I’m breaking my own schedule this week, going off topic to post a little piece that is short, but not exactly exactly flash-fiction.
During the summer of 1979, between seventh and eighth grade, I rode my bike to the beach almost everyday with my pack of girlfriends: Lisa, Lisa, Laurie, and Anne. We were a tight knit group and as with most girls that age, we had rules, some spoken and some unspoken. A lot of it had to do with having the right stuff, and I don’t mean moral fiber, I literally mean “stuff.”
We all had to ride beach cruisers, wear Vans, have long hair, wear Chemin de Fer jeans, and hang puka shells around our necks. We all wore the same type of bikini that summer. “The crossback” was aptly named because the straps crossed our backs then came under the sides of our bikini bottoms and tied in the front. The bikinis were two-toned with white, alternating one boob white, one butt cheek white, and the other boob and butt cheek a differing color. One of our unspoken rules was that while we all wore crossbacks, it was forbidden to buy one in the same color already owned by one of our group. That is how I came to own my brown and white crossback. It probably wouldn’t have been my first choice, but one of the Lisas already had green.
We were not a prissy bunch, we were very physical. We often doubled up on one beach cruiser with one on the handle bars and had ‘chicken fights’, trying to kick each other as we rode 5 miles to the beach. We never worried about sun screen back then. It was all about Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil in the brown bottle with the distinct smell of coconut. We liked to rub it in, rather than remain oily.
Once we reached our destination of Seal Beach, we would park our bikes where we could keep an eye on them, then lay out our towels and commence the boy watching. Propped up on our elbows on the sand near the pier, we had a view of everything – the people walking on the pier, people coming and going in the parking lot, and the surfers riding the waves on the south side of the pier.
We were all boy crazy, but very inexperienced except for Laurie. She filled us in on things we wanted to know, and coincidentally, she was the only one of us who filled out her bikini top. Laurie gave us french kissing lessons by using her hand made into a slightly open fist. We were all attentive students with pertinent questions; which way do you lean your head? Do you start with your mouth open? Are you supposed to make your tongue go clockwise? Laurie answered our questions and also told us about some of the boys at our school who were good kissers and some who were not. I was shocked that she had kissed so many boys. She wasn’t the prettiest girl at our school, or even in our group, yet she had kissed some eighth and ninth graders. I felt really sorry for the boys she called “bad kissers” and mortified at the thought that someone might say the same thing about me.
One summer day, we had just put our towels down and were talking and laughing when we saw a large group of boys walking down the ramp near the pier. They walked onto the sand and start putting their belongings down about fifty feet away from us. It wasn’t crowded yet. Most people stayed away from the beach until the marine layer of clouds burned off, so our two groups had the beach almost to ourselves. It wasn’t very long until the group of boys came over and introduced themselves. They were a year older than us and they rode the bus from a city further inland. Individual conversations pursued, and one boy sat down at the end of my towel and introduced himself as “Mitch.”
Mitch was cute, but not too cute. His was an approachable look, not intimidating. He had a big smile with straight white teeth that were lined up like disciplined little students, each with a tiny space between them, as a teacher would expect. He had blondish-brown hair that was wavy, like me, but unlike me, he had a sprinkling of freckles. He seemed muscular for someone our age and he had the requisite puka shell necklace and board shorts.
We hung out with the boys all day, but no one else seemed to pair off the way Mitch and I did. He and I played in the water and sat on the sand talking. We laughed a lot and teased each other and became increasingly touchy in a jostling way. “Look at you, you have sand all over you.” He said as he brushed sand off my thigh. “Well so do you,” I said, knocking sand off his tan shoulder.
We walked down to Main Street and bought toffee peanuts from the candy store, and since we ran out of money, we shared a can of Coke. We kept bumping into each other, when usually I was not clumsy. When we got back to the beach, I went to the bathroom and the Lisas followed me in and interrogated me, “What is going on, tell us?” I didn’t know what to say except that yes, I did like him. The two Lisas were giddy with excitement, but when I asked, “Don’t you like any of his friends?” they both shook their heads and even rolled their eyes.
I went back in the water with Mitch and the two Lisas, but hardly noticed the watchful eyes of my two friends as I had other things on my mind; keeping the swimsuit in place every time a wave hit. All three of us girls had to constantly readjust. The crossbacks simply were just not made for swimming.
When we got out of the water this time, Mitch said “Come bring your towel over by me.” I abandoned my girl-post to put my towel next to Mitch’s, about fifty feet from both groups forming a triangle. We were on our stomachs side by side and didn’t talk much this time, but then Mitch did something strange; he took a lock of my long hair that was dripping with sea water and put the tip in his mouth and sucked on it.
“Mmmm, Salty,” he said.
“I do that too,” I said. “You’re going to catch my cooties.”
“I want your cooties,” He laughed. I laughed too, as I turned my shy head so he couldn’t see me continue smiling.
Pretty soon Mitch’s friends started yelling at him that they had to catch their bus. We stood and Mitch put his hands on my hips and I rested mine on his shoulders. His skin felt warm from the sun. We looked like awkward students at a school dance, getting ready to slow dance by stepping in circles to “Stairway to Heaven,” but the only sound was that of his friends, yelling at him to hurry up.
“Can I get a kiss goodbye?” he asked.
I looked down and shook my head no.
He dropped his head, his shoulders slumped, and said, “I didn’t think so.” He said bye and walked away. I stood there and watched him walk away wondering if he might turn around, but he did not.
I walked back to my friends and they asked what happened. They were disappointed in me and said I should have kissed him. Laurie shook her head with bewilderment. They couldn’t make me feel any worse than I already did. The worst part is he didn’t know how much I really liked him. He didn’t know how badly I wanted to kiss him and was scared. He had no way of knowing it would have been my first kiss and that I was nervous I wouldn’t do it right, especially on the open beach with all our friends watching us even though they pretended not to. I missed an opportunity to have my first kiss with a boy I really liked, and he was denied knowing how kissable I thought he was. Fear is a thief. In this case, we both got robbed, and I never got another opportunity to kiss Mitch.