Camping Out Together


I didn’t have much planned for the week between the end of finals, when most students left town, and graduation, when all the seniors invited their families to come and the university installed little tents and seating pavilions in every nook of grass between buildings. After graduation I’d be going back home to live with each of my parents for about a month, and come fall I’d start a graduate degree in psychology. My whole life seemed mapped out in front of me.

But for that week? Nothing. A few people I knew were taking road trips, off for one last hurrah, but I’d been too busy studying and writing my final papers to arrange anything. Once I finished my last exam — wouldn’t you know, I had one on Friday morning — I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to my apartment with absolutely nothing to do for the first time in I don’t know how long.

I went to the grocery store and lingered in each aisle. My refrigerator, by then, had nothing but a half-full carton of almond milk and an open jar of tomato sauce: finals week can be rough. I figured I’d load up, stock my fridge well for the week, and spend time cooking elaborate meals. And I did buy a lot of different vegetables, but when I got home and was about to start cooking for just myself, the idea didn’t seem so appealing. I boiled spaghetti and threw in some sliced zucchini and cannellini beans during the last minute. I topped my plate with some of that tomato sauce. I ate on the couch and watched TV.

The next few days passed pretty much the same way. I spent a lot of time in my apartment. I went for a jog each morning. I walked to the public library and borrowed a book — I think it was Dance Dance Dance or Norwegian Wood by Murakami — then returned to my couch to read. I spent too much time watching TV.

I guess that last semester had taken a lot out of me.

Then Ernst called on Tuesday night. He and two buddies were driving to Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin in the morning. As in, next morning. Wednesday. They were going to spend the day climbing, maybe do some hiking, see if they could illegally sleep outside on top of the mountain. There’d be a full moon, he said. It should be a beautiful night. And he wondered if I wanted to come.

I was surprised that he invited me. We had dated for about two months, but that was over a year ago, and although we stayed friends, he hadn’t made any clear overtures since then. Once during that time he’d even walked me home from a party without bothering to linger at the front door of my building, as though he wasn’t even curious whether I’d invite him in. That night I’d given him a long hug and softly said goodnight and he smiled back and seemed perfectly happy with that. Since I’d been the one who broke things off — which took me less than a week to regret — we left it at that.

When he called, I enthusiastically said yes. I’d already finished my book and felt no great remorse at the prospect of missing whatever would be on television. I’d never gone climbing before, but Ernst said that didn’t matter. At least I had a sleeping bag, bought for an overnight in one of my girlfriends’ dorms after a formal our sophomore year. We’d all come back to the dorm, changed from our dresses into pajamas, then lay on our sleeping bags and watched a movie. I hadn’t used it even once since then.

So I found my sleeping bag in the closet, stuffed a change of clothes and some snacks into my backpack, and set my things near the door. Ernst said he and his friends would come by to pick me up early in the morning.


The park was a few hours’ drive away. On the trip we listened to a lot of Iggy Pop and David Bowie, which Nate claimed were both “glam” even though they didn’t sound alike to me, one all chugging guitars and the other with keyboards and saxophone. But by the third time through the mix CD I could sing along.

We parked near a gatehouse, left most of our stuff in the car, and began hiking toward the cliff they wanted to climb. Apparently we’d need two big backpacks full of equipment, lots of ropes and clasps and chalk and special shoes (theirs didn’t come anywhere near fitting me), but with four of us, all I had to carry was a bag with some water and our snacks. Which was good. Before you climb, which means going up a vertical cliff, you have to scrabble, which is still steep. We hiked for a little ways on the path, then veered off to the side to go up something I’d say was midway between a hill and a mountain, and I had to drop to all fours to do it. Tanner and Nate were climbing ahead of me, and even they had to drop down and use their hands sometimes, although from the look of it those two had taken this sort of trip before. Ernst was behind me, and I kept worrying that I’d accidentally knock a stone loose and send it tumbling down on his head.

We made it up safely, though. All the way to the top of the cliff, which I’d naively thought was the goal of rock climbing. But it wasn’t. When we got up there they spent gaziantep bayan escort twenty minutes threading the ropes through some metal brackets that were drilled into the rock, and then we had to scrabble back down that slope, back to the path, to reach the cliff we’d be climbing. So we already knew we could make it, but the goal was to take a hard way up — and I’d find out later that there was an even easier way, too, because when we hiked up a third time — to lay out our sleeping bags, eat dinner, and drink — we took a regular trail the whole way there.


