I glanced down into the reflection of the evening-sky over the still waters. I watched the small wakes, created by my quiet splashing feet, cross the lake’s surface. They bent and warped the image in its progression away from me. I could’ve listened to my friends sitting on the other part of the pier but that didn’t interest me. I was content on focusing on the rippling mirror that lay before me. the group was probably getting the dirt on friends not present. That was of course the typical M.O. for my fellow classmates. They always had to know what the other absent members of their conglomerate group were doing. For some, it was drugs, others drinking. The rest would be thrown to the category of sex in a car… or a dumpster, depending on the quality of the member in question. Based on the shrill shrieks from the girls and the crude laughter of the guys, I assumed the discussion concerned sex. Rumors about a particular couple “doing it” in the science hall bathroom during the last day of school was the talk of the summer.
“Man, they sure must be cutting someone down to size,” said Brian, sitting up against a weather-worn wooden pillar next to me. He had looked up from his well-worn paperback copy of Jane Eyre.
“Yeah. There’s no doubt about that,” I answered. “They do it so often. It’s like they should make a podcast or something.”
“Yeah, they could call it The News-past”
Two of the girls in that group had created a school podcast, “The Newscast”, that was nothing more than a glorified sports section of a newspaper with an occasional bit about rumors the school had already heard. It was certainly low-hanging fruit for Brian. He was always making quips like that, and always at the right time. But Brian wasn’t like most smart-alecs. He
was very good at keeping most of the comments to himself, unless I was around. I suppose that Brian was somewhat of a introvert like myself. I figured this was why he enjoyed being his witty self around me, or the fact that I too had a good quip once in a while. Actually, I was better at noticing details more than anything. He always deduced some hilarity from my remarks. I simply stuck to metaphors and poetry. In fact, at that very moment I was actually thinking of a few lines about the ripples I so quietly observed.
The group on the other end of the pier suddenly gave a huge roar of laughter. Jeremy had probably made a joke. Perhaps I should clarify, he probably made himself The joke. That evening he had invited me, Brian, and the rest of the popular people to his parents summer cottage on the lake. We were there because Jeremy had many good friends. Most of which who liked us because of our mutuality with Jeremy. Jeremy was considered the class clown, and he enjoyed it immensely. Out of most of the popular kids, he was the one who was the least concerned with what everyone thought of him. Because of this, he was able to be a part of so many extracurriculars at school. He was president of the honors program and vice president of both the high school’s theatre club and student council. Jeremy was no fool like many other jokesters in our school, he was valedictorian, and scored a perfect on his SAT scores. He even had a full-ride scholarship through the Ivy-league college he would be attending in the fall due to his skills at the cello. This was Jeremy; a strange mixture of talent and humor.
The rest of the group on the pier exchanged goodbyes hugs, and a few high-fives before they broke into pairs and began walking up the hill to where their cars sat parked in the driveway next to Jeremy’s lakehouse. After Jeremy finished his conversation with one buddies on the track team with a loving butt smack, he casually walked over to us.
“I thought the group would be staying longer?” said Brian.
“Nah. Most of them wanted to go over to phil’s house. Supposedly his older brother is home from college with a couple of cases of beer,” Jeremy replied. Whenever a party had alcohol involved, Jeremy always chose to skip it. I think he even once said, “I don’t need beer to have a good time.”
“What excuse did you use this time?” I asked
“Well, it was a hard pick between going on a make believe trip to the dunes tomorrow, or attending a family get-together. I chose family get-together. When parents get involved, it sells.”
We both nodded in agreement. Brian closed his book.
“Still reading Jane Eyre?”
“Yeah. I just got to the part where Mr. Rochester’s drapes caught on fire.”
“Sounds like a personal problem,” I said sarcastically. Both of them snickered and rolled their eyes. [insert character story and story of how the three met] We went up to Jeremy’s house and sat around a calm, crackling, campfire. Jeremy went inside and brought out the ingredients for the quintessential campfire food; s’mores, or as Brian constantly mispronounced: sh’mores. After several sticky confections later, we talked about how our summer was going. We discussed what roommates we going to have our first year in college, our hopes and dreams, what classes we had, and above all, memories made during the summer and our senior year of high school. Brian got up to find the right tree to pee on. As we gazed into the crackling fire, backdropped by a sunset brilliantly fading into the night, there was a pause in conversation. Jeremy, as usual, was the first to break the silence.
“Well… are we doing the thing tonight.”
My face winced at the question. A week or two before that night, we were hanging over at my place. Jeremy had mentioned inviting us over to his place for the day, saying that we would go swimming to the island in the middle of the lake at night. He said it would be fun. Not wanting to be the party-pooper, I reluctantly agreed to the proposition. I say reluctantly because I have a strange dread to dark water. There’s really no explanation for it. During the day, I absolutely love to swim, even in the goose and fish poop water of the lake. But at night, there’s something unnerving about the utter and complete blackness of water. Some would single it out as Thalassophobia, but I think it’s more than just a fear of water. After all, you never know what lies there at the bottom of the water.
“I’m not sure.” I answered. Jeremy persisted.
“You said you would. C’mon it will be fun once you jump in.”
By this time, Brian had returned from his peeing spot. He asked what we were arguing about.
“Brian, you said you’d going for a night swim tonight, right?” Brian agreed saying, “yeah, I’m down for it.”
