tagErotic CouplingsThe Washing

The Washing

bySolarRay©

Dedicated to all those who enjoy a little soapy fun...

***

Mark sat at his desk by an open window. The warm summer breeze drifted through as if attempting to lure him away from any intellectual pursuits. A series of books and one empty page of a notebook lay sprawled out before him. He tapped his pen against the blank white page, but the drumming of his writing instrument did little to distract him from his restless thoughts.

Although the new semester had already started, there was technically still a month left of the waning summer. Students everywhere were taking advantage of the late season weather to get in a few last days of sunbathing, swimming at the nearby lakes, as well as lots of backyard drinking. The parties were only just beginning to wind down. However, Mark spent most of his time indoors and buried in books, trying to sort things out for himself academically.

Mark's roommate, Trevon, strolled in and attracted his attention.

"Looking dapper!" Mark exclaimed, thankful for the brief interruption from his studies.

"Right?" replied Trevon.

He spun clockwise on the soles of his feet and fixed his collar, then gave his wrist a flick to show off his watch. Its shiny face briefly splashed a reflection across Mark's eyes. With a smirk, Trevon tucked his hands into the pockets of his pants and struck a quick pose, as if strutting on a red carpet for the paparazzi.

"Gotta look sharp, you know? Looking to start a little somethin' with Shayna..." he added.

"Do it, man. You got this," Mark said with a grin. They fist-bumped.

"You sure you don't wanna come?" Trevon asked, letting his jaunty pose soften suddenly.

"Naw, I'm gonna get some work done. I'll probably get some dinner at the Canteen. Maybe I'll stop by later, I dunno."

Mark wasn't interested in letting on about his true state of mind. As a transfer student, he was still trying to find his way. Freshman year back in Chicago had not gone so well. He couldn't decide which classes to take or which circle of friends to join. Worse, the city itself simply created too many distractions. He finally came to the decision that his indecisiveness was the result of the school not being the right fit, so he went elsewhere.

Halfway through the school year he transferred to Mount Wilson University, a rural liberal arts institution surrounded by the Central Mountains of Vermont, which promised him a uniquely beautiful environment, terrific skiing in the colder months, and a greater ability to focus on big decisions he would soon have to make about the course of his life. Taking the place of Trevon's equally confused ex-roommate, Mark had just enough time to inherit a new circle of friends before summer break, during which he worked as quickly as possible to get some sense of direction with his studies.

"Well, suit yourself," Trevon sighed, before returning a spring to his step. "Wish me luck!" he then exclaimed, his lips starting to curl at the edges.

"We both know you don't need it."

Trevon laughed. "Well, you know how it is... You got no advantage out here in Vermont. Folks like me are still a novelty around these parts!"

Mark laughed as he watched his roommate head out of the room with a swagger he wished he had himself.

As much as Mark suffered from academic indecisiveness, the same was not true about girls. He knew in an instant who he liked, who was right for him, and whether he was right for her. And that girl's name was Brooke.

Trevon had introduced them during just his second day on campus. Ever since then, she'd been winding her way deeper and deeper into his subconscious. Brooke was effortlessly confident, exceptionally intelligent, and commanded attention the moment she entered a room. Mark was in awe of the way she didn't seem the least bit daunted by most things. He wanted to get to know her better, to connect on every level, to be the one person she revealed her deepest thoughts and feelings to.

Unfortunately, Brooke was also taken.

***

As dinner rolled around, Mark wandered down the path through campus that led to the Canteen where students from all over often congregated for dinner. He had somehow worked himself up into a semi-productive state and was anxious to end his study session on a high note.

Mark's tray landed on the counter with a loud slap, then he slid it along the various protein options laid out across the salad bar. After loading his plate up with food, he made his way to the wide-open seating area to scan for anyone he knew. He heard laughter; familiar laughter, which echoed across the room to greet his ears. In an instant, he knew who it belonged to. Brooke was seated nearby at the end of a table, sharing a meal with several of their classmates.

Mark observed her as he approached; bold, confident, and headstrong. As she completed the punchline of an amusing anecdote, Brooke's eyes darted over to catch his arrival. As the laughter died down, so too did her vivaciousness. Mark often enjoyed observing her from afar, because she had recently developed a tendency to slip into a self-conscious, quieter state the moment he arrived. Room was immediately made for him and the mutual friends he shared with Brooke welcomed him to the table.

