Just before complete shutdown, I managed to think to myself, “so much for ‘hiding in plain sight!’” Like a fattened cow taking the last walk up the ramp, I moved forward. I could see over the crowd the office door opening and closing as other names I was not hearing were called. Just like the last door cattle enter at the slaughter house.
I took one last look around for Jase. He and his football buddies were laughing and pointing. I don’t think he saw how hurt I was that my own brother, my rock, would be making fun of me.
Mrs. Grant gave me a kind smile and pointed down the hall to Dr. Cavenaugh’s office. The room was cramped. I must be the last one. All the seats were taken around the conference room table so I began to fade into the corner and disappear.
“Mr. Contadino, it would be polite for you to stand and give your seat to the lady.” Dr. Cavenaugh was looking directly at me, compelling me forward with his eyes. Then this monster arose from the chair. He was HUGE. He just kept standing and standing. Unfolding and unfolding. My God, he made Jason look tiny. His neck was bigger than my waist. Two of me would fit his width with lots of wiggle room left over. Almost no body fat yet none of the sharp definition of a bodybuilder. It was obvious he was very, very strong.
Amazing for his size and sheer physical power, he very gently offered me the chair. I did my best to disappear into it. Retreat into my own little world and not let this be happening.
Dr. Cavenaugh was talking. I couldn’t hear the words. Didn’t really want to. I just wanted to wake up in my bed, real soon. After a bit, the mountain behind me spoke a few words. His voice very deep. I heard him say his name was Luis and something about the football team. That made sense.
I felt Dr. Cavenaugh’s eyes on me and heard him say, “Rebbecca?” Something about introductions flashed through my brain. I don’t really remember what I said. I’m sure it was a whisper.
Dr. Cavenaugh was speaking again. I think it was something about me, it sure felt like it as I sensed every eye in the room on me. Yet, I couldn’t be here, now. Not with what was going to happening very shortly. I focused on my hands in my lap. Willing myself to wake up from this dream.
“What the FUCK!” I’m sure a seismograph in Australia registered my explosion. Before I could get my feet under me, my breath back in my body, it felt like the entire football team was pushing me towards the office door. They were laughing and pointing at me. I couldn’t hear there jokes, I’m sure they were good.
Alone, I was propelled into the cavern of the outer office. Mrs. Grant, the school’s secretary, was behind the counter and casually hooked her hand towards the Principle’s Office. I could feel every muscle trying to lift my feet, coordinate, keep my balance, and walk down the hallway. There was no music. Not even Muzak. A funeral dirge would have worked.
I entered Dr. Cavenaugh’s office and discovered I was the first one there.
“Well, Mr. Contadino. Welcome to the Program.” Dr. C. was one of those few people that made me feel short. At 6′ 9”, he had had a brief career in the NBA. After, he had returned to school and received a doctorate in education. His mere presence was enough to quieten any hallway.
“Feel free to relax here while we wait for the rest.” He pointed to the back of a chair and handed me a copy of the Pamphlet to occupy my hands. I played with it while I tried to process all this. Could I even get my head around it? SHIT. I think I sat down in the chair.
One by one the others came in. I only felt them enter the room. I was focused on the naked couple on the cover of the Program’s pamphlet. When I was in my stance on the football field, I was aware of most every player on the field. Yet, right now, all I could see was that naked couple.
“Mr. Contadino?” Dr. Cavenaugh cleared his throat to get my full attention. “It would be polite for you to stand and give your seat to the lady.”
“Oh, um, yeah. Sorry.” I dragged myself into this world. Standing, I saw the others. West High was a big school. To get everyone through the program, we had 4 people per class in the Program each week. Sixteen at a time. Naked. As I turned, I notice Rebbecca, the school’s resident artist, standing and offered her my chair at the table. She looked about like I felt. While Rebbecca sat, I looked around the room at the others. WHAT! Why is Margie here?
Dr. C.’s voice took over. “Before I go through my little speech, I’d like you each to introduce yourselves. Please share with us your name, class, and little about your activities at school. Mr. Contadino, please start us off.”
Somehow, my mouth worked. I guess all those sports interviews I’d done over the years helped. “Luis Contadino. Senior. Starting defensive lineman and co-captain of the football team. Also, Science and Chess Club.”
