Young Lips and Pink Robots: A Britain and Bonnaroo Romance

Already I could feel the crisp of my skin along my shoulders and back from the long day in the sun. I was grateful that hours ago it had set, leaving a chill across farm. Though it was negated in part by the body warmth of thousands of people huddled towards the speakers and vendors around Centeroo. Still in that moment, as the Flaming Lips transitioned from “She Don’t Use Jelly” to the strange and hopeful melody of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” I imagined there was no one else in the whole world, except for me and Logan Rhodes.

He spun me out and pulled me back in. One set of hands intertwined and his other found its way to my lower back and we swayed, dancing so tightly together there was barely room to move our feet, but he found enough room to pull his head back.

“Where did you come from?” his whole body seemed to sigh and he stared at me with an elated wonder before he squeezed me. Without another second of hesitation, his bright lips, framed with a thick, black beard, met mine. A rainbow of lights played along the stage behind us. Men in surreal costumes as caterpillars and the sun danced around the band. And all I could think was how I felt young in ways that I had forgotten existed, ways where life seemed infinite and wild.

He had asked where I came from. As we kissed, like hello and goodbye at the same time, the only answer that I could think was that I came from the sky….on a nine hour place ride, sandwiched between two nursing majors.

In the Fall of 2008, I was among 200 students landing in London Heathrow, then bused a few hours north to Lincolnshire. I sat by the window, too tired to even sleep, barely listening to the boy beside me who wouldn’t stop talking. Everyone seemed to want to talk, the plane and the bus buzzed with chitchat, but I just wanted to stare at the landscape rushing by us. I wanted to stare at England until I could believe that I was there. I fixed my gaze to the new world until the trees broke away and the Manor emerged on the horizon.

Over two hundred years old, the Manor was home to winding staircases, cherub statutes, secret passageways, and a bell tower cared for by the same men who tended to Big Ben. And for the next four months, it was also home to a barrage of American college students, most of whom had never left the states before and were still shy of legal drinking age back home. I was 19 at the time. While I had abandoned everyone I knew for a foreign country, my assigned roommate had taken to introducing me to her multitude of friends that had arrived at the Manor. Which is how, after wine and dinner at one of the many introductory social events, I met Logan in the Great Hall, just as he finished playing drums with the band brought in to entertain us.

Shaggy, black hair hung in his face. He wore a red skater t-shirt and a smile that stretched for days. Back home, he had a girlfriend. I had a boyfriend 4,000 miles away too. That almost stopped us…. Almost. I fought it, at first. I knew he could ruin me, heart and soul, and besides that, there were other entanglements to be had: the actor, the frat guy, the London footballer. I enjoyed them immensely, they were stories I traded over cigarettes at the smoker’s tables and Strongbows in the bistro, a bar in the basement of the Manor. Of my conquests in England, all were public, shameless even, except Logan. I can’t even remember how we came we together, our first kiss, nothing. But it was though in one moment we skirted around the temptation and the next, he was on the fringes of every heartbeat. In our group, we talked and mingled, we acted like friends because we were. And then there were the times we were alone, where our secret was breathed back into life by passionate, young lips. There was the bunk bed at the dorm in Lake District while his roommates were gone and his bedroom at the manor, including one night where I lay in his bed, silent as a nun, while he Skype called his girlfriend. When he finished with her, he joined me for a reprieve from studying, as we dropped books and clothes. Near the end of the semester, we lingered in the bistro one night, long after everyone else had left or fallen asleep in the social rooms at the end of the hall. I wore a leather skirt, which ended bunched up to my hips as his hands roamed up. We went quickly, nervous and excited at the idea of getting caught after hours in a place so public. I never could look at the couch by the bar the same way. Our friends would sit and I would think about my hands gripping the insides of Logan’s thighs and my lips wrapping around his head before sliding further down.

But the night that seemed to anchor everything about Logan and me, the one that was everything we were, messy and fun and steeped in guilt, was the night of the masquerade ball. Everything up to and after was foreplay, always pushing that boundary while the thought of lovers oceans away kept our lust somewhat tamed. Until the masks came on.

The ball began with dinner in the long gallery, free wine flowed on every table. The bistro was brought upstairs so even after the dinner ended, drinks for two pounds remained the next room over. A DJ was brought in and so everyone in costume crowded into the Great Hall, dancing and sweating. I looked for Logan among the other students and when I didn’t see him, I went to his room. I was drunk, feeling reckless and unstoppable, like 20 year old girls in foreign countries are want to do.  We met in transition. I was coming up the stairs and the door to his dorm was closing behind him. I feigned looking for his roommate Raj who had my lighter. But we both knew it was bullshit. I had escaped the maddening crowd, together we were at the outskirts while everyone else whirled in the music that trailed faintly behind me. We started kissing there in the hallway. But it wasn’t exactly us.

