Studio of Edwin & Marcia Ward

Friday, January 18, 2013

Atlantic Ocean Adventure

Atlantic Ocean Adventure

         Seven hours after meeting five harried young woman who need a tent to sleep in (I let them share mine) so as not be eaten alive by a freak plague of mosquitoes that has descended on Cape Hatteras, I awake to the coffee of my whispered name. Lucia likes to drag out certain words in her everyday speech, and already she has tenderized my name. The way her pout-y lips say my name is just so sexy. More than once some months from now I’ll call in sick and head north to visit her in the Village after hearing her say my name on the phone.

         “Eddie,” she is lisping in her North Jersey accent. “Eddie . . . Eddie.”

         When I uncurl my cramped body – I mean there are five women and one man squeezed into my two man mountaineering tent - and turn to face her, she is kneeling and already out of her sleeping bag. She takes me by surprise with an unexpected quick, light kiss on my lips (the first I pray of many) and then she scats as would a skittish cat out of the tent. She is still dressed in long jeans and red flannel shirt with tails tied to expose her midriff – as she was when we met last night. Outside the tent, the faintest light of dawn is perceptible in the east toward which the tent’s opening faces. I notice the flap moves a bit with a breeze that seems to be coming from the ocean that lies perhaps a hundred yards away.

         I pop up to follow but the zipper of my sleeping bag snags Lucia’s youngest traveling companion Carolyn’s hair, and the tie-dyed recent high school graduate wakes to the tug of it. “Sorry,” I whisper, then un-snag her hair. She looks now even younger than she had last night, and her teenage bravado comes not into play. In that instant of awakening she seems for some coy reason embarrassed, perhaps just startled by the sight and proximity of my hairy bare chest.

         “I’m going swimming with Lucia. Do you want to swim with us?”

         “No thanks, I’m afraid of the water.  I don’t know how to swim. Anyway, I want to sleep ‘til noon.”

         I crawl out of the tent. Lucia is standing on the path at the top of the small series of dunes that separate the dry sand of the campground from the actual beach. Lucia turns and sees that I am on my way and then commences to remove first her shirt and next her shorts, underwear and all, in one deft out stepping of it. The sun which just then pops over the horizon back-lights her as only such scenes can be back lit. Then she disappears from view as she descends the other side of the dune.

         I race up the dune and scan all around to see if there isn’t anyone else up yet, anyone out walking, not out of shyness but out of caution as I had noticed the posted warning: No Nude Bathing, on the kiosk where I paid my camping fee the previous evening.

         I step out of my cutoffs and BVDs, leap seaward off the top of the dune, and run after Lucia as fast as I have ever run. She has fifty yards on me when I start after her, but by the time my feet first hit water I am but a dozen yards behind her. She dives into the waves and begins swimming out from the beach. I am but one wave behind her as I dive over the surf. Out past the breakers I catch up with her. Dog paddling, she has turned to face me. I swim like a baby to its mother, right up against her. Her breasts are buoyed by the buoyant salt sea. Her long hair lies on the water behind her, calamari-like. I kiss her tentatively on the lips and embrace her with both my arms. Of course, we sink under the water and have to let go of each other to regain the surface.

         We kiss again, this time using our arms and our feet to stay afloat. Only our lips and our tongues touch. We kiss like this for a minute or two, all the while staring intently into each other’s eyes, as if scrutinizing irises to determine each other’s ultimate intention, grading the effect of our kissing on each other’s pupils, their dilation.

         Suddenly Lucia’s eyes widen and reflect an immediate terror, as if she has just remembered something horrible, something quite contrary to the emotions of the moment. She pulls back and cries, “The beach! Look how far out we've come!”

         I turn around in the water and instantly understand the panic I saw in her eyes. We are a good half mile out and quite north of the campground which is receding quickly.

