A cloudless, humid, 99 degree, palmetto state day in August at the beach (in bare feet!) is certainly a recipe for disaster, but, I left my sandals in the car again. Dave said “Mind over matter…if you don’t mind it won’t matter.” Once my eyes were done assessing the awaiting beach scene packed with vacationers, I looked at Dave the way I always did: one part laughing AT and the other part laughing WITH him and his nuggets of wisdom delivered in his inimitable low country drawl.
We had driven through the night under the ruse that we were going to stay for part of the summer in his uncle’s beach house before heading to the next stage of our lives (college!) in one of those quiet, peaceful neighborhoods with aggregate driveways and two car garages that his family’s prominence in real estate could afford. However, we really set our sights on going another 5.5 miles south to where all the fun was in a community of beach front split level condos near Springmaid Pier. Aka party central. This was where every 17-19 year old that had access to a vehicle and could convince their parents of some sort of similarly concocted seemingly innocent back story was headed for the perfect get away for a week or two of freely sewing a few wild oats that summer.
That’s why Dave and I invested in the large hunter green Rubbermaid cooler on wheels before we left for Myrtle Beach. Now in actual use I think the ratio of ice cube to beer bottle or beer can within that behemoth was 7 to 1. We blew a lot of high school graduation money on the condo we shared with Dave’s cousin Mike and his smoking hot girlfriend Jasmine and because we spent more money on alcohol than the condo that summer it was a damn good investment. We WERE the party everywhere we went along our stretch of the Atlantic coast.
But my God that sun scorched sand on my “yet to be callused protected by sneakers or dress shoes all year white as the ghost of Elvis” 11.5 inch feet was brutal. But I wasn’t about to waste any more time with digging out those sandals from the Accord we packed like a Uhaul truck and it was only 50 yards or so to the beach and a coconut lotion ocean breeze! I shrugged and looked at Dave “Screw it. Let’s do this”. “I didn’t think you had it in you” Dave said through a gleaming Aviator smile . Girls LOVED Dave. I mean like flocked to him. And, I mean almost like he had some level of mind control over whomever he targeted with that smile that seemed to be straight off of a Hollywood set.
So I took a deep breath, each of us grabbed a retractable cooler handle one on each side and we headed across King’s Highway from the ABC store where a fake ID got us the best local micro brews we could afford. “My God Dave! It feels like we’re carrying a dead body in this damned thing!”. “Make that two dead bodies” he said casually. I was carefully dodging shattered glass and other crowded asphalt street dangers and once we got through the parking lots we approached the final stretch of sand where there should have been a long deck or platform but apparently there was a miscommunication and someone delivered an order of sand so hot it must’ve been imported from the third level of hell. Dave looked at me and said “You ready?” I knew he had the only logical solution…both of us would run with the cooler as fast as we could until we got to the moist sandy stretch of beach with the ocean water to cool my soon to be blistered feet.
We got all the way to the beach with me mostly laughing but partially wailing in pain. Dave as cool as ever of course. And then right as we approached a row of umbrellas and beach towels one of my toes cramped and I lost my balance. Yep I went down face first…which was witnessed by at least a hundred people (some of whom applauded) and while I was on the ground searching for any shred of dignity I could find I looked up over the edge of my favorite Ray Bans and that was the first time I ever laid eyes on Jennifer. “That was quite an entrance” she said sitting under a rented beach umbrella relaxing on a large quilt of beach towels in between her best friends Shannon and Heather who all had perfectly tanned bikini bodies like they’d been preparing for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot.
I rolled onto my right shoulder and stared into the most beautiful hazel eyes I’d ever seen.
It was the first but definitely not the last time I would fall for Jennifer.