Sunday, 13 April 2008

On taking dares.

    I'll shove your head under water
    but I won't ever let you drown

The day I met Ben it was sunny and warm. He was sitting in front of an unlit campfire, guitar in arms, singing at the top of his lungs. A cool song, an original song. It sounded good. It was grungy and harsh and soft all at the same time. It was deep.

He was adorable. Dark. Pale. Gothic metal guy. Cute (shhhhh, Christ.). When he got to the end I clapped, having plunked myself down across from him to listen to the rest while Cole went off in search of deadwood with Christian. He smiled and introduced himself and I told him my name and said he had a beautiful voice. He said thank you as if it were something he heard many times a day, a confidence evident in his abilities that he keeps so far removed from his personality it's as if he has two men trapped in one body. He told me he knew who I was, that Cole spoke of me often and that they worked together, though Ben was leaving for a new job soon. He said he hoped he'd be a good camping friend, proving his thoughtfulness right off the bat, as if you've ever been on a group camping trip with people who just don't mesh, it can turn a fun long weekend into a never-ending agony in which the minutes tick by.

It's funny how that part turned out actually. When it comes to travel, Ben is incredibly forgetful, especially with big ticket items like, oh, passports. He never ever forgets his guitar. Always has the guitar.

It was hot that day, oppressively so and we had all retreated to the shade to try and stay cool, drinking beer, being silly, while Cole and Ben and Mark entertained with songs and trading leads and telling stories. Finally the sun went down and everyone had grouped off, some talking by the fire, some exploring the shoreline, some in tents talking or reading.

I wanted to swim, wanted to remove the stickiness of the day, the bug spray, the sunscreen, the sweat. I told Cole I was going and asked if he wanted to join me. He didn't but Ben did and so we agreed to meet at the water in ten minutes. I was back in five in my bikini and he came along a couple beats later, in board shorts and a t-shirt. I asked him what the t-shirt was for and he said modesty. We laughed and he took it off. He had a perfectly smooth chest with nicely defined, thick muscles without being obvious. Natural strength.

He went in first and held his hand out for me to follow on the rocky bottom. We got out up to my neck and he stopped, the water barely mid-chest on him. We swam around each other in circles, talking and floating and diving and then all of the sudden it was dark. Super-dark. We could see the campfire lit from shore and Ben asked if I wanted to take a dare.

I pointed out foolishly that I have never failed to make good on a dare, a comment he never forgot again in his life.

He dared me to skinny dip, his eyes flashing.

I said I would if he did. He laughed and said he probably wasn't nearly as impressive.

I asked him what he meant, and he said he never saw a girl less self-conscious in a bikini. I pointed out everyone had the same parts to cover. He asked if I minded when people stared. I said no.

He held up his shorts.

Okay, fine. I untied the strings and held up my two piece.

He let out a surprised laugh. We weren't self-conscious with each other in the least.

He, well, he was impressive. Do I need to elaborate? I guess there are things I never forget too. (He has since read this and pointed out he must be twice as awesome, since cold lake water tends to have the wrong effect on things such as that. I would have to agree there.)

We continued to swim around each other and talk. Cole came down to the water and grinned and told me it was time to come in. Ben swam over to me and grabbed my bikini and threw it to Cole. I tried to retaliate but only served to get dunked and Ben went in to shore. About waist-height he pulled his shorts back on and then joined Cole and they exchanged a few words and had a laugh at my expense and then I asked Cole to throw back my suit so I could come in. He refused and they laughed again. I said fine and I came in anyway, Ben watching every step I took, Cole watching Ben. When I passed Cole I told him thanks a lot and I grabbed my suit. I struggled back into the wet suit and we returned to the campfire and he brought out a towel and tried to make it up to me.

I didn't realize his brain was already in motion.

An hour later Ben announced that his tent was at home because it wasn't here. Cole wasted no time, inviting him to sleep with us, even though I pointed out Chris brought a two-man and they could bunk together, couldn't they? Cole told me not to be so fucking uptight and Ben waited until we were settled and then Cole abruptly put me in the middle, saying that he would have more room and it would be less weird if I was in between them.

And that night I slept. I didn't think I would but I slept between them all night and when I woke up I had four arms around me and Ben was wedged in behind me so tight I think I might have known his middle name before I had to ask. Cole woke up and grinned and asked me if I slept well. I'm almost sure now that Cole was definitely grooming Ben for something more when I left him and long before that, and that's why Ben felt so slighted, jilted when I left Cole for Jacob and subsequently vetoed the great polygamist plan of 2007 or whatever the hell he was up to.

And I failed to notice my friendship with Ben was strangled by his feelings because I was too busy chasing angels.

The goofiest part about the whole thing was every single camping trip since that one, Ben has forgotten his tent on purpose. And I still have never missed a dare. I'm taking one tomorrow, actually, so there might not be an entry. I'll be back Tuesday to tell you all about it.