So I was sipping my hot chocolate,
waiting, idly noting the arrivals and departures,
pretty well ignoring the four teenage girls
gabbing, giggling, at the next table,
when the whole chemistry of the place changed:
a good-looking young guy sauntered in,
gave one of the girls a quick wave,
stepped up to the counter to give his order.
He glanced quickly around the room,
gave a girl at the table a quick grin.
The air seemed to return to the table beside me
as the girls started chattering, not asking.
He approached the table, all skinny sixteen
years of casual sociability, debonairly clutching
his coffee. He had worn a wet bathing suit all day
he said. It stank he said because he had thrown it
into a heap with his towel and left it in his locker
for a couple of days, so he was uncomfortable wearing it
because it was cold, but not see-through like a girl’s.
It was here that I tuned out, overloaded.
I tried to picture myself in that situation
at that age. I couldn’t see myself with
enough confidence to address a full table of girls
at that age, nor would I have talked about my
stinky crotch, nor would girls have worn
bathing suits that went transparent when wet.
When I was a kid, sex was too scary to talk about
except with other boys. Bathed in that fount
of misinformation, we kept our distance except
in simple one-on-one disarming combat.
And, sadly, transparent bathing suits had neither
been invented nor worn. But that was then
and this was at the next table.