Alienation is my normal state. Everywhere I go, I see people who are engaged, full of life, in tune with each other. At least, it seems that way from the outside. I suppose I look the same to them; a with-it guy, who makes trends instead of following them.
Most summer days, I throw a frisbee with a friend, Ray. Ray’s tan is even and dark, he looks like a lifeguard on Baywatch. I burn and peel, even though I use a sunscreen, a product Ray swears causes cancer and refuses to apply. Unless a girl comes along and watches us do our tricks. Then Ray will borrow my bottle, and ask the bikinied teen to put some lotion on his back. Before the cream has disappeared into his skin, they are laughing and know each other’s names. Then they either trade phone numbers, or just disappear between two beach houses to smoke a blunt. i don’t smoke, maybe I should, but I get all quiet and withdrawn. Actually, I just become more aware of my withdrawnness. Girls like guys that are confident, guys like Ray, who don’t withdraw, but laugh easy and touch their shoulder right when it is called for. Quite often, I am looking for a new frisbee partner a few minutes after Ray turns on the charm.
I saw Joanie, Ray’s conquest of the day before, at Swank’s beachside bar around noon. She was sipping a wine cooler. I was nursing a grudge; the doorman had let the group in front of me inside without paying the cover charge. They seemed like old friends, even though i had seen them pile out of a car with Kentucky plates. I closed the gap, and tried to laugh my way into the bar with the group. The bouncer caught my arm. “Two dollar cover charge, man.”
“You didn’t charge them.’
“I know them. Don’t know you. Two dollars, you’re holding up the line.”
“I come here every day. Me and Ray Willets. We play frisbee out back…”
“Is Ray coming today?”
“Uh, most likely, he’s already here…”
The doorman, his name was Jonas, let me by. “Tell Ray he owes me one.”
“One what, and why?’ I thought, ”For letting his little buddy in for free?”
I pulled four bucks out of my back pocket. “Here’s my two, and two for Ray, if he doesn’t come in the VIP door.” I stuffed them in his pocket, never taking my eyes from his. I could feel the girls in line behind me checking me out, liking the ‘tude I did exude…
No, that’s not how it went down. I walked past him into the dark foyer that opened into an over-sized tiki hut full of with it people whose clothes either fit perfectly, or their casual looseness looked right on them. Behind me, I heard Jonas laughing with the next bunch in line. I looked back, and they were all looking at me with big stupid grins.
I was standing at the corner of the bar, waiting for the bartender to decide it was time to take my order, when I saw Joanie. She was wearing the same almost-string bikini from yesterday. I remembered with a pang how good that butt looked walking away with Ray. They never came back.
“Hi, Joanie.” I had to tap her on the shoulder to get her to look at me. She started, as if stung by a gnat.
“Oh, Hi.” It was obvious she did not remember me.
“Dick. We met yesterday”. She didn’t look at me until I mentioned Ray’s name.
“Is he here?”
“Not yet. Can i buy you a drink?.”
She raised her glass to chest-level. I am so stupid.
“I’m waiting for Ray, too.”
Then a surfer-type nudged his way between us. “You ready for another?”
His gaze passed over me. I wanted to walk away, but didn’t.
“Friend of yours?”
She dismissed me with a quick shake of the head. “No, met him yesterday.”
Thanks, bitch. “Well, it was good seeing you again, Janie.” She did not even notice that I had deliberately mispronounced her name.
I took a swig of my beer as I walked away from the pair. naturally, some spilled down my chest. I was ready to throw the plastic glass at the wall and leave, maybe go next door to LandLubber’s, maybe to friggin’ New Guinea.
“Dick! Over here!”. It was Ray, and he was talking to two gals at the high end of his age specs where chicks were concerned, Twenty-nine to thirty-one, i pegged them.
“This is my good friend Dick. Dick this is Amy, and this, this is Darlene.” He put his arm around her as he said her name.
“Nobody wears cut-offs any more.’Amy said.
“I do, I get twice the life out of a pair of pants.” Ray laughed.
So did Amy. Then she and Darlene excused themselves. We watched them as they headed for the restrooms.
“Nice,” Ray opined. “Even yours.”
“Mine?” I felt defensive all of a sudden.
Yeah, I been chatting you up, chum. We can score with these two. They might even play with each other a bit. I have a sense about gals that munch carpet, you know…”
“Ray, I don’t need you to get laid.”
He popped me on the head with his frisbee. “Yes, you do, Mr. Jones. you need all the help you can get.”
He leaned in and in a whisper, he said “She’s a nice girl, Amy. Smart, reads. But she’s like you, too obsessed with her self-image to relax and enjoy life.”
I started to protest, and took another frisbee-slap. Someone laughed, I know it was me they thought was funny.
“Darlene is giving her this same speech right now, doofus. You just talk to Amy, don’t worry about whether or not you are gonna see those ta-ta’s, and you just might. I think she likes you already.”
“She laughed at your joke , not you.” He saw the girls making their way through the crowd.
“Here they come. One more beer, a swim, and then you tell them you’ve had enough sun. Darlene, or Amy, if you’ve done your share of talking, will then suggest that we get a drink up in their room.” You offer to drive Amy, And I will go with Darlene. the rest is up to you.”
“Damn, I can’t do this, I thought. And suddenly the girls were a few steps away, and Darlene whispered some final instruction in Amy’s ear.
“I wanna watch you guys throw the frisbee” Amy told me. Her friend and mine were studiously ignoring our interaction.
“Sure, if you want, I can teach you to throw.”
“Cool, I am ready to learn something new. Let’s go.”
While I racked my brain for a comeback, we followed the other two outside.
I gave up, and took Amy’s hand, she gave mine a sqeeze. It was going to be a good day after all.
If I don’t screw it up.