You wear a silly harness when you climb. It hitches tightly around your legs; when the guys strapped it on, it made their junk stick out in the front and their rumps stick out in back. Their shorts would ride way up. When I saw Tanner put it on — he would be climbing first — I found myself thinking, if I’d known we’d look like this, I would’ve worn leggings. I thought, my rear is probably going to look huge when I wear that thing.

And then, when my turn came, I did feel silly, putting it on. But once I was actually climbing up the rock — sometimes being boosted up a little by Ernst, at the other end of the pulley, since I was wearing sneakers and not those super-grippy Spidey shoes — I forgot all about the way I looked. Until I was about halfway up and happened to glance back down. At first I felt nervous — whoa, shouldn’t have looked, didn’t realize I was so high up — and then I noticed that all three were staring up at me and clearly enjoying the view. That made me feel a lot better. And Nate called up, “You’re doing great, you should keep going if you want.”

I decided to. Turned my head back toward the rock and got to it. There were a few more spots where I needed a little lift from the belay rope, but I made it all the way to the top.

We all did, twice, and then the guys did some bouldering — puttering about close enough to the ground that it won’t hurt if you fall — but the spots they picked for that had me kicking at nothing trying to find purchase with my shoes. Sitting outside and chatting while we watched other hikers go by was fun, though.

When we strolled back down the trail and got to the beach, we thought about hopping into the lake to splash around. None of us had brought swimming suits, though, and the beach was pretty crowded — I was reluctant to stand in the shallows around all these families rocking just my skivvies.

“We could swim across,” Ernst said.

“How far do you think it is?” asked Tanner.

“Dunno … maybe half a mile?”

“Sure, let’s do it,” Tanner said.

The guys stripped down to boxers, and I took off my socks and shoes and shorts, hoping the long t-shirt was a good enough gesture toward modesty. And then we walked in, clutching our arms to our sides at first because the water felt bracingly cold, and started to swim.

I distinctly remember that it was Tanner who decided we should swim across, because after we’d made it about a hundred meters out, we noticed that Tanner was swimming doggy paddle.

Ernst turned to float along beside him — he’d been doing breaststroke but hadn’t noticed earlier since he’d been in front — and asked, “Do you, uh, know how to swim?”

“It looks like I do,” Tanner said. “But I never have before today.”

I felt glad that Ernst used to be a lifeguard. He could probably do a decent side-stroke. I figured there was no way I could tow Tanner to shore, since his body looked to be pure muscle.

“Do you need help?”

“Not yet,” Tanner said, still puffing along, “but I’ll let you know.”

We didn’t have to help him.

But then, of course, we found ourselves climbing out on a beach on the other side of the lake, no shoes, wet clothes clinging to our bodies, and no inclination to hop back into the water to swim another half mile. We decided to walk alongside the road back to our starting point. Nate’s boxers were white and had turned totally transparent in the water, which he seemed worried about … but not that people would see him.

“It got so small, swimming in that cold water,” he muttered. He kept flapping open his boxers, trying to warm his penis in the sunlight.

“If I’m wearing see-through boxers,” he explained, “I might as well give people something to see.”

I also noticed that, as we walked, shifting who was beside whom in order to mix up the conversations, I always wound up near the front. Yes, I snuck a few peaks at Nate’s penis, but I imagine the guys were doing a lot of staring at me, too.

When we got back to our stuff, I ducked into the woods, pulled off my bottoms, wrung them out, and decided to wear just shorts for the rest of the evening. I’d rather go commando than have wet underwear.


Our dinner came from a Walmart about fifteen minutes down the road. We bought a can of black beans, a loaf of bread, two apples, four granola bars, a bottle of red wine, and a case of beer. We must have looked a little silly to the checkout clerk: the four of us, our faces streaked with dirt and sweat and melted sunscreen from the day of climbing, my shirt stiff from air drying after the swim. I smiled and shrugged at him, saying “We’re on vacation.” The clerk nodded and joked back, “Ah, I thought it was just another Wednesday.”


