It’s so hot this summer, it’s almost unbearable. The roads undulate in visible waves as the tar cooks in the sun. There’s a haze in the air, a sticky film of gray, and everyone is sweating and irritable. At night, down at the beach, mosquitoes land on our arms and legs, the sound of constant slapping coming from our attempts to kill them as they settle in to feast. Our beers grow warm minutes after they are pulled from coolers, where they lay in melting ice and water. Long hair is lifted off of our necks and piled atop our heads in loose buns, or under bandannas. Guys shun shirts altogether, and girls favor bikini tops, though the less brazen among us wear open shirts over them, along with sneakers, or flip flops.
I have the entire month of August off. I start my part time job at my father’s insurance agency as soon as I get my school schedule. I have a little money to get me through, but I will have to be very frugal. I decide to work on a tan as a way of getting through the days when most of my friends are at work. It’s cheap and vain, and therefore has instant appeal. There is a postage stamp sized grass area behind my mom’s apartment, where during the hours of 10 and 2, the sun’s UVA rays cut through the trees, enough so to do some (sexy) damage. There is just enough room for a blanket, an aluminum lounge chair and my boom box. My Mom just bought a a new pile of hardcovers-I’ll read ‘Mommie Dearest’, and browse ‘The Scarsdale Diet’. I grab my tube of Bain de Soleil Orange Gelee ….which promises me a ‘St. Tropez tan’ even if I’m baking behind a brick apartment building… I’m trying not to eat, so as to lose more weight before school starts and before I see Foxy again. I’m not fat, but I want my bones to poke out at even sharper angles. JJ says he can get me some black beauties- (which is the speed that lots of girls take to drop pounds)-and that if I take them I’ll never be hungry. I make a note to call him tonight with the go-ahead.
And so I lay out, and the day drags….it’s weird being home all day when everyone is at work- there is a tedium that borders on torture, as if I’m existing on a blank piece of white paper. The sun is playing peek-a-boo, darting behind the trees and clouds, causing me to move my chair at all different angles, every fifteen minutes or so. Fifteen minutes that feel like an hour, each. I’m greasy with tanning jelly-(excuse me- gelee!) and give up by one o’clock (I vowed to hang to 3!) Though later, when I step out of the shower I am happily surprised to see that I am much tanner than I appeared to be while out in the sun. And it’s only day 1! I consider a ride to the drug store to see if they still carry Sun-In- but decide that squirting lemon juice at intervals on my hair would be both smarter and cheaper. (I can’t forget the ‘Sun-In Disaster of ’73!’ Yellow hair was not my friend!)
I pick my Mom up at work at 5:30, crawling up Route 7 in the five o’clock traffic. The Caddy is in the shop, getting brakes and new tires, so I’m driving Mom’s Gold Duster. There’s only an am radio,and listening to it my standards go way down. There’s so much disco and schmaltz (and commercials! Rrrrrrace-way Park! Crazy Eddie’s! Seventy-Seven-Double-U-A-B-C!) that when a mediocre song like Styx’s ‘Renegade’ or Foreigner’s ‘Hot Blooded’ comes on- I’m almost grateful.
“Well!’ says my Mom, getting in the car, dressed in her work blazer and sunflower brooch, looking me over ‘Aren’t you as brown!” I’m glad she noticed-it means everyone else will. She says she’s ordered a pizza (‘I certainly can’t cook in this humidity!’ she states as fact-even though the apartment is air-conditioned) so we stop off at Madugno’s, and then home. I have a slice (and am dying for another one, take two bites off another slice: doesn’t count) but JJ has already called, and I’m going to pick him up. He says he has the diet pills and I’m really excited. That’ll keep me away from the pizza. I get to use the Duster, even though my Mom doesn’t understand why I can’t ‘just stay in every once in awhile, for goodness sake!’ It doesn’t even make sense to me- why would I ever do that?