L

‘I Wanna Rock’

In The 70's on October 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm

“Don’t believe everything she says”

(Caution: contains profanity. No sex- but profanity. This is a previously posted story, edited to the best of my ability, which I’m sure is insufficient. But I try, people- I try….)

Cheryl calls and asks if I want to take a cruise down to the beach. Outside there’s a dreary, relentless November rain, but anything is better than staying in the house. Joan and my father are upstairs in the kitchen, arguing about where Joan can or can’t shop for groceries. My father has very particular thoughts on who has the best quality of food, who is worthy of his dollar. Evidently, small, overpriced gourmet markets are far superior to the bigger, less expensive chains. Even when it comes to identical items- god forbid the Land ‘O’ Lakes butter have a Pathmark sticker on it- my Dad seems to equate this with a class system that will reflect badly on him. It’s only a matter of time before the target of their anger turns from the groceries to something I did or didn’t do- so the best place for me to be -as always-is anywhere but here. I tell Cheryl yes and she says she’ll be right over.

I don’t have to get all ‘done-up’, which is a relief. It will likely just be me and Cheryl. A quick hair brushing and some lip gloss suffice, I’m still dressed from the school day- ripped, faded jeans and eight sterling silver rings, some sporting turquoise. A warm, navy maxi coat- last year’s model, and my back-up pair of sneakers-also from last year and I’m set. It’s so cold and crappy- plus, it’s a Tuesday night, so there will probably be few-if any-people at the beach, hanging out.

I have a joint put aside (from JJ, of course!) and I put it in my half-full pack of Newports, and put it,along with my brush, wallet and makeup bag in my suede purse. Everything except the joint is ‘just in case’. I lower the volume on my stereo, even though WPLR is playing ‘Green Grass and High Tides’ (“and they play just for yoooouu”) but I have to listen for Cheryl’s horn.

She pulls into our driveway a few minutes later in her dark blue Mustang, beeping three times (our signal)- causing  Faye and my Dad to abruptly pause bickering for three seconds…I yell up the stairs loudly “Be back soon!’ and flee through the garage. I jump into the passenger seat of the car, say ‘Quick! Go!’ to Cheryl, who backs out with a chirp before anyone has the time or wherewithal to object.

We circle out of my neighborhood, and drive through town as it steadily rains. Everything looks wet and browbeaten, shades of black and gray. I’m mesmerized momentarily by the reflection of bright headlights and red brake lights in the heavy drops of rain, swirling down the sides of Cheryl’s windshield, like big, fat tears. The whirring of the wipers keeps a steady rhythm. We drive along the main streets and the back roads, hoping for something to happen. We don’t know what. We are almost too bored to even speak.

“Why don’t you put in a tape?” Cheryl asks, pleasantly “They’re in the back”

I sigh. I actually resent being asked. I feel that lethargic. But I reach back and grab her brown leather 8-track case, and begin perusing as best I can in the dark. I know every tape she has by heart: ELP (uggh!) Queen (sick of) Yes (too ‘epic’) Frampton Comes Alive (played-out) Boston (maybe) but I decide on Robin Trower’s  ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ and push the lime-green eight-track into the player, feeling it click for a split second, as it gets pulled into the slot. It begins with a Hendrix-like warm-up, followed by the deep throated vocal-pitch: ‘The sun don’t shine/The moon don’t move the tides/To wash me clean…..” I love the quadraphonic sound, but the lyrics lob me even deeper into my prison of boredom.

We arrive at the (predictably) deserted beach, and park along the outer rim, facing out to Long Island Sound. The lot is pitch black, save for several street-lights, lengthy black expanses separating them, and dividing the seemingly endless darkness with cones of yellow light. Cheryl parks under one of the lights, halfway down the winding beach road. She throws the Mustang into park, and shuts the car off with a twist of the key, and a further one so that we can still listen to tunes. She turns the inside light on and rifles through her purse for her Marlboros.  She shuts the light off, a silver blanket of light slanting into the car from the distant lightpoles.

