At home, thought, it's hands-off. Tomorrow matters. I mean, how many exes do you want to see at the Star? We develop safe habits – say, not going home with kickboxers – to get us through.
But out of town, policies change. You slide on your really, really dark sunglasses and – poof - there are no consequences, no hang-ups, no co-workers, no chores, no neighbors who say annoying things like "Is that your boyfriend? Isn't your boyfriend shorter?" You can adopt a Thelma and Louise mentality. Slam the car door. Eat with your fingers. Go out without underwear. Wink at cute guys in retail situations.
Afternoon. I quit caring if fantasizing is okay or normal or freaky or what. The next rationalization: if you're going to act like a lizard, you might as well tap into your lizard brain. Instead of sitting around replaying my folded-arm, pouty, lovelorn girlfriend routine again, I opted for one of the oldest pastimes: voyeurism.
I walked toward Moshup Beach. Halfway there, it was perfectly clear that it wasn't just me. The whole island must have thought old Cole was out of his tree. Eighty-four, humid, and sunny. Human sexuality was busting out like Drew Barrymore's tongue on the cover of Rolling Stone. Near the water, a yuppie couple were analyzing their latest baby-making attempt. Back by the dunes, two fresh-faced lovers were testing the kissing techniques outlined in Seventeen.
In a draw between two dunes, a sleepy-eyed pair – he with Elvis hair, she in a flowered choker – was caressing the insides of each others' elbows as though that spot held the biggest secret on earth. Their backpacks were spilling with Pop Rocks and Sly Stone tapes and matching "If it's tourist season, why can't we just shoot them?" hats. Their faces looked giddy from wee-hour take-out, vending machine potions, and too-expensive hotel rooms with really high beds. I almost tiptoed over and nuzzled into the sand beside them, having carried that backpack and looked that way before. But instead, sensing an imminent roll down to the surf for a From Here to Eternity kiss, I cleared some scratchy, black wrack out of the way and moved on.
Further down the shore, I peeped on a prematurely middle-aged couple flattened out with all the trimmings – paddleball, portable backgammon, and suntan lotion in 4, 6, 12, and 25 SPF. They looked dead serious about this vacation thing, as though it could actually save them from some chronic rut. At one point, I saw her press her ring finger into his bicep and say, "Ooooo, you look pink." All I could think was, "Ooooo, wrong thing to say." Once, I'd convinced a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend to go hiking through the Grand Canyon for a week. On day two, I said, "Ooooo, sweetie, you look pink." Sweetie then sang Guns N' Roses – "I used to love her, but I had to kill her"- for the rest of the trip.