“Ms. Davis?” Dr. C. prompted the girl seated in front of me. “Rebbecca?” When she didn’t immediately respond.
“Hm, ah, I’m… I’m Rebbecca Davis. Senior. I’m an artist….” Her words were barely above a whisper.
Dr. C. spoke up. “If you look at the signature of most of the murals around the school, you’ll see her signature.” The back of Rebbecca’s neck, I noticed, was becoming very red.
“Tim Carter. Senior. I just transferred this year. Theater is my main interest.” Three weeks and I’d never noticed him. About 6 feet. Very red hair and medium build. Seemed like a nice guy.
“Shirley Koen,” she pronounced it Key-oh-en. “Senior. Editor of the school paper and class editor for the yearbook.”
“Mike Watson. Junior. Nervous.” We all broke up at that! Yeah, we are too!
Dr. C. wasn’t letting him off easy. “I will add National Honor Society and the school’s first ever Chess Grand Master.” Didn’t I know it. Although he killed me most times we played, he was also a patient teacher. Short. Skinny. Just what you’d think a nerd looked like. Really funny when you got to know him.
“Ah, oh…” The next victim started to choke. Mike reached out, put his hand on her shoulder, bent, and whispered something in her ear. He left his hand there, squeezing lightly. “Stacy Williams. Junior. Photographer for the paper and annual.” She managed to blurt out, then put her hand on top of Mike’s. Stacy and Mike had been an item since their Freshman year. She was nearly coal black and large framed. The odd couple. Despite her size, when she was in photographer mode, she could disappear.
“One at a time. In a rare breech of protocol, gentlemen first. Mr. Flanagin?”
“Chris Flanagin. Junior. Pitcher on the baseball team, Latin Society, and Debate.” He looked down at Jane.
“Jane Chung. At least that’s my American name. Junior. Choir and Spanish Club.” A beautiful girl with an incredible voice. Although she was squeaking a bit now. I am certain I’ll be buying her recordings in the not too distant future. So far, everyone had been on the same side of the table as Rebbecca and I. The Sophomores and Juniors were across the table. Margie.
After my intro, Dr. Cavenaugh told everyone about my murals. I’m sure I was red as a California sunset. Suddenly, my artistic muse smacked me in the back of the head. Screaming, she said, “Listen! Watch! Observe! You need to capture this. You cannot miss the tension, energy, emotions. Think of the stories, the paintings this experience will bring!”
I started agreeing with my muse. WHAT! “Look,” my muse spoke as she appeared standing on the hands folded in my lap, “this is going to happen. You can be self-absorbed and miss the unfolding motions, actions, energies, and emotions of the others. Watch. Listen. Learn.”
All the Juniors and Seniors had introduced themselves. Suddenly, I felt Luis’s energy change. It became very cold, not angry, just cold. Something was really wrong. I wish I could see his face. I split my attention to observe the kids across the table and feeling Luis behind me, or at least his energy.
“Stanley Rosenberg. Sophomore. I’m a transfer student and am joining the Math and Science clubs.” He looked a little bit like a young Albert Einstein, at least his hair did! I could easily use his image as either the great teacher or, with a few shifts in his face, the perfect mad scientist.
“Rosalee Tuner. Sophomore. Token trailer trash and aspiring class slut.” She got a case of the giggles. Dr. C. gave one of his looks, the kind down his nose. She straightened up a bit. “Okay, frustrated actress, piano and wannabe conductor.” That was Rosalee. Always on stage. I think she would have been a great actress, but she was better with music. It would be interesting to see how this week played out for her. I already had in mind a scene with her as the great courtesan.
“Luke Nguyen. Sophomore. Point guard on the basketball team, at least I hope!” We all chuckled. He was maybe 5′ 6”. But he could shoot. He’d made varsity as a Freshman and was the team’s leading scorer. Good thing I liked sports or I wouldn’t know half these folks. Wiry is the best way to describe him. I found myself wondering what his shoulders look like. Well, I’d find out in a minute!
“And, soon to be National Merit Scholar.” Dr. C. added. Then he nodded to the next person. If Luis was cold before, he was frozen now. Anger? No, that was usually heated. Fear? Could be. I wish I could see his face.
