It is the summer of 1984 and I am watching a bunch of girls dance to Cruel Summer. My friends and I are entranced by the way they move, their hips swaying, hair bouncing, smooth skin barely covered by bikinis. We are at the beach and the summer has been anything but cruel to us. We’re tan, cocky and confident, at least most of the time. We see them staring at us and don’t know what to do.
We want to talk to them. Each of us has picked out one that we think is hot but none of us have worked up enough courage to say hello. It is the summer before high school and we have learned enough about girls to realize that we need to be cool.Â A few years earlier that might have meant wrestling on the ground while they roll their eyes at us. Now we are smart enough to have brought a football with us.
Thank god for the ball because we still don’t know what to do with ourselves and our overactive hormones are making us crazier than normal. So now we can tackle whomever happens to be carrying the ball and in theory impress the girls. While I would like to say that we were smart enough to have taken the ball along for that purpose I cannot because it would be a lie.
We brought the ball because it is fun to toss around and maybe those television commercials have some truth to them. Maybe we can accidentally toss the ball in their direction and meet them. There is a new movie called The Karate Kid that a lot of people are talking about. It has the Japanese actor who was on Happy Days and some kid we haven’t heard about.
But we went to see it and came out of there energized. Mr. Miyagi is pretty cool and there are lots of “Wax on, Wax off” jokes, most of them centered around masturbation. After all we are 15 and we think it is funny to make jokes about self love.
After a while we stop tossing the ball around and grab our Boogie Boards. We are at the beach a lot, but we aren’t surfers. Most of us have done it, but it is not something that we do often. We live in Los Angeles but the beach is a 35 minute trip and during the school year there is homework and whatever other extracurricular activities we are involved in.
So we race to the water and time stands still. I love the sound of the surf and the feeling of the sand beneath my feet. I am a strong swimmer and have spent enough time swimming in the ocean to know how to swim with it and not against it. I love hearing the roar of the waves as they take me back to shore. I hit the shallows and I turn around and run back in to do it again.
Later on I’ll head back to my towel and collapse face down upon it. The warmth of the sun on my back and the sounds of the beach serenade me to sleep. There is a hand on my shoulder and someone tells me I am snoring. It takes a moment for me to realize that it is a girl talking to me. I don’t know her, but she is very pretty.
We’ll become friends and I’ll see her every week at the beach. Later that summer I’ll go to sleep away camp. But before I go she’ll give me a picture of herself. On the back it says “think of me” and I do. We haven’t ever kissed, but she always hugs me hello and goodbye. I figure that must mean something.
We write each other letters, the old fashioned kind with pen and paper. She asks if I have a girlfriend and I say no. I’ll come home from camp and we’ll start talking on the phone daily.
Later on at a youth group dance I’ll work up the nerve to kiss her. She’ll turn her cheek and tell me that we’re just friends. As I walk away crushed all I can hear is the roar of the ocean.