On the other side of Mac was Hank, trying to negotiate a triple marshmallow that he had overcooked and was threatening to fall off the stick. As he did this Mac’s toes caressed his hiking boot. These two were always showing some kind of affection. Hyacinth was jealous. She hadn’t had a boyfriend since high school and though there were some fine guys at BSC, she couldn’t imagine getting together with someone, with her being naked all the time. It was almost like trying to run a race when you were already at the finish line, the guy already knew everything about you, at least on the outside.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Mac said, grabbing Hyacinth by the hand. The others looked on as the girls got up and walked over a little hill and out of sight.
It was then that Hyacinth said, “It’s too cold. Let’s go in the tent.”
“Nonsense. Just keep moving, you stay warm that way.” That’s what the Alturas women always said when they were asked about it at the BSC main campus; it had become a cliche. So, hugging her hands, watching where she put her feet, Hyacinth tried to keep up with Mac, who seemed to know no other walking speed except fast.
Mac angled this way and that through a stand of trees and then went through a clearing and then into another stand and then another clearing, with Hyacinth trying to keep up.
It was a little circle of trees, almost perfectly round as if planted that way. And tall thick shrubs. When Mac came to them she turned and waited. Hyacinth felt the late sun on her body and she was warmed by the fast walking, her arms now dropped to her sides as she came up. Mac took her by the hand and they made their way between two of the shrubs, feeling them scratch against their breasts and thighs.
They were in the middle of a circle of stones with a big flat stone in the middle. Out of the sun, the stones were cold against their bare feet. In fact it was impossible to see out of this place, the shrubs were so thick all around them. Above, the trees formed a circular canopy, the only place they could see out was directly above at the deep blue sky, amazingly dark blue even though it was still daytime.
Mac held Hyacinth’s hand as they both stood on the round flat stone. “Welcome to Tami’s Clothes.”
“That’s what they call this place, Tami’s Clothes. I know, it’s like too weird. Nice though, right?”
Hyacinth looked around. “It’s like a . . . like a church. No, more like a . . .”
Mac shrugged. “I’m not exactly spiritual, but there is something about this place.”
“It’s like . . . no one can see us.” She and Mac looked at each other. They both laughed as she said it, thinking the same thing. “Like this is our clothes!”
They calmed down and stood there, hand in hand, for a long time silently.
“Who made this place? It can’t be just . . . natural.”
Mac spoke slowly. “It’s just a story, but supposedly there was a girl named Tami who had to go to college naked all the time. I don’t think it was Blanke Schande, some other place. Except she didn’t sign up for it like we did, they forced her to do it, she didn’t want to be naked. I don’t know how that could happen, but when she got older she created this place so that any girl who had to be naked could come here where she would be covered and no one could see her body.”
Hyacinth smiled. “You’re right, that is just too weird. . . But it is nice to be here. Even if there were guys right out there they couldn’t see us.” She looked up at her athletic friend. “I’m not like you, I go through every day wishing I could have clothes.”
“No, I want clothes too.” The two looked at each other. “That’s right. I think any woman is like that, any normal one. Every day I fight the urge to grab the shirt off the next guy who passes by and put it on.” She was quiet for a moment. “Don’t tell Hank that, O.K.?”
Hyacinth thought for a moment and ventured a guess. “Fighting that urge is what makes you strong.”
Mac looked down at their bare feet, then looked at Hyacinth’s vulva. “I didn’t mean to tell you that. That’s another thing they say about this place. It makes you always tell the truth.”
Hyacinth hesitated for a moment, but it really seemed like the right thing to do. She drew Mac toward her and gave her a full body hug, skin against skin, warmth against the increasingly chilly air. They stood there for a while.
Mac stood apart, still holding Hyacinth’s hand. “Time for the little ritual. You should be initiated. Go like this.”
Hyacinth, curious, watched as Mac stood straight up, face to the sky, arms stretched out and up. “Please God, give me clothes.”
Mac’s eyes were closed as she kept looking up. In another setting Hyacinth would have thought this ridiculous and stupid, but not here. She took the cue, arms out, face up. “Please God, give me clothes.”
Mac continued. “Please God, make the earth and sky my clothes.”
“Please God, make the earth and sky my clothes.”
“It is the prettiest dress I ever wore.”
Hyacinth felt strange saying this. “It is the prettiest dress I ever wore.”
“Thank you God. Amen.”
“Thank you God. Amen.”
Mac put her arms down and took Hyacinth’s hand again. “Corny, right? Some women like to say ‘Gaea’ instead of ‘God’, but that would be just too much for me.”
Hyacinth smiled. “I agree.”
“Let’s go. Gotta keep warm.” And Mac jogged off, shooting through the shrubs. Hyacinth followed her, braving the scraping branches, and they ran back to camp. Hyacinth glanced back at the little grove. Such a silly little initiation, and yet the more she thought about it, she had to concede being pulled back there . . . Now she turned around and huffed mightily and the two naked girls laughed as they turned the trip back into a race.