O’Hara’s “A Few Trips and Some Poetry “is a long story about a picnic in which the pleasure of sharing is sexual. O’Hara’s picnic-sex episode provides a memory that lasts a lifetime. What is served at this picnic is not the usual picnic fare, and no food is required, and none served.
Jim, the narrator, and Isabel Barley are his “sporadic lovers” and longtime friends. They share passion without compassion, pleasure but not love. Bisexual, Isabel prefers women, but after a hiatus of five years, she takes Jim for a ride. It seems innocent, but when she turns off the main road and drives along a dirt road to a picnic ground furnished with rough tables, Jim wonders about her intention
Parking, and without any discussion, Isabel abruptly prepares for making love: “I don’t want to lose you entirely,” she says matter of factly. “When we’re really ready, I’ll lie on a picnic table,” Jim asks if this is wise, but Isabel has it figured out, and she gets out of the car and lays on the table.
Jim writes, “It was very quick, but it was immensely pleasurable.” “Back to nature,” Isabel said. She sat up on the table and buttoned her shirtwaist. “Aren’t you pleased with me? I’ve never failed to accommodate you. This took some planning, too, I want you to know.”
Summing matters up, Isabel says that if someone asks who she met today, she’ll answer, “Oh, I saw my permanent, sporadic lover, and I screwed him on a picnic table. And he screwed me on a picnic table.”
See John O’Hara. “A Few Trips and Some Poetry.” In And Other Stories, 42-165. New York: Random House, 1968.
Featured Image: Carl Mydans. John O’Hara in 1962.