The curse had found Blake in his first year at the all boy’s
The class roster in each class remained the same throughout
the day. For each student, his class was a second family. Rather
than have a gym class every day, each student had their gym class
just twice each week. The advantages were less locker room time
each week and a longer gym class time. The extended gym class
allowed for full basketball games and greater sweat production.
Showers would be required and be well deserved at the end of
each class. If a student should try to duck out of the routine,
fellow students would assist him in changing his mind.
The inflicted curse was gymnophobia. The undue fear had
haunted Blake for well over a year. He knew that his fear was
irrational. It was apparent to his fellow students that he wrestled
with an established anxiety. It was his scheduled, weekly torment.
Blake envied the fact that his fellow students had no
problem showering together after gym class. Why were they not
ashamed like he was? All, including himself, were physically fit.
So, why? Blake was an unfair victim of the fear of being naked in
front of other people. He did not know it, but he was the choice
for a select rite of passage.
“Are you going to the dance on Friday, Blake?” Andy asked
as they finished dressing after the gym class on Tuesday.
“Sure thing,” Blake nodded.
“Sally and I are going, too. If you have a girlfriend, the four
of us could go for pizza before the dance.
“No girlfriend right now. Will be looking for a new one at
the dance. Amy decided I was too boring since I didn’t like to go to
the roller skating rink every Saturday,” Blake chuckled. “Down the
line, sure . . . thanks,” he added. “Plan to meet up with Mike and
Jeff. we’ll all round up together at the dance, though.”
Three years passed. Blake was now a science major at the
State University. He had grown up some; the young man who
knew himself as “Blake” had become more defined, and so had the
curse. He was going through a transition, a metamorphosis one
might call it. His gymophobia had been transitioning, as well.
Residing in the dorms, the school was a male and female
existence. While at a small party in a girl’s dorm, one gal decided
to play a trick on her roommate, who was in the shower. She took
her towel from the girl’s community bathroom, and threw it in
their room. Upon finishing her shower, the unsuspecting
roommate realized the prank and decided on her best way to deal
with the problem at hand. She paraded out from the bathroom,
stopping at the small group.
“I don’t think it’s funny that my towel is missing.”
Blake’s jaw dropped. Her courage and confidence intrigued
him. It also made him feel small. He remembered his anxieties of
just a few years ago. His gymnophobia would begin a further
adjustment as a result. So also, would he.
Three more years passed. His first full-time bona-fide job
landed him in a small New England city. The area was strewn
with numerous large streams and swimming holes. Some of these
had small waterfalls. The city was located at the base of the
mountains, which would explain the environment. There were
three things that the swimming holes had in common. They were
very isolated in the woods and the water was very cold. Most
everyone, which usually constituted just a handful of people,
swam in the buff. Some would swing off a small cliff and let
themselves drop into the liquid ice.
Blake, Frank and Steve had bought a six-pack of Bud, and
spent a Saturday afternoon touring a few swimming holes. While
in the freezing water, two young women had appeared. Blake’s
teeth began to chatter, and so he climbed up out of the swimming
hole, naked, but ashamed. No, he was mortified! His curse still
was attached. He no longer had a problem being naked around
the guys. But, to be casually naked around unfamiliar women was
too monumental of a hurdle. Part of the gymnophobia had
diminished totally, but part still held it’s grip.
Blake’s transition was not yet complete!
Three weeks passed. Blake planned to make a drive to Long
Island to visit his family. It would be a four day visit. During the
five hour drive, his mind wandered over numerous topics. His
close friend, Greg, had told him something that surprised him.
Greg occasionally went skydiving.
“Say Greg,” Blake had said. “How can you jump out of an
airplane? Many people are afraid to get on a plane, let alone jump
out of one!”
“It’s called aviophobia,” Greg responded. “I don’t have a fear
of flying at all. My affliction is acrophobia; fear of heights. Felt I
had to conquer it, so I took up sky-diving. Raises my self esteem,
you know? Had to get the noose off my neck!”
Blake was deeply impressed with Greg’s courage and the
extent that he carried out his determination.
As he drove to Long Island, Blake made his plan. No more
running. He would conquer his fear as Greg had done. He would
grab the bull by the horns!
