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of the speakers in my Acura RSX and out the open windows onto interstate 95 south. They don¶t wait for the stability of the lead guitar to control them ± they jump out the open windows into the unusually warm weather for June. The guitar kicks in and goes after them, with the vocals following. My left foot taps against a footrest next to the brake pedal while my right pushes harder on the accelerator. With the sun gleaming through the windshield I reach for a sweaty cup of ice coffee that¶s already half melted even though I bought it about 10 minutes ago. The milky-tan coloring has been diluted with the ice water, and all the sugar has piled up on the bottom of the cup like a buried treasure. I take a long, quenching swig from the straw as we all bid farewell to Providence and cross into the Warwick border, en route of my final destination for the summer ± Narragansett, Rhode Island. µYou¶ll be living on the beach house alone this summer,¶ my parents told me a week ago. µYou¶ve shown us you can be mature, now show us you can live on your own.¶ The words left their mouths gift wrapped and tucked under a Christmas tree with my name scrawled on top. I couldn¶t even believe they were saying all this. I¶m going to be living on our beach house? In Narragansett? Alone? And there¶s no catch? There has to be a catch ± there¶s always a catch. What¶d you think, I was born yesterday? µNo catch,¶ they assured my dumbfounded expression. I continued to doubt them until last night, when they helped me pack up clothes and some other things (books, toiletries ± you get the idea) and handed me the keys to the beach house. This, they explained, would teach me responsibility. It would be an important life lesson. And, if anything, it gave me a beach house to myself and my friends for the summer. I don¶t know if my parents overlooked that or not. They¶re trusting me not to destroy anything or get arrested, but what pair of parents gives their teenage son their beach house for the summer unsupervised? I won¶t be living alone ± I have friends down there that will want to take full advantage of the house, whether it be hanging out, barbecues, or partying. And then there¶s ± Beneath the fully exploding music my cell phone vibrates in the cup holder, pleading for attention. I grab the twitching phone and place it to my ear. ³Hello?´
³Are you here yet?´ an over-caffeinated voice complains. ³I¶ve been waiting all day.´ ³Brendan,´ I sigh patiently, glancing at the digital clock on my dashboard and turning the stereo down with my free hand. It reads 11:47. ³It¶s not even noon yet and I¶m willing to bet you didn¶t wake up until about 45 minutes ago.´ ³You said you¶d be here by eleven.´ ³I said I was leaving Boston at eleven, there¶s a difference.´ A muffled groan accompanied by crunching. ³So where are you now?´ ³Passing through Warwick on 95, I think by the airport.´ ³Jeez dude, you¶re not even on route 4 yet?´ I pause to take another sip of ice coffee. ³No man, it¶s gonna be another hour before I¶m there.´ A dramatic gasp that sounds like someone hit him in the stomach. ³An hour? A fucking hour?´ he repeats mortified. ³Give or take with the traffic, yeah.´ ³What am I supposed to do until you get here?´ I¶ve gone from absent friend to entertainment guide. ³I don¶t know, take a walk to the beach? Smoke some pot?´ ³I don¶t have any pot.´ Traces of disappointment sprinkle my impending arrival. ³Can we get some later?´ ³We¶ll see ± I don¶t think it¶ll be an issue.´ More crunching, then a gulping noise. ³Are you excited to finally get back?´ ³Does the pope shit in the woods?´ ³Aren¶t you Jewish?´ ³Irrelevant. I gotta drive, I¶ll catch up with you a little later when I get there.´ I hang up the phone and toss it back into the cup holder, next to my ice coffee. Am I excited? His question keeps churning over in my mind. Of course I¶m excited ± I love going to this place for the summer. I have a great job at a small bookstore, some of my best friends live down there, and it¶s become a clichéd home away from home. There are nights over the winter where I¶ll shut my eyes in my bed and try to let my nostrils
catch a whiff of the salty sea breeze blowing throw screened windows on muggy nights. The only noise on those nights is the wind chimes playing soft solos over the rhythm of crashing waves. Occasionally the overhead fans will twirl and squeak soft hums in union with the rest of the ensemble too. And then there¶s the nights filled with laughter around a campfire. The cooler nights with crackles jumping out of the fire pit and marshmallows roasting on the end of those sticks (maybe this summer I¶ll actually learn what they¶re called too) with stories, cheap booze and the occasional joint being passed around the circle. We boys trying to tell the most attention grabbing, humor injected stories we can muster from our past. The girls sit and laugh, encouraging us with µooh¶s and µahh¶s or egging us on by challenging our manhood with sarcasm. If you look carefully you can see the fire reflecting off their eyes as they dance with excitement from the night. And sometimes the stories are just good enough and the charm is just right for one of them, and that girl will nudge closer and closer to where you¶re sitting. The closer she gets the faster your heart pounds with anticipation, skin curdling with excitement. And then ± Another vibration from the phone jerks me back into reality. Without hesitating I fling the phone back to my ear. ³What? What what what?´ ³Are you here yet?´ I look down at the clock. It¶s now 11:53.