It was two against one. Jeremy kept bothering me, along with Brian’s logical input such as, “there aren’t sharks in Lake desmond,” or, “Grendel’s Mom is a fictional character from across the ocean.” Not wanting to let the group down, I gave up stating that I’d “give them the pleasure of freaking out in the dark, soulless water.” Ignoring my sarcasm they both ran inside to change into their swim trunks. I followed, meanwhile my brain frantically attempted to come up with excuses.
After borrowing a pair of swim trunks from Jeremy, knowing full well that I had a pair in the trunk of my car, we proceeded down to the pier. Jeremy and Brian walked in front of me
whispering excitedly to each other. It was of course about me and what they were about to do. In the meantime, I had been talking, internally to myself:
“You can do this! You can do this! There’s nothing in the water that’s gonna kill you. You’ll be right next to Jeremy and Brian, they’re not gonna let you drown.” This didn’t really help me at all. The thought of what laid beneath the water terrified me. My panic was quite impervious to my logical reasoning. My friends continued to whisper to each other until Brian distinctly said, “okay, got it.”
The pier jutted out from the land like a giant wooden L. The top connected to land while the bottom part stuck several yards from the lakeshore. I approached the spot where I had been sitting just a few hours before. I looked over to my left and looked at Jeremy. He was looking at me with a larger-than-life grin, butt-naked. By the time the shock had registered on my face, Brian had pantsed me. I went to grab for my fallen trunks, but Jeremy, in full glory, had quickly ran over and pulled them from beneath me and jumped into the lake. Before I knew what had happened, I heard another splash.
Luckily that night was warm, so my hands and arms were free to censor my nudity from my friends. At that point I began using several interjections towards my naked friends in the water. They had made our swimwear hostages so that I would jump in. Because my fear of being seen by non-existent onlookers was greater than my fear of the abyss, I quickly slipped into the water. The sudden shock of cool water shot across my skin for a brief moment, but felt relieving from the humidity of the summer’s evening. Suddenly, the abyssal fear returned. My body responded by flailing my arms around, grasping for something concrete in a world of wet darkness. My hand brushed up against one of the wooden pier posts. Without thinking, my body lunged towards it and latched onto it with a magnetic grip.
Jeremy and Brian swam over. They tried to coax me off the post.
“C’mon man, it’s not that bad,” Jeremy said. “We won’t be in that long. Just come swim over to the island and back.”
An Island large enough for Jeremy’s family to build a small cabin on, sat a quarter of a mile away from shore. By this time, my body had gotten used to the temperature of the water. My sight had also grown to distinguish the surface of the lake from the night. The bright moon helped to straighten my bearings. The fear had somewhat subsided, and I trusted Jeremy’s welcoming peace. Just then Brian shouted, “Race yah!”
With a great splash, Brian was off. Jeremy followed in pursuit. Having no other option left to my disposal, I frantically swam after them. It felt like I was swimming across the ocean, trying to chase two jet skis. I would stop to look up and see where my friends had gone, only to find that I had fallen off course. By the third time I had popped up, the island hardly seemed any closer to my current position. It was nearly an eternity later when I sputtered and finally saw the Island was just a few yards away. I could just make out Brian on the shore. Unlike Jeremy, he had decided to keep his trunks on. He waved my and Jeremy’s pair in the air as if to proclaim victory. Suddenly I felt something brush up against my foot. I yelled, panicked, and flailed my arms again. What felt like the tendrils of a furry lake monster seemed to wrap around my legs. I yelled at the top of my lungs. My mouth became waterlogged with the lake around me. The two darknesses of night and water became indistinguishable and my lungs began to burn from the invasion of lakewater. Just then, a pair of arms wrap around me and tugged my disarrayed body up and away from the clutches of the lake tendrils. The pair of arms pulled me above the water’s surface and my legs became vertical. I felt cool sand and gravel beneath them as we approached the shore. I was now above the water, my body shivered at first from the change in temperature. I felt another wet body brush up against my left side. It grabbed my left arm, swing it over its shoulders. I felt a hand grab my left side
feeling its right arm push my back. Our bodies were wet, and I could feel the other one’s muscles contract. My tired out muscles were nearly dead-weight. My feet felt grass now, and the body helped me lie down to the ground. I looked up and saw the moon against the stars. There was Jeremy’s face. I sputtered, trying to offer my thanks for saving me from the unknown threat of the lake. I reached out for him… but where my tired hand had grasped was unfortunate. I touched Jeremy’s penis. My hand immediately recoiled, and Jeremy’s face was gone in a flash. By the time I leaned up, all I saw of Jeremy was his bare butt, running into nearby foliage.
By the time Jeremy and I had found the cabin on the Island, Brian had returned to the mainland via a canoe to grab some clothes and towels for us. I later found out that Brian and Jeremy had planned skinny dipping before we went swimming. During the ride back to shore, I steered and Jeremy rowed in front. Brian remained quietly in between the both of us. Not much was when we went back inside. I had killed the night.
After I finished drying off in the lake house bathroom, making sure to pick out all the bits of seaweed in my feet, I went to grab my keys to go. Jeremy and Brian were out in the kitchen waiting for me. I looked at both of them. They both were looking at me.
“Sorry about the night swim Jeremy,” I said apologetically.
Jeremy looked up at me. A sudden grin appeared on his face. “Who cares, it’s just a penis.” the tension broke. We laughed until we couldn’t breathe.