“Margie Contadino. Sophomore. Class President, cheerleader, and assistant stage manager for the Drama Club.” She looked at Luis and gave a little wink. He was unmoving. His energy had not changed.
As people started to get the connection, Dr. C. spoke up, “Yes, they are siblings. Our first in the Program at the same time.”
“Jorge Borges.” He pronounced it Whore-Hey Bore-Haze. “Freshman. Somehow, Freshman Class President.” One look at him and you knew why. A serious line to his face, yet mirth in his eyes. Someone you wanted to trust. I could see an older version of him in the scene with Rosalee.
“Sherri Jackson. Freshman. Ah, just here.” We all laughed with her.
Dr. C. added, “Shirley, you’d better watch out. She’s a damn good writer!” Sherri tried to turn purple. Jorge rested his hand on her shoulder to reassure her. I felt Luis’s energy change, beginning to warm up some. Just a hair.
“Paul Templer. Freshman. Wannabe river guide. Ecology Club.” Rugged looking. Very deep tan. His accent sounded British, but not quite. Talk about stereotypical! His looks and accent and wanting to be a river guide in deepest, darkest Africa. He would definitely make it into at least one of my works.
Dr. C. felt compelled to speak up. “Paul joins us from Zambia.” That explained the accent.
“Um. Crap. Why am I here?” A cute little waif. “All you guys are so unreal. I’m just a nobody.”
Oh, oh. A meltdown. Before anyone could say anything, Paul leaned down and place both his hands on her slender, freckled shoulders. He whispered, but had the kind of voice that just carries. “It’s okay, Ginny. We’re all in this together. We all want to meet you.”
Whatever it was – his words, touch, his energy – she looked back at him, smiled, and while holding his eyes spoke. “Ginny Smith. Freshman. Confused.” No one laughed. She would make the perfect girl taken and held by the natives. Bound and waiting for Paul to rescue her. I felt Luis beginning to return to his normal energy state. I wish I could see his face.
Dr. C. waited for a second to see if she was done. “Ginny has test scores that would scare most of you and with this group, that’s saying something. She also volunteered for the Program. She has some special circumstances that you need to respect. Get to know her and you will understand.”
Ginny blushed so hard her freckles disappeared and her skin blended with her flaming red hair. Mmm. That was going to be fun to try to paint.
“Okay. Welcome to the fourth year of the Naked in School Program at West High School. Everyone in the school and your parents have all been given the pamphlets explaining the program. You sixteen are the first group this year. I expect you to set the tone for the year, help each other, and help those that come after you.”
Tone? I knew about color tones. How could I set a tone? Wait. I’m going to be getting naked in a minute. My eyes drifted down to my hands again.
Margie is in the Program? Isn’t this week going to be bad enough for me without this? What is Mama going to think? Papa? What are they going to expect of me? I knew they were beyond the typical Italian-Catholic crap they were raised with, but this? While they didn’t come to the States until they were teenagers, they had become fully American, even liberal in their social attitudes.
As the introductions came to Margie, I shut down. No other way to say it. When she finished and gave me a little wink, I know she saw me doing a great impersonation of a slack-mouthed, idiot-eyed jock.
The near meltdown with the cute, redheaded Freshman – Ginny, yeah – brought me back. Dr. C. was saying something about expecting us to set the tone.
“I’m looking to the Seniors to be the leaders I know them to be and act as mentors for you all. Each person in this group has already shown themselves to be outstanding in some dimension. In your own way you are already leaders and carry a lot of influence. The rest of the school will be watching how you behave this week.”
“What? Scared shitless and embarressed?” Sherri blurted out.
“Bare assed is more like it,” quipped Rosalee.
“Sherri,” Dr. C.’s voice pulled our attention back, “If you weren’t scared, I’d be worried. Rosalee, how many times have you performed on stage?”
“Um, around a hundred, I guess.”
“Do you ever get nervous about it?”
“Every time but once. Butterflies about the size of 747′s.”
“How do you deal with it?”
“Turn it into the energy I give my audience through my playing. The one time I wasn’t nervous was the worst performance I ever gave.”
“Better believe it!” We all laughed with her.
“Getting ready for your biggest and longest performance to date?”