He was Charlie Chaplin, bowler hat and drawn on mustache, while I was Artemis, goddess of virginity and the hunt. A beautiful irony as he opened the door and pushed me inside his room, and my plastic bow was thrown to the floor. I’d lost the arrows ages ago. Between us, gold body glitter and black makeup smears ended up everywhere, but mostly it was his mustache fading into streaks along my arms and chest. My flimsy gold dress was taken off with little delicacy and I peeled off his pants and button up with the same disregard. My nerves made me feel cold despite the building heat. I was naked at the edge of the bed, Logan standing between my knees. For a moment, I hesitated. My heart was pounding in my chest. After months of coming so close, there wasn’t a stitch to stop us. There was no turning the tide. The brief attempt to call back reason and our respective significant others died on my tongue when Logan met it with his and then shoved me down on to the bed. The rest, a mixed swirl of grinding flesh, bitten shoulders, and clawed backs. I remember our hands bracing as he fucked me practically into the headboard. I remember feeling as if all of existence was reduced to Logan and I in that bed, panting and grappling, trying to close even the smallest infinity of space between our bodies to the point I don’t know how we ever let go.

“It would be so easy to fall for you,” Logan told me once, while we lay naked and exhausted in my dorm room one night after the ball. I found that rich considering we were both in relationships, and both still fooling around with other people even besides each other. But at the same time, I believed him. I knew he meant it, because we were both that kind of twisted, even when it was about the sex, it wasn’t just the sex.

Part of the reason I liked keeping him a secret, was that it made it so much easier to shed all the pretend and the superficial, the obligations that other eyes put upon us. So over four months, what Logan became to me was far more than another naked interlude. No one has ever made me feel as stripped down, not just to the skin, but the soul, like Logan Rhodes. For instance, when he came across the scars on my legs, rather than ignore them or ask awkward questions like every guy before, he knelt in front of me and kissed each one, dozens of them, delicate like whispers, all the way to the edge of my panties where he then buried his face not so delicately between my thighs.

And while he opened me up, Logan became a real person. So often, people occur to me as characters. Maybe because I read so much, and Jane Eyre and Scarlett O’Hara feel as true as my own sister. But people only seem moderately real to me. They’re only as good as their story. Logan, however, became more as we cuddled, sleeping together even without fooling around, as we snuck off to alcoves talking until morning tried to catch us, or as we traded his thermos of smuggled-in booze during the chill winter night, asses cold from the wet tree stump we shared as a seat and heads tilted up to the stars. He was a refuge for me, who listened to the dark sides of me no one else did. And I returned the favor, being the ears as he talked about his girlfriend, torn on whether he loved her enough to stay with her, and about his desire to help people through psychiatry, or about his attempts at new skateboard tricks. I listened to anything he was willing to tell me. I watched anime cartoons with him just for the sake of hearing him explain what he liked about them. His thoughts felt as real to me as my own.

All of that feeling came back the moment he crossed the field at Bonnaroo, meeting me in front of the cinema tent. I hadn’t seen him in five years, not since I stayed with him for one visit to his campus after we returned to our respective colleges in the states and to our lives before the Manor. It was pure chance that I’d seen a Facebook photo of his campsite on the farm and decided to send him a message to let him know I was there too. When our gazes found each other, I thought of Doctor Who, another British love affair, and of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff. Time was folding over because I was 25 and 20 all over again. I was a college professor, who had loved and lost many times over since the Manor, who had grabbed a hold of life and didn’t want to let go, and I was also that undergraduate girl in progress, learning how to be everything she knew she could be, while all the world waited to be conquered. He made time feel movable.

The first part of our reunion was partially a tease. Though I enjoyed catching up between singing along with Cake at the Which stage, trying to fill in half a decade of growing up, like my years living abroad and his work in child psychology and carpentry after moving back to Chicago, there was only one thing that actually seemed to matter.

“No, my boyfriend and I recently broke up,” I said, kicking my sandal into the dirt as I explained why I was by myself.

“My relationship ended awhile back too.”

It came up casually, but the hitch of silence that followed indicated more than either of us admitting what we were thinking.

Still, we had bands to see and friends to meet. So, when Cake finished, we agreed to come back together later.

Around midnight, after Jack White, Logan found me by the red lights of the mushroom fountain. He took my hand and I didn’t leave him for the rest of the night. I liked him holding my hand, navigating us through the crowd, keeping me with him. It was the most intimate part of our venture down memory lane.

“It feels like we just left the Manor a few weeks ago,” he said, both of us recovering our breath as we broke from kissing in the midst of strangers, something we’d never done in public before. “I still think about that last night in London at the hotel.”

