“Think of what you were doing at his age,” Andrew said. His fourteen-year-old kid skateboarded a respectful distance ahead, up the dark winding path on the Santa Cruz cliffs, that steep drop into the invisible ocean, so that we could smoke a joint without feeling guilty. We’d all gathered for a friend’s wedding. Andrew was my husband’s best friend, and though I’d been married for seven years, I was just getting to know him. We all lived so far apart.
When we were thirteen, my best friend Jackie first did it. Not it it, but gave a blowjob. She and the boy hid under my Esprit comforter, not on my bed, but on the floor. They lay on the carpet. My mom was rarely home.
My husband, sufficiently stoned, had picked up his pace and gotten ahead of us, up near Andrew’s kid.
“He always walks too fast,” I said to Andrew, who was taking a drag off the joint. “Like he’s so excited.”
“He’s like that. You’re right,” he said and looked down at me as if I was a sage, interpreting the great mysteries of his friend.
He passed the joint to me and watched while I dried my lips and filled my lungs. I didn’t smoke much pot, and he did, so I tried to smoke like a pro.
My scope of perception shrank down to Andrew, me, and a sense of my husband ahead. The boy’s skateboard wheels on the paved path. Andrew’s eyes were green. The ocean was blue. Despite the dark, I remembered their colors.
Even at the time, twelve years old seemed too young for sex. Even though our bodies sent us barreling toward it, it was strange.
It took a long time, well into my marriage, for sex to feel as natural to me as it had seemed to be for Jackie. I hadn’t seen her since high school, but I’d looked Jackie up. The internet. She’d married a preacher and had five girls. Still lived in our hometown. I felt that I’d escaped whatever had trapped her, the dutiful mother and wife, but maybe she was doing fine. I was smoking pot atop the cliffs of Santa Cruz, still a kid on vacation flirting with boys.
I left the path and walked to the edge of the cliff, leaning over to look into the dark. The wind off the ocean felt as if it was sloughing off my skin.
Andrew dropped next to me and watched me watch the ocean, as if he was trying to figure me out. Before marriage, I might have huddled in close to him, let my hip brush his, laughed loudly at his jokes, ended up under a blanket on someone’s floor with my mouth around his dick, excited and terrified by what I could do.
“Come back,” Andrew said. “Away from the edge.” He gave directives, a thing my husband never did. He scooped his long arm around my waist and pulled me into him, back to the path, where his arm dropped away.
My husband and Andrew’s son were waiting. Andrew’s son was telling stories to my husband as if he were a friend.
“I hate it when they’re too young. I was dating this girl once. She texted me, ‘Babe, you know I’m only 12, right?’”
We adults fell into giggles and snorts. Andrew with those eyes, as if he and I had another, separate joke.
My husband came and leaned into me, looking down at me, smiling, thinking of our future children, watching them become themselves. His eyes were blue. I reached to squeeze his elbow, to reassure myself of him.
“Quit laughing at me,” Andrew’s son said. He pulled himself into a ball, sitting on his skateboard.
“You have to understand how it sounds,” I said, but stopped myself from attempting to explain. He felt as Jackie had, as Jackie probably still did: prepared, like a grownup.
We found out the next day that Andrew was getting a divorce. It was the day of our friend’s wedding, a new marriage not yet spoiled by years, high up in the hills. As I put on a dress and heels, I considered Andrew and me. Sometime after dark, we could find a place, drive a car up the road from the wedding or walk into the surrounding forest. I told myself that I imagined these things to keep them from happening. At the wedding, when we crossed paths, Andrew would look away. I would turn my back.
The night was lit by strings of lights. Andrew’s son snuck too many drinks, got too drunk, and told me he thought I was smart. The older couple hosting the event, family friends of the bride, made out in various conspicuous places. I got too stoned. The groom crawled into the hot tub with a bunch of naked women, one of whom was his wife. I burrowed my face into my husband’s shoulder, as if to fight the chill blowing up off the Pacific. With my eyes closed, the glow of the tiny lights bloomed behind my eyelids, and I was on the edge of a cliff, white tips of the ocean waves moving through the dark below.
Laura Lampton Scott‘s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Okey-Panky, No Tokens, and Monkeybicycle. She’s a MacDowell Colony fellow and is working on a novel.