Summer in New York is blistering hot. With school out, I am back to reclining on the couch, watching daytime television–The Dating Game, Match Game and Let’s Make a Deal. I am bored. Bored, with a capital B. Nothing to do. Nothing is happening. Outside, birds chirp and cars whiz by on the highway across from my house, but I long ago stopped listening.
It’s been a few weeks or so since the last day of class. I’ve lost track. Of emptiness and more of the same. I want to get up and move but, despite all the windows in the house being open, I can’t find it in me, and blame it on the incessant heat.
I could get on my bike and ride away–anywhere but here–but, with most of my friends at camp or traveling for the summer, there seems to be no point. Besides, it’s too hot for any activity requiring motion. Better to lay comatose, feeling the stagnant air vacuum seal me like a can of sardines. Occasionally, I get up and change the channel, but that is the extent of my activity. I soon drift to sleep, only to awaken to the sound of Monty Hall, beckoning his studio audience to applaud loudly for someone who’s about to make a deal.
Her name is Marge, and she’s dressed like a rag doll. Having already won a washer-dryer combo, Marge must now decide if she wants to give it all back in return for whatever is behind Door #2.
I find myself caught up in the moment and start chanting with the audience, “Door #2, Marge. Door #2!” Who wants a stinking washing machine, anyway?
Marge seems baffled and nervously tugs at the neck of her costume, which seems to be constricting her. The audience continues to shout, and the tension is building. But, then the telephone rings, drawing me out my boob-tube rapture.
“I’ll get it!” I yell, so that my mother knows not to answer it. I run to the kitchen and lift the receiver.
“Hey, Kiddo. It’s been too long.”
The calm baritone is immediately recognizable. Daniel, a friend whom I met when I first moved to the island in sixth grade. And, who from day one, I had a major crush on him.
“It’s so good to hear your voice, Daniel!” Did I just gush? I can almost feel myself blush.
He laughs. “Same here. I’ve been wondering about you, and feel like you’ve gone AWOL on us.”
He’s been wondering about me? I realize I haven’t spoken to him since my breakup with Jake after spring break. So much has happened. So much has changed. I’ve been preoccupied, I suppose, but I can’t bring myself to tell him any of it, less he think I’m crazy.
“I’m fine,” I say instead. “Just fine.”
“Great. So, how’s about we go to Jones Beach today and spend the afternoon together? Can you be ready in 20?”
I hesitate for a moment, remembering that I haven’t shaved my legs in over a week, but it’s Daniel and I’m eager to see him.
“Sounds perfect,” I say, exuberantly. I’m sounding desperate.
Until he called, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed hanging with him. We’d stayed friends through junior high and into our sophomore year, and though it had been my hope that something more would develop between us, it hadn’t been the case. Yet, more than once, I thought we’d come close. Then, after I started dating Jake, I didn’t spend as much time with Daniel, let alone the others in our circle of friends. Now, that is about to change. I wonder if any of our other friends are going to the beach, too.
“Anyone else coming?” I try to sound nonchalant.
“Nope. There’s no one else I want to see right now.”
I couldn’t believe it. A day with Daniel at the beach, after all this time. I raced up the stairs to get ready, shouting to my mother what I was doing as I sped by her room.
As I shaved my legs, I thought about Daniel. When I first met him, I thought he was the most handsome boy in school, with olive skin, grey eyes, hair as black as burning coals, and an aloof smile. I know I wasn’t the only girl with a big crush on him, but somehow, I was one of the few that had made it into his inner circle of friends. In 10th grade, he became the first to ask me out on a date, though his timing couldn’t have been worse.
It was right before we were about to take the SAT’s for the first time. I was walking into the school when he caught up with me and abruptly mentioned that he had two tickets to see Zero Mostel in a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof.” At first, I thought he was trying to see if I was interested in taking the two tickets off his hands. But, once he made it clear it was a date, I fell into a trance, feverishly nodding yes. He had at last asked me out! Which meant I couldn’t concentrate on the SAT exam at all, and did miserably on the test. But, it didn’t matter. Having a date with Daniel trumped any exam.
Daniel’s dad chauffeured us that night, and for the occasion, Daniel wore a suit and tie. The musical, which I was seeing for the first time, was memorable. Besides, getting to see Zero Mostel in his signature role as Tevye, was priceless, even when he dropped and broke some plates during a kitchen scene with the actress who was playing his wife, and had to ad lib as the two tried to clean up the mess. I enjoyed the evening immensely, and considered Daniel to be the perfect first date. Later, when his father dropped me off at home, after a stop for ice cream at the HoJo’s, Daniel walked me to the door and kissed me quickly on the lips.
Did I expect more? No, and yes. Well, maybe. But, life goes on and we continued hanging out with our friends, getting high and partying. And, then I met Jake, and the group took a backseat to my new romance. Including Daniel.
The doorbell rings. I grab my beach bag, which I had hurriedly packed, and open the door. There’s Daniel, cool and collected. He winks at me and smiles.
I nod, then look in the driveway and then the curb. Where is his car?
“Aren’t you driving?” I ask.
He looks at me sheepishly. “Well, my mother’s using the car today. So, I was thinking, we could walk to Mid-Island Plaza and take the bus to the beach, or we could just cross the street and hitchhike along the highway. What do you think?”
Suddenly, I feel like Marge, the rag doll on Let’s Make a Deal. Do I want the bus or what awaits me behind door number 2? Should I settle for public transportation or take my chances with the unknown–hitchhiking 20 miles, something I’ve never done? All that seems to be missing is an audience shouting at me what to do.
“Use your thumb!”
Daniel, sensing my trepidation, offers me a half-crooked smile. Sounding a bit like Monty Hall, he says,
“Well, what would you like to do, young lady?” Then, almost as an afterthought, he adds, “I know what I’d do.”
To be continued.