Skinnydipping (1997)

tom allen naked side pose toes

February 20, 2013

Is this a good idea? My sensible self says no. But the larger part of me — the alcoholic, the addict? — eggs me on. Life is too important to take seriously. Or, as Randall Munroe put it so well, Fuck. That. Shit.

So I’ll begin this naked diary. Is it performance art or simply exhibitionism? More likely the latter. Such a strong desire to get noticed, and my poetry at best is mediocre — too derivative, not integral enough; my short stories go nowhere; my science is second-rate. (Though I have my moments in each.) But I do know how to expose myself, both physically and emotionally. Or at least I’m learning.

Some of the best moments of my life I spent bare-ass. Some of the more interesting ones, at least. Sadly, up until now, most of them were chemically assisted, and I’m wary of sharing them, of romanticizing my use — euphoric recall and all that. But then, it’s part of my past, therefore part of my present. And it should get hits: the internet is for porn, after all, and drugs.


The story I want to tell today, and someday will assemble more artistically, is about skinnydipping at the Coralville Reservoir. I was 28 and dating an 18-year-old guy — he said he was, at least, and I rationalized that he acted five years more mature than his age, and I five years less, which is why we clicked. This was 17 years ago (do the math) and what truly bothers me is that I’ve forgotten his name, much as I still adore him and regret breaking up with him. I’ve ransacked my brain for years, and I should look through my closet for the sometime diary I used to keep, though I don’t think I wrote in it while I dated him, so it would be of little use anyway. Perhaps someday the name will pop back into my memory. For now, I’ll call him Nick.

Nick because that’s a short name, and he was a short guy. Skinny but solid. Shaved his head. Not quite Hispanic — Indian? Mayan? mixed with Northern European, I think — Iowa-raised like me. And mischievous as Old Nick, at least willing to be when I was around. I have a Polaroid of him somewhere. We each took one of each other, sitting butt-naked on my futon sofa, face to face, legs around one another’s chests, making faces at the camera, stoned of course, licking each other’s feet. I wonder if he still has his of me? Or has he long outgrown it?

My memory — imperfect of course, as I’ve noted already — is that this started at the 620, the gay bar in Iowa City long long ago. (It was a converted warehouse, painted black inside, loud with ’90s club music at night. Drinks were expensive, management chilly, but where else in town could we congregate?) Must have been a slow night, Nick and I bored. A previous boyfriend (call him Wallace; my age, but more respectable, sardonic, reserved) was hanging around. I had a car (my old gray Accord, rest its soul) and Wallace was sober. I’d like to think I was the one suggested we drive out to the Res.

We parked along the road a good distance from the campsite, so that we could sneak in to the lake without waking the campers. Summer night, but not muggy, cool. Giggling and whispering between me and Nick, quiet comments from Wallace.

Clothes off on the beach, except Wallace kept his underwear on, of course. We waded into the murky muddy water; squishy underfoot, gritty. Silent swimming. I knelt underwater, gripped Nick’s ass, gave him a blow job while his hands rubbed my short hair. Wallace a few yards off to my right, keeping watch.

Don’t know who saw the flashlight first. A ranger, coming down to check the campsite. We all ducked underwater, just the tops of our heads, our eyes, our mouth when need be, breaking the surface, our hands, our balls floating in the dark water. A thrill of maybe being discovered, the more dangerous in my case because of the bag of grass I’d brought along, stuffed in my pants pocket, far away on shore. An idiotic risk, but looking back, quaint, boyish. A few tense minutes we half-floated, frozen, scarcely breathing. Then the light moved away, vanished.

We waited a few more minutes, then slipped softly to the shore, hitched on our clothes, and made our way to the public restrooms to wash out our hair and rinse off our feet. Nick and I grinned, recounted our close escape. Then the three of us walked back to my Accord (called Nathan & Adelaide; I kept it engaged for fourteen years), and Wallace drove us back to my apartment, after which we went back to the 620 to tell the story to our little circle of jerks.


Off to the Y now to work out, take off a few more pounds, put on a few more muscles, and parade around naked in the locker room, get a look at a cute guy or two if I’m lucky. Not everyone is as typical as I am, are they?