We both stare straight ahead, towards the ocean we know is there, but can’t exactly see. We can barely make out the tiny pin-pricks of blinking lights in the far distance, many miles across the Sound, in New York. I wonder how many bored Long Island kids are looking back at us. My guess is, maybe one car, two kids- a mirror image of Cheryl and I, two bored kids with nothing better to do. And believe me- I feel their pain! I imagine kids in year-round warm places like California and Florida have an endless supply of hot, summer night fun, but no so here in the Northeast.  Here we have lots of dull weather, and long, freezing winters from which we must thaw out from every Spring. My buds over in long Island are in the same boat, but at least they are rockin’ to WBAB (Babylon ROCKS!! says the bumper sticker, which I totally believe) who seem to always be playing better music than our stations, when we are lucky enough to tune it in on crystal clear days, when the planets line up, and we are parked just so.

I pull the joint out of my cigarette pack and place it in Cheryl’s ashtray like a religious offering. It’s unlit, but cued up. Seeing it, Cheryl snaps her fingers and says ‘Oh, yeah!’, and reaches back, grabbing the small red cooler from behind her seat. Something’s rolling around inside, and she pulls out two cold, Budweiser cans, passing one to me.

“I’ll meet your one joint, and raise you a Bud!” I say, in a deep, fake announcer voice, and Dawn laughs.

“Thanks” I tell her. The can is both cold and wet.  I quickly flip the tab on the can, yank it off, and put it in my coat pocket, taking a sip of beer. I hold out my empty palm until Cheryl places her tab in it as well. All of my friends know I make beer tab chains, so they automatically add to my collection. I take the tabs, link them together, and create six-foot long strands, which I layer, and hang like braids on both sides of my ‘focal point’ posters, which hang right above my stereo system. (Robert Plant, his mane of long, golden ringlets, bare-chested and holding a live dove onstage, and Steve Tyler kneeling in the grass, sideways baseball cap atop waterfalls of dark, cascading hair, leopard print and scarves galore)

 

I told my father and Joan that the  tabs are from soda cans, after my dad asked: “What the hell is that silver crap hanging on your wall?” No one seems to find it strange that I never drink soda, and that I often pontificate on how much I dislike it,  especially when Joan occasionally passes out Pepsi cans at dinner. I’m a strong believer in carbonation, but only when it’s the component of an alcoholic beverage. Otherwise, it seems to be much ado about nothing. I will tolerate ginger ale on rare occasions, and even then- only if a maraschino cherry is involved. Maybe my father and Joan think I am desperate, and bend regularly to agonizing peer pressure, gulping down Cokes and Pepsi’s left and right when I go out, so as I can be accepted by the cool soda-drinking crowd?

Cheryl reaches out and pushes in the lighter, which is built into the ashtray. When it pops out, she takes the joint, puts it to her lips and applies the burning orange circle to its tip. She puffs on  it several times, as sparks fly, then takes it down a notch, until the end of the joint undulates with fire flame. We smoke half of it, passing it back and forth several times, and agree that it’s ‘good shit’ as our eyes water and our throats burn.

We wonder why it’s so dead out tonight, and ponder it like some big mystery, instead of it being an easy case for Captain Obvious. As the buzz takes hold, we lean back in our seats and veg out while Trower sings about an eagle…an eagle of love.

I pull my feet up and rest them on the front dashboard, staring at my goofy sneakers for a minute before I start to fool around with my bracelets, which I notice out of the corner of my eye, catching my attention in a glint of light.  I shake my wrist, and begin twisting my sterling silver rings back and forth on my fingers. I hold my hand out like a fan and admire the cool, swirly designs and Navajo turquoise.  I really do have ‘an eye’ for what looks cool, I think to myself. My fingers look smooth and sleek, and my nails have gotten quite long lately, which makes me happy. I continue doing hand model poses in the muffled glow of the street light.

