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clenched-fistThis beach trip recollection wasn’t supposed to take this long to finish, but it is what it is. I’m cutting to the chase to tell the story I wanted to tell all along and you’ll see why my senior beach trip caused a sea change in my life that rolls like mighty waters to this day.

A clumsy stumbling woke me up on Thursday morning. I had a hangover stabbing pain in my neck resulting from an earring I barely remembered getting. At least it wasn’t a missing tooth or tribal facial tattoo. Then the day went to hell and pushed me a little farther down a road I had no idea I was on.

I had crashed on the couch; apparently it was as far as I could make it under a rare heavy load of Jack Daniels. Two other members of our entourage had stayed at their girlfriends’ much nicer digs. That meant the last guy sharing our room had the place to himself. Let me call him Adonis for the sake of anonymity. Just know he’s in this picture. He was pretty much perfect in every way that matters to a high school teen. I am firmly in the hetero camp and have always and forever batted from one side of the plate, but he was a gorgeous guy — tall, flowing hair, built like Michelangelo’s David but twice as cold and half as smart. He also came from money, drove an AMAZING car, and was captain of the football team and the wrestling team our senior year. His sculpted jaw line and dazzling physique cast my own self-esteem into such eclipse I told my first great love while we were still dating if she ever left me for Adonis, I would understand and wish her well to which she replied, “That’s great you feel that way ’cause if he ever asks me, I’m gone.”

Yeah, him. Pretty close likeness.

Yeah, him. Pretty close likeness.

Adonis could have whomever he wanted but he always wanted someone other than who he was currently with. Worse, he was like a grim, cruel Polynesian god who demanded a special kind of sacrifice — young virgins. He came down to the beach for a hunt with one quarry: a sophomore, sweet, naive, drop-dead gorgeous, and — like so many other girls — very into Adonis. I’m clear on this last point because she was a pretty good friend of mine then and Adonis was a frequent topic of conversation. Let’s call her Melpomene.  Adonis wanted little Melpomene in an extremely Zeus-like way. To his sorrow, however, she was a member of the “Christian promise ring wearers.” The beach can change things though. In this case, yesternight, Adonis happened upon her at a spirited gathering in another hotel room, which I too happened to attend. It’s germane to note though Mel claimed Christianity often and adamantly, like many of Southern extraction, Melpomene was a “buffet believer,” and though fornication was of the devil, the Almighty tended to wink at a little drunkenness.

Since all but the most obtuse of you see what’s coming, I need to be VERY clear about something, Adonis did nothing illegal nor strictly “wrong.” He DID NOT ply Melpomene with drink. Her cheerleader “friends” took care of that long before he showed up. Furthermore, he DID NOT “force himself” upon her. She was smitten with him and was playing an intense game of tonsil hockey by the time I took my leave of the soiree and — apparently — kept a date with a piercing parlor. Yes, Melpomene was drunk, but I’d have to say she was competent, if veeerrrryy uninhibited.

BoromirStarkStill, Eddard Stark had nothing on the idealistic boy I once was, and though crisp blacks and whites have blurred into greys on the monochromatic palette of grimdark reality, I cling to a few unshakable beliefs, and one is an honorable man sees no difference between a girl “drunk enough to say yes” and one “too drunk to say no.” Regardless after I left, the freshly minted pair went to our fleabag suite of rooms where Adonis put another v-card notch on his lipstick case. Melpomene stumbling from the room wrapped in a sheet to use our facilities woke me to my previously mentioned hangover. Our eyes met; she smiled a sheepish smile then turned away. Back then, I didn’t know what “The Walk of Shame” was.

I took the opportunity to slip into the bedroom and change clothes. The beds were pushed together and Tywin would have been satisfied had Tyrion and Sansa’s chamber been so accoutred following their wedding night. I changed clothes and pