© 2007 Christopher Vened Szwaja
THE FIRST TIME I SAW THE SEA
(Christopher Vened Szwaja)
The first time I saw the sea I was already fourteen years old. It was when I was at summer camp in Gdynia, a renowned resort on the Baltic Sea. Our camp was located a mile or two away from the seashore, so to get to the beach we had to walk for about forty minutes, walking slowly because there were kids of various ages between seven and fourteen and the youngest ones lagged behind.
We walked on a dirt road, first through a pine forest that grew on the sandy soil and was beaten up by the north winds. The trees were tall but the growth on their branches was so thin that I could see the light on the other side of the forest. Then we walked through the meadows that were partly covered in sand and partly in growth – poor but beautiful. There were some tufts of uncut grass and clumps of blueberry bushes. Then the terrain became more hilly and gradually transformed into the dunes. While approaching one of the dunes, a slice of the sea suddenly appeared on the horizon. I kept walking a short ways on the rather flat top of the dune until the whole vastness of the sea came into my view. Then I stopped there arrested by its beauty. In a first impression there is everything and more, and that was how I felt there looking at the sea. It was enormous and open and seemed limitless. It stirred my imagination to reach beyond the horizon – it was like an invitation for an adventure, no doubt to unknown lands waiting for me to discover.
While I was standing there spellbound by the view and day-dreaming of faraway lands, the other kids were screaming with excitement and ran forth as fast as they could to get to the sea first. They were passing by me in close proximity disturbing my meditation, but soon I yielded to their wild spirit and also ran like crazy down the road toward the beach.
When we reached the sea, we jumped up and down on the beach and screamed, “Hurrahs and wows!”
Then our initial excitement cooled down and we settled on the beach, some of us on blankets, others on the sand. We were waiting for the sun to come out. We looked up, throwing gazes at the cloudy sky with both expectation and skepticism in turns, for it was hard to say how the weather was going to turn. As is typical by the Baltic Sea, it was hard to figure out whether it was too cold or warm enough to take your clothes off, even more so, to go swimming. So we were hanging there, playing and wishing for better weather. Some kids got partly undressed. A few teenage girls even went down to their bikinis. I am sure just to seduce me, for there was no other reason; I swore I saw goose bumps on their skin. Nevertheless, the naked girls were the exception, for the most the kids stayed fully dressed.
The boys started a teasing game daring each other to go for a swim in the cold water of the sea. I heard instigating voices, “Let’s go swimming,” someone said. “Let’s go,” someone else followed, but no one moved. “Are you afraid of the cold water?” someone else teased. “No, I’m not! Are you?” was the response. “No, I am not!” “Really?” “Yes, really.” “So let’s go!” “You go!” “I will go!” “We will see.” “You go first,” and so on.
It was like that — all talk, no action, but I really was ready to go and said firmly, “I will go.”
In response the kids teased me as they did the others, “Oh yeah, we will see what kind of hero you are.” But unlike the others, I pulled it through. I took off my clothes and went to the sea.
However, in the moment I was about to step into the water, the guardian of our group, Edward, called to me, “You are not allowed to go into the water!” The kids found it very funny and they laughed at me as if I had made a fool of myself.
I stopped, obeying the guardian’s order, but I was resentful and asked him, “Why not?”
He was a bully so he shouted, “Because I said so!” then he laughed, as if he were very funny.
Well, the kids found it funny too and they laughed at me again, though it was not funny to me, but rather derisive – I felt humiliated but also provoked. I was not going to bend, my stubborn if not wayward nature showed up, and I decided to swim despite being forbidden. I said to Edward, “It’s not much of an explanation, is it?”
He suddenly got pissed off and said angrily, “There is no further discussion. Swimming is forbidden! Have you got that?!”
“No, I haven’t!” I said confrontationally, turned my back to him and walked straight into the water.
Then I heard from behind me a sweet female voice, “We are not bathing because the water is too cold.” I turned around and saw that it was Lisa, our second guardian, speaking.
“It is not too cold to me,” I answered her.
