I looked on either side of me, and gave it five seconds before I took my dress off. I cupped my hands against my thighs to delay the reveal a moment longer, and then went for it. The stiff collar roughly folded my ears in as I yanked it upwards, and then I let it fall heavy and hard into my purse, simultaneously falling back to let my head be cradled by a pile of sand. I couldn’t believe that I had been able to eat my entire lobster roll. It was my third lunch on our last day of the holiday weekend, and my chunky stomach seemed to enjoy holding onto everything I was putting into my mouth. “You’re butt shy,” Nina told me. “Your butt won’t let you go because it knows other people are around.”
I’ve never personified my butt, and never thought of it as having a mind of its own. My heart missed Brandon, but only minimally. My head ached from too much of a good thing, and my eyes were sore from falling asleep in direct sunlight. But my butt was just hanging out, not doing anything butts do. Shy? Maybe. Defiant? YES.
I lifted my body up to shift onto my side and caught a glimpse of my roommate who tagged along for the weekend happily chatting with the other girls, and just beyond her I saw him. A man who I call a cousin, but regard as a brother. I wondered if he was shielding his face to avoid a sunburn or to deflect any questions we might have asked him. Sometimes he would light up immensely from laughing, but he was steadily quiet. It was fine with us, we were prepared to give him our all and get nothing in return. When he felt like talking, we talked. I practiced listening, giving him my undivided attention for most of the bus ride to Rhode Island, only getting distracted by the jingle jangle of Amber’s stylish bangles. I gently answered his questions that have no good answers. Why do things change? Why do people change?
“I don’t know,” I found myself saying over and over again. Because I really don’t know. I don’t know what I would do, or how I would feel if I was as talented, good-looking, wealthy, or charming as he is and none of that made a damn difference.
I shifted my attention back to Nina who revealed earlier in the weekend that she too had been through a rough time recently. Apparently she heard a song written by Lil’ Wayne where he talks about a whore named Nina, and then based on how she reacted he must then go on to describe what he did to her without any pants on. Nina the whore, not Nina the law student, doesn’t sound like a nice young lady. To add insult to injury, “Cashin’ Out” was being played on the radio every five minutes. It’s a song about a man who’s in a car with a gun (a nina) and who’s smoking on reefer (that’d be called kesha) and he’s wearing a lot of jewelry. Her dreams of being heralded through song hadn’t come true the way she’d expected.
No one ever wrote a song with my name in it, but I made up a song about me and my imaginary boyfriend years ago. For a whole summer I pretended to have a boyfriend, and for that whole summer the girls in my YMCA group called my bluff. I talked about him every day, would talk about him calling him me on my phone shaped like Garfield while we got changed in the locker rooms, and would bring in gifts that I said he’d given to me. “What’s his name?” this girl named Heather asked me.
I forgot to make up a name for him, so I thought about the last man I had seen, which happened to be my Pastor. Pastor Thomas E. Jordan of Lily Baptist Church. My Mom had taken me along in the car to pick up a box from his wife the day before. “It’s…Jordan,” I muttered.
“What does he look like?” she pressed.
“Well, he’s good looking.” I hadn’t put a lot of thought into Pastor Jordan before this, but I was getting a feeling that he was probably quite the looker in his day. I tried imagining him without his black minister’s robe on, waiting to hug me at the end of service. “He’s got light skin like me, black hair. And a mustache.”
I closed my eyes. “He gives me candy.”
“Is he a good kisser?” she asked, no longer doubting me but still with authority.
I was stuck. If I said yes it meant that I actually stood there and imagined what it was like to tongue-kiss my own Pastor who had baptized me for God’s sake. So I said no, claimed that I broke up with him, and I went in the bathroom and cried because I was fairly certain that I was going to Hell either way.
But I digress.
It was Nina’s idea to take us all to Cape Cod. Her parents own a house that sits on Little Sandy Pond. It’s a perfect looking place, out in a wooded area. Separate from the main house is a garage with an apartment on top of it. There is a big dog, a small boat, and a bb gun.
Pfft. Pfft. We shot the gun. We swam in the pond. We hit golf balls. We went to the beach. We paddled the canoe. We got up before 8am everyday because we were excited.