“Besides Trailer Trash Queen?” We all laughed. It was an act she’d been using since I knew her. “I’m still dressed! But, yes.”
“Luis?” I was now in Dr. C’s gun sights. “On the playing field you are focused. Nearly a machine. Do you get nervous before a game?”
“I’m already getting nervous about East and it’s just Monday!”
“Yet, we don’t see that on the field. Why?”
“I have a ritual I go through in the training room when I’m getting taped up for the game. It takes about 30 minutes so I use the time to turn all the nervous energy into focused energy. Focused on winning the game.” He went through a few others. Okay, I knew how to do it for football. Could I do that this week? What was a win? Making it through the week alive?
All of us must have been zoned and thinking because it took Dr. C. a minute to get us to focus on him again. Must have been a record.
“Now, I have a request of the gentlemen.” We all stood up a little taller and focused on him. He looked more serious than I have ever seen him. “The Program still has its dark side. A very dark side because all of society has not embraced its concepts. As a result, there are still cases in this and other schools of abuse – and worse.” He let it sink in for a minute and then pointedly look at me, Chris, Luke, and Paul. “I expect you gentlemen to provide as safe a space as possible for all the Program participants this year. I want you to help others understand that no means no. Maybe means no. And what is reasonable when requests are made. The Program is about pushing limits, not about inviting abuse.”
He again looked each of us, this time all the males, in the eyes. Looked at each of us until we nodded. “Good.” As our commitment settled in, I looked at the others. It was easy to see the commitment in every eye. We were bonded. “Thank you, Gentlemen.” Damn, he was good.
“Two more things. First, we will be doing the Partner version of the Program. Gentlemen, you are currently standing behind your partner for the week.”
“Secondly, ladies…” He did the eye contact thing with each of them and began talking to them. I wasn’t listening. I tried to consider what being partnered with Rebbecca would be like. Yet, I kept thinking about how to deal with my little sister being in the program at the same time as me. Hell, I was having trouble dealing with ME being in the program!
“Partners” and “Time to strip.” That’s all I heard of that part of Dr. Cavenaugh’s speech at the end. My muse left. On automatic, I somehow undressed except for my sneakers and socks and put my clothes in the box with my name on it. Cloaking myself in my artistry, I looked around and observed the others move. Undressing, hiding, exposing. Here I had 15 nude models of almost every body type and for free!
Luis, my partner for the week – got to get used to that, was massive. He didn’t have chiseled sharpness, yet in a more primal way I knew he was incredibly strong. As large as he was, he was very graceful when he removed his shirt and his pants. His muscles moved in a well choreographed dance that wasted no energy or motion. Almost a ballet.
I was glancing around catching a scene here and there. The long sinuous motions of the pitcher Chris. Tom’s dramatic flare, movements almost larger than life. Rosalee’s bold confidence. She was putting on a very sensuous, no, very erotic show. You could see the effect it was having on Stan by the bulge in his shorts.
I felt a change in Luis. As his hands moved towards his waist to remove the last of his clothing, his grace had disappeared. I could see the muscles in his arms, shoulders, chest, and torso begin to work against each other. The primal power he had just naturally exhibited was replaced with doubt and uncertainty. Certainly, he’s not ashamed of how small he is, is he? WHOA! Where did that come from!
I suddenly thought about the Greek and Roman sculptors of long ago. They showed the average man, from what I had read, in size when flaccid. Not like many of the artists today. Size seems to be everything to the point the average male must feel inferior. Was that why he was nervous? I promised myself not to react in a negative way.
He was still fumbling with his waistband. Moving to catch his eyes, he looked up for the first time. “It’s okay, Luis, just look me in the eyes.” He looked at me with surprise. I could feel him relax, his power was not back, but his doubt was gone. As he finished stripping, I kept eye contact and smiled.
He smiled back and turned to put his boxers in the box. When he did, we broke eye contact. I couldn’t help myself, I looked down.
“OH!” That was it. My mouth stopped working. Like the rest of him, his penis was massive as well. It hung halfway to his knees and was still flaccid.