She shook her head and smiled with disbelief.
To make my point, I stepped into the shallow waters, checked the temperature demonstratively with me hand, and said again, “You see, the water is not cold at all.”
“Oh, come on,” she said, “ the water must be cold. No one is bathing or swimming, look around.”
I looked around. She was almost right, but in the distance I spotted a few bathers. I pointed them out to her and said, “There people are bathing, do you see them?”
She looked where I was pointing and said, “Yes, I see them.”
“So?” I asked.
“Come on,” she said, “don’t be stubborn, we will all bathe and swim later, okay?”
“Okay,” I said reluctantly and gave up swimming for the time being.
“Maybe at noon, if the sun comes out,” she said in a reconciliatory manner.
“Okay,” I said again and sat on the sand.
The kids kept teasing me and chuckled behind my back.
The sun never came out that day, and we did not bathe or swim. In fact, the weather became horrible, there appeared chilly gusts of wind and heavy clouds gathered in the sky, threatening to rain. The guardians grew concerned and cut short our stay at the beach. Hurriedly we went back to the camp.
On the way back I noticed that Mr. Edward put his arm around Ms. Lisa’s waist and she let him. I was disappointed to learn that they were boyfriend and girlfriend.
Everyday between four and six p.m. we took a nap. It was obligatory for all kids – which was fine, I bet, for the younger kids, some of them as young as seven, for they naturally need to sleep during the day, but for the older kids, the oldest like me were fourteen, it was a drag. It was unnatural. We didn’t need to sleep during the day. Absurdly enough, regardless of the age, we had to stay in our beds and keep quiet for two hours.
During those late afternoon naps, Lisa used to come occasionally to my bedroom that I shared with twelve other boys, and sit on the edge of my bed. She placed her hand over my body, leaned forward above me, and then she talked with me in whispers. I don’t remember much of those conversations, they were small talks. She asked me about where I was from, my parents, friends, and whatever came to her mind. It did not matter. What mattered was that her shapely firm breasts were right in front of my face and the ends of her long red hair were occasionally touching and skimming my skin, invoking all sorts of sexual sensations that she seemed or pretended not to be aware off. I had to pretend too, lying there unnaturally stiffened, thinking of nothing else but to roll her over and have sex with her (but how?). The question was what she was thinking doing that to a fourteen year old boy? Flirting? Seducing? I had no way of knowing for sure, for her manner of behavior was ambiguous. But my roommates seemed to know for certain. When she left the room, they immediately awoke from their pretended sleep and had a lot to say, such as, “O man, wow, she is after you, etc.”
Edward, our guardian, was a student at the Sport Academy and liked sporting. One day while we were playing on the meadows nearby our camp, he wrestled with the boys for fun. He let the boys come at him in groups of five or more, and then he was throwing them around on the ground. Although there were many of them, it was easy for him to beat them, for they were just kids, while he was a powerful well-trained athlete. I don’t remember how it happened, but seeing him indulging in his victories over the kids, the two strongest boys challenged him to a wrestling match, or maybe it was the opposite way around and Edward, seeing the boys passively sitting and watching, challenged them to a match. One of those boys was me, the other, Kaczorowski, a boy from a foster home. We wrestled and took Edward down, and then immobilized him in wrestling grips on the ground. The kids reacted with euphoria, cheering and clapping their hands. Our victory was obvious; Edward was powerless in our grips. Assuming the fright was over, Kaczorowski and I loosened our grips and let Edward go. But the moment he regained his freedom of movement, he began to push and kick us. Kaczorowski jumped out of his reach, but I was still entangled with Edward and suddenly found myself under his legs being kicked furiously. For some incomprehensive reason he still tried to prove that he had won the match – it turned ugly, he lost his temper and became viciously aggressive. Finally, I managed to disentangle myself from his legs and pulled away, but Edward still could not help himself and kicked the ground a few more times in desperation, evidently loosing self-control. It took us all by surprise, so we backed off. The cheers, shouts and clapping suddenly died out and in contrast, an ominous silence took over. The boys looked at each other with embarrassment and then turned away and dispersed.
