They called it Rock Creek, but really, it was a lake. And on a hot summer’s day in 1984, we drove out to it. I didn’t know the way, but fortunately, you navigated and I drove. You were working at the library in town. And I was coming around to see you. We only had several days together before I needed to return home to St. Louis, so we wanted to make the most of it.
Swimming seemed like a good and efficient use of our time. I, in my pink one-piece swimsuit. Still svelte in those days. Puffy material. Made me feel just a tad too feminine, but you liked it.
You, in your purple and green one-piece. Your favorite colors. My favorite person. We walked out into the lake. A few people were milling around, but not many. It was a weekday in Iowa. It was a perfect day.
You said the water would be clear, but all I remember is how my feet sank slightly into the sodden bottom. We laughed at our movements. Heavy, as though weighted down. Frolicking, you tossed water into my face. But not so much like children do. Like children. Like lovers. You couldn’t tell the difference, I think.
Did we look like a couple or just a couple of young women friends? I don’t know. No one bothered us. We stood more than swam. It was not really a swimming pool. We’d swum together before, in college. But even then, we paused. Your hair, so gorgeous and brown, wet behind your neck. Me, supposedly attractive and definitely cheerful.
You always made me cheerful.
After a while we wallowed out of the water—not because we were mired down or heavy, but because the bottom, that soggy and sodden bottom, was holding us back. Now I wish we had stayed in that water, even if for a little more time.
We made our way onto the beach. A bee stung me. It made me scream. You sympathized. There was nothing we could do. But in a few minutes the pain had subsided. And I was still with you.
Clouds were above. Yet the sunlight made it a clearly sunny day. You suggested we get our towels and packages and take a walk farther towards the woods. I complied. Sandals on and my foot only a little stung by the bee, we wandered toward our destination, which was a glade.
Soon we sat down on our towel. The thoughts turned amorous. Being twenty and in love, our thoughts would turn in that direction. We’d made love outside before. Each time made me nervous. But now it seemed more relaxing. And it seemed right.
But before we could begin kissing we heard them. Boys in the distance. They didn’t take note of us. Or if they did, they didn’t interrupt us. But the spell was broken. We would take the long ride back to your dilapidated apartment on the wrong side of town before we would touch again.
Back at the apartment, with our swimsuits on your wooden floor, my key chain on your nightstand, the wind blowing through your tie-dyed curtain, the Orange pillow on the bed, and a Prince’s poster on your wall, we touched again.
It wasn’t a long day, but it was the best day. It was the best day of my life.
Ruth Marner is a freelance writer. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.