Huffington Post: Summer Love
The third time it happened was outside a house party in that peripheral part of town where the summer employees lived. Waitresses, bus boys and hotel valets out of uniform and in scant beachwear laughed about bands, drugs and surfing — their lexicon of cool so far beyond my grasp that I regarded its speakers with a lusty reverence reserved for the glossiest untouchables. I was 18 at the time and could count the number of parties I had been to on one hand. That and the fact that my family summered on the island did nothing to enhance my social capital with this crowd. Despite the fact that I was technically part of the summer workforce, I was a Baby in a sea of Johnnys. Swaddled in the particular type of self-loathing that arises from unwitting rigidity in the face of wanton merrymaking, I kept my mouth shut, lest I commit an “I carried a watermelon” offense and get kicked out — or worse, shamed — for not belonging.
Riding the wave of late-cresting rebellion in that three-month breath between high school and college, I had followed my younger, cooler brother to the site of this nightly ritual. While I was folding cashmere sweaters at a Main Street boutique, he was down by the wharf, renting bikes to enthusiastic weekenders. The bike shop guys were the nexus of anti-establishment cool — the chain-smoking, board shorts-clad answer to their yacht-sailing, popped-collar counterparts. After nightfall, everyone who was anyone knew to go to the house they rented, where there would surely be beer, bongs and the promise of promise. Isn’t that why people attended those sorts of gatherings, anyway? If not to celebrate a birthday or Christmas, the impetus for assembly seemed to be the tantalizing prospect of an experience or liaison, without which any person in her right mind would’ve just cozied up at home in her jammies with a DVD and some froyo.
My impetus? The Bike Messenger. I didn’t know his name or his story. All I knew was that he was older, seemed dangerous and had eyes that sparkled when they met mine — which had happened exactly twice: Once when I had visited the bike shop to retrieve my brother from work, and again the following afternoon on the docks. I’d been sitting there alone during my lunch break, dangling my feet over the edge and staring off into the distance. It’s what I loved most about the island. That suspended sense of being no one, nowhere, tethered to nothing but the wind and the waves. There was not a soul in sight, and then there he was. I don’t know that I had ever seen the docks empty at the height of summer. Somehow, though, we were the only two people there that day. It could have simply been that the crowds were at the beach but, engorged as I was on Seventeen Magazine and Jane Austen, I chalked it up to destiny (cue dramatic look to horizon). We held each other’s gaze for longer than was comfortable as he made his way from the end to the beginning, and only looked away after he’d stepped off the wooden planks and onto solid ground. For all I knew he was a greasy Casanova who could smell virgin blood from a mile away. But in that moment his presence was poetry. I’d said nothing. He’d said nothing. We hadn’t needed to. In the space between us was a tacit understanding we’d meet again — not because it was a small island or because he worked with my brother, but, naturally, because it was meant to be.
The party had grown rowdy. The Bike Messenger wasn’t even there. Overwhelmed as I was (and am) in crowds, I stepped outside into the moonlight, my ill-advised high-heeled shoes sinking awkwardly into the gravel driveway. I had taken up smoking the year before and found great solace in the myriad opportunities it afforded for quiet contemplation. (P.S. Don’t smoke. It’s bad for you.) I lit my cigarette, inhaled, and blew smoke up at the stars. I didn’t see him until after I had finished the first one. I turned my face away from the wind to light the second, and only then did I notice his silhouette resting in a nearby patch of grass, camouflaged by shadows. He’d been there the whole time.
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