         We both start swimming hard – with survival in mind - toward where we had entered the surf. We soon realize, however, that we will make better progress if we swim toward the beach at an angle northward. Believe me, the terror of our situation is real.  The water behaves differently sixty miles offshore than it does where it meets the mainland. Even as we make our way toward the cape, the area of water that we progress in moves independent of our efforts away from land. With each advance west, we drift north. There’s no time now for anything but strong swimming and after intense effort we are back to the swell of the waves just east of the breakers. I swim next to her and touch her shoulder with my hand. She turns her head and looks at me. From under the water her hand finds its way to my chest. She holds me at arms length for a moment and then turns sprinting freestyle toward the beach. We both catch the next wave and body surf the last thirty yards. We are adrenalized when we hit shore. Unfortunately we are almost a mile north of where we started. And naked. And between us and our clothes there are surely going to be people.

         By now the sun is a good twenty degrees above the horizon and high noon’s scorch and blaze and bake are augured in the warmth that our wet white bodies suck out of the atmosphere. I’m strolling naked with a naked young woman along the beach of a dangerous shore. Many are the people who have drowned in this area. Lucia and I, ourselves, separate yet together, just underwent a test of our strengths and our mutual luck, perhaps a test of our stupidity, and abreast of one another we have passed. Running Bear and Little White Dove maybe wind up not drowning after all; maybe they just move further up-river, much the same way that we had drifted north along the cape. Lucky we are that we hadn’t been part of a volume of water rolling eastward.

         A threesome, I assume they are a family of husband, wife and daughter, approaches us from the south. A white sheep dog makes passes at the waves while bounding in front of them. It’s fetching a frisbee the child is throwing.

         Lucia is still walking toward them, perhaps unaware of her own nakedness, although I’m sure like me she is as aware of mine as I am of hers. It’s extraordinary and not often one gets to walk naked with someone they’ve just met, having just survived some Poseidon misadventure, except, perhaps, when the name of the game is love quest, at stake, the rule-less worship betwixt lovers, the whole kit and caboodle, marriage and the baby carriage, fire, liar, co-conspire, rattle them random the odds about this.

         As we draw close to the family, I bump and direct Lucia toward the water. It’s not that I don’t want them to see me, I just worry about being hassled, after all, it is some US Department of Something sanctioned campground. It isn’t a nudist colony.

         “Lucy, Lucy, Lucy, . . . let’s just hang in the water and let them pass by. I promise I’ll keep my feet on the bottom.”

         As the family passes by us we stand, in the raging surf, our feet sinking first this way then that in the sand, slammed up against one another, kissing again, this time with more than our lips touching. From a short distance past us, the wife looks back and waves as if inured and used to seeing naked people kissing in the surf. A lot of people are up ahead now so we fight the undertow and surf the last half-mile as we progress south, waist-deep in the water, to the area of the campground. It isn’t so much that the water hides our nakedness, it is just that we remain distanced from the beachcombers and dog walkers, the distance a function of our growing awareness of our physical selves, our animal selves, the attraction of each to each.

         Eventually we get back to the vicinity of where we think we left our clothing and casually stroll the last hundred yards across the open beach to retrieve it. We ascend the dune and step smack into the plain view of dozens of people who are stirring below us in the campground, watching the dawn, going toward and from the john, just lounging, boiling water for coffee, and other early-morning campground things.  We’ve stepped naked onto an elevated stage of anyone looking eastward, as most are. And our clothes are gone, or so we think, until Lucia spots the red of her flannel shirt some distance away, on a further dune, on the other side of the trail from the campground to the beach. Perhaps perked by the titillation of exhibitionism, we saunter slowly down one dune and up the next, dress on top of the hill as casually as if we are putting on hats, and zigzag our way in the direction of my tent. I walk aside Lucia, not hand in hand or anything like that, for it is as if we know our acts together only mean something to us. Prior to this morning I have never been naked in such a public way. An appreciation for the lifestyle of hot springs and hot tubs will come later.

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