After we reached the top of the mountain, Nate and Ernst hung up their hammocks, and Tanner inflated his air mattress. All I had was my sleeping bag, but as I was about to unroll it on a soft patch of ground, Ernst said, “No way. Please, take the hammock. I’ve slept outside a bunch before, and … and I’m just happy that you came. You should try this thing. It’s cozy.” He smiled, and added, “Although, it’s also a total piece of crap for not being big enough for two.” I gave him a little smile back before we traded spots, him unrolling his sleeping bag on the ground and me spreading mine inside the hammock.

Then we had dinner. We’d done an awful job of shopping — definitely not enough calories for the four of us, and we’d also bought a corked bottle of wine with no good way to open it. Nate was chiseling the cork out bit by bit with a paring knife when the blade broke off and fell into the wine. Luckily, he’d already sliced our apples. And we still drank the wine, tipping the bottle back gently as we passed it around so that the blade would stay inside and not knick our lips.

I only drank a little. I’m a lightweight under the best of circumstances — full dinner and a power nap — so it wouldn’t take much to make me woozy after a day outside. I had small sips of wine, no more than a glass, and only half a beer. That was enough to feel buzzed. And I drank my beer slowly, still working on my first in the time the guys each put away four or five. They were still hungry after dinner and figured they’d get their calories from Budweiser.

“Yeast, carbs, liquid,” Nate said. “You can live on bread and water, and beer is bread and water mixed up in a can.”

So we sat in that little clearing on top of the mountain, eating, then drinking, and still talking all the while — stuff like funny anecdotes about our friends, gossip about people we all knew, and weird factoids from Ernst. He talked a while about what life might feel like for an anglerfish, those big-jawed, snaggle-toothed things that live deep in the ocean and have lightbulbs stuck to their heads. Apparently they’re all female, the ones we think look like fish. The males are small, and they merge with the female’s body when they find her. I’m not sure what his point was … he kind of trailed off by the end. He does that sometimes. It’s cute, especially when you haven’t talked with him in a while. Not the abrupt endings, but the stories, all the stuff he knows.

It was after Ernst finished his monologue about anglerfish that Tanner suggested we play “truth or dare.” I shook my head.

“No,” I said. “I don’t like truth or dare. Why give people a choice? It’s more fun to play truth and dare, where you try to find out what people are afraid of and see how close they’ll come to doing it. But … I mean, even then … whenever people play in, like, a mixed group, they’re just using it as an excuse to talk about sex.”

Nate scoffed. “Um, yeah. You don’t like talking about sex?”

“Sex is cool. I just don’t like this pretense. If you’re out to get laid, why should you have to do it surreptitiously? Why can’t we just ask people, do you wanna have sex?”

Tanner lowered his beer, looked me in the eyes, and smiled. “Do you want to have sex?”

“Did you bring condoms?” I asked. And Tanner’s jaw dropped. He probably thought I’d blow him off, but why? They were cute, I’d had fun, and we were graduating. Why not make this trip into something to remember?

“We could … we could go get some.”

“Pshaw,” I said. “I’m a little tipsy, the three of you are drunk, and we’re on top of a mountain. We’re not driving anywhere tonight. Besides,” I added, “why would that Walmart be a 24-hour place? I bet they closed at ten.”

“But you’d …?”

“If we’d been prepared. I had a really good time today … I’m having a really good time now. With all of you,” I added, smiling at Ernst. He and I had done it without protection before, but that was a year ago, while we were dating, and I was on birth control, and I was his first, so I knew that it was safe. But later I worried — they say birth control is something like 98% effective, so where does that leave you if you want to have sex at least a hundred times?

So I didn’t want to do anything without condoms, not even with him. Plus, we’d been doing everything together all day, the four of us, and we’d been drinking — it seems unlikely that, if we started, it would’ve stayed just him. I doubt I’d want it to. Between our day, and graduation, and the fact that we were all moving away … well. If we’d brought stuff — a fistful of condoms, a tube of lubricant — I might’ve tried all three at once.

Instead we had, what? An empty bottle (with a knife in it!), two hammocks, four sleeping bags, an air mattress … three guys, and me.

