Stop the World
I was thirteen. My friend, Danni and I were joined at the hip. We shared everything: clothes, makeup, Love’s Baby Soft. When we weren’t sleeping over at one another’s houses, we were talking on the phone or spending the entire day at the pool. We both were on the swim team. Danni did it more to beat boredom; I was a fierce competitor. We had practice every morning at 10:00 until Noon, and then broke for an hour until the pool opened to the public. We stayed most days until 8 PM when it closed.
We were the quintessential girls of summer. Tanned, lean, and blonde. My hair lightened almost immediately when summer started, as my freckles darkened and multiplied. Danni's older sister helped bleach hers with peroxide. She took us to get our eyebrows waxed, in the back room of a beauty salon with weathered posters on the walls. I stuck needles through my ears for a total of eight holes (five on the left, three on the right), which I filled with cheap earrings from Woolworth’s. We rimmed our eyes with Wet-N-Wild black eyeliner, wore frosted pink lip gloss, sprayed our hair and turned our collars up. Our bathing suits were held together with laces at the sides, showing skin all the way up.
We were filthy. We were gorgeous.
Danni was Italian, and her mother’s New Jersey accent cut through the streets of our neighborhood whenever she yelled at her husband or other children. She yelled a lot.
My mother thought Danni was not the best influence on me, but thought I might be a better, more stable influence on her. It was not uncommon for her to show up at our door at 9 PM, asking could she spend the night? Her parents were fighting again.
Days at the pool were spent lying on our oversized towels, applying coat after coat of Hawaiian Tropic and flirting with Tommy Martinez and Jeremy Bodfield. We got into the pool only to cool off or do suggestive underwater acrobatic routines.
Being on the swim team gave us access to the inner workings of the pool and office, which meant close personal relationships with the lifeguards; most of whom had girlfriends, but we didn’t care. We knew we were hot; and in the summer, that’s all that matters. Let them have girlfriends during the school year. Summer was for fun. One night in August, we had way much.
Colton was eighteen, a lifeguard; about to leave for college in California. He drove a red 1965 Buick Skylark convertible with white leather seats. He would drive us home on occasion, or pick us up for practice in the mornings. My parents loved him. He was always polite, called them “Sir” and “Ma’am,” and never looked at their only daughter the way other guys did. (I was an early bloomer, and this was terribly difficult for my father.)
I was crushing on him, though. Ever since he drove me home alone one afternoon and played his Modern English tape. He took the long way so we could hear “Melt with You” through to the end.
I don’t remember how it happened, but we decided that on Friday night, we would go out. My parents gave Danni and me an 11:00 curfew; he got his 16 year old brother Jeff to come along. The four of us in the convertible cruised the main drag, played the stereo loud and acted cooler than everyone else, out in their parents’ cars.
Colton and Jeff started talking about going to “Amityville,” a mansion in my grandparents’ part of town. An old woman lived in the place, which was surrounded by a 7-foot wall and spanned a city block. The guys and Danni were game to scale the wall and walk around the grounds; I was nervous because not only were we a mere 6 blocks from my grandparents’ house, my grandfather was a judge. My protests were lame. Even to myself. We parked the car and the guys helped us over the wall. On our way back out we were caught by security guards, who called the police.
I cried the whole way to the police station. I wasn’t afraid of what my parents would do to me; I was unbelievably disgusted at myself for doing this to them. The police called our parents, who came to pick us up. We were charged with trespassing. For the three of us, this meant a meeting with a Juvenile Court officer, a suspended sentence and an expunged Juvey record; for Colton it meant a court date and permanent record shit.
Lucky for Colton he was fucking a woman who worked in the courthouse. Somehow it all just went away. Sometimes I wonder if she wasn’t also fucking a judge. Whatever she did, I was grateful. So long as she wasn’t doing my grandpa.
On Monday we were instant celebrities. Everyone at the pool knew about it. For years afterward, we called each other “partners in crime.” He left a couple weeks later for school. It would be five years before I’d see him again. But he left me that Modern English cassette, which I eventually ruined.
That was the summer that Danni and I were best friends. By the following June we would have nothing to do with one another.