You can relocate this tale to wherever your roots lie. We all have roots. Read Twain's "Innocents Abroad" for a better travelogue, but perhaps mine may do if you're hung up on sex. Or go to Tijuana. Better yet, rewrite my scenes to speak to your own homecoming.
Do forgive a linguistic deficiency. I could try accents resembling English spoken as a foreign tongue, but I'd have to use all these characters that my computer does with SHIFT-CTRL-u or whatever. You'd have no clue what a little dingy over the letter meant, anyway. Thus I'll write everyone in Holly Nonexotic. If you know the Nordic lilt, just think it in. We sell enough Pepsi and Big Macs and Gap jeans over there that they'll sound like me soon enough. No wonder nobody likes us any more.
TUESDAY (Named for the Norse god of war, Tiu.)
Ann looked at the bed, then back at Inge. It was a double, not two twins. The blue comforter gave the headboard carved with swans a fjord setting, maybe. Maybe Ann didn't understand Norwegians, she wondered. Women could share a bed; there was plenty of mattress. It was just the presumption of it, she supposed.
Ann's Scandinavian preparation was the "Lonely Planet". Her roots were here, so just the language thing would be the issue. Norway and Sweden were totally civilized, not like, say, Spain. Oslo and Stockholm were Lonely Planet perfect, even to where the 20-somethings hung out. They all spoke English, not like here on an island.
She'd met Inge by e-mail, a distant cousin, whatever distance common great grandparents makes. Ann just wanted some travel tips, but Inge had some holiday time and would be happy to show an out-of-the-way spot to a relative. For a Norwegian, a jaunt to Sweden was an exploration for her too, she insisted. They'd go to Gotland for the beaches, as Norway, she freely admitted, wasn't best in everything.
Inge was great -- her English not American, but it was quick. Inge's speaking Norwegian to the Swedes and they, Swedish to her, sounded the same to Ann. The American quickly realized that a local ("local" here being of regional scope) knew more than one might find in a paperback written by expatriates. As these places were expensive, an insider's cost cutting translated into more days for exploration.
Inge would kiss Ann on the cheek every morning. "They do this in Italy, not Norway, but we're cousins."
It was Inge who had booked the Visby inn -- three days to suntan. Ann hadn't come this far for the rays; but it would be a Scandinavian experience. She'd college friends who visited Europe just to see how close it could be to America.
Inge grinned as they set their backpacks by the bed. "Do you like it?" It was already after dinner and too late to suggest otherwise. The rosy-cheeked maid, fluffing their pillows, offered a cheery, "Valkommen." Almost English, actually. And they wear those little white caps for real!
"Oh, sure," agreed Ann about the sleeping arrangement. "I don't roll around much, I hope."
"If we roll together, we will then be warmer," volunteered her guide.
Tired from their journey, they slept well.
WEDNESDAY (Named to honor Odin, chief god in Norse mythology.)
Seen from the ferry, Gotland's shore was more rocks than sand, uninviting by North Carolinian standards. It looked cold. Inge, on the other hand, saw the sun. Even when the sky was overcast, she sensed the sun.
So did about a million others toning their Nordic fairness, what to Ann seemed a scrubbed-clean look. She knew she looked the ethnicity at least somewhat, judging from being spoken to in undecipherable syllables. Her being blond of course helped. Probably her sensible shoes and cotton shifts enhanced her understated projection. No "check-out-my-tits" American halter top, thank you. She just didn't think of her skin as so clean looking. People smiled when they sorted her out. Ann just wished she'd not had bangs so she'd look more like her cousin.
After coffee at the inn, (strong stuff in this part of the world), Inge found the bus departing for a beach not as close as the brochure-hyped shore of Mediterranean-looking sand. "It is popular with people from Helsinki. You will see."
And Holy Cow! Ann had never seen so many breasts. Topless pubescents batted beach balls with their older brothers. Even older fruens shed their cumbersome brassieres, stiff and multi-ply. Breasts drooped like handbags into their knitting. They'd had their perky years, thought Ann, and she'd have her saggy ones. When Inge shed her top, so too did Ann. Nobody noticed Ann's blush but Inge, who grinned at it being Ann's first time.
The cousins lotioned each other, a strange experience for Ann, but apparently what girls did here. You burn quickly at high latitudes, Lonely Planet had advised. Inge didn't seem to notice how close Ann, applying the lotion, drew her fingers near her areola. In return, Inge stroked lotion fully into Ann's nipples, which goosebumped. Ann inhaled involuntarily. The arctic breeze was what made her gasp, she decided.
