Tragedy & Triumph

We had our fair share of tragedy too.  One of the girls I was originally introduced to at the Teen Club so long ago ended up pregnant.  She and her boyfriend pleaded with both parents to give their permission to get married.  Neither set budged an inch.  They tried to run away, but got caught at the train station.  Trying parental house arrest for her didn’t work and, one morning, her younger brother told us she was found lying on her bed, dead, with a suicide note in her hand.  Her boyfriend was inconsolable.  Every one of us tried to get him through his grief but it didn’t help.  Within two weeks, he had disappeared from school.  We think he made it away somewhere and began another life.  Both sets of parents were shipped to different duty stations within two weeks.  Virginia and I wept long and hard for the both of them.  It was wonderful to see almost every kid from the school turn up for her funeral.

There was nothing like the anticipation of a trip to Paris in the late spring.  Virginia and I were out of school for the summer and our wanderlust had struck with a vengeance.  We had taken several day or overnight trips before to some of the outlying cities for photographic shoots in the Photo Club.

These trips were usually closely monitored by hawk-eyed chaperones that brooked no ‘funny stuff’.  Sometimes, it seemed as if they came out of your backpack to nip a fleeting kiss or caress in the bud before “anything happened”.  We were young adults and wanted to be treated as such.  To this end, we presented, to the ‘school trip powers that be’, a sort of contract.  If they would assign teachers of our choosing as chaperones we would abide by the rules.  Surprisingly, they agreed and assigned two teachers we wanted to the club.

Mr. Espana was to keep the boys in line, while Frau Bruggerman watched the girls.  I have already described Mr. Espana’s accomplishments and Frau Bruggerman’s effectiveness with the girls was legendary.  He was courtly and she was definitely a lady.  They always kept up their manners and didn’t let us revert to some of our more bad habits.  They tolerated a bit of foolishness, but only if it encompassed the entire group.

Our parents were cool with this arrangement but it was a closely guarded secret between us kids that the both of the chaperones, being European, had an entirely different, and more practical, view of young love.  What our parents didn’t know certainly wouldn’t hurt them.  ‘Funny stuff’ for an American mother translated to ‘let nature take its course’ to a European.

Letting us out on our own for an afternoon of picture taking, or just sightseeing was not unheard of.  In fact, it some cases it was encouraged.  Mr. Espana knew Virginia and I maintained a healthy attraction for each other, and I think, in part, he was interested in seeing how it would develop.  There is no doubt that he would have stepped in should I, for instance, gotten knee-walking drunk, or attempted to rip the clothes off some young girl (or both at the same time), and manacle me.  Other than that, if we treated him and Frau Bruggerman with respect, they would reciprocate.

Virginia and I pestered our parents mercilessly for a week until they finally gave in and gave their permission for a four-night and five-day trip to Paris by our Photo Club.  By the time every parent had returned their permission slips, we found that only eight of us were going.  The eight included Mr. Espana and Frau Bruggerman.  That meant that six of us students – oddly enough, three boys and three girls – would be going.

For three weeks, I baby-sat, washed cars, ran errands, and schemed ways to accumulate money for the trip.  I wanted it to be the finest trip I ever took anywhere.  Virginia was saving her money also so she could buy some really nice clothes there.  My money, a tidy sum of almost seventy dollars, was earmarked for sightseeing and candlelit dinners.  I took a crash course in conversational French in which included simple phraseology such as “where is the bathroom”, “please”, “thank you”, and “how far is the Folies Bergère from here”.

Soon, the big day arrived and we boarded the train for Paris.  I must have developed my love for all things train by living my young life in Europe.  Train travel is huge over there.  Even in the last bit of the 50’s the US had begun to turn their back on their train system and was allowing it to decline.  Not so anywhere in Europe.  Germany, in particular, had an extensive network of trains that ran every day around Germany.  All one had to do was head for the local Hauptbahnhof (main station) and hop aboard.  We occupied four adjoining compartments for the trip; we three boys together, the three girls together, and one each for Mr. Espana and Frau Bruggerman.

