We were sitting together on a bench outside the school. We'd decided on an 8-mile run and were getting mentally prepared. Well, okay, we were goofing off. Wait. Yeah—this is it: we were going to run, but in a few minutes. There. That's a better way to put it.
Our cross-country season was over. We'd gone undefeated, in our conference, won our sectional meet and been invited to the state meet. There, we were matched up against the 20 best teams in the state, many of them representing schools that were several times larger than ours. We did okay, but weren't able to win the thing. We came in fourth, which the coach said was absolutely fantastic, a tremendous accomplishment. Four of us ran personal best times. It pissed me off that Scott finished with me again instead of running past me. He said it was proper for him to do that.
I didn't like arguing with him, so didn't—more than four or five times—before I finally just accepted it. He said being equal was much more important than one of us having a time a few seconds better. That was when I stopped arguing. He had a point.
Even though the season was over, we were still running. We both loved it, loved how it made us feel, and we both loved the togetherness of running side by side, just the two of us and the world around us.
Now we were sitting before our run. It was a glorious fall day with the temperature in the mid sixties. Perfect conditions for us.
"Oh," Scott said, looking away across the wide expanse of school lawn, looking toward the woods which would be our training run today, looking anywhere but at me. I knew that look. When he looked away from me like that when speaking, I knew he had something specific on his mind. Something that I might find troublesome or strange or whatever. But something. He was a lot looser kid than I was, and he twitted me about it all the time. I saw that look and prepared myself to be twitted.
"Oh?" I responded.
"Yeah. I just thought of something. You know this summer? Up there?"
"You mean Aspendell? Yeah? What about it?" I asked this cautiously. That was me. Cautious.
"Well, I need to tell you about this so you can plan ahead. You're nothing if not a planning-aheader."
"Tell me what?"
"Well, see, when I was in Santa Fe the summer before I came here . . . I told you about that, didn't I?"
He knew exactly what he'd told me and what he hadn't. I liked the fact I was fairly intelligent. I got all A's in school because I worked hard to achieve them but also because my parents had afforded me the native intelligence to make my hard work pay off. But smart as I might have been, I didn't hold a candle to Scott. It was one of the things I liked best about him. He was smart, and he'd chosen me! How could that not make me happy?
"That you were there visiting your aunt and uncle and cousins. Yes. Not much else." Still being cautious.
"Oh, well I might have left this one little thing out. I didn't know you well then and thought with your narrow mind you might be offended."
"I'm not narrow-minded!"
"Well, we can discuss that later. What we're talking about here is Santa Fe in the summer and my cousins. Don't try to distract me. See, they had this thing. Well, no reason to beat around the bush. Just come out with what you have to say, that's my policy. So, here it is: they were naturists."
"You mean nudists? They were nudists?" I had to admit I was a little shocked.
"That's not the term they used. They said that term tended to make people think sexual thoughts and that there was nothing sexual about being naked with other people. I could go into a whole spiel about their philosophy, but that's not the point of this discussion."
He had my attention now and knew it. I could tell because he stood up and started stretching. Stretching not only his muscles but the time it was taking him to tell his story. Stretching my curiosity to the max.
"My point is," he said when he was finally satisfied with the way he felt prior to running and was sitting next to me again, "I was there with them, and it would have been rude to be clothed when they were naked, so, though this wasn't Rome, it was Santa Fe, and I did as these Santa Feans did. I got naked, too. And I got to like it, once I got over the embarrassment of my aunt and my nieces seeing me that way. That does take some getting used to, and a couple of those cousins knew it and kept trying to make me get hard. Evidently, no one had bothered to tell them there was nothing sexual about family nakedness.
"Anyway, I ran a lot when I was there, and a lot of it was done in the buff. And just so you know, I plan to do a lot of naked running next summer. Now, just to be fair—you need to know this—I'm expecting you to join me in this. It's great fun and very liberating. So, you need to start thinking about it, preparing yourself. Me, I'm impulsive, but you're anything but. You have to plan when and where you're going to take a dump in the morning. So now you know, and you can get your mind all settled on it."
"Running naked?" I chuckled at him, shaking my head to further underline the point. "I don't think so!"
"There's no one up there at Aspendell. Well, there may be more people in the summer, hiking and stuff, but so what? We're a couple of good-looking boys, fit and strong and attractive—well, one of us, at least—and if we do happen to pass some people on the trail, the way I see it, they'll be the lucky ones."
