(written recently in response to a Writers Group prompt)
Kurt shaded his eyes from the Miami sun, the noise of happy children and swishing waves washing around his ears. A teenager trudged by, feet surfing the shiny sand, ears wrapped with wires, face hypnotized by the tiny screen he clutched. A tinny voice escaped into the air. Kurt raised an eyebrow. Who was that high pitched boy called? Bieber? Yeah, Justin Bieber. Huh, not bad for an old guy.
The kid disappeared among crowds of families and youngsters. Kurt sighed. Guess he’d been no better at that age. A transistor glued to his hand, the Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ USA’ driving his parents to distraction as they tried to watch The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Ah, Sunny Isles Beach. In a way it hadn’t changed since he came here with his ma and pa back in ’63. ‘Cept the beachside condos which had sprung up, of course. But the sand and the sea, they were same. And they brought back memories.
Memories of her.
Kurt closed his eyes, felt the warmth of the sun, heard the swish-swash of the waves, and in his head saw long blond hair tied back in a ponytail, a skin smooth and light tanned, eyes blue and alive with life, and a giggle to churn any teenage boy’s stomach.
He’d first seen her by the ice cream truck as he eyed up a Bomb Pop being served to the kid in front. The cherry, lime and blue raspberry had suddenly lost interest to him. Instead he’d stared, mouth open, tongue hanging, at the something actually more deserving of his worship. The girl had been playing hide and seek with her younger brother, and had stepped out from behind the truck inches from Kurt.
That’d been his opening line.
He remembered going over that word all evening as ma and pa dozed deep at the restaurant table. What a dumb ass thing to say.
And bee-stung lips opposite him had replied.
What did that mean? He can remember worrying all night about it, tossing and rolling in that bone hard bed in the hotel. Did she mean ‘Go away’, or ‘Hey, let’s talk’, or what?
The man in the ice cream truck had cut in, demanded with his tired, irritable voice what Kurt wanted. By the time Kurt looked back the girl was gone. Forever?
No, he’d seen her again the next day, when he went to hire a bicycle. She was going round and round in circles on a green Schwinn American. He’d handed a dollar bill over to the hire shop assistant, his eyes fixed on the green bike, too shy to stare at the rider.
‘You wanna take a girl’s cycle, sonny?’
The lanky assistant smiled down at Kurt, a matchstick waving lazy from his lips and a knowing look in his glance.
Kurt had grabbed the first bicycle from the rack and hurtled off down the track. As he’d come to the sand he’d determined to go back and speak to the girl. But he’d jammed the brakes on too fast, spun in a sand cloud of panic and had ended up on his butt with the bike across his legs.
‘You never ridden a bicycle before?’
Kurt had looked up. That face, haloed by blond hair, had appeared to float in the blue perfect sky.
‘Heck, course, just, just practising a trick I been working on. Pretty dangerous one too.’
Kurt’s cheeks had matched the red color of his check shirt. He’d tried not to cough with the sand and dust coating his hair and neck.
The girl had adjusted her feet on the pedals.
‘Well, you gonna simply stay there on the ground or you wanna come for a ride? My mom says I can go as far as the pier.’
‘What? Yeah, hey, let me…’
But she was gone, pedalling off along the beach like a Hollywood movie star, t-shirt billowing in the breeze, hair floating like a scarf behind her. Kurt had jumped up, thrown himself onto a saddle twisted and bent and had set off on an adventure to who cared where.
And that’s how it had started.
For the next two weeks they’d done everything together: swum in the sea, buried each other’s brothers in the sand, eaten hot dogs with mustard slow dripping, listed top ten songs and singers, argued over the coolest TV shows, and smoked Luckies behind parked up ice cream trucks late into the evening.
Best of all had been the times just lying on the hot beach, side by side, being fritter fried by the sun for hours on end, talking about their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their secrets. Kurt had felt like he’d found the other half of himself.
Then, like any novel or movie, the end scene had arrived. Cases had been packed, shoes emptied of sand, souvenirs forced into groaning cars, handshakes and backslaps exchanged between grown-ups.
And Darlene had written her address on Kurt’s arm in green biro.
And he’d really meant to copy it into his diary, the little one he kept in secret with poetic scribblings and dark, depressive forebodings of a Cold War exploding hot. He really had meant to.
Kurt had slept solid all the way home to Boston, gone straight to the washroom and, well, you can guess what had happened. Shucks, he’d said to himself later in his bedroom, he thought he could remember the address, he hoped he could, at least part of it. He’d written down the words on an envelope, scribbled a note, his fingers trembling as he inked the letters of ‘Darlene’, and sent it off, promising silently to a God he didn’t believe in he’d go to church every Sunday if only the Lord would help the mailman deliver the letter safe.
Kurt stirred. It was time to wake up from his dream of decades past. His stomach rumbled hungry messages. Gee, he realized, he’d been sitting here on the beach for an hour, reliving that holiday, revisiting Darlene Geller.
A body shifted next to him.
‘Come on, Kurt, let’s get back, the grandkids are Skyping us at seven.’
‘Sure, leave the ice box to me, you take the towels, Darlene.’