I went to the beach with Tammy’s family and now I never want to go with my family again. Ever.
Tammy’s family picked me up in a car with zero dents and an interior that smelled like coconut lip smacker. The windows glided up and down as smoothly as the corkscrew coaster at Canobie Lake and not even one of them was made of Saran Wrap. Everywhere I looked there was a cup holder: on the backs of the seats, on the doors, and even in the middle console. Just when I thought I had seen a number of cup holders bigger than the number of cups we had in my whole entire apartment, Tammy flipped a little door on the armrest, where two super-sized cup holders yawned. There was not one Dixie cup of faucet water wilting in any of them, either. They held Naked Juice, Pellegrino, and lemonade with actual lemon slices floating around like pulpy suns.
Another thing? There was no trash in the car. Like, none. No Whopper wrappers, no ketchup packets, no coffee stirrers, no pink parking tickets, no newspapers, no Dollar Store bags, no greasy paper plates. There was leg room and clean carpet and cushy seating and a high ceiling that had a little TV coming out if it instead of dangling strips of ripped fabric.
“Are you comfortable?” Tammy’s mother asked.
I had only been more comfortable the night the heat came back on last winter, when Dad talked them into an installment plan, told them I was a sick newborn.
“Yes,” I said.
Then she asked what drink I wanted and I had to cross my legs so I wouldn’t pee my bathing suit. I had never seen so many fancy drinks in one place. She asked me again and I felt my face burn.
She gave up, handed me a cool glass bottle of pomegranate iced tea. My heart started pumping because I really wanted the yellow-brick-road-colored lemonade, but I couldn’t make those words come out. I thought about the “F” scrawled in the decision-making column of my last two report cards, and I knew this was an example of my bad decision-making status in action. But then Tammy asked to trade her lemonade for a pomegranate iced tea, so I flipped myself a double thumbs up in my head for actually having something in this world that made Tammy jealous for, like, five seconds.
“Here we are!” said Tammy’s dad, after three episodes of Project Runway: Junior.
I knew he was wrong because there was no egg smell. But after the TV whirred into the ceiling, I saw the ocean, plus a trillion umbrellas. It was nothing like Revere Beach. I had to drink a billion sips of tea to prevent the stupid questions from falling out of my fat mouth.
Dad takes us to Revere Beach because it’s wicked close to Malden, so you only need four bucks for gas back and forth. There’s a toll on the Tobin, but that comes from the Folgers tin, so it doesn’t cut into our grocery bill. We do day trips because Dad says we have perfectly goddamn good beds to sleep in at home. Paul muttered one time that we were too poor to stay at a hotel or a cottage, and Dad took his eyes off the road to whack him in the face.
Tammy’s dad unloaded the backseat by himself. When I tried to carry my own suitcase, Tammy said not to be a dweeb, which made her mother say, “You watch your mouth, young lady.”
I wanted to laugh so hard because it’s not like Tammy said the F-word. But Tammy’s mom was as serious as five missed rent payments, so I stared at the crunchy white gravel in the driveway while Tammy apologized with her hands on her hips, placing emphasis on the ry in sorry. Then she grabbed my hand and skipped me into the house. I was waiting for her dad to grab us by the neck because Tammy’s attitude stunk like low tide, but no.
Upstairs, we plopped on Tammy’s bed. The comforter didn’t lay there like a smelly flat tire, it puffed up around our legs and arms like fresh snow. I made comforter angels while Tammy talked about Thomas, who she likes but doesn’t like like. Gazing at the seashell pattern on the tops of the walls, I wondered if I would ever in a million years be the kind of person who had a bedroom at home plus a second bedroom at the beach.
Down on the sand, no one was sitting on the same towels you use in the shower and no one had Styrofoam coolers. There were no Bud Light cans or Coors bottles, and I didn’t see one single nosy cop asking the adults what was in their plastic cups. You could rent cushy blue chairs that bent like Craftmatic adjustable beds, and there were snaky rows of boogie boards and kayaks slithering along the sand. Tangled seaweed nests were totally nonexistent.
After two sleeps under a ceiling fan like Humphrey Bogart’s, I missed my nightlight, my Justin Bieber posters, and Paul’s flashlight wall animals. But now I’m bug-eyed, tossing and turning on my creaky futon.
How in the whole wide world am I going to sit there on the crumbly wall at Revere and act like the girl Dad and Paul knew, the girl who hasn’t watched TV in the car, tasted butter-drenched lobster, sat on the warm deck of a boat that didn’t need oars, fallen asleep twice with the whole entire ocean whooshing in my ears? The flashlight eagle just looks like Paul’s stupid hands; his fingers will never flap hard enough to make it fly for real.
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