My girlfriend Jen and I walked a mile up Depot Road to the beach club talking, but I wondered the whole time if I have the courage, after all this preparation, to walk through the gate to my first dance. I’m dressed in madras Bermudas and a pink oxford button down which shows off the tan I’ve earned baby-sitting for the Connolly kids who summer each year on the Cape, up from Boston. A navy cardigan is knotted casually around my shoulders and a pair of cordovan colored Weejuns complete the uniform Jen and I have so attentively copied from her older sister, Franny.
I hear some old Beach Boys tunes in the distance, over speakers, from behind a thick wall of hedges that conceal the club from the road. We walk down a sandy path to the front gate. Dave Warren, a lifeguard, leans against the fence to look us over as though he is in charge and hands us each two tickets: one to redeem a soda, the other for a hot dog. I’m sure I see him smirk as we pass, but at least he doesn’t call us “squirts” as he usually does when he calls on Jen’s sister.
It is July, when Truro nights are hottest, though a mild, moist breeze from the wide mouth of the Pamet brings briny, cool relief. Couples dance on the sandy patio under strings of colored lights that sway gently and flicker like fireflies. The sky is inky now and boasts a million pin-points of light of its own. Below we hear the rush of the river and a wide ribbon of it glistens from the light of the moon.
After awhile, a boy named Phillip asks me to dance. He is older, it seems, though it could be his manner. We slow dance to “In My Room” which always makes me moody and yearn to be alone but this is different now, I think. He holds me close and my small breasts crush against his chest. I feel a heart beat wildly but can’t be sure if it is his or mine. We sway gently, leaning rhythmically, hip to hip, barely moving, but I keenly feel each step. My skin is damp like the sweet moisture of a baby’s skin. It collects above my lip. His hair smells smoky, like a campfire, more likely a cigarette. It mingles with his pungent woodsy odor not yet disguised by deodorant or Canoe. My hand is moist and he rubs his palm slow and flat against mine. The sound of my heart fills my ears.
He pulls me closer. His ear, soft as velvet, brushes mine. When he pulls back ever so slightly, I feel his breath on my neck and his lips against my ear as they move silently to the words of the song. A warmth from deep within uncurls like a blossom. It covers my body like the sun at the beach and a pleasant chill follows like a shadow. It is all dream-like and I lose myself in it and pray that the song doesn’t end.
When I open my eyes for a moment, I see Jen, alone, by the refreshment table. She fidgets and I know she is sad and embarrassed because no one has asked her to dance. But I can’t worry about her right now. Not yet. I close my eyes to find my way back.
He pulls away for a moment to look at me. I swallow. Flat, sticky coca-cola breath. He looks deeply, lazily into me with lidded eyes that are so blue, so light, they seem shattered. Eyes of iridescent slivers.
He comes closer now. His breath tickles my face and puffy, full lips softly press mine. I press back eagerly and whiskers I hadn’t noticed scratch me like sand paper. He presses gently harder, harder until my lips part. His mouth is over mine and it feels soft and sweet and wet like a ripe Babcock peach warmed by the sun.
His tongue pokes … His tongue? Why a tongue? What! A tongue. It feels … I don’t know … it’s his tongue. And gum. Spearmint, I think. There is gum in his mouth. It’s strange. Not awful. But different. Do I like it? I don’t know. But I certainly don’t dislike it.
In September, I am in eighth grade. I see him in the hall. He doesn’t say hello. But, my name is inked in navy ball-point across the blue canvas of his loose-leaf binder.