I was on the dock, 'enjoying' the fifth freedom when I heard my name called. It was coming from a canoe pullling up.
I didn't have my contacts in. "Who is it?"
"Paul," came the reply.
I couldn't believe it. I instinctively crossed my arms and backed up.
"I want to talk to you for a minute."
I was incredulous. "Me?" What could he have to talk to me about? What was with this guy?
"Yes, just for a minute." It looked like he was going to get out of the canoe and come up on the dock so I jumped into the water as fast as I could.
I doggy paddled as he asked me if I wanted to go out with him that night. I responded sarcastically, "Go out? Go out where?"
He said, "Christy's." a bar and restaurant a couple of miles away that the other counselors had told him about.
My sarcasm was at its best when I asked, "And how would we get there?"
"I have a car," he said.
"You have a car?" I asked in disbelief. He nodded.
I put my head under the water letting this sink in. I had been out of cigarettes for two days. I had been at the camp with bad food and no friend for a week. Here was a chance to get cigarettes and get away - no matter how awful this guy was.
Music, food and beer. I pulled my head out of the water. "Okay, I'll go."
"I'll pick you up here at seven," he said and the canoe slid away.
It was my punishment to be sent to a camp in Vermont in the middle of nowhere in the summer of 1972. The Vietnam War was raging. It was a Quaker camp. And, of course, the camp believed in the fifth freedom.
He winked at me. I was pretty sure he winked at me. It was the first time the whole camp was together and as I looked around my eyes caught the eyes of the tall, handsome boy across the way looking at me. That's when he winked, I think.
I looked up to find him asking if he could sit next to me at lunch the following day. He didn't wait for an answer. I turned my back.
"Hi. My name's Paul. What's yours?" He asked as he sat down. I told him and turned away again.
"Are you a counselor?" he continued.
"No," I said testily. "I'm babysitting the headmaster's children. I figured that would end it. I was a lowly babysitter and he would leave me alone.
No chance. He could talk. Boy, could he talk. He told me he was the swimming and boating instructor at the boy's camp. Not that I cared. And then he said he had learned these skills at the military boarding school he had just graduated from.
I was stunned. "A military school! What in the world are you doing here?" I couldn't help but blurt out.
He shrugged, not knowing or seeing the larger picture. "I sent them an application and they accepted me."
Military school. That explained a lot. When lunch was over he said, "Nice talking to you" and patted my butt in military fashion. I did a double take.
"What a jerk," I thought. "This guy will make it at this camp for about a day."
Christy's was everything I had hoped for. It seemed like a piece of heaven after that camp. But as I sat down something came over me - and I'm still not sure whether it was guilt at using this guy or being scared to death of him.
"Paul," I said getting up, "I only used you for your car. To get cigarettes and get away from that camp. I'm not going to go to bed with you. We can leave now. I'm sorry."
He said softly, "That's okay." He said it again as he continued to sit.
"Paul," I said, "I just told you that I only used you for your car and I'm not going to go to bed with you. You don't have to be nice. We can leave now."
"Becky, would you sit down for a minute? Did you ever stop to think that I already figured out that you were only using me for my car? Did it ever occur to you that maybe I just wanted to get away from there too? I don't know anybody and you seemed nice so I asked you. Did you ever think that we could just sit here and have a beer and maybe become friends? I may have graduated from military school but that doesn't mean I'm a monster." He paused, "And I won't expect you to go to bed with me."
I sat down and we had a beer. And a second and a third. The evening is a dreamy haze to me. We talked, he talked and we listened to music.
I asked him why he went to military school. He shrugged and said his father had gone to Culver. His father was dead. He had died when he was very young. He was going to Dartmouth College in the fall and he wanted to be a doctor. He wanted to be a doctor for as long as he could remember.
He asked what I was doing here and I said it was my punishment for moving into an apartment in the 12th grade. My parents would only let me if I came to this camp and went to college in the fall. I told him I didn't know anybody else who was going to Hartwick College.
He said he had two friends from Culver who were also going to Dartmouth. I told him he was lucky.
A waitress passed our booth with plates of food that looked and smelled so good my eyes followed her. Paul asked me again if I didn't want something to eat. I told him I was out of money and the food was expensive.
"Becky, I have money. If you're hungry you should get something to eat. I'm hungry and it will help soak up some of this beer." He paused, "And I won't expect you to go to bed with me."
"Sorry about that." The food was wonderful. We closed the place. On the ride back he turned up the radio. "Becky, listen to this. This is good." We rode back in silence listening to Stairway to Heaven.
"I'll walk you back to your tent," he said as we got out of the car.
"No. It's late and a long walk. You'll walk right by your camp. You don't have to walk me back," I said.
"I'll walk you back." He would not be dissuaded. I gave up and quipped, "It must be that military background."
"Becky," he said, "would you stop with the military humor already?" I stopped.
"Becky," Paul asked me when he drove me home after camp was over, "Does your father always look at you like that?"
By the time we had walked the mile to my tent I was worried. He didn't look too good and he wasn't walking well. Perhaps the biggest sign of trouble was that he had been quiet for most of the walk. And he had to turn around and go back a mile to his camp. I was seriously worried.
"Paul, you can stay here with me - just to sleep. But you have to be very, very quiet and leave really early before anyone else wakes up."
I turned my back to him in the bed.
"Becky, can I hold you?" he whispered. "Please. "That's all. I just want to hold you. Please."
I don't know if it was the "pleases" that got to me or if it was just to get him to be quiet. "Just hold me right?"
He nodded. "I promise."
I turned around and he put his arms around me and put his head on my shoulder.
"What?" he asked.
"There goes the "I'm not going to go to bed with you," I whispered.
He laughed softly. Soon his breathing turned steady and after all that beer I figured he was asleep. I remember looking down at him. My arms would be much more comfortable around him than scrunched up at my sides. He looked kind of innocent and sweet. I put my arms around him.
He burrowed in a little tighter and said, "Night, Becky."
Jesus, this guy had been faking it. I said, "Night, Paul." We both fell asleep.
It's the only promise of that nature that I ever remember him keeping.
"Becky," Paul asked me over the phone during a break our first year at college, "Does your bedroom door have a lock on it?"
"No," I said. "You were here. You go through the middle room and up the steps. There's no lock."
"Why don't you put something on the steps to let you know if someone is coming?" he asked.
"Why should I do that?"
"Becky," he said, "why don't you just do it?"
"Okay," I said.
Part Two is here.