While he was fantasizing, I had a quick memory of the first time I'd seen him. Now, finally, I understood why he'd left his shorts and taken off up the trail in the nude. And I remembered the times we were in the locker room when I was questioning his lack of modesty. It all made sense now. At the time, I'd wondered a little if he was some sort of exhibitionist or perhaps a risk-junkie. Now I knew it was something else. My boy was a budding nudist! Er, naturist.
Not the worst thing at all in a boyfriend.
"Anyway, that's what I was thinking. Now you know what's going to happen up there and can get yourself prepared."
He smiled at me and acted as though this was now a done deal. It wasn't. I guessed we needed to talk about it a little.
"Well, tell me," I inquired, "isn't it, well, uncomfortable to run with a hardon? That thing bouncing out in front of you every step you take? Got to be a problem." I was only half-joking, half-wondering.
He grinned at me, the grin I had a hard time not kissing off his lips. I sure wanted to. Couldn't do that here sitting behind the school with other kids around, but I was tempted. He said, "There's no reason to be hard. We'll be running, that's all. Oh, wait a sec!" He slapped his forehead, the way people did in old movies to show they were surprised or upset with themselves, a comic gesture. "I see. You're already thinking ahead. I'll be out in front of you, naturally, you'll be perving on my butt, and just watching my bottom bounce around, you'll get hard. Sure, I see it now. Guess it really should be a concern for you."
He was starting to stand up, and I was too. He knew what was coming. "Out in front?" I said. "You'll be out in front of me?" I took a step toward him.
"Yep, out in front. And you'll never catch me." And he took off running—like the wind. I took off after him, and by the time we'd reached the woods, I'd caught him. That weekend at elevation had really paid off for me. I didn't say anything, didn't even touch him. Just ran alongside him, grinning at him now and then. When I did, he was smiling, always smiling. It was a very contented smile.
We ran the 8 miles, came back and took a shower together. The coach had given me a key to the locker room and back door to the school. We'd come on the weekends and sometimes late on weekdays. That key made it all possible. I guess the fact we'd got a huge play in the local papers with our times, Scott and I, made the school administration more comfortable making concessions for us.
It was a Saturday the next time we ran. It was good weather again, something we couldn't count on in Bishop in the fall. We'd decided to run through the woods as we both loved the atmosphere there. We ran in the morning when the frost was off the pumpkins, as they say; actually, we waited till about 10 AM when it was in the sixties again.
As expected, once we entered the woods, we didn't see anyone else.
We'd gone a couple of miles when Scott stopped.
"Charley horse?" I asked. Cold weather—it was definitely colder in the woods than in open country—can cause muscle cramping.
"No," he said, with that infernal grin blossoming, telling me something was going on. "No, I just thought this was a perfect time and place for a little trial." That said, he slipped off his shorts.
"Hey! What're you doing?"
"This is going to be your first taste of running as God intended. Come on. Strip."
"I'm not taking my clothes off!"
"Maybe that is too much of a giant step for you at first. Tell you what, I'll run naked and you can come along and see how it's done. Maybe I'll be your inspiration."
That said, he tossed his shorts, jock and shirt behind a bush and took off running.
The SOB didn't seem to have a care in the world! I had to sprint to catch him, then match his pace.
"This feels wonderful," he said. "You keep hearing about skinny dipping. No one ever talks about skinny running. But there's no way I'm the only one doing it. No way people don't know about it and do it. It just doesn't get the press it deserves."
I said nothing, just ran with him. I have to admit, he was beautiful without anything covering his body. I could see all the muscle groups working together. He was a sight to behold.
"Come on," he said, a mile later. "Join me."
We hadn't seen a soul, and it did look wonderful, seeing him run freely like that. I looked around us and saw nothing but nature at it's finest.
"What the hell," I said, took a deep breath and exhaled, and I got naked.
I carried my scant clothing with me as we ran. We turned and headed back. The air teasing my body, my entire body, was so different from how it usually felt. It was as though I was more alive, somehow. I decided I could get used to this. Me. Mr. Reticent, Mr. Cautious me.
I thought about next summer, high in the mountains, running naked.
Shoulder to shoulder, not talking, just being.
Together. Scott and me. Running.
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