I heard a few gasps, a few “Oh My Gods!”, and Rosalee’s “WOW! Mama Want!” I forced myself to look up and found him turning very red. I sought his eyes. The hurt in them caused my compassion to flow towards him. He hadn’t chosen his size, yet by the end of the week that’s probably how people would remember him. My heart went out to him. I reached out and touched his arm, feeling the massive muscles for the first time. He was trembling. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to draw attention to you.”
His eyes said thanks as he spoke. “It’s okay. It was bound to be noticed eventually.” I couldn’t help but giggle a bit. That seemed to relax him some. Then he looked me over for the first time. He scanned my entire body slowly. When his eyes met mine, he simply said, “You’re beautiful.”
Still looking at his eyes, I know he meant it. I must have blushed to my toes again. I was getting a lot of practice today with that. My nipples hardened and I notice him glance down for a second. A little smile appeared on his face. His gentleness back.
“Okay, folks!” Dr. Cavenaugh’s voice came through our silent communications. “First period is about over. Your teachers have all been notified of your absence, no notes will be needed. Any homework assignments will be in your box at the end of the day. Time to head to your second period classes.”
“Luis, would you help me?” I don’t know where that came from. “Would you walk me to my next class?”
With that, all 16 of us headed out into the hall. It was empty, the bell had not rung yet. Maybe we can make it to my next class before… RING!
“Strip.” Couldn’t Dr. C have found a gentler word? I pulled Rebecca’s chair back for her, watched her stand. Funny, as shy and introverted as I’d always thought her to be, she didn’t hesitate about starting to disrobe. She wasn’t stripping. She was disrobing.
I looked down to unbutton my cuffs and the focused on the buttons down my chest. By the time I was tugging my shirttails out of my pants, she was nude. She wasn’t naked, she was nude. It was almost as if she was cloaked in something. I’ve shucked my clothes many times in locker rooms, at the swimming hole, and with girlfriends. I’ve been watched many times. She was observing, studying.
When I moved my hands to the elastic on my boxers, I felt clumsy. Afraid. Actually ashamed of my size. I was the envy of many men, yet my size seemed to have scared every girlfriend I’d ever had away. Suddenly, I didn’t want to scare Rebbecca. I froze.
I felt her eyes on my face, so I looked up and into her eyes. “It’s okay, Luis. Just look me in the eyes.” I suddenly felt okay. I slid my boxers down, turned, bent, picked them up, and put them in the box. The turn was to hide myself from her.
“Oh!” Then a massive intake of breath. I guess I don’t hide so easily. I’ve scared another one. I heard the others comment. Rosalee’s almost made me laugh. At least one volunteer, my libido noticed. When I looked back at Rebbecca, I expected to see fear, revulsion, anything but what I found. I saw tenderness, warmth, caring. She touched my arm and apologized. I guess I shrugged my shoulders and let her know it was okay. After all, how long could I hide this thing this week?
I couldn’t help it. I had to check her out. Yet, with the cloak she was wearing, I found myself seeing and not leering. I mean, I’m a healthy teenage male. Hormones and all that. I’m pretty sure I’m not gay. Here in front of me is a nude woman. Rosalee was naked. Rebbecca was nude.
Here’s a girl I’ve seen around for years. Barely have exchanged 10 words with her. She obviously dressed to conceal. She was Venus Di Milo with arms and infinitely more perfect breasts. Wonderful. Spectacular. Magnificent.
“You’re beautiful!” Wow, Luis, you dumb son-of-a-bitch. Could you not come up with something better than that! Yet, when I looked in her eyes, I could see that she sincerely accepted what I had said. She did turn an interesting shade of red, though.
I’m sure I was pretty red myself. Blood being elsewhere in my body would be the only reason that Junior had reared his ugly head. Her next words almost triggered a full fledged reaction, though. “Luis, would you help me?”
Of course, my hormone ladened, teenage mind began to think “help her to the floor or over the desk…” Praying that her next words had something to do with an itch, I waited for her to continue.
“Would you walk me to my next class?” That brought me back to the here and now. Plus, I began to shrink before anyone else noticed the difference.
“Sure, Partner!” I really do need to work on my lines.
We all headed out into the empty hallway. Rebbecca seemed fine until the bell rang. I could feel the meltdown starting so I reached out and took her hand. “It will be okay, I’m here.”