Nina’s brother brought more friends and more distant relatives with him when he showed on the second day. They blended into the 40 or so people who had come over for a party spread out in the front yard, the backyard, and the house. We made having one bathroom seem like a normal thing. If I went to pee and someone was in there I simply wandered over to the table to eat another rib.
By the time everyone arrived, our group of 20-somethings had 10 members in it. Seats rotated in the garage apartment as people came and went for more drinks, and delivered news on what was happening in the main group. Nothing anyone said was ever really exciting enough to make us leave. All we had was one i-phone playing music in the center of a coffee table, but I tell you, I don’t think I’ve laughed that much all year long.
“Let’s have a talent show!” I had blurted out on the car ride over. My cousins pretended to be too mature for such a thing, but laughed and agreed that we should do it. Just after midnight I took the stage. I’ve been known to sing and dance, but this year I decided that after googling “how to hypnotize someone” I was ready to try it out again.
I moved my chair directly in front of Aaron before he could change his mind. I announced in a loud voice that he wouldn’t be made to do anything he didn’t want to do. I started talking in a voice that is a cross between that weird baby sound Paris Hilton makes and Anita Baker. I told him he could trust me, and that this was a safe place. To my surprise, our rowdy group got very quiet. Our hands pressed together, I started the exercise, coaxing him to look deeply into my eyes, to relax, to sink in, and shut down. For some reason, people want to be hypnotized. He shut his own eyes, and after swallowing one good time his heart rate slowed. I yelled “Sleep!” and when he didn’t stir I thought I had really done it. I was so amazed at my own magical powers that I yelled,
“AARON WAKE UP!” because I thought I might have killed him.
His eyes popped open and everyone laughed for a solid five minutes. And with no other actual talent, I was declared the winner of the talent show.
Soon enough we were living out what I perceived to be the last fun hours of the trip before the long, dull car ride back. We were on that same beach that I had stripped on. I reached for my cup, took a sip to cool my throat, and went back to listening to Nina who was in the middle of saying,
“Sex is like pizza. When it’s good, it’s really good. And when it’s bad…it’s still pretty good.”
I was wrong about that car ride by the way. That car ride was unforgettable and loud. My cousin seemed to take a liking to Aaron, who had graciously offered to drive us back to NYC, especially when Aaron let him control the radio. They literally shook the car whenever a Waka Flocka song came on. For over four hours we listened to a concoction of rap and hip hop, most of which I admit I liked. What young person doesn’t have a desire to buy their mother a house, or their baby some shoes? And so, to Ace Hood, I say “Fair thee well, young man!”
And to Juicy J…Lord Jesus, I’m going to pray for you and the bands that’ll make ‘em dance. Listening to Aaron laugh about the song made me laugh, but listening to Juicy J made me regret taking my dress off at the beach. So in some weird way I guess I owe him a thanks because I’ll be putting on more clothes next summer, lest some creeper like him is close by.
When we were at the beach Nina’s friends asked about me and what it is I did for a living. I mentioned Robin Hood and its phenomenal work, and then quickly added in how I know I’ll wind up being a minister. It’s my calling. There was some chit chat about the Bible for a moment, and then my roommate asked if I knew who Salome was. I didn’t, and felt embarrassed, until Nina blurted out that it was a character on True Blood. “It is,” Amber said,” but she was real and she killed John the Baptist when the King…”
“I know what you’re talking about,” I interrupted with, and then told them my own version of events. “Jesus was like, on vacation, in a little place like Cape Cod and his friends told him that John the Baptist died and He was upset, and they were like ‘Yo dude, you good?’ and He shook it off and was like ‘Yeah, I’m about my Father’s business.'”
Julie sat up, and later told me that she highly enjoyed my rendition. And she meant it. She had really listened to me re-tell the Bible and had actually liked it! That’s what it’s all about. For me anyway. For me, it’s all and only about letting people like you, love you, and trust you enough to lead them down a path that may be foreign. It’s about breaking down the Word so they can understand it, and feeding it to them. I never want someone to feel like they can’t relate because I choose to do things differently. I want them to swallow the Truth. I will feed it to them anyway I can, and make airplane noises for hours if that’s what it takes. Vrrrooom, open wide, it’s a spoonful of stuff that can change your life.
Vrooom. More is on the way.