My post the other day about summer afternoons spent by the pool with my daughter has inspired me to think about summer and my misspent youth. This piece will end up (probably) being two or three pieces. It is sorta kinda true.
The smell of coconut was overpowering, cloying. I didn’t mind, though, because the Reef Oil was being massaged into my bare shoulders by Russell. Blonde, beachy Russell, with the blonde, beachy hair, and blonde beachy smell. I had had a crush on him for months, and to be at the beach with him was, well, life changing. Not life changing in the Oh My God, I’ve Found A Cure For Cancer And Will Save Humanity way but in the Oh My God, I’m More Popular And Attractive Than I Ever Thought Humanly Possible way. All the important stuff when you are sixteen years old.
His hands were large and warm. And gentle. They looked like they’d be rough, but they weren’t. That surprised me because he was a carpenter. Apprentice carpenter, actually. He was a year or so older then me, and had left school – or was expelled, depending on whose story you believed – to pursue a trade. We moved in the same social circles, going to the same parties and football matches and discos. I was surprised I’d caught his eye, because we were different. Very different. I was your quintessential bookish nerd type, obsessed with good grades and going to university. I wanted to be a teacher. As far as I could tell, Russell’s only aspiration was accessing the best weed and surfing the perfect wave. I liked him anyway.
He had this air of insouciance that I found irresistible, probably because I’m about as far away from “having an air of unconcerned nonchalance” as anyone could possibly be. So when Russell asked me to go to the beach with him, I was surprised. And not a little flattered. ‘Audrey,’ he said. ‘I’m heading out for a surf on Saturday arvo. Wanna come with?’
My first reaction was: Oh. My. God. Yes. Absolutely. Can we go now? Right this very second? My actual response was: ‘Ah. Sure. I mean, I think so. Can I get back to you? I might have something else on.’ I silently thanked God for my best friend Serena, who had proved on more than one occasion that the way to a man’s heart is, in fact, not his stomach, but his mind. As in playing with it. Serena said, and I quote: ‘Play that sucker. The more willing you are to bend over backwards for them, the more they see you as an easy target. Make ’em work for it. Men are hunters, Audrey. Don’t you forget it.’
So, Russell accepted my half-acceptance of his proposal for a come with beach excursion and said he’d call past my place on Saturday, around two, and if I could come, that’d be cool.
‘Cool,’ I said, and gave him my address.
‘I know where that is,’ he said. ‘My gran lives around the corner. See ya Saturday.’
It would be fair to say that I have never known a slower 72 hours to pass.