I’m in my own little world, as is Cheryl, and we’re so stoned, that if someone  tossed a dog-toy through the window, we’d probably wrestle over who gets it. Every little thing is interesting and deep, and very three-dimensional. It keeps us occupied.  After a good bit of time I glance over and see that Cheryl has leaned way back in her seat, and I would think her asleep, lost as she is in her huge, army green, faux- fur trimmed parka, except I can see her head nodding- almost imperceptibly- to the music.

The rain has stopped, but it’s still soaking wet and dismal outside, and not a single car has driven through the beach lot. After I tire of admiring my hands, wrists, and assorted jewelry, it occurs to me that I kind of want to go home, if just to continue reading my current book ‘The Basketball Diaries”. I yawn and suggest to Cheryl that we should probably cut our losses and head home, and point out that “I’m so tired, I don’t even think I can finish my beer’, though I suffer through a couple of more cold slugs right after I say it.  Cheryl yawns back and says ”Ok” grabbing her beer  from the plastic cup holder attached to her dash, and drinks some tiny bird sips,  before she puts it back. She sits up straight, moves her seat forward and turns the key. I pull my legs from the dash, and also sit up, as if at attention. The keys jangle as Cheryl twists the key forward. The car tries to turn over and fails. She turns the key again. Same thing happens. Again Again. Ditto. And again.

“Oh, shit!” Cheryl says. She looks over at me, eyebrows raised, mouth forming an ‘o’.

“Oh, God! Don’t even TELL me!!’ I warn

She tries turning it over once more, to no avail.

“We need a rock” Cheryl says, staring straight ahead.

“Whattt?!’ I hiss, emphasis on the ‘t’s’, face twisting up. I’ve never been good in a crisis.

“Come on!’ Cheryl yells, opening her door, and jumping out like a paratrooper, slamming the door behind her. In that split second I hear the wind, and get walloped with freezing air. My door isn’t even opened yet! Shit!

I sigh, shake my head, roll my eyes and open my door, stepping out and bracing myself against the wind. The door fights against the wind to open. I quickly button up my coat to the neck. The wind whips my hair, slapping it into my face and eyes, and I so wish my coat had a hood. The wind literally knocks the ‘buzz’ right out of me. I angrily shove my already freezing hands into my pockets, realizing we might be stranded. I practically slice off a finger on the god-damn beer tabs. Those dumb-ass  chains are long enough, I decide angrily, and toss the offending tabs towards the sand, where the wind carries them up and away, and to God knows where. I see Cheryl ahead of me, and begin to follow her into the darkness. The sand is too cold to give much, and feels like a cheap, laminate floor. I wish I’d worn two sets of socks, and I would have, had I known what was going to happen, but then again, had I known I wouldn’t be here in the first place!

I can’t see much, but I make the effort to catch up to Cheryl. She aimlessly bobs against the wind, two steps forward and one back, as we are both practically lifted off the ground. Her dark hair is being blown crazily to one side, and whipping her in the face like a wet towel, as her oversize hood keeps flying off her head. She’s given up trying to hold it up.  She seems to be scanning the ground, trying to zero in on something. I have no idea what the plan is.

After a few torturous minutes, I notice Cheryl veer into a tangle of bramble and bushes, where she reaches down and after a little struggle, pulls up a good sized rock- a five pounder. The bottom of the rock is black with moisture, dark sand.

‘This is it!’ she shouts over the wind. I think. I can barely hear her, but I know it’s ‘good’ coz she’s pointing at the rock and gesturing towards the car, which by now is off in the distance. We turn back and speed walk-then run to the car, both of us peeling open our doors and jumping into our seats, teeth chattering and flash-frozen.

“FUUUCK!” I yell, rubbing my  numb, reddened hands together and shivering. My cheeks are flush, pins and needles from the cold. Cheryl turns on the overhead light and places the rock onto the middle console, just like that!

I jerk away from it,startled, blurting ‘Ewww!’

