We arrive on Saturday. Our car is packed with several suitcases, bedding and milk jugs filled with water from our tap. Chassidy is with me. My little sister has brought a friend too .We have brought enough clothes to last us a month, but we are indecisive and a tad bit insecure so we will go through all of the clothes in a week. We unload our car and then headed to Kroger’s where we will buy a week’s worth of hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwich supplies and junk food. And then we dress in our swimsuits and head to the beach on one of the two golf carts we have. As it gets closer to dinner time, we shower and then change into our “night clothes”.
These are the clothes that we will wear to impress boys, scoff at other girls in and wear while we push our golf cart back to the beach house and my beckoning parents who can’t understand why we don’t come in early instead of draining the golf cart. We head out to dinner. We spend the meal trying to catch the eye of cute boys sitting a few tables a way without my parent’s noticing. But my sister notices and calls us out. We are picked on the rest of the evening. We don’t care, tonight will be out first night on the strip and we can think of nothing else.
Back at the beach house, we fix our hair, spritzing our hair brushes with Hollister perfume and apply several coats of lip-gloss before hopping onto our golf cart. We take a few pictures and then we are ready. We cruise down the strip at the family campground my sister and I beg to go to year after year.
At first we are the lone golf cart, circling the park, occasionally breaking off down a side street for a change of scenery. We are always early. We don’t want to miss a minute. We live for this week all year long. Gradually, the sun lowers itself into the ocean and the others begin to come out. We continue to circle, passing each other, giving out appraising looks. The sun has set and we begin to wave, to call out to each other. We stop and talk to the boys propped against their cars, sipping out of red cups. We often had our own red cups, filled with orange juice or soda.
Things have changed. We used to be the ones standing around, walking the strip, waiting for a ride. Now, we hold the power to offer rides; to choose or deny. We are now sixteen. Although we say we are seventeen. At the beach, we are always a year older. Some years we are sisters, others we are cousins. We never remember our stories, but its okay, they don’t either. What’s important is that they remember us, our faces, and our names.
We all come the same week every year; we have our friends, and our enemies. All of our friends are male, some younger, some older than us. Our enemies are other girls, vying for our limelight. Some are guys who have pushed us too far, tried to follow us back to our house, or called us names. Because they are our enemies, they are our friends’ enemies as well. They are given dirty looks and withheld rides.
We give out rides to our favorite boys. We cruise around the strip, sometimes pulling onto a dark side road, hoping for a kiss. But most of all, we just ride. We sing out, verses from our favorite songs. We pass a particularly attractive boy and yell “Hey, hey good looking, whatcha got cookin’?”, and then a shirtless one “No shoes, no shirt, no problem”.
The sky grows dark and our golf cart weak. We check our cell phones for the time. It’s close to eleven and we head back to the house, saying our goodbyes. Some nights we push the golf cart up hills and to its home in the tiny garage. We have the help of boys, some we know from summers before and some we don’t. We make it back into the house, right at our eleven o’clock curfew.
We slink into our room after murmuring a goodnight to my parents, spray each others hair with perfume, so that we can sleep without the smoke from the boy’s cigarettes lingering over us. Crawling into bed together, we giggle over highlights from the night and send flirty text messages to “our boys”- promising to meet them again tomorrow. In our chats, we’d talk about which boy was our favorite, compare our “distance” scores, plan our outfits for the next, pine for mixed drinks, and tell dirty stories (at least, we think they’re dirty because we know of nothing worse). We are silly and naive, playing at being bad girls, they same way we used to make our Barbies roll around naked in the back seat of their pink Jeep.
We grow older and things change. Slowly, time pulls us apart and there are no more beach trips. Once, we promised that we would be old ladies together, racing each other down the nursing home hallway in our tricked out wheel chairs. Now, we move in different directions. We are no longer as close as we were as girls. We each have new responsibilities- me to my fiancé and her to her fiancé and his daughters; she raises them like her own. But we are bound to each other by the late night conversations and rainy day rummy games of our girlhood. Though we no longer live in the same city, see each other often, or vacation together we share a bond that no one can erase or replace.