where they could. I was left with a clear coronal section delineated by the presence and absence of itchy wounds.

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