* * *
Somewhere in South Kingstown after Route 4 becomes Route 1 I pull off the traffic congested roads and park at The Village, an outdoor mall with a galore of local establishments. I¶m running behind schedule thanks to the beach traffic but it¶s one in the afternoon and I haven¶t eaten lunch yet. One of the rules my mother taught me was that I need to always stop from the rat race and take time to eat lunch, otherwise I¶ll die of starvation. It really doesn¶t sound profound until you¶re stomach is churning with hunger pains, then it sounds like the Gospel. I park the car and walk over to Calvitto¶s, a pizza place with a bakery in it that tastes like something out of the North End. The inexpensive prices probably makes
visitors think that the food is second rate, but any local will tell you that this is more than pasta sauce and store-packaged cheese on top of bulk-ordered dough. No component of the pizza is left to chance ± everything from the dough to the toppings is carefully spread, sprinkled, and placed with a certain precision that would make a surgeon jealous. With two slices of pepperoni placed in a box I make a seat out of a curb corner and wolf down the meal mercilessly. The first slice goes down in a matter of seconds, but halfway through the second my heart wrenches and twists like a sponge that¶s being rung. I try to focus on the pizza and not my rapid loss of appetite, but with each passing moment becomes it harder and harder to chew or bring the warm crust to my mouth. Like a parent I try to keep my eyes from wandering off, but I can¶t protect them and before I know it they¶ve ventured away from the ground and are now affixed to the brunette standing in front of Lickety Splits. I didn¶t ever think I¶d run into her here, of all places. The last time we talked she told me that she wasn¶t coming back this summer so I might as well get over it. There she stands though with her sunglasses draped over her eyes (probably to hide the vacancy in them where a soul should be) and her hand (claw) gripping a medium size cone of peanut butter soft serve, her favorite flavor. I try to keep from looking directly at her in hopes that she doesn¶t spot me and try to come over and try talking ± I need a conversation with her like I need a prostate exam. The bitterness swelters my flesh with goosebumps, but my knotted heart keeps asking all the damn questions I don¶t want to ask ± who¶s she with? Why¶d she come back when she said she wouldn¶t? Is she going to be around all summer? Is she still seeing that asshole? Is she finally sorry? Can I forgive her? Do I want to forgive her? Through my shaded eyes I feel myself trying to steal another glance in her direction, but she¶s gone almost as if I¶ve dreamt the whole thing. I breath a sigh of relief ± maybe that¶s all it was, something my subconscious drummed up in a mean sort of nightmare. Real or not she¶s gone now and my body becomes reaquanted with the real world ± my skin feels the heat I seem to have forgotten was beating on it, and my hair is being tossed around by the wind that I hadn¶t noticed was blowing. I throw the half-eaten slice in the box to be thrown away and wipe my grease-stained lips and fingertips with a white napkin, turning it transparent and orange. I toss the leftovers in the garbage and
head over to Commons Convenience to pick up a few bottles of Diet Coke for the remainder of the ride and maybe some half-off fireworks for when Brendan and I are stoned later. There¶s still a lump in my throat from that damn dream though.
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