THE NIGHT OF DINO-DOG
Occurred: Summer 1997
The sun was the color of butter; a rich, deep yellow that blazed onto the powdery sand and blue ocean reflecting sunlight onto our pink faces. I was wearing my first bikini ever. It was denim blue with red polka dots, and ever-so-slight padding to make up for my lack of curves. The terrycloth towel I was laying on felt soft against my back, and the sand beneath me had molded to fit the contours of my body perfectly.
Beside me, laid Michelle, my best friend.
Michelle and I met when we were 5 years old. It was the first day of kindergarten and she and I shared a coat closet. Those were the things that best friends were made of. I honestly can’t remember much else of that first day or even those first couple years, except that we were inseparable. When I was 12, my family moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and Michelle and I vowed to remain friends despite the distance. We both kept our promise.
So anyway, beside me, laid Michelle. She had long golden hair that was fanned out perfectly on her towel. A pink bikini was taut against her red skin, but it was not her first belly-baring bathing suit. Her mom had allowed her to have a bikini a couple of years ago. In all honesty, both of us could have been mistaken for boys from the neck down. Her eyes, although closed, still appeared to be squinting beneath the bright sun.
I sat up on my elbows, the grainy sand caving under the towel. “My mom says that squinting like that will give you crow’s feet.”
“What are crow’s feet?” She didn’t move. Nor did she stop squinting.
I slowly turned my head towards the ocean. “I don’t know. But it doesn’t sound good, does it?”
She shrugged trying to look as though she didn’t care, but I saw her face relax from its squinted state. I smiled to myself.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw a group of three boys walking our way. They must have been about 15. The first boy, the leader of the group, had sandy blonde hair and green eyes that sparkled, even from far away. He was the most muscular of the three and beneath a flexed bicep, carried a long, red wave board. The two behind him weren’t nearly as attractive. One had bleached hair and dark brown eyes, and the other had dark hair with dark eyes.
My bony elbow poked Michelle in the ribs. She groaned in protest.
“I stopped squinting, ok? Let me sleep!”
I nudged once more a little harder. “Boys are approaching. Perk up…look sexy!”
As 14-year old girls, we had no idea what looking sexy actually entailed, but we were determined to get a boy to talk to us on this trip. We were with Michelle’s parents and sisters on a beach trip to Maryland. It was my first time going on vacation with a friend’s family, and Michelle’s parents gave her a lot more freedom than my parents usually allowed, so I was taking advantage of this short-lived independence. Michelle and I had been trying all weekend to strike up conversations with good-looking guys, failing miserably time and time again. After the billionth guy ignored us, we decided to watch older girls on the beach, to study their tactics. It was genius…they would ignore the boys. Then, when a guy was in sight, they’d lather themselves with tanning oil enticingly. Glistening in the sun, the oil glided over their smooth, tanned skin. If a boy did dare to approach one of the girls, they’d drop their shades over unimpressed eyes and look the other way. I called this the “Untouchable Approach.” We decided it was worth a try.
When Michelle finally realized what I was trying to tell her, she instinctually jumped up, scrambling for the sunblock. Neither of us was allowed to use tanning oil, so we had hoped lathering lotion all over our bodies would have the same effect.
She squeezed a huge blob of lotion in each of our hands and we began rubbing it into our already lobster-red bodies. I started by putting some on my ankles and worked my way up my legs. When I reached my knees, I realized I hadn’t put my sunglasses on. With a goopy hand, I pulled my sunglasses from the top of my head down over my eyes. My fingertips squished against the lenses and when I tried to look through them, there was an enormous, white hand print all over the front. I tried to wipe it off with my arm, but that seemed to just smear it so that I couldn’t see at all.
From my right, I heard Michelle’s peeved voice. “What are you doing? They’re coming up on us and you look like you’re on a day trip from Sunnyside Mental Institution!”
Wiping the remaining lotion on my arms, I whipped off the sunglasses just as the cute boys were passing. He was much, much hotter than I had originally thought. I made eye contact with his emerald eyes and time slowed down as he passed. He shot me a dazzling smile revealing perfectly straight teeth, then looked back at his friends, laughing.
Michelle pursed her lips and spoke to me without moving her head, attempting to conceal the fact that she was talking. “Do something. He’s looking at you. You look like a deer caught in the headlights.”
My eyes were wide, and my face was blank. She was right. I flirted with as much passion as a gay boy watching a swimsuit competition did. I blinked a few times very rapidly and snapped my head back in their direction; they had their backs to us now, walking away. Crap. Another opportunity lost. I looked down at my body. Pinched between my greasy fingers were my sunglasses, practically submerged in lotion. My arms were streaked white, and globs of the white lotion were still all over my legs.
Michelle looked at me, swallowing laughter. “There’s some in your hair too.” She scrunched her nose and flipped her own hair out behind her. Lowering herself back down to the towel, I saw that her eyes were still squinting behind her sunglasses.
* * *
After days of trying to flirt successfully, and I stress the word “trying,” Michelle and I decided to give up and enjoy our last night on vacation. All week we had been eyeing an old fashioned, hand dipped ice cream parlor, but had avoided it because “sexy girls don’t eat ice cream.” Whatever. 14-year old girls have it all wrong…eating ice cream can be very sexy; just not the way I do it.
Now, with no boys to worry about, we ran from our hotel to the store’s entrance. It was 8:00pm, and we had just finished dinner; not usually a prerequisite from Michelle’s parents, but I think they were trying harder to enforce rules with me there.
