I recently joined hitRECord after seeing the show on Netflix. The short story below is the result of a writing challenge that asks for contributors to write about a reunion that occurs in a nudist colony.
First, I should probably correct a commonly-misconception about nudists: we’re not a particularly randy bunch. Sure, you’re going to have the occasional guy or gal who joins up with a group because they think it’s all going to be a bunch of wild, public sex, Kind of like a modern-day festival for Dionysus, replete with endless cups of wine, near-perfect anatomy just ripe for tasting and touching, and a general sense of sexual freedom not glimpsed since the ancient Greeks.
That is, most assuredly, not the case with our group, the Midtown Nudist Collective (MDC). We’re not swingers, for God’s sake, and we take pains to tell people that. It’s on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profile (which is clean, if you want to check it out). Still, some folks think that’s all veneer and we’re secretly wild and up for anything, legal or not.
They get a rude awakening at their first gathering when they see guys like me—I’m forty-two, twice-divorced, a body courtesy of too many trips through the drive-thru, a lazy eye, and hair that gave up the fight to stay on my scalp years ago—and women like my second ex-wife Donna, who’s not going to win a beauty contest anytime soon.
I loved Donna more than my first wife, Gloria, though Gloria had her perks, too. She just wouldn’t fully get onboard with the nudist lifestyle, but she did give it the old college try. I met Donna at another retreat, so I knew she was good to go. We had five good years together before she left me
The hardest part wasn’t the break-up or the divorce, though; it was her leaving MNC. She was a founding member, after all, and she had friends. Close friends who had seen her through cancer treatment, through the loss of her father, and they listened to her when she complained about me. I took that all in stride, having been hitched to Gloria, who you couldn’t please, no matter what you did. I offered to leave the group, but Donna said no, I needed it more.
“I have other support, Ron,” she told me the last time we spoke. “I have my sister and my cousins. Who do you have?”
“No one now,” I snapped. Like I said, she left me. Sure, we had problems, but I was willing to work on them. Donna wasn’t, simple as that.
Donna split two years ago, and though I hadn’t forgotten her, I moved on. I had a fling with a girl named Darcy who got arrested and extradited to Nevada where she had an outstanding warrant for felony shoplifting. Since then, I’ve been solo.
I’m not prepared the day that Donna strolls up to Craig Denver’s backyard, naked as the day she was born and sporting a new tattoo just above her right hip. It’s a crow, and a nasty-looking one, at that. Below the crow are the words FREE AS A BIRD NOW.
She looks good, I have to admit. A few of us stand around gaping at her, not sure what to say. Finally, Lori Singleton laughs and said, “Damn, girl, what took you so long to come back home?”
God, there’s Ron. I haven’t seen him, naked or clothed, since 2011. He’s kept himself relatively fit, which is good. I thought he’d fall apart when I left. It was sure as hell looking that way for a time. When I was finalizing everything to move in with my sister, Ron started buying ice cream and putting it away like a teenaged girl nursing a heart-break. Of course, Ron has insane metabolism. He can go out and run and bam, it’s like he’s been eating carrots and celery instead of Ben & Jerry’s.
And now that bitch Lori Singleton’s eyeing me. No one else from the old crew has noticed me yet, so either we’ve lost a bunch or they just skipped the hang-out today. Craig’s back yard fence door was open, as always, so I just slipped out of the car and into the yard. I don’t care if his neighbors saw me or not. We’re not supposed to disrobe before we’re on his property, but fuck it. If I’m coming back, I’m coming back in style. If that includes an indecent exposure arrest, so be it. It’ll be the least of my worries now.
“Damn, girl, what took you so long to come back home?” Lori asks, a twinkle in her eye that most people take as interest and friendliness, but I know the truth. Lori would sooner drive a dagger, metaphorical or real, in by back than say one genuinely kind word to me. I have no idea what did to deserve her wrath. She and Ron were never a thing, and I never crossed her at group meetings or anything like that. Lori seems to have just decided I’m not worth having around, and I’m sure she wishes I’d stayed the hell away.
“I’ve been busy,” I say, suddenly unsure of myself. It’s her use of the word “home” that gets me. I know she doesn’t mean it, and I wasn’t sure this was my home until she said the word…and until I saw Ron. I don’t mean the MNC, either, as home, or even the town. Really, it’s just Ron, because I need him. He’s as close to home as I can imagine right now.
“You were staying with your sister, right?” Lori continues.
“Yeah, but I moved out,” I reply, and I have no intention of going into the reasons why, which are many and each one is uglier than the last. “I’m kind of between places now.”
“Where are you staying?” Ron asks.
“At the Continental,” I say. It’s an old hotel on the edge of town where Ron and I used to hook up in our early days. I was married then, though my husband was a piece of shit and was cheating on me with women in three other states, and Ron was still married to Gloria.
“Oh, I got it,” Ron says, and it gets quiet for a few seconds. Before Lori can open her stupid mouth again, I jump and ask Ron, “Hey, can we find somewhere to talk alone for a bit?”
Ron nods and takes me hand, just like old times, and leads me past a startled-looked Craig Denver through the sliding door into Craig’s house. Craig’s house is normally off-limits, but our fearless leader doesn’t say anything. I guess he figures this situation warrants us some privacy.
It’s weird being naked in Craig’s house, and I nearly ask Ron if I can run out to the car and get my clothes, but there’s no time. Ron’s mouth is on mine, and I melt into him. Turns out it’s perfectly fine that we don’t have any clothes on because he lowers me to the floor and we fuck right there on the kitchen floor.
When we finish, we make our way to the living room. Ron grabs two towels from the bathroom so we can clean up. The entire room smells like sex and sweat, and my head starts swimming. I’ve only had sex one time since leaving Ron, and it was a sad little occurrence with a man I let pick me up at a bar. I can’t even remember his name.
“Are you staying?” Ron asks. “I mean, are you just visiting or do you plan to actually move back?”
“I’m dying,” I say. No sense in delaying it any longer. “And yes, I’m moving back for what time I have left.”
Ron goes as still as an animal crossing a road caught in headlights, his eyes fixed and unmoving on mine. He starts crying and buries his head in my hair. I’m cried out. Most days, I just feel cold when I think about death.
“It’s the same cancer that took Dad,” I say.
“They can’t do anything?”
“Caught it too late. I’m stage four, Ron. I told my oncologist to fuck himself when he wanted to put me in hospice, and I told my sister the same thing. So I’m back here.”
Ron moves his face from my hair and looks at me again. “You want me to take care of you?”
The tears I thought that had taken a permanent vacation come back with force. “Yes,” I say, and it’s my turn to hide myself.
Neither of us notice Craig until he clears his throat and says, “This violates one of our major rules, you two. I know you just got back, Donna, and it’s great, but you two just screwed in my house.”
“Jesus, Craig, get out,” Ron growls, and Craig looks like he’s just been slapped. He stares at us nervously, and then turns his bare ass around and goes back outside.
I don’t know how long we stay there, holding each other, watching the quality of light change as it filters through the half-shut blinds of the living room. We make love once more, this time tenderly, the only noise between us the sharp ins and outs of our breath.
And we remain silent, even as we walk, hand in hand, out of the house and to my car.