First Date Not Counting Lester Duncan
My best friend Cindy, with silky blonde hair,
and I, with softball dust under my fingernails,
left our mothers in the room
and strutted our first two-piece bathing suits
past the Cabana Motel pool. Before we
reached Daytona’s white sand, we both
noticed the lifeguard, silver whistle
tapping his heroic chest,
his bare brown shoulders
shining in all of their glory.
We let the warm Atlantic pick up our newly-teenaged
hips, tilt them toward the summer solstice,
quick smiles, sand between our teeth,
surprise gulps of salt.
Everything was thrumming—the red biplane
leashed to its Coppertone banner, the beach scooters,
Beatles all young and flirty and hand-holding sweet,
transistor radio surfer girl devotions, the shhh, shhh, shhh
as the lip of waves thinned out on shore.
We were all surprised when our motel lifeguard asked me
(not Cindy with her blonde hair and dancer’s legs)
to a movie with a bunch of friends.
In the car, I noticed the sun-bleached hairs
shimmering on his tanned legs, and I thought of
Lester Duncan, my third-grade boyfriend,
who came over to my house one day,
and I just kicked him in the shins all afternoon.
My first-date-lifeguard-boyfriend drove us to a
round house on a remote part of the beach,
no friends, no movie theater, no pay phone.
The useless quarter my mother insisted I take
rubbed against the bare sole in my sneaker.
When he opened the door,
I could see two things in the lonely room—
a mussed-up mattress and a surf board.
I asked if we go for a walk on the beach.
It was all like taking a gulp of water when I expected 7-Up.
I talked him into taking me back to the motel.
I can’t remember what we said on the return trip.
That time of night, out on the beach, tiny albino crabs
dive for cover in the early sunsets on that Eastern edge of land.
He said he’d see me up to the room and shoved into the elevator.
I watched the white numbers tick off brighter and brighter,
then everything jerked black as nightshade
and his chest pinned me to the back wall.
I wriggled loose, hit any button I could find on the panel,
ran until I got inside our room.
Decades later I found out escalators kill more people
than great white sharks. The two year old
who grabs ahold of the moving handrail on the wrong side,
and it dangles his feet higher and higher
until he thinks he’s flying.
The hem of a skirt three inches too long
caught in the teeth of one greedy step.