“Maybe I’ll let you have it,” he says, and I can hear the smirk. Ferret’s a virgin, but I can’t bring myself to blush. The path continues on through beech trees ringed by stinging nettles. Bright red mushrooms dot the forest floor, coy and dangerous. At last Andreas leads us into a small clearing.
When he’s sure we can’t be seen, he hangs up his flashlight on a rowan tree and turns to me. We both know something will happen, but I wait for him to take the lead. He gives a little speech, rehearsed but very sweet. His words freeze in the early autumn air. He takes one of my hands in his.
Sex in a Larp isn’t real. In this Larp, they taught us a meta-technique, a progression of movements to stand in for sex. Andreas places his fingers in mine, then after a minute we move our hands slowly up the sensitive skin of each other’s forearms. When the moment feels right, we’re supposed to pivot around and stand back-to-back, spine pressed to spine. In the workshop it had seemed hokey, but here, under a moon that’s nearly full, my heart stupidly beats. Through his ribs, I can feel that maybe it’s the same for Andreas.
The first time I fell in love, it was with a guy a lot like North: handsome, a poet, full of himself. In the closet, any little beam of light feels like a supernova. I remember the months of agony broken by a kind word or a handshake that lingered for a sordid second.
The final phase of the meta-technique has players face one another. To represent the fireworks, they exchange phrases, saying things they want and things they fear, making the moment “lovely and sad,” according to the workshop. We don’t get that far, because North breaks away.
That’s enough, he tells me. Stop.
I stop. After Walker’s grilling, the closeness of another person had been a real comfort, but now I pull my jacket around me. North is a torrent of words. I’m seeing a girl, he says. You and I, we experimented a little. It’s as far as things will go. No hard feelings. Never again.
Ferret would have been pulverized with guilt and shame, this I know. I’m both in this place and witnessing my own first time, in the parking lot of a train station with a guy I never saw again. It’s a marvel, I think, that queer teens survive their fumblings at romance in places that reject them.
In a minute I’m alone again, watching the beam from North’s flashlight bounce back toward the campus. I stay in the forest. Then I do the mental equivalent of pulling on my clothes and head back to my room, where the lights are already out.
It’s a sleepless night, in part because Denmark is a hyper-caffeinated place. My brain won’t settle. I replay the episodes in therapy and in the forest, alternating between thinking about my game and Ferret’s life. My heart, out of nowhere, is unbearably heavy. Around 3 am I get up and grab my phone from the “off-game” cubbyhole to write an email.