When Inge stepped out of her bottoms, Ann held back and Inge said that she shouldn't hurry things. "The Finns do too much and the Americans do too little. Saunas."
Inge was tall, small breasted and her body hair was less blond than her ponytail. Not having gone topless enough to loose her tan lines, she retained the illusion of wearing perfectly fit gauzy cream bra. The girl's big-boned beautiful, thought Ann. In a photograph, to be sure, but even more so in the way she unconcernedly walks by the sea. Ann had seen her come out of the shower in the Stockholm hotel (the one where their room had more than a sink) and had seen her change clothes everyday. Watched, not just seen. But she hadn't seen Inge jump the stray waves.
When Inge, her San Francisco Giants bill-cap pulled over her eyes, asked Ann to add a little lotion where she might need extra, Ann let herself cream the tips of her breasts. The irony, Ann realized, of who was wearing a baseball hat! Not knowing where to proceed, she redid the application until Inge reached below her waist, relieving Ann of the dilemma.
Not as many women shed their bottoms, mostly just the statuesque ones like Inge. Most, like Inge, didn't shave what would have stayed within their bikinis, were they on. Despite their carefreeness, Ann noted, these girls were careful how they sat or lay. Only rarely would Ann see a male trying to look. She could imagine the commotion of American males shoving each other aside to gawk up a skirt. Pigs! Her breasts were just for her over here. Except for Inge, because she was so close, they weren't for show.
There didn't seem to be much standard of modesty. Some suited women wore the bottoms with curls above and below. A few girls went without even a fluff of cover, but the razored ones tended to lie on their stomachs and not stroll around. "Swedish girls," explained Inge, without being asked. "Perhaps we are to think cinema stars," rolling her eyes.
After sufficient surreptitious glances, Ann decided she'd seen enough penises. She'd not stare long enough to see much about any particular one. Never, in fact, was she sure she saw testicles -- mostly just blobs of flesh in hairy tangles. She'd seen guys up close before, three actually, when they were stiff and hard, much more evocative. Swedes talking Swedish weren't as engaging. Or maybe they were Finns.
"Cold water makes them go back as the water makes us go out," smirked Inge, flicking a nipple.
Well, some or the ones that walked close (not the girls' fault, they ruled) were sometimes sort of interesting. Once, an older gentleman jogged by, flopping his proof of manhood. "Swedish meat balls," giggled Inge.
Was that a food name over here, thought Ann? Would a Frenchman call French dressing, "French dressing"?
"Think he gets sore, maybe?" Ann whispered back. "Think sports bras."
"You go bump him and see if he cries."
"No you. I can't say, 'Excuse me, sir.'"
"I can not," countered Inge, "because I am naked and he might bump me back." The two laughed at the scenario, inventing a dialog about repeated bumping.
At the cutest little shop the woman said something in her language that Ann immediately translated to "Come in." Maybe having roots here helps with the ear! Ann bought a little cap like the maid's.
At the inn, Inge ordered their dinner, demurring menu translation. "You will like the taste, only not the name." It was from the sea and served on noodles; Ann was glad she didn't know more. Inge ordered them an after-dinner drink rather incendiary. Fortunately it wasn't large. "Cheers!"
At bedtime, Inge asked, "Unhook me, please," turning away. It wasn't unusual to help a girlfriend with a fastener. Inge stripped to her panties, beige and Scandinavian minimal, poked the side of her breast with a finger, pronounced it not sunburned and slipped under the covers.
Ann undid her bra and pulled on her nightgown when Inge was facing the other way. Being so public had actually made it easier on the beach. She wasn't sunburned because Inge had lotioned her so many times. She could still feel the fingers still, kneading her, always erect from the sea breeze. Ann pulled off her shorts, hit the light switch, and crawled into the other side. The sheets were cold.
Inge giggled. "Ann?"
"Here's a joke."
"There was a Lithuanian family, two parents and two children, a boy and a girl. Because they had only two beds, the children slept together. As they got older, they began to roll together. This the mother discovered and instructed the girl that to prevent a problem, mother and daughter must switch beds. Nine months plus one day later each had a child.
"'Mother, ' said the girl, 'I thought that we changed beds to prevent a problem.'
"'And this we did, ' answered the mother. 'I asked your father and he asked the Priest who said for you and your brother to remain in the same bed would be incest."
"But perhaps it is better in Norwegian," suggested the teller.
"No, it's funny in English, too."
Inge giggled again and in one swoop, rolled on top of her cousin, whispering, "Skyldig i incest, far cousin," whatever that meant. Ann was surprised by the sudden weight and Inge rolled off again.
THURSDAY (Named for Thor, Norse god of thunder.)