Brooke was highly spirited, tall, and slim, with a beautiful smile and piercing blue eyes. Her hair was dark underneath, giving way to a thin outer layer that crossed through the full spectrum of blonde, just barely reaching a pure golden state at the surface as it reached the sunlight. Mark loved the fact that she was a little bit intellectual, a little bit free-spirited hippie, and a little bit goofball, all wrapped into one. Strangely, Brooke was inexplicably tied up with John Maguire, a frat guy that acted as arrogantly and entitled as he was undeservedly good-looking. This relationship didn't seem to jive with everything else Mark knew about Brooke, and he couldn't understand it. But Mark was patient and he counted the days until he had his chance with her.

"That's funny!" his classmate Gavin was saying. "I'd like to see him try to do the same thing at one of the Washings!" Mark's female classmates started to laugh.

"Oh! That reminds me--" Brooke interjected. "Is everyone else Washing? Ours is on Wednesday." She briefly glanced in Mark's direction but quickly looked away the moment he noticed.

"I'm going with Melody at James' place," someone chimed in.

"We're both going to Matt's," said some others.

"I'm not going to anyone's this week-- but I'll be at the one on Friday!" added another.

Mark began to eat, listening to his friends excitedly respond to Brooke about their plans for something during the week ahead. It was all lost on Mark. He assumed it must be some school tradition he had missed freshman year. He couldn't help but feel that there was a lingering expectation that he'd offer his own answer to Brooke and she seemed strangely disappointed that he remained silent.

"I don't have one yet, can I join you guys?" Crystal asked.

"Sure! Are you bringing Adam?"

"Yeah. Thanks!"

"Awesome! There are about a dozen of us so far, then," Brooke explained.

Mark began to feel left out, being clueless about the matter, but didn't want to reveal his ignorance in front of the group, so he remained quiet until the conversation turned to other matters and he could join in. The mysterious discussion about the Washing had successfully gone in one ear and out the other, and he soon forgot all about it.

***

Monday morning gave way to afternoon and Mark soon hit a wall. Feeling the lack of energy kick in, he made his way to the campus coffee shop to grab another pick-me-up before his next class. He approached the barista.

"Large black coffee, please," he mumbled.

"Hey Mark," said a soft voice from behind. He turned around and felt the instant, awkward tingle of sexual tension. Brooke was standing directly behind him with a slight smile.

"Oh! Hi Brooke. I-- uh... was just getting a coffee. Can I get you something?"

"Yes!" she explained. "The same."

"Make that two," said Mark. The barista nodded.

"Thanks. That's sweet of you," Brooke said.

"No problem," said Mark, stepping to the side to await their order. There was nervous silence for a few moments.

"So..." said Brooke, "How's your day going? Err... morning."

"I tripped over myself trying to get my pants on and naturally missed landing on my mattress by a good six inches. Which, of course, is why I'm here getting coffee. -- Honestly, not that bad for a Monday!"

"At least you remembered to put them on at all!"

They both started laughing. Mark was relieved the tension broke slightly and they might soon find themselves in the normal flow of conversation.

"Two large black coffees," said the barista, passing them to Mark over the counter.

"Thanks."

Mark handed Brooke her coffee and they strolled over to the window together to stand at a small counter. He noticed that Brooke seemed to be negotiating something in her head.

"By the way," she said, apparently deciding to go through with whatever she had been hesitantly considering. "I don't think I actually heard your answer last night at dinner... Have you joined a group for the Washing yet?"

The conversation he'd overheard the evening prior came flooding back into his mind after he had since forgotten all about it. He found himself just as unprepared to comment on the topic that they discussed.

"What is that, anyway?" Mark asked. "I remember you talking about it with everyone else, but I actually have no idea what the Washing even is..."

Brooke suddenly lowered her coffee from her lips and widened her eyes. "Really?!" she exclaimed, genuinely surprised.

"Yeah... I guess I missed the boat on that," he replied with mild embarrassment. "Being a transfer student is weird," he admitted. "I feel like I'm clueless about a lot of stuff."

"Oh, right..." said Brooke, trailing off into a strange silence.