Amid chattering and final goodbyes the train chugged out of the station.  Yes, chugged, it was steam driven – a type I still love today.  On trips such as this, and in private with just the club members, Mr. Espana allowed us to call him Arlo.  Frau Bruggerman was affectionately known as ‘Mama’ to all of us.  Within the first hour, Arlo and Mama told us that they were heading down to the bar car for a drink until dinnertime and to amuse ourselves as we wished.  He surreptitiously passed me the key to his compartment and added a wink.  Did this mean what I thought it did?

In a preface to the following paragraphs I would like to say that things get a bit spicy.  If you condemn before reading it, you’re a prude.  If you do after reading it, you could be called a hypocrite.  If you read all of it, shake your head and say to yourself “yeah, I’ve been there”, then you’re perfectly normal and had a life pretty much similar to mine; mostly full of frustrations but an occasional triumphant success.  The following is from the male point of view, so please allow for this.

The evening before I left on the trip my dad astonished me by presenting a pretty forceful argument for abstention by making a pretty crass statement, considering what had happened not very long ago: “you get your girlfriend pregnant and I’ll kill you”.  We got a bit embarrassed after that pronouncement but soon began to talk freely.  Was this was the same guy that tossed me off a roof when I was young and now was giving me advice on what to do in a sexual situation?  Instead of scoffing like I normally did and telling him that I already knew everything (which is a given, being a teenager), I thought about it and asked some good questions.  My first question was “what happens when the situation calls for something other than abstention?”  His advice was to fall back on the second line of defense, condoms.  They were called ‘rubbers’ back then and only in hushed tones between father and son as far as I knew.  Sexual mores in the 50’s were very tightly controlled and not to be talked about as loosely as today.  The very mention of a Sex Shop in any community would have parents marching with firebrands and pitchforks raised. Instead, he handed me a small box that contained a strip of ten condoms saying “this is what you use if you can’t abstain.  I managed to wait until your mom and I were married, but you and Virginia may not be able to.  Please use them if you and she are intimate.”

My next two questions, as you may have guessed, were: “how?” and “when?” He opened the box and showed me the diagram printed on the inside.  I was a quick student, I got very good grades, so following the pictures didn’t seem like a really hard task.  I was still struggling with the fact that he had actually given me permission to make love to Virginia, albeit in a backhanded manner.  We talked for about an hour about pretty much everything I had wanted to know about love, not sex, but love.  Like: “how do you know when it really is love and not lust?”  A good question he acknowledged; and then answered: “The only way you can be sure is to take account of your feelings before and after anything as intense as sex; and it WILL be intense.  If you still respect her and want to remain with her as long as she will have you afterwards then you may have found the right girl.  If you lose interest, or even turn from love to hate, then you are only a shallow person and were only looking to have sex, not love”.  A pretty declarative statement to live by and I was thoroughly impressed by it.  We ended our chat with a small toast of very good brandy.  He toasted me with “bon chance”.  Another phrase I now knew meant ‘good luck’.

As the countryside clacked past us rapidly, the other two guys drifted out of our compartment quietly.  Virginia came into my compartment just as the others were leaving.  She had changed into a pleated skirt and a paisley peasant blouse.  She looked very good to me.  I offered her a sip out of my water bottle and motioned her to have a seat beside me.  We sat for a while watching the scenery go by.  Conversation consisted of wondering what Paris would be like, how much fun we would have there, and whether or not Carol and Shirley would be all right with Benny and Art.  I told her that Carol and Shirley could take care of themselves just as well as she could.  I added that I would never take advantage of her or try and force myself on her in any way.  She said “I know that; you’re too nice a guy” and laid her head on my shoulder.

Eventually, or maybe inevitably, I put my arm around her and held her tight to me.  Our heads turned and we kissed.  She and I have kissed before, but this one was somehow different to me.  It had a deeper meaning inside it I thought.  She seemed to put much more effort into this particular kiss than some of the kissing we had done in the theatre and in her living room.  She tapped me twice on my front teeth with her tongue.  I found this highly sensuous and allowed it to enter.  We tapped the tip of our tongues together twice.  This went on to be a ritual between us because it could be done in complete privacy even in front of her parents or mine.  Before we finished that initial kiss I was already into my first analysis: do I respect her now?  The answer was a resounding ‘yes’.