“Don’t worry!” Cheryl says- prematurely, in my opinion. She hasn’t even checked the thing, and it’s been sitting in the wild, maybe even in the ocean. Chances are, it’s too cold for anything creepy to be crawling on it- but what if? She picks it up, holding it close to her face and checks it out from every angle. “It’s FINE!” she says, like I was  crazy to be jumpy in the first place. It’s so cold  in the car at this point, even with our coats buttoned up to our necks- and Cheryl with her unfair hood ‘advantage’-we realize that we are in deep shit if we can’t get the car to start. The roads will begin to freeze up soon.

Imagine freezing to death at Calf Pasture Beach! It’s one thing if you’re out in the wilderness-say, Oregon or Alaska, or some place like that, but to perish at this hum-drum hang out would certainly place us at the top of the ‘stupid-ass ways to die’ list. Thirty years from now (2006! Cars will fly!) people wouldn’t even believe it- they’d write it off as urban legend. “No one could be that stupid!’ they’d exclaim. (‘Oh, yes they could!’)

It doesn’t even occur to me that walking home is an option-it’s too cold to even consider. I’d  prepare my epitaph instead, using the pen in my purse, and a crumpled Duchess napkin from Cheryl’s glove compartment. It would likely be a cross between a Zeppelin lyric and words that have the ‘feel’ of a woman falling back dramatically on a fainting couch in an old silent movie. Conjuring up castles and mossy landscapes, Viking/maiden lust and back- of -the- hand to the forehead ‘don’t worry about me’ false bravado. Coolness mixed with self pity, succinct enough to fit on a headstone (which would bear an ‘angel with the bad-ass wings’ statue) at Riverside Cemetery, where future teenage partiers (my people!) would stumble upon it, like a secret mecca. They’d say things like “Wow! She must have been cool” and “Duuude! Check it out-she died so young! Bummer!”, before crushing  beer cans on my stone, and saluting the sky with their devil signs, by the light of the harvest moon. (For some odd reason, these teens would still speaking in late 70’s slang, three decades later- and leaving behind a fistful of beer tabs, which by then would be non-existent. Just like me…..)

The bad-ass angel. Sorry to see you go.

Cheryl tells me we have to get out again, that I need to hold up the hood, while she ‘bangs the rock on the ‘thingy’. I’m not even going to ask what that is, for fear she’ll answer. I’m freezing and desperate, and just want to kick back and smoke a Newport with the heat blasting at me. So I say Let’s do it. We get out, the wind over-zealously pummeling us again (God! I want to punch it back!)

Cheryl fumbles with the hood latch, until finally it pops up, and we both lift the hood with all of our might. Cheryl leans down towards the engine and starts hitting random parts of the engine with the rock. A tap here, a bang there, a really violent clank there- and then she straightens up and holds her finger up in the  wait-a-minute position. She jumps back into the driver’s seat and turns the key. I don’t hear it over the strong gusts of wind, but I feel the hood start to shake, and suddenly the headlights come on and nearly blind me. It’s ALIVE!! I slam down the hood, and run to the passenger seat, where Cheryl’s waiting with her half of our high-five. Slap!

‘Thank fucking God!” I say, loudly, and then ‘Phew!!’ shaking my head. This is what passes for tragedy averted in our suburban doldrum.

The cold air  blasting from the vents begins to get warm, then hot. It feels wonderful and soothing. Cheryl suddenly gasps and points out the windshield. It takes me a second, I’m squinting- but then I see! Flakes of snow! They’re barely hitting the ground before they’re being batted up and around, wildly, by the wind. We’re so, so lucky the car started!

I yank out Robin Trower and throw Boston in. The chorus is already underway. Cheryl lights a Marlboro, and hands me the lighter so I can light a Newport. She puts the shifter into ‘R’, backs up slightly, then clicks it into ‘D’ and bangs a major left, back onto the desolate beach road, lead-footed and raring to go. Meanwhile, Boston loudly proclaims the obvious: It’s more than a feeling……

  1. I can’t believe I forgot about beer tab jewelry! LOL!

    Like

  2. “Good Read” You know I can relate to that story, too bad a rock wouldn’t fix Schulmanized!

    Like

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