Lisa was there too and had seen the whole thing. I noticed that she was deeply disturbed by it. She said something to Edward, but I was already too far away from them to hear it.
A day or two later, Lisa came to my bedroom during our afternoon nap. She approached my bed and said in a lowered voice so as not to wake the other boys, “Krzysztof, get up and get dressed, quickly.”
“What?” I asked confused.
“Come with me shopping in Gdynia. I need you to help me carry the bags,” she said with a sense of urgency.
“Shopping?” I asked, still confused for her request was unusual.
“Yes, shopping” she said and then explained, “We’re supposed to pick up some stuff for the evening meal. The kitchen is missing some ingredients, herbs and other items.”
“Aha,” I said in recognition. “Come on,” she hurried me up, “there is a big mess in the kitchen. They had to change the supper menu because the delivery guy didn’t come. He got lost or something. And one cook quit. They’re in a panic. No one to go shopping, so I offered.”
“Okay,” I responded while getting up.
She hurried me again, “Come, come, quickly. I still have to go to the office, so get ready and meet me in the lobby, okay?”
So I got dressed and went shopping with her to the public market in Gdynia that was about two miles away. We walked on the dirt road through an uninhabited area. Some of it was the same road we used to take to the beach. Lisa was playful and seductive. She held my hand and we grew attracted to each other. On the way back, we stopped to rest.
She said, “Let’s sit over there.”
Where?” I asked.
“Over there, in that small clearing in the bushes,” she said, indicating with her finger.
We went there and sat down. She sat very close to me and put her hand around me the same way she used to in the bedroom. This time we were alone, with no boys around us, and there was no ambiguity any more. We embraced and kissed and I touched her body, here and there, the intimate parts. She was allowing me to touch her, in fact provoking, then withdrawing with laughter saying, “We cannot do that,” and “They’re waiting for us, we have to go back.” But we did not go. We got hot and passionate and pulled our clothes off. Then I heard her saying, “No, no, no.” But it was too late to stop — I had already pulled her toward my body and suddenly penetrated her. She heaved a sigh and moaned, then arched her body back and forth repeatedly in spasmodic movements, finally clinging to me in a wet embrace. When we were done, she was crying.
I asked, “Why are crying? Is something wrong?”
“No, no,’ she denied, “Nothing is wrong.” Then when I wanted to go at it a second time, she looked at her watch and said, “O my god, it is already about six. We have to rush. The first tour is about to have supper and the cooks still don’t have their herbs.” Saying this she quickly put her panties on, stood up, shook the sand off her clothes and then we hurriedly headed back.
I never had sex with Lisa again. I thought it was because there was not a suitable occasion or because Lisa got scared about having sex with a minor and was avoiding me, but I don’t know.
In those few days left, I saw her often with Mr. Edward, somehow closer then ever. When it so happened that she encountered me in public, she casually exchanged a few words with me as if nothing had ever happened between us. I knew that we had crossed the line and our love-sex affair had no chance to flourish. It was just a summer adventure.
The vacation was soon over and we were departing by trains from the main railway station in Gdynia. A few minutes before my train was about to take off, Lisa came to my platform to say goodbye.
She approached me closely and whispered to my ear, “I regret only one thing,” then paused.
“What is it?” I prompted her.
“That you are so young,” she said. (I said nothing to that but I didn’t think her too old, she was only nineteen.) Then she leaned closer to my ear and said, “But I don’t regret what happened.” I did not answer her, though I had no doubt that I did not regret it either. “Do you hear me?” she asked me.
“Yes,” I said, “I hear you.
”Goodbye, Krzysztof,” she said aloud, pulling away.
“Goodbye, Ms. Lisa,” I answered.
She still waived to me from the distance and shouted, “I will never forget you.”
I waived back to her and said again, “Goodbye.” Then she disappeared in the crowed, walking toward her train that went in a different direction.
I never saw her again. God bless her soul, she must be old now, but once she was a hot flame.