This story was originally published in the June 16, 1995 issue of the Boston Phoenix
Cole Porter and I disagree about love. He's always too darn hot. Me? I'm like a lizard: the weather heats me up.
Take last weekend. I sat on a beach, salt-flecked from skinny-dipping, and praying for one of those ice-beer, the-world-is-a-very-cool-place low fronts to come through. My love was in Argentina; I was on the Vineyard. Not a good setup for a girl whose lust follows the thermometer.
To chill off, I tried watching my watch (11:12 a.m. to 11:17 a.m.), watching my watch and worrying about the fringe of my towel (11:18 a.m. to 11:24 a.m.), and watching my watch and recalling the fantasy guidelines from the Topics in Human Sexuality class I took in college. Was it unqualified? ("All fantasizing is okay.") Or was it a pseudo-endorsement? ("Most fantasizing is normal.") I spent 46 minutes on that.
These semantics, of course, were just a comfy distraction. But given the circumstances – or, to be precise, the temperature – a no-strings license to dream seemed crucial. My thoughts were not steamy, like, say, brown rice. They were uncomfortably hot, a la Chernobyl. So, to avoid sinking into a deep, deep, guilt, I scrapped the analysis and latched on to a new rationalization.
Writers need to experience the world.
Okay, okay. This oft-quoted line is a tad precious, not to mention annoying, pompous, and smug. But, technically, it was true. I had this assignment: to write about summer. I had planned to spend the weekend sweating it out at my computer. And the story would have gone very tamely – no temptation - had Michelle, my roommate, not woken me up with an ice cube on my neck.
"Shane?" I'd mumbled.
"No honey, Michelle," she'd said. "Forget about that boy for just a few days, will you? We're going to the Vineyard."
Then she tossed me a cotton dress. I shaved my legs. We went.
For the ferry ride, we practiced twirling straws in drinks (roll tube between fingers) and tying knots in maraschino-cherry stems with our tongues (secure one end with teeth). Then, at the dock, we went our separate ways. Michelle, in her new Wonderbra push-up suit, took to South Beach. I, understated in my three-year-old two-piece, bushwhacked to a deserted beach.
But lying out there alone, listening to that embarrassingly New Age swoosh of surf, I thought this getaway seemed like equal parts gift and dare. The wind felt as personal as bikini wax. Shane was so far away. He'd been gone one month, and for each of my single-girl days I'd felt shockingly sensitized, craving touch. Granted, I never sleep easily alone. Especially in the summer. Especially on vacation. But after just one hour and 23 minutes on that island, everything –coconut oil, dead fish, beach bathroom, sand in my butt – was conspiring against fidelity.
Summer is not a little bit sultry. It's so blatantly seductive, so over-the-top, that it's goofy. Kids sneaking into shady woods, swimming topless, licking cones, stealing fruit, squishing cherry tomatoes in their mouth. And grown-ups eating loose-limbed at midnight, drinking on roofs, tossing one another into sprinklers. C'mon. You have to giggle. Summer doesn't melt in place. It overflows. The air is wet! The fresh-cut grass, always enticing, now smells – and this is no secret to lawn crews – exactly like sex. The ceiling fans tingle like Noxema.