“You’re so lucky,” she said. It had been going great until then, until she opened her mouth. Her tanned arm brushed against mine as we sat on the wall checking out the beach. The tourists were all framed between the golden sand the topaz sky, and surfers bobbed on their bright boards like the rainbow sprinkles on her vanilla soft-serve. Her tongue had been working around the edge, swiping away the drips. I was supposedly watching for set waves to come in, but all I could think of was burying my face in her hair. It had this smell — she said it was Coco Mademoiselle. It was amazing.
So there we were, feeling good, feeling that pull, like my mouth could find hers no matter where she was on the beach. And then she said that.
I said, “Lucky how?” hoping she would save it.
“You get to live here,” she said and pointed with her cone out to where the wash of the waves scribbled towards the beach. “It’s like a postcard.” Two guys caught a right-hander and pumped their boards, silently bickering for position. One of her rainbow sprinkles fell away in a drop of vanilla and streaked a rock like seagull crap.
I looked at her mouth and wished she would put her ice cream cone back in it. Part of me wanted to pull the yellow string on her bikini, undo it right there on the wall with all the fat tourists walking by, just to get her to talk about something else. She looked at me with her green eyes all big and wet. “I wish I could stay here,” she said, “with you.”
I wanted to tell her I could add a few postcards to fill out the collection. Like maybe one of me dodging the rusty forklifts in the warehouse, working my eighth straight double because the state cut mom’s pension again. Or a postcard of me sitting on the front step with my longboard beside me, wearing my salt-crusted wetsuit even though it was 90 degrees out. But dad was wicked late, and mom found me an hour later, passed out from heat stroke. That would make a good picture.
I know what she’s getting at. It would be sweet if every day was like this, eighty-five with a decent easterly swell, nothing to do but sit here until we find some place to make out for a while before she cruises back to her family.
But that’s the kicker. In January, it’ll be single-digits for weeks and the storms will blow spray over the wall, making little pearls of ice that freeze on the windshield and jam up the wipers. And I didn’t have a single surf day in June — I spent every day in the dust and dark of the warehouse.
She rolls her eyes when she talks about her family, like her dad’s a bad guy for worrying about whether I’m gonna knock her up or get her into drugs. But it’s a family. Maybe I could send her a postcard of me and my folks, but torn in half — mom on one side, dad on the other, and me in the middle, with a ragged white gash splitting one side of my face from the other. One thing they don’t tell you — half a family plus half a family is still half a family.
Or I could show her a postcard of my birthday, of the three of us at the Harborside Grill, the candle flame flickering in the breath of their shouting while I wait to blow it out, wondering why they have to weaponize even this, the one night when I want to act like a whole, unbroken thing.
She popped the flat bottom of the cone into her mouth, crunching it as she arched her back and ran her hands through her hair. That perfume hit me again, and I thought I could forgive anything. “Speaking of postcards,” she said, “let’s go back to the surf shop. I want to get one for my friend Susan. She lives in Connecticut.”
Adam Renn Olenn is a web producer and writer at Berklee College of Music. He was educated at the University of Virginia and the Boston Conservatory, and his story “Coronation” was featured in the anthology Dead Calm.