“Plus doing anything with me is just as bad as what you did with Laura – in terms cheating on Julie.”
“No. It really isn’t.”
He waited. Then, in an almost six-year old’s voice, he asked, “Isn’t that my choice?”
I waited for a moment, but said nothing.
“Look... I’m going back to camp now. I’ll leave the bolt cutters. Maybe you can grab them with your feet and swing them up to your head.”
“Don’t you dare.”
“It’s too late. I’m kinda teed off.”
“No joking, Rob... Please tell me you’re joking.”
I waited for maybe a half-minute then laughed.
“Of course, I am... But you’re a jerk when you’re drunk.”
He laughed – I’m sure relieved.
“Now lemme see if I can cut this chain... without taking off one of your fingers.”
When I was working before, I’d kind of felt my way up his arm to reach the handcuffs, and I hadn’t thought anything about it. Now, I was self-conscious. So to find the chain, I sort of stabbed in the dark. And went straight into Brian’s face.
“Sorry. Did I get you in the eye? It felt soft.”
“Just about,” he admitted.
“Well, close them.”
And I tried again.
This time – reflexively – I dropped my hand, and it accidentally slid across his chest.
“That felt good.”
Though it made me unsure if I’d really hit his eye the first time. Still, I covered.
“You try closing your eyes in a forest and finding a chain – a very small one.”
“Smaller than a...?”
“You’re going to get it,” I threatened.
He giggled. “That’s what I’m hoping.”
“If I could find your other sock, I’d shove them both in your mouth.”
I ignored him, and the third time went back to my earlier plan – I simply found his armpit and worked up. Though this time, he was squirming.
“Turns out you don’t like it so much,” I kidded.
That went right past me – at least, for a moment while I tried to work. Then – like Dan seeing Brian sacked out on his bed – it was too much of a temptation. From knowing where his arm was, I knew how to find his sides. So I held the bolt cutter between my knees and tickled.
“Hey. Hey. Hey!”
I went on.
“Hey. Hey! STOP IT!”
I wouldn’t. I let the bolt cutters fall to the ground, so I could tickle him more freely.
“Hey. Hey! HEY! Stop it. Stop it! STOP IT!”
When we were both laughing past where we could comfortably breathe, I finally let up. But first – between gasps – I warned him, “Now be quiet. We have no idea how far your voice carries.”
“I don’t care. I should’ve found this island before.”
I was sitting on the ground. At some point in the craziness, my feet had gone out from under me.
“I’m sure other people have,” I said. “Probably explains the ghosts.”
He was still panting. And laughing. And I was getting a little embarrassed. I searched around for the bolt cutters.
“Hey... I found your other sock....”
“Don’t put it in my mouth,” he said, now completely calm.
“Why? It might be fun.”
“Can you get me out of here?... Please, Rob... This is beginning to hurt.”
I hopped to my feet – Eagle Scout again.
“I was pretty much hanging from my wrists while you were going nuts.”
“I think we were about equal.”
He laughed, maybe remembering. But I was growing more embarrassed.
“It’s okay,” he excused. “I asked for it... Like so many things tonight...”
I reached down and found the cutters.
“I’m just gonna touch you now... Not tickle... I need to find my way.”
He was back to joking, which was probably good. But I skipped past that and carefully reached for his side – about chest high. I quickly determined where I’d landed – his ribs – backed off, aimed higher, found his bicep, and worked up from there. He squirmed once but said nothing. Finally, I had the chain in my right hand and the cutters in my left, but I needed to swap.
“I’ve got to switch hands,” I said. “I was reaching with my good one, but now I need to hold the cutters.”
“Okay... Can I take them?”
“Sure... Good idea.”
I carefully put them in his fingers.
“I always think more clearly,” he said, “after I’ve...”
I stopped. Dead.
“After you what? I asked quietly. I knew this punchline.
He just chuckled.
“Well, what do you think happened while you were tickling me?”
I was glad he couldn’t see me. And happier I couldn’t see him. I was now past humiliated. Finally, I simply said, “You’re a cheap date.”
And I took the bolt cutters and cut the chain.
As he moved from the shadow of the tree, I could just see him rubbing his wrists. The cuffs must have slipped down his arms, and he rubbed his wrists for what seemed a very long time. He also flexed his arms to his sides, stretching them full wide, over and over. I could see that against the waterfront lights. But I just stood – waiting. Finally, I could tell he was looking at me, probably grinning, because he laughed.