Mark wondered if he'd done something wrong, as Brooke began to shift nervously. He raised an eyebrow. Now he was suddenly curious what the Washing was all about, given the way she was acting.

"It's not a secret or anything, is it?" he asked nervously.

"Oh! No... it's just... I wasn't prepared to explain..." Brooke laughed nervously at herself as if embarrassed that she was showing any sign of anxiety in front of him. Mark was more than conscious of the fact that she seemed increasingly not herself around him. He watched her face as it turned a slightly rosy color. She stared down at her coffee for a moment, before taking a decisive and sudden look directly into his eyes and offering her explanation.

"So-- the students at Mount Wilson have this annual ritual, toward the start of each school year. It... uh... I don't know how to explain..." she began. Mark waited patiently with a nervous smile forming on his face. "You know how some schools hold an annual naked run? When everyone streaks through the library or through campus or something?"

Mark gulped. The butterflies immediately started swarming in his gut. Mark had seen the videos... He nodded to her.

"Well, this is our version... basically. Only it's more like a big group bubble bath, I suppose." She gave a nervous laugh and looked down at her coffee again. If it weren't for the fact that what she had just told him was so shocking, he would have been able to dwell on how beautiful she looked casting her eyes downward with the small strands of hair gently falling over her eyes.

"Wait... You mean... How does that work?" he sputtered.

Brooke looked up at him in amusement, catching the look of bewilderment on his face. She seemed suddenly less embarrassed having seen his astonishment. The more he grew disoriented, she grew bolder.

"It's okay, I reacted the same way when I first heard about it," she laughed.

Mark began to chuckle nervously. "Yeah... but seriously though-- come again?!"

She grinned. "It's been going on for decades. We fill up buckets of water, get some soap and sponges, and hold a big bathing ritual where everyone scrubs each other down after reciting a series of affirmations."

"Affirmations?"

"Yeah. We purge everything we don't want to take into the new school year from the previous one. You know... bad grades, failed relationships, et cetera. It all gets washed away in a cleansing. Both physically and emotionally." Mark stared at her incredulously as she explained, trying to picture such a scene in his head. She continued, "Everyone holds their own Washings with their friends during the week. Then, at the end of the week, the whole school gets together on campus to hold one final mass Washing together, and we celebrate starting the year fresh."

"But... do you, like, wear bathing suits... or?" he asked, finding himself beginning to tremble.

She laughed and shook her head. "Um... no. I said it was sorta similar to a naked run... remember?"

"Oh... right..." said Mark, suddenly realizing he was revealing his nervousness to her. She gazed at him with a curious, amused expression, as if she found his embarrassment adorable. He felt himself panicking, developing the need to say something to get past his dumb question. "You're brave to go nude. I'm sure all the guys are more than eager to ogle," he added. "Doesn't that make you uncomfortable?"

She took another gulp of her coffee. "Sometimes..." she said with a shrug. "But usually not. Besides, as much as the guys enjoy seeing the girls naked, I think they're more uncomfortable about being nude than we are."

"Really?" he said, surprised to hear her say that.

Brooke put her coffee down and waved her hands in front of her as if she was about to explain something important. She had that feisty, philosophical air about her that Mark loved so much. Whenever there was potentially a debate to be had, she got like this. The problem was, she was always so sensible that Mark was left nodding dumbly in agreement, too much in awe of her to add anything to the conversation.

"Yeah-- see, here's my theory," Brooke started. "The guys? They put on a big show, but they're actually incredibly insecure about getting naked due to the risk of being caught standing there in front of all the girls, standing right beside the guy with the bigger dick." Mark chuckled. "Which, of course, is absolutely ridiculous," she added, rolling her eyes. "But that's just how guys are."

Mark nodded.

"Now the women, on the other hand... society holds us to a higher standard of physical attractiveness. We're constantly under a microscope. Constantly being judged, rated, criticized for our bodies. We're made to feel shame all the time, so we end up taking fewer risks. The free expression of ourselves, the ability to be open about our bodies, to celebrate who we are and what we look like without being judged, shamed, called a slut... that's an avenue frequently closed off to us."

"Right," Mark said.

"But not during the Washing," Brooke concluded. "Every year us women can come together in support of one another and take charge of our bodies, to reveal them without shame. It becomes a source of pride in our womanhood. It's freeing to be naked together in public. It's cathartic. For a lot of us, it's the one moment where we can finally let go and purge ourselves of the constant struggle we undergo on a daily basis."

