If I timed things right going home from the beach, I could get a ride home from Don or Kurn.
Never mind that at fourteen, I wasn’t allowed to ride alone in cars with boys.
They both drove home along the same road I walked. So it was easy to stop and pick me up. Just a friendly gesture. A neighborly thing to do. It would be RUDE turn them down. Wouldn’t it?
And pretty stupid, too, as far as I was concerned. Anyone knows that walking is the lowest form of transportation for a teenager. Avoid it at all costs.
Don had an ancient Pontiac, which he had bought himself. It had a Duke sticker on the back window.
Kurn drove one of his family’s cars, a brand new red Chevy, one of the ones you see preserved in all their glory at auto shows these days.
I wasn’t about to turn down a ride no matter what my mother said. So I just had them drop me off in the driveway next door and I would sneak into my house through the back door.
Don waited around once and noticed that I was going into a different house, so he asked why? I made up some stupid story about babysitting at the other house, and when he gave me a strange look, I caved and fessed up. He thought it was funny that my mother didn’t trust boys. He never said anything about my breaking the rules.
Three years later when I went to Duke as a freshman, where Don was now a senior, he continued to give me rides in his car. This time, he took me from one campus to another. The Pontiac was gone. He was driving an old Ford Fairlane and he even gave me the keys occasionally so I could take it to town.
Kurn only gave me a ride home from the beach a couple of times. He had started dating the daughter of a retail magnate and he would head down a different road to her house after his shift.
That was the bad news. The good news was that she never came to the beach. My crush on Kurn started to take on unfettered proportions. The kind that can get embarrassing. My heart would start beating like a hummingbird’s wings whenever I saw him. I was afraid he could hear it. Sitting next to him in the car getting a ride home, I was a nervous wreck. He even commented on how antsy I seemed.
I know, I was too young.
I finally started to give some of the boys my age the time of day. We began spending more time together on the beach, but I continued to pine for one lifeguard. Kurn escalated his relentless teasing, mostly about how young I was and how little I knew. I didn’t care how much he teased me. At least he paid attention.
July turned into August. August became September. The summer was winding down. Don left for college. I don’t remember that we even said goodbye. I wasn't on his radar so much. I think he knew I had a thing for Kurn. And, I was too young. Too young. Too young. It became a mantra.
By some kind of dumb luck, Kurn spent his last day on the beach with me. All the summer girls had gone home. The co-eds were in college, including his hoity-toity girlfriend.
So I got his undivided attention by default. But, frankly, I didn’t care how I got it. We sat on a bench and watched the few people in the water while we talked and talked.
At the end of the day he moved the guard tower and the boat up for the last time. Then he took a penknife and carved his name and the year into a huge piece of driftwood. By this time no one was left on the beach but us. It wasn’t cold, but it was September and you could smell the difference in the air.
After the sun went down and his last day was over, he offered me a ride home. Then, all of a sudden, as we were walking to the top of the bluff, he said, let’s get some ice cream.
Be still my beating heart. I had visions of being grounded for life. But hell, yes, I wanted some ice cream. So we drove to No Man’s Land – where there was a movie theater and a Dairy Queen – and I got a vanilla cone. Can you believe I remembered it was a vanilla cone?
On the way to the Dairy Queen we passed at least ten cars – maybe eleven – with only one headlight. One-eyed cars were called pididdles. If you saw a pididdle you were entitled to a kiss from the person you were with.
Kurn was laughing his ass off at how many there were. I’m sure we must have set some kind of record. I have never seen that many since. And we’re talking decades.
I was laughing too, hysterically. I was terrified that he might try to collect. And I didn’t know how to deliver. One of those push me pull me moments.
He could tell I was nervous about the prospect of him collecting, so he said, I’ll come back for them. You owe me.
Then after the ice cream, he dropped me off at home and he was gone. I walked around in a daze for days. I was ecstatic and sad all at the same time. I was in love. And I wasn't even sure I would ever see him again. My sophomore year in high school started. His began his sophomore year in college.
A week or so later the Miss America pageant was on. I was watching it with some of my girlfriends and a bunch of the boys from the beach. Kurn’s name came up and one of the boys started to tease me.
Kurn had told them something and the little jerkwad wasn’t going tell me what it was. After the pageant ended, I chased him around outside while his friends watched it all from the porch, laughing. I finally pinned him down by some bushes and he decided I could know.
I never listened harder to anyone in my life.
Sometime, toward the end of summer – hurry up, I don’t care when it was – get to the point already. Okay okay.
Sometime toward the end of the summer, Kurn had told them that when I grew up he was going to marry me.
He was going to MARRY me?!!! I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t believe it. It was true, they said – all the boys had heard him say it.
He’s going to marry me when I grow up. How old is that? How soon can I get there?
I could hardly wait. But first I had to breathe.
INSTALLMENT THREE: First Kiss: http://mrslinklatersguidetotheuniverse.blogspot.com/2004/09/first-love-part-tres.html#uds-search-results