Blake loved the ocean, and had been to the beach often in
his younger years. There was a nude beach on the south shore
and he would work up the courage to go. The enclosure of the
forest was one thing, but the stark open area of a flat beach was
different. Almost insurmountable! But, Blake was determined. He
would go alone. If he failed, his shame would be his alone.
Three days passed. Sunny and warm, this would be a great
day for his tribulation. Blake grabbed a blanket, towel, sun glasses
and sun screen, jumped into the car, and drove south to the
Blake had never been to this beach. It was a huge expanse
of sand. There were few people, but this may have been an
illusion due to the wide and long terrain. Blake could see the
ocean far in the distance. He spread the blanket, dropped his
towel, and finally, with some hesitation, his swimming trunks. He
sprayed the sun screen liberally. He then stood in place to dry.
“Hey man, how’s it going?” yelled one man as he sauntered along.
“So far, great!” Blake bellowed back.
As the sunscreen was drying, Blake scouted out the
territory around him. Not far away, he watched a young family
with four children playing volleyball. All were unclothed! He
hoped they all had used sunscreen. In those few minutes, he
mustered the guts for the long, arduous walk to the ocean shore.
The trip was taxing because he was totally exposed under the
grueling sun. Everything he had, other than his skin, had been left
on the blanket far behind him.
Blake trekked on and on. It seemed to take forever. The
“walk of courage” was about to be over. His heart was pounding,
although he didn’t notice it. But, what he did notice was a large
moving figure to his right. He realized with horror that their paths
would intersect in about thirty seconds. He kept his head and
eyes down. Oh no, their paths would collide; it was a collision
course! He stopped and looked up, way up. It was a police patrol
“Good afternoon, officer,” Blake said.
“Better get in the water” she replied with a smile.
Blake obeyed immediately. He couldn’t walk fast enough!
Once in the water, his heart stopped its pounding. The water felt
great. Really great! He would have gotten out after an hour but
the officer continued to roam back and forth along the shoreline.
Blake thought about the young lady that he remembered at the
swimming hole. He thought about his admiration for Greg. Finally,
he decided to make his move. He timed it so that they would be
sure not to collide. At the shore’s edge, he stepped on a sharp
shell, resulting in a healthy gash into his left foot. He sat on the
sand inspecting the damaged foot for a few minutes.
“Looks like you hurt yourself” she said. The officer picked
up her phone.
“We’re close to marker 17. Bad laceration to foot. I’ll wait
here with him.”
The plot thickened. It was not supposed to get complicated.
It was almost ten minutes when it appeared driving toward them
along the shoreline. It was the mobile first aid wagon, staffed
with two young ladies. All three women helped Blake to climb into
the bed of the elongated golf cart.
“I’ll be fine,” Blake pleaded.
“No, we will need to drive you to the first aid station to be
looked at by the medic on duty. Then we’ll bring you back here.
“But my wallet, clothes and car keys are on the blanket.
The officer agreed to get his belongings.
The medic took a look at him and bandaged him up. He
gave Blake a tetanus shot and discharged him.
Blake, still nude, was driven back to marker 17 in the back of
the golf cart. He pointed to his blanket, but only the sunscreen
was there. He hoped that the officer had his shorts, with wallet
and car keys.
“Why don’t we gather up your blanket and sunscreen and
we’ll drop you off at your car. You don’t need to be walking. We’ll
phone the officer and have her come to your car with your
belongings. There are not too many cars. We will give her your
plate number. I know it’s hot, but you might wrap yourself with
your blanket,” advised the first aid attendant.
Blake thanked them and then leaned against the car trunk
wearing the blanket. He had been totally mortified by the whole
Then he started to laugh. He continued laughing for some
time. Really, was it that bad? The three ladies had treated him as
part of their normal day.
Blake’s transition had been completed. His metamorphosis
was over. He had banished his curse to another planet. He had
won! He laughed joyously, as he had climbed a mountain. He
would never look back. It truly felt great!
Blake was smiling when the officer rode up to him.
“You look awful happy for a wounded man,” she remarked.
“I’ve had a great day! Thanks for helping me out, officer.
Just another one of those rites of passage, I guess?” Blake said,
and started to laugh again.