As usual, Mark found himself admiring her insights.

"To see all of humanity as the same-- naked, insecure, vulnerable... That's a healthy, humbling experience for everyone to have once in a while. Somehow, in doing so, one ends up feeling safe in our mutual embrace of the challenge. It gives us all a way to move forward together."

Mark was smitten. Brooke was everything he wanted in a woman: thoughtful, capable, witty, beautiful, the whole package. His fierce attraction cursed him with an embarrassing silence until he finally broke it with a meager statement. "That makes sense. I think it's great that you've embraced it then."

She smiled and nodded at him. For a moment, she appeared to be studying his face. His stomach was in knots.

"Anyway... um..." she continued, suddenly self-conscious of the fact that she'd just launched into an unexpected speech, "You're welcome to join us... for our Washing." Her nervousness seemed to be making a return.

"Oh... thanks--"

"It's on Wednesday. Just show up at around five o'clock."

"Okay... where is it?"

"D'oh, right-- it's at John's. At his frat house in the backyard..."

"Ah, okay," Mark said. The conversation was fully awkward again and his heart was racing. But why wouldn't it be? The girl he had a major crush on just asked him to join her at an event where they would take off all their clothes together and see each other naked. His body was surging with a complex mixture of raw arousal and intense fright.

"I'll see you there?" Brooke asked as if seeking proper confirmation.

"Yeah, absolutely," Mark said, still trying to recover.

"Great," she said with a small smile. "I'm looking forward to seeing you."

"Likewise," he said, returning the smile. He hoped that her admission was a Freudian slip and that the word "naked" belonged at the end of her statement.

"Okay... Um... I'd better get going before I'm late for class."

"Okay, go for it."

"See you later, Mark!" she said, smiling happily. She offered him a quick wave as she rushed out.

Mark waved back. The moment she exited he found the nearest seat and collapsed into it.

***

Mark made his way to Environmental Science, his first class of the day, and took his usual spot. Sipping on the last remnants of his coffee he watched the slow trickle of students file in, full of glazed looks and unwashed hair. After his earlier exchange with Brooke he found himself still coming down from a high; the potent mixture of hormones and caffeine. Mixed into the dispersing crowd he caught sight of Natalie, a mutual friend he shared with Brooke.

Natalie cast him a look from across the room and hurried toward him with her usual look of mild amusement. Mark always found her fun to be around. She was petite and feisty, with a raspy voice and a wisecrack perpetually at the ready. Natalie wore an old black t-shirt with a large yellow warning sign that read, "Slippery when wet." Her upper ear glistened with a row of piercings and her long, dark hair featured a vague ribbon of purple still lingering from a passing summer fancy.

"Hey there hot stuff," she chirped as she threw her bag down on the floor and collapsed into the seat beside Mark. She always had a twinkle in her eye when she saw Mark, but it was easy to dismiss. Natalie was just the type to flirt sarcastically with everyone.

"Hey, what's up?" he replied.

Natalie drew a long, deep sip from her own paper coffee cup as if inhaling it, then rocked her head to the side casually. "I didn't do the reading for class today," she admitted with a grimace.

"You didn't miss much..."

"I was up at Ryan's. He had some tasty cakes left in his stash and we finished it all off," she laughed as if recalling some inside joke.

"Oh, cool." Mark wondered where she got her infinite supply of energy first thing in the morning, always ready to babble excitedly about the events of her previous night or the latest gossip, as if she was already on her fourth coffee.

"Brooke was supposed to come but John held her up, and then she just bailed on me."

"Ah," Mark added with a grimace.

Natalie started laughing. "I know THAT look..."

Mark smirked. "What look?"

"J-E-A-L-O-U-S-Y."

"Well..."

"Well nuthin'. I know you've got it bad for her."

"Really?" Mark said, surprised he was apparently so transparent.

Natalie shot up straight in her seat, turned to face him squarely, and said with a mocking seriousness, "I don't know much about a lot of things, but I know pretty much everything about who likes who." She relaxed back into her seat and took another swig of coffee.

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bySolarRay© 11 comments/ 14530 views/ 25 favorites

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