The bells atop the heavy glass door tingled as we entered, cold stagnant air from the AC slapping us in the face. I swear I heard choir of angels singing as we looked through the refrigerated glass at the various flavors. Strawberry, coconut, butter pecan, cookie dough, mint chocolate chip! So many flavors to choose from…what’s a girl to do? I decided on my favorite: triple chocolate fudge with extra chocolate sprinkles. I also splurged on a waffle cone. It was, after all, vacation.
Gluttony oozed from our eye sockets as the man behind the counter handed us the enormous cones with three scoops. We happily paid our $3.50, never breaking eye contact with our desserts. Without grabbing napkins or spoons—who needed those?—we stepped out into the night.
Immediately upon walking out the door, the darkness and heat of the night swallowed us. Our ice cream started melting at a supernatural rate. Within seconds, dark chocolate goo was running down the sides of my waffle cone. It was about two blocks back to our hotel room. Knowing we’d never make it, we panicked and through snorts of laughter tried to eat the ice cream as quickly as possible. I, unfortunately, had a bit of a handicap. I have very sensitive teeth, and therefore have never been able to eat ice cream or any frozen treat quickly.
I glanced over at Michelle who had green ice cream all over her face and hands. She had managed to get her cone under control, though, eating down past the edge. I, on the other hand, had dark chocolate dripping all the way down my arms, literally past my elbows. I could feel it spread out over my mouth and cheeks, and I still hadn’t even put a dent in the mound of ice cream that stood before me in my right hand. I hunched my back and leaned over the cone so that I wouldn’t drip on my clothes. Below me, on the sidewalk was a puddle of ice cream. I continued slurping as quickly as my sensitive nerves would allow. A tingling sensation spread through my frontal lobe and I smacked a dirty hand to my forehead in pain. “Brain freeze.” I said aloud to no one in particular. When I removed my hand, I felt a drop of chocolatey sweat roll down the bridge of my nose. “Could you go get us some napkins from…” my eyes rolled up to try to see the new splotch I’d left on my forehead “…inside the store?” I glanced to the left at Michelle without moving my head.
Her face was incredulous. “Look at me! I’m as bad as you are! I can’t go in there.”
I laughed. Not because it was funny, but because I was frustrated. “Oh, no. You are not as bad as I am.”
Her laugh sounded more like a honk and then she snorted so loudly that I was surprised she had any brain cells left. “You’re right. You look horrible.”
I joined in laughing. Real laughing this time despite my miserable state. We laughed so hard that my abs trembled beneath my t-shirt. And of course I was wearing white.
I continued laughing, but Michelle’s face immediately turned to stone, looking somewhere past my shoulder in the distance. Before I could ask a question, she turned 180 degrees the opposite direction she was facing. “What is it?” I spoke through my laughter, still very confused. I looked to the right and walking toward us were the boys from yesterday. The boys with the wave boards from the beach. They were now dressed nicely. The leader, with the sandy brown hair and emerald eyes, was in a dark, electric blue button down shirt, khaki cargo shorts with a white shell necklace hugging his tanned throat.
I spun around quickly, facing the opposite direction with Michelle. I spoke quietly, more to myself than to Michelle. “Maybe they’ll pass right by us. They ignored us the other day…there’s no reason they’d say hi now.”
“Hi.” A deep voice spoke from over my shoulder.
“Shit.” I muttered.
“What did you say?” His eyes burned into my back.
My ice cream had completely melted by now and my waffle cone was soggy in the palm of my hand. Michelle’s wide blue eyes were staring at me in horror. I knew what she was thinking—it was the same thing I was thinking. We couldn’t let them see us like this.
I released my breath, still hunched over so the ice cream on my arms and face wouldn’t drip onto my white shirt. “Could you do my friend and I a favor?”
I couldn’t see him, but I imagined those eyes of his narrowing in suspicion. “Maybe. What is it?”
I heard snickering behind me. I assumed his friends were laughing at us. “I need you to go into this store here and get us a lot of napkins.”
“Because…” I had no good explanation. Without thinking, I closed my eyes and turned to face him.
Eyes wide, his feet sprung off the ground in horror. “Whoa! What happened to you?”
“Please will you go get us some napkins?”
“Don’t touch me!”
“We just need a few so we don’t get ice cream all over our hotel room.”
“I said don’t touch me!”
“I’m not going to touch you.” I tried to speak calmly. Reasonably.
“Stay away from me!” He looked down at the ground. Chocolate puddles flooded his flip flops, creeping into the crevices of his feet. “Is all this from you?” He gestured dramatically to the ground where several pools of chocolate stained a 5 foot radius.
I nodded pathetically.
He pressed his lips together, trying not to laugh. “Ok. I’ll get you some napkins. Just don’t…”
“…touch you,” I interrupted, “I know.”
He kept his promise. I heard the bell of the door ding and within minutes he was a few feet in front of me again with a wad of napkins in one hand. Trying to maintain his distance, he kept his body in place and stretched his arm and torso so that I could take it with my seemingly crippled body. As soon as the napkins were in my hand, he disappeared, a cloud of smoke trailing behind him.
“Thank you!” My voice boomed after him. I made a wish that I never saw his face again.
Hands on her knees, Michelle was bent over laughing.
“How is this funny?” My eyebrows lowered over my brow bone creating angry wrinkles on my forehead.
“You,” she sucked in air, gasping for breath, “looked like a cross between a dinosaur and a dog all hunched over like that.” A smile started to break through my scowl as I realized how ridiculous I must have looked. Tears were now streaming down Michelle’s cheeks and she wiped them away with the back of her hand. “You transformed into this creature—like, a dino-dog!”
We collapsed laughing. It was the first of many dino-dog moments.