Teenage Love in the Soil

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Sometimes, when I go home to revisit the places of my youth, I like to visit the dilapidated barn, outside the town, under the shadow of Ben More. It has stood for two-hundred years, now with floors fallen, the dark dank smell of stone piled high and cobwebs that only display themselves as grotesque mysteries in sunlit corners.

Most times, when a teenager, I came to the barn alone, but one time I brought a girl. She lived on a neighbouring farm, but attended the same school. I had heard a couple of boys talking in class, saying how she wore no panties under her uniform. It was these silly indiscretions that make a girl attractive to the mindless occupation of a boy’s thoughts. It wasn’t true on the day; the day when I took her to the barn. Then, with the sun’s fingers stretching though the holes in the roof, she removed her panties down her thighs as we rolled in the soil. It’s not that my life was so depraved back then. It’s hard to remember how I learned about girls, or even if this particular girl was learning about me, how a man’s body works, but there in the soil we searched for answers.

One wonders now, if thirteen was just a little too tender an age to learn very much at all? In my innocence, I believed that the smell on my fingers was indeed an exploration of womanhood. It wasn’t, of course, it was a journey into my own courage. Were we to be caught, the world would surely have ended.

She roughly pulled at my zipper and successfully grabbed at my penis. Even in this height of sexual excitement I wondered why her eyes never opened wider and why the blue in them never looked at me for longer than a few seconds of desire. It was rough play, lasting a couple of minutes for fear of being caught by a passer-by. It just seemed, well, exciting and mysterious. She left the farm a year later, though I never touched her again after that first time.

Fifty-two years on, I still come back to this same barn. I often stand here and feel a sense of guilt. The walls remain, but the roof finally gave in twenty-years ago. It sits in the middle of the ruin, a rotting mass of wood under moss and slate. I could hear myself breathing as I stood there, can smell the dampness on my fingers, a mixture of soil and the secret scent of eroticism.

It would be easier to write this reverie in the third person, thereby being aloof to offending my sense of decency. I take the blame for what I’ve done. Yet each tender, misguided sortie my mind has explored makes me who I am today. I was still a virgin child after my fun in the soil, in the ruins of the old barn.

In the end, I grew in a different way to the boys in school. I wanted romance for the women who lay with me, fluffy white clouds crossing the skies as white linen sheets. Back then, it was the time of raging hormones and a growing awareness for the beauty in the sculpture of the breast. The boys I grew up with knew nothing of the things I knew. Their hormones worked in different ways and it wasn’t out of the realm of reality that they released themselves up against school fences, behind the bike sheds, where girls moaned, eyes closed.

When the bell went for class to begin, the boys would shuffle off, each offering tales of conquest while girls giggled and squirmed in their seats. Such were the kinds of mystery answered in those playgrounds and against the fences.

I went to church with my parents on Sunday mornings and listened to the preacher tell me about sins and other intriguing possibilities. After church, I was free to roam until lunch. I had to make the promise not to dirty my church clothes and be on time for lunch.

It’s hard to describe that Sunday freedom. For me, it was the fields of wheat beside the yellow lanes that turned and buckled and disappeared around curves, on the way to my beloved ocean.

Come December, the pale days and falling snow hid the lane, but I knew every inch of it by the twigs of life visibly poking through the white sheet of winter. The barn on the top of the hill stands today like a gravestone against the sky, while the cabbage-coloured moss spreads itself between the cracks of its stone walls.

I did eventually find the love I had searched for there in that soil, but that too now lies in ruins, only half built, finished.

A shell of what once was.

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