Ann awoke to sunlight, but it was still too early to get out of bed. As Inge's arm was over hers, not to wake her, Ann lay still. When Inge rolled over and wrapped the arm around Ann's middle, Ann dozed contentedly a few more minutes.
Ann sipped her coffee and reread tomorrow's ferry schedule while Inge chatted with the maid. "She hopes we have a fun outing," the explanation.
The maid giggled and added in English, "Have a nice day." Geesh, thought Ann, hotel maids in America sometimes don't know that much.
The beach Inge chose had a different sense from that of yesterday. The male-female ratio leaned strongly toward the former and lots of them were paired. "Homosexuals," noted Inge. "Gay boys."
Of course they were, once Ann noticed more than the penises. Even the suited males wore spandex briefs to accentuate their organ. She could tell who was circumcised, a few, anyway. The boys were touching, holding hands, some of them resting their heads on another's abdomen as if to mark ownership. Many were into bodybuilding, almost strutting.
Among them, however, were girls like themselves paying little attention. They must be noticing, decided Ann, but too well-mannered to stare.
"It is crowded," declared Inge. To Ann, this meant that this place wasn't for them, but instead, Inge wheeled toward the less-populated end of the sand.
The two found a spot against a rock, sunny at least for the moment. "OK?" asked Inge, already nude and unrolling her towel. Ann unrolled hers and bared her top. After several freeze-thaw cycles, "bathing" to Inge, the girls opened their basket to find the wine. Going to the shore was so civilized here!
"To the sea! To the North Pole! To being here!" Ann saluted.
"To Norway and America and Sweden," appended Inge.
The two sipped and lay back and Inge resumed charge of Ann's sunburn protection. Inge drew her finger between Ann's every toe. Ann stilled as Inge did her chest and felt fingertips brush her suit when doing the top of her thighs. It must have been the edge of a little finger as Inge did Ann's right. Reaching across, it must have been Inge's forefinger. It must have been a forefinger because what trailed, tentative over the inner fabric, was the hint of a thumb. Would Inge do it again? If so, Ann sensed that the pass might be more firmly drawn, that it would be safer to feign sleep and hope not to tremble. Did Inge realize that so little could so excite? A vision flashed of her in climax, a crowd rebuking her in a foreign language.
Ann waited, not knowing. The hand drew back up, and, yes, the touch was on the edge of her labia. Inge would surely stop before the thumb was over the lip. Surely she would!
But then, "Alo!" and some babble. Two boys, college age perhaps, squinted at them from where the water lapped the sand. Inge babbled something in return and waved them welcome, a hand still on Ann's leg.
"They saw our screw and wish to use it," she explained, pulling her palm fully against Ann's suit and pointing toward the corkscrew. Ann sensed that Inge's hand delayed abandoning the fabric between her legs until the boys had noticed.
The spandexed boys approached hand in hand. Thongs, Ann thought, though she wasn't sure what the male garb was called. Girls wore thongs, girls that had lots of dates. The two boys said something more in whatever language, a pleasantry, by its tone. Inge laughed something back and the two turned toward the foreigner.
"Hi. My name is Arvid. Welcome to Sweden." His words were separated with space suggesting vocabulary chosen from a schoolbook. Ann couldn't have done the same in Swedish.
"Hello, Arvid. My name is Ann and I'm from America." Here I am, tits sticking out, talking to somebody named Arvid who maybe saw me get goosed, she told herself. Wow! Try to speak slowly.
"My name is Peder," volunteered the other, more haltingly as he worked in the corkscrew. "My practice is not large, but I read English, particularly Michael Crichton."
"He's very popular," encouraged Ann, who found the author's work to be formulaic, albeit lucrative.
"Thank you for the opening," said Peder, the cork loosened. "Thank you, Norwegian girl," he added to Inge in English. Ann realized that they didn't want to make her feel like an outsider.
Inge winked at Ann, then replied. "Perhaps you would join us for a pot luck?" showing them who had the better English. The fact that Inge was buff naked didn't seem to be a factor in the interaction.
"What we call a meal where we share the food everybody brought," explained Ann, to the boys' relief.
"Yes. We will do that, please," agreed Arvid. "May we place our cloth?"
"Okie dokie," Inge confirmed her rank. They guessed the "OK" tie. Living Planet said that "OK" and "Coke" were understood in every language.
Between the four, it was an odd potluck: wine, chips, rolls, butter cakes, some sort of oceanic spread and apples. Ann had seen them in the supermarket and they looked like American apples. No sweets, but then Peder pawed in his bag and retrieved a Hershey's with almonds. "Why would they have Hershey's here?" thought the American; they claim to love good chocolate!
