There's a place I know off the bike path near Alexandria, Ohio. You pull off, go down a tractor path through a bean field, then through a stand of sycamores and maples to a swimming hole in Raccoon Creek. I left my virginity there on August 17, 1976.
Of course, there wasn't a bike path then, just the tractor access from the road. Kids used to go there in the summer, but it was too small a bend in the creek to accommodate very many people. By August, when the water level was down anyway, most people had given up on it.
I'd been dating Lori for a couple of months at that point. We'd met while I was tutoring her through the statistics requirement for an Elementary Ed. degree at OSU Newark branch. After spring quarter ended, I attended her graduation and we started dating casually.
I was 19, and shy, she was 22, and worldly. That afternoon in August she'd suggested a swimming date, but when we got there she said she hadn't brought a bathing suit, did I mind?
I didn't really know what to do, except theoretically, and I mostly hid my surprise when her pubic hair wasn't trimmed the way the models in Playboy had theirs. I was eager, full of hormones, and the hot slippery wetness of her pussy on my cock was so much different and better than when I masturbated. I came too fast, and said I was sorry.
She said it was OK.
The radio played The Who as we drove back to Newark, Behind Blue Eyes. We got burgers and french fries at McDonald's on Mt. Vernon Ave. I had a chocolate shake, she had a diet coke, but bought a six of Bud at the carry out down the street afterwards. We drove up to one of the back parking lots in Horn's Hill park and drank it in the car with Led Zeppelin playing on my eight track to cover up the awkward silence.
The years spun different paths for us across the country, after that. School started for me the next month, just after it ended for her. Of course, we knew from our first date this was going to happen. I still cried after her car turned onto the main road as she was leaving, and there was no longer any chance that she might see me. She went to teach third graders in Missouri, and I went to OSU main campus to study engineering.
I wrote her a few times. She answered once. Then I met my wife and the letters stopped altogether. The wedding invitation I sent her came back marked, "No forwarding address."
Paths tend to be in loops. Fate's punishment for me was that I had a son just like myself, bright, but easily distracted and socially awkward. One October evening I went with him and my wife to the parent-teacher conference at his school. Without warning I found myself sitting beside my wife in a chair too small for an adult, across from the woman who took my virginity on a red plaid blanket spread on a gravel bank on a hot August afternoon twenty years before. I saw recognition flash in her eyes, but she professionally discussed my son's progress and challenges, and suggested organizational tactics for keeping him on task.
Afterwards, he took his mom to see the mural the class was painting in the cafeteria for Halloween, but I made an excuse to stay behind for a moment.
"You remember me, don't you," I said. It wasn't really a question, just an observation.
She looked over to the door, as if to check that it was closed. "Of course." she said. "How could I forget?" She gathered up my son's records and put them into a blue canvas briefcase on the floor beside her.
I smiled. "After this much time, there's not much to say," I said.
"After this much time, there's not much that needs to be said."
"There is one thing, though," I said. She looked up from her briefcase and I continued, "I just wanted to thank you for being kind. That time at the creek, it was my first time, you know, and it couldn't have been very good for you."
She smiled back at me. A sad smile, but a smile, none the less.
"I didn't know, but I'd guessed." She pulled a folder out of her briefcase, put it face down on the desk in front of her, and sighed. "We were so young then," she said. "I think back, and can hardly believe that I'm the person that lived though those memories." She looked down at the file on the desk in front of her and adjusted its position without opening it. "You were so sweet, so much the gentleman. I hated leaving you, but I knew it would never work out. It's best this way, a short, sweet affair." She looked back up at me. "I want to thank you as well," she said.
"Me?" I asked under raised eyebrows.
"Yes. After all this time, you're the only one that ever apologized for being quick."