The car pulls over gravel and stops.
The three girls get out of the car and I follow. The girls pull out flashlights and give me one. I hold it.
The sign at the entrance says: THIGH RIVER PARK.
The sign also says: NO TRESPASSING.
We keep going.
“We’re going to have to climb a little,” one of the girls says.
She shines her light on giant dark rocks and begins to climb. The sky is going light behind her.
I can hear water pulsing thick. Fear is a child in my stomach, growing. I swallow hard. I’ve never been to Thigh River.
I look up. One girl dangles a pale hand down to me. I grasp her fingers. I climb.
By the time we all reach the top of the rock, the sun is almost up full. We drop the lights.
“There it is,” one of the girls says.
I look down at Thigh River and my mouth falls.
The river is pale, the color of skin.
I don’t understand how water can be flesh-toned. My mind tries to force the color into logic but cannot.
“The river is full of them today,” the second girl says.
As soon as she says it, I see what makes the river pale pink.
It only takes a split second for all of my cells to light up with horror-shock, a split second before I start gagging.
The river is full of thighs, pushing along like fish, huge as bass, moving downstream.
The thighs bump up against each other, create awkward waves, a strange flood of lone limbs in water, it is a tide of skins.
“What the fuck?”
No one answers. The river eats my words up.
“They’re here,” the third girl says, pointing. She slides out of her shirt and begins to unhook her bra.
I look across the river and my heart wrenches.
Boys stand on the rocks across the water, dozens of boys.
They wear boxers, their bare chests reflecting the color of the river. Everything is flesh against rock.
The boys lay their eyes on us. I can make out some of their faces. I recognize some of them from school.
“Almost time,” the first girl calls across the water. She unzips her shorts.
The boys nod. A murmur rises from them, pleasure noises a little louder than the river.
Then the rest of the girls are naked, their breasts and bodies bare.
“Cassie,” the second girl whispers through teeth. “Take your clothes off.”
I have never been naked in front of boys before, only kissed and pawed certain parts.
“Do not fuck this up, prude,” the third girl barks at me.
The boys howl my name.
I think of the girls’ fists. I think of the boys’ chests.
I do what the other girls did. I jerk my legs out of my shorts and stretch my elbows through my t-shirt as I slide it off.
In the river air, my naked body shakes.
I move my hands to cover my pale, put my fingers over my puckering parts.
The first girl hisses, “Stop ruining this.”
Inside my chest, all the red clenches and then gives up. I do what she said.
When the girls climb down the rocks to the water, I do that too.
The water wraps itself around me and is cold, sends shiver shocks through me.
I watch the rest of the girls splay out on their backs and float with the thighs.
Their breasts peak up above the tide.
“Keep your head up,” the second girl says, “eyes pointed to the sky.”
I lay back on the water like the rest of the girls.
I tilt my head up.
My breasts crest.
The tide of thighs slides against me, moving past.
The thighs touch me, caress me heavily, dozens of them.
The feeling of the wet skin is new. The slick slithering makes me dizzy.
I close my eyes and forget the sky. I forget the boys.
A thigh glides past my neck, over my arm, away. Another thigh passes over my calves and down to my toes. Thighs skim my stomach and hips, constantly.
More thighs push their way to new places on my back, brushing parts of my skin that I can never reach, sending shocks from my chest down to a place between my legs.
My body goes limp. I let my head loll. I lean into the thigh touches.
The pressure of the river and the flesh keeps building and pushing down on my body.
I begin to throb back at the water, begin to match its rhythm, pulsating with the thighs until I part my lips and let out a sigh I have never sighed before.
Then other loud mouth sounds come down from the rock, noises bigger than the river tones, shake me out of myself.
I part my eyes and look up, over.
The boys are clustered on the rocks closest to me, now stripped too.
The other girls are still there, in the river, not sighing.
I force myself to look at the boys again.
Their hands are moving against themselves.
The river does not stop.
The thighs keep brushing all over me. The girls keep floating.
My chest calms, mixes with another feeling.
I keep floating.
On the rocks, all of the hands keep moving.
Sarah Rose Etter is the author of Tongue Party, which was selected by Deb Olin Unferth as the winner of the 2010 Caketrain chapbook competition. Tongue Party is available from Caketrain Press.