Conversation succeeded, partly due to the boys' inhibition about linguistic exactitude and partly due to strategic Swedish/English clarification by a Norwegian. The two were accountant trainees in some Swedish bank, and, as they put it, "shared a domestication." They seemed unsure about further explaining their acquaintance.
They're probably aware of the issue's divisiveness in her country, Ann judged. Well, they don't need to think that we're all homophobes. She smiled her best, "Oh yes. Where I live we have many gay and lesbian and transgendered couples." A bit of a stretch, she knew, but somewhat the case for Chapel Hill. Maybe not the transgendered.
The two brightened. "It is right. We are two lovers." Arvid thought a moment, then added, "But we love all people also," as if the meaning of "love" were in question. Often it is, thought Ann.
The boys were enchanted with the concept of a "gay rodeo", but less of their interest seemed to be in sexual orientation than in what manner the "cowboys" roped and rode. Peder said that he could be the clown who hid in the barrel.
The four chatted a bit more and then turned toward the sun. Without comment, Inge leaned over and again oiled Ann's bust. The two boys watched, not erotically, until Inge rolled her over and began on her neck. Ann hadn't minded the attention, actually, even if they were gay.
Arvid worked out, "It is good to have a friend when bathing." Ann presumed it to mean swimming or sunbathing, but for all she knew, maybe that's what he intended.
"Perhaps we may remove our shorts?" asked Peder. Inge nodded and the boys exposed themselves, tanned evenly, Ann noted. Both had brown hair and neither penis seemed much more than a couple of inches. It was as close as Ann had been to one for six months when she'd had sex with a supervisor who never got back with her afterwards. Had she been that lacklustre? He'd been married, but still, she'd cooked him dinner and everything!
Inge lifted the waistband of Ann's bottoms to massage lotion where elastic had creased the skin. Ann supposed that it didn't matter that much if a gay boy saw just the top of her crack.
When Inge tugged the nylon on the sides of Ann's hips, Ann was glad she was face down, her weight keeping the fabric triangle over her pelvis. As Inge was full-frontal (as they say about movies), a hint of her own pubes shouldn't count for much, Ann wondered? Maybe when the boys exited, she could return to her back and Inge could finish her thighs.
Arvid likewise lotioned his partner's buttocks, then rolled him over and rubbed around his penis. Ann pointedly gazed away, but guessed that Arvid knew she'd peeked. Inge was smiling. Ann could see Arvid's grin flash back as he lifted Peder's organ and squirted it with a dab of lotion.
"Look away," Inge interrupted Ann's thoughts. "He is preparing to masturbate his friend, but you should not watch unless you wish."
Ann froze. Inge knew the word "masturbate", even! Shutting her eyes for real, Ann could soon hear, or at least imagine hearing, Arvid stroking. A girl doing it to herself would never start so rapidly.
And Inge, never ceasing to massage, continued to coax Ann's suit, leaving Ann to burrow self-consciously downward. Earlier wafts of arousal had just been passing awarenesses, but now her mind was integrating the stimuli: the bodies she'd seen, the proximate sounds, the breast she'd fondled, the thumb that had reached inward, her suit slipping downward, Inge's presence.
Maybe the boys aren't looking, Ann hoped, pushing into the towel with each of Inge's presses, for that was what Inge was doing. Ann was no longer being massaged; she was being rocked on the fulcrum of her pelvis. Surely they wouldn't see how Inge was working Ann against the ridge of sand, wouldn't know how it felt to a girl. Anyway, they're gay; they wouldn't care. Ann herself cared less and less. Left to her own devices, she could climax very quietly. Being facedown with Inge beside her made it safer. Protesting would only draw attention to her thoughts. Nobody would know. But she shouldn't. She mustn't.
And too quickly she heard the boys rustle and then murmur.
Inge said something to the Swedes, and then to Ann, "They are finished," pulling Ann's bottoms up from their half-mast position.
Ann didn't want to turn, but being a topless toppled statue wasn't an option. When she did flop her head, the males were entwined, but with their trunks back on. Peder had his eyes closed.
Arvid blushed, "The beautiful Norwegian girl said yes," looking to Inge for confirmation.
"No, I did not say no," corrected the Norwegian girl.
"That is why," he brightened. "We are lovers together. It is good for American Ann to know about love," diplomatically adding, "You are beautiful also. You move like a Swedish."
The boys adjusted their penises, dutifully kissed each girl on the cheek and departed in good spirits. After they'd gone, a more-than-sun blushed Ann asked, "They did it where you could see?"