The woods can be a scary and wonderful place … all at once
By: Dorian Dawes
Some teenagers are brilliant. They’ve got everything figured out by the time they graduate high school. I thought I was brilliant, that I was hot-sh*t and that I’d gotten it all figured out.
In reality, I was a sad, eighteen-year-old twink, convinced I might break into nude modelling. I thought I could earn a living that way while working at my writing career. I would have tried anything to escape that town.
Coming out of the closet had left me virtually friendless. No one wanted to be associated with the one gay kid in the tri-county area.
The repression, the fear of spending my entire life alone drove me to desperation. I had only one resource, my body.
The first photographer I ever worked with would be my last. He didn’t pay me. Just a favor he was willing to do so we could both build our portfolios.
He was an older man, a teacher during his day-job; short and stout and bearded. Nowadays I’d think he was handsome and just my type.
We met online and chatted for a bit. He drove across the state to my pitiful puddle of a town, grabbed a cheap roach motel, and we had our first shoot.
We had fun driving around town, and he allowed me to vent some of my deeper anxieties and pain. I hadn’t met many gay people in my life. I had no one to understand what I was going through.
Getting those experiences off my chest was like crawling out from beneath a pile of rubble to stand in the open sun. I wanted to do this again.
Months later, I took a bus down to Tampa to stay with him while he was at a teacher’s conference. There was a set of woods behind the hotel, and it’d rained just the day before.
I felt like a pixie, my lithe form dancing naked between the trees, more bold and free than I’d ever dared to be in my entire life.
As the sun set, he took me to a bridge over the highway with a rusted grate built around it. The street-lamps created moody lighting worthy of any noir film.
He dressed me in a vest and fedora and threw glitter on me like I was David Bowie. He took photos as I twirled and posed and gradually stripped, removing one article of clothing at a time. He stopped me before I got to the pants.
I was so glad he did.
Flashing blue and red lights at the end of the bridge caught our attention. We were approached by two male police officers. Muscular guys in their early 30’s looked like.
The photographer later remarked that one of them was kinda cute, but I was too scared to notice. If life was a p*rno, sure this would have been the start of something fun, but nope.
I’m literally standing half-naked with clothes strewn around on either side of me, sweating buckets and wondering if this is it, if this is when I’m going to jail.
I couldn’t stop thinking my next conversation with them would be as they were bailing me out of prison. It was the ultimate nightmare scenario.
The photographer took the lead. He’s smart and lies effortlessly, dodging questions about our intent. The younger coup coughed awkwardly and told me to pull my pants up. “I can see your bird snatch.”
And that brought an end to our shoot. We managed to avoid trouble just barely, and my anxiety was in overdrive, my heart trying to escape out my chest through my lungs.
I got into a later argument with that photographer, my hot-headed ways blaming him for the entire misadventure. We haven’t spoken much since.
That man gave me something no one had ever given me before, freedom. A repressed gay kid in a Christian household got to spend a few hours feeling beautiful expressing their sexuality. I was covered in stardust and responded by lashing out in fear.
Some teenagers are complete fools.
Dorian Dawes is the author of the queer horror anthology Harbinger Island. Check it out on Amazon.