We had played the ‘wishing game’ before, but this afternoon it took on a more poignant theme when she asked me “what are you wishing right now?”  My brain pushed in the clutch and let my mouth freewheel so I told her that I was wishing I could take her in my arms and make love to her.  Aghast at what I had just blurted out, I began to stammer an apology but she wouldn’t hear of it.  She put her fingers on my lips and made a shushing sound. “That is my wish also” she said very quietly.

The afternoon was moving towards evening, and dinner time was only a couple of hours away, so she rose silently, kicked off her flats and locked the compartment door.  Nothing short of a porter or nuclear device would get that door open now due to good German engineering.  As she came back towards me she reached for the hem of her blouse and pulled it over her head.  Her breasts were hidden behind the cloth of her bra.  By the time she sat back down, she had removed it and firmly replaced its cups with my hands.  We sat face to face on the seat and kissed again as I moved my hands up over her soft shoulders, down her back, and pulled her close to me.  As her breasts touched my chest, she gave a nervous giggle.  She leaned back, reached out to unbutton my shirt, and pulled it off my arms.  We were now both nude to the waist.  We again embraced, this time with just a little nervousness and nothing between us but skin.

By now I had an erection and it was tenting my slacks.  Almost as an accident, she lowered her arm and brushed the back of her hand against the fabric of my pants.  Once could have been an accident, but twice more – this time with the palm of her hand – was beyond accident.  I reacted by putting both hands behind her waist and unfastening the snaps of her skirt.  I suddenly heard my dad’s voice in my head saying “make sure of your intentions” so I stopped and asked her if she was absolutely sure about this.  All she said was “yes, I am sure.  I know that I love you and want to be with you in every way.  I not only love you, but I want you to bring your love to me.”

She stood and the dress fell away to the floor.  As I stood, she unfastened my belt and I unzipped my pants which quickly joined her dress on the floor.  I was faintly surprised that I wasn’t embarrassed that my erection was showing fully in my shorts.  I glanced down and saw my second pair of occupied panties.  My pulse rate escalated, and I swallowed hard several times.  We met in the middle of the compartment and held each other for a moment as the train rocked to and fro.  I reached out and flipped the light switch which left only a small blue night light in the corner.  Before my eyes adjusted to the darkness I heard the wispy sound of her panties sliding down her legs and her steps towards the bench seat.  I turned around to my pre-positioned stash of condoms, dropped my shorts, and donned one before joining her on the seat.  We were both novices at this lovemaking thing so it took several trials and errors to find the right position.  During these efforts nothing was said except some more nervous, muffled giggling – from both of us.  Heavy breathing filled the small room as we settled into position – me on top of her and the both of us clinging tightly to each other.

I am definitely not going to tell fibs here and say that the lovemaking lasted for hours; it didn’t.  I managed to penetrate fully while mentally reciting the times tables, doing three-digit multiplication, trying to count the number of rail joints we passed over, and all manner of delaying the inevitable, but, in the end, I lasted maybe 30 seconds.  When I told her what had happened she just held me tighter and whispered in my ear that we would have four wonderful nights in Paris to make it better.  I decided then and there that I would also respect her afterward.

We both agreed that we would turn on the light before putting on any clothes.  I stood, went into the bathroom and cleaned up a bit.  When I returned, she was standing unabashedly in the middle of the lighted compartment with her arms out.  “Do I please you?” she asked, spinning in a circle.  I told her that she pleased me very much and asked her the same thing.  “Yes, my love” was all she said.  I went to her and we just held each other closely for a moment.  We alternately dressed each other.  Before we left the compartment, I wiped a single tear from her cheek as I held her and told her she was beautiful.  It had been her first time too.

We were the last to reach the dining car and sat down rapidly.  Each of the girls, Carol and Shirley, held an unspoken conversation with Virginia that consisted mostly of raised eyebrows, small smiles, and downcast eyes.  Shirley looked more teed off than happy for some reason. Dinner followed and a short session in the bar car was held before we all headed back to our respective compartments to get some sleep.



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