The Cougar Hill Sex
by Kate Garklavs
On the fifteenth anniversary of the Cougar Hill Sex, we packed our blankets and coolers as we always did, had our typical picnic to mark the occasion. Most people brought simple foods—deli sandwiches, cold chicken—but Betsy Scheer, always the one-upsman, brought a chocolate pie she knew wouldn’t survive the heat.
“It’s a family recipe,” she told anyone who eyed the pudding filling, now separating in the warmth of the evening.
Preparations for the picnic began a day or two beforehand, not earlier. No one would own up to being as excited as they were for the trek up the overgrown footpath. We took care, nonetheless. Women brought out woven baskets, gingham oilcloths used by their mothers and carefully kept. Men dug out the bug spray from the medicine chest. Near dusk, couples lingered at the foot of the driveway, checking to see who else was strolling in the direction of the school. Everyone was, of course. The picnic was our greatest holiday.
Fifteen years prior, Anthony Reese and Lana Moran skipped class to have sex on the hill overlooking Moon Valley High. Math class, it was; both were in general-track trig. No one saw them make their ascent, though the climb only took five or six minutes, tops. We knew because the hill was the center of all our illicit experimentation. Spent condoms and lighters and empty plastic fifths littered the unmowed grass. Anthony and Lana would have gotten away with it, would never have received the celebrity their lust bestowed on them, if Erin Stark hadn’t been staring out the window, deep in a daydream. The movement of Anthony’s ass, rabbit white and gyrating gently, caught her attention.
“Oh my god,” she said, each word distinct as a stone. “They’re fucking.”
“Language, Ms. Stark,” the teacher said. Then the teacher turned and caught the spectacle and all hell broke loose.
Once we looked, we couldn’t turn away. Three classrooms—ninety students, three teachers—watched in mute awe for the handful of minutes Anthony and Lana went at it, not even a little bit hidden by the crabgrass. Ten minutes of pleasure, rapt silence. When they finished, Lana threw back her arms and wriggled in the grass, blue eyes wide to the birdless sky. That wriggle broke the spell.
In an instant, the teachers buzzed the principal. We students filled the air with our frenzied chatter. How long had they been planning it? Was it her first time? His? And what if they unknowingly rolled in poison oak, because it grows around here? Wouldn’t that be a real bitch to treat? Can you imagine poison oak along your taint? Well, can you?
Within an hour, Anthony and Lana had been suspended, their parents notified. The administration’s vilification of the pair only cemented their heroic status. Boys, toweling off after practice, discussed Anthony’s technique, wondered aloud what he’d done to win over a girl like Lana. A real ten, most boys agreed, though some regarded her only as a nine. Girls slipped notes of admiration through the vents in Lana’s locker.
Three weeks Anthony and Lana spent in isolation. When they came back to us, we gave them wide berth. We were still shocked, a little, still afraid of their deviant power, though we would never have admitted this. Jealous, too. Our town offers limited promise for fame, and the lot of us had missed our fleeting chance.
Anthony and Lana graduated with the rest of us, tossed their caps and did the Macarena at the all-night bowling alley party. He stayed in town to work for his father’s plumbing outfit, has snaked more than a few of our drains. She went to school out of state, got her nursing degree, got married. That, the marriage, stung a little. More than a few of us had hoped she and Anthony would end up together, consecrate their eternal love in the spot where they first made it plain to the world, but they couldn’t overcome their youthful differences. That’s what we heard, though we never got specifics on the differences. Lana started a family with a balding CPA and only comes back at Christmas, winding her cart solemnly through the aisles of the Price Chopper.
The story’s ending doesn’t matter; the beginning is all we remember, live for. It gives us hope, that unseen climb to the grassy clearing, the stripping down to skin in the unfiltered light of afternoon, the moans we couldn’t hear for the distance. The buoyancy of Lana’s joy as she scratched her back on the spring grass, the blades whoosh-whooshing against her freckled, unmarred skin.
Recently, I visited my hometown. Like many of our hometowns, it’s not much: strip malls, fast-casual restaurants, vinyl-sided houses in a narrow range of grays and beiges. It’s the sort of place where, no matter what you’ve accomplished in your adult life, you’re shuttled back to your high-school sense of self whenever you visit. The sort of place where choice bits of gossip linger for years.
Kate Garklavs lives in Portland, OR. Her work has appeared in Juked, Wigleaf, Tammy, and Gold Wake Live, among other places. She's the prose editor of the Submission PDX reading series, and her first chapbook (Diffusely Yours) was published by Bottlecap Press in August 2018.