Those three guys were still staring at me. Upset with themselves, no doubt, for not making contingency plans for all the ways this trip might play out. I mean, sure, you shouldn’t expect that on any given trip your friends will want to have sex with you … but sometimes we do. I’d say to just get over yourself, let some condoms expire, and buy more than you need.

“So if we’d …” Ernst said, curious, “… you would’ve …?” He didn’t look judgmental or anything, maybe because we’d broken up so long ago, or because four beers and some wine for dinner was a lot for him, or because these were his friends. At that moment, smiling at me, he looked turned on.

“Well, we’re not going to tonight,” I laughed. “But if you want to think about what we might’ve done, I’d love to watch you masturbate.”

“You want me to …”

“Well, not just you, if I had my way. I’d love to see all three of you.”

“And you’d …”

“Well,” I said, nonchalant, “I could take some clothes off, if it’d help you out.”

Tanner looked like he’d barely settled down from the idea that I might’ve said yes if they’d been prepared to properly proposition me, but now he interjected:

“And … could we come on you?”

“What?” His question startled me.

“Don’t mind him,” said Nate, taking another pull of beer. “Dude’s watched too much porn.”

“You think I haven’t?” I said.

“So you …” started Ernst. And, look, sure, when he and I had sex before, it was mostly French vanilla: him on top, me on top, him pushing into me from the side or from the back, sometimes a blowjob, and only once during that whole two months of dating did we do a sixty-nine that lasted more than a few minutes. When he finished, in those days, he came inside me.

But that was over a year ago. And, besides, all through college I’d bought into the whole American idea that there’s a difference between what you should do with a steady boyfriend and what you could do one night for fun. We’d had, you know, “couples sex.” This seemed like a chance to try something new.

I grinned.

“What the fuck, boys. I said I wanted to see you get your rocks off, and I meant it. If me stripping to my skivvies will help you out, I’m in. And if I’m taking off my clothes …” I wasn’t quite sure how to explain. “… if I’m taking clothes off … and you’re …” I shrugged. Hell, what did they care why I’d do it, after I already said yes? “So … yeah, I’ll lie down between the three of you. It might be … I don’t know. It might be hot. Just, like … let me know, or something, when you’re close?”

Tanner nodded. “Deal,” he said. And, “I’m close. Just listening to you got me close. But, yeah, I’ll … we can let you know when we’re gonna blow.”

And then we had our awkward moment. I’d agreed to strip. These three men planned to cum … on me. But how do you start?

“So then, I’ll just …” I started to ask. But Ernst helped. He really is a good guy. I’d always been a little sad that things didn’t work out. This whole trip, I’d found myself hoping we’d spend more time together during the rest of the week. Which we did … and managed to stay in touch, as friends, all through graduate school … and still shoot emails back and forth a few times a year, even though he’s married. I’ve slept with his wife. Suffice it to say, she’s sexy.

“No, no,” Ernst said, “you shouldn’t have to start. Strength in numbers, and all of that. We should undress first. Then you can take it slow. Take off your clothes if you like what you see. Right?” he said, glancing at Tanner and Nate.

Those two nodded, then all three of them stood up and started taking off their clothes. So there I was, sitting on top of a mountain, holding a half-empty beer that I wasn’t gonna finish, watching three men get naked.

Even though they didn’t put on much of a show — just pulling t-shirts over their heads, shucking their shoes and socks, then stepping out of shorts and boxers — it was fun to watch. Moonlight is awesome. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Moonlight makes everyone look great. They weren’t even watching when I unbuttoned my shorts and snuck a few fingers down.

Once they’d stripped and turned to me, they didn’t have full-on erections, yet, but all three looked like they were getting hard. Their cocks looked big despite the chilly air. I wished we had a campfire, but campfires bring park rangers, and we’d feel pretty embarrassed having a park ranger shine a bright flashlight right into the middle of this.

“Yow yow yow,” I cooed at them, my soft wolf-whistle-like cheer. I figured I should keep it light. “Gentlemen, are you ready to start your engines?” I was already playing with myself, which they noticed now. Between that and all three guys grabbing their cocks, rubbing up and down with their eyes glued on me, they had erections fast.

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