“You mean the Yotel,” I corrected him, laughing as moments I didn’t even realize I’d nearly forgotten came flooding back. I remembered meeting him at Heathrow to pick up our luggage for the next day’s flight back to America. We had rode the trains wandering through connecting terminals, looking for snacks and booze before going to the Yotel, more like a cabin berth than a hotel room in Terminal 4, while we spent the night in to say goodbye to England and to each other.

“It was so hot. You said you were taking a shower…and I did not realize what was happening until it was happening.”

Part of the problem, or benefit depending how you looked at it, of such a small room, was that the bathroom was literally steps from the bed, and, in the Yotel, separated only by a glass door. We were a few beers in, the night half over, and I stepped in for a shower. It wasn’t until the water came on, that Logan glanced over, becoming aware of his view from the bunk. I managed to wash my hair before he was shedding clothes and pushing me against that same glass door. Water poured down our faces and into our mouths as we kissed. I felt his hard cock grazing underneath my cunt. Eventually, I was on the tiled floor, Logan on top of me, and the shower keeping us just warm enough to keep going as long as we could.

With wet hair, we fell asleep in each other’s arms. It was the only time I hated any airport, because it was the first time it felt like I was being taken from something rather than going towards something. Back then, I wondered if Logan felt anything the same, but I didn’t ask and I didn’t mention it. I just tried to appreciate the next morning, sitting alone in the back of the plane, laughing together as we watched the same movies, touching each other discreetly only if no one else would notice.

Even if he hadn’t wanted to stay as much as I had all those years ago, I was relieved to know that Logan at least felt like time had rewound at Bonnaroo now just as I did, that it seemed as though we had almost never left the Manor at all. And if holding his hand through layers of people and across the farm wasn’t enough proof that nothing had changed between us, the way he kissed me back at his tent was. His beard was much thicker than he had been in England but it was still soft against my face, softer than his lips, fiercely swallowing me up. I was already wearing few clothes to combat the heat, but he dragged my shorts off, and hooked his fingers into my wet cunt.

“I want you to cum for me, Flick. I won’t fuck you until you cum.”

I groaned, pleading, assuring him that I was too tired to cum. I had been up for nearly 24 hours with less than four hours of sleep the night before. I didn’t think I could find or exert the mental and physical energy needed to orgasm. But Logan wasn’t having any of that. My panties disappeared like my shorts and Logan pulled up my hips, throwing my knees over his shoulders. As he dove down, licking my clit and slipping his tongue inside of me, I realize he was going to prove me wrong about my own body. Logan was going to make me cum if it killed me, and it came very close to. There had been people rustling along his tent, we could smell them smoking weed. Hell, for the 500 acres around us, thousands of people were crammed in like impacted teeth. My previous experiences had taught me to be quiet in the tent. But when Logan finally made me cum, I screamed and cried out until my throat started to scratch and cut out and yet still, Logan sucked on my clit relentlessly, not giving a fuck either that anyone within earshot knew exactly what was happening. It was the first time either of us didn’t care what the outside world might hear. When I couldn’t take anymore, I sat up, sucking him off while he went for a condom. While the Flaming Lips played distantly in the background, we fucked for the next hour, moaning and calling one another’s name regardless of the footsteps and shadows that passed by. He came fucking me from behind about the same time I started to cum again, this time from the inside out as the head of his dick pounded into my cervix over and over.

I was literally asleep the moment my head lay flat on his mat. He had to wake me up again to clean up the sheets. As soon as everything was sorted back into place, I passed back out, barely managing to mumble a goodnight as he kissed my cheek and returned to Centeroo for the late night EDM sets. I was so out, I didn’t even miss him. But when he came back awhile later, I was aware of the change. I’d forgotten what it was like to cuddle with Logan. He wrapped around every part of me, tugging me into the curve of his body, and interlacing everything from our arms and hands down to our legs and feet. He kissed up and down my neck before finding a place to nuzzle into, his breath billowing down my tank top as he fell asleep. No matter how we tossed and turn, facing each other or him turning to the little spoon, we remained laced together. I hadn’t cum that hard in years and I hadn’t felt that consumed with comfort in just as long. Logan always made it feel like every inch of me was wanted, because every part, whether good or bad, was me and there was nothing without all of it. Just being held all through the night like that, I felt that again, loved in a way that wasn’t about possession or even about a relationship, but about pure romance, adoring someone just for the sake that they make you happy, it just happens to be a romance of the particularly sexual sort, which suits the two of us.

In a text, after we went our separate ways again, Logan called what we had an epic history. And I liked that. Epic means long and full of adventures, which is true for us. But I like it also because I imagine that he and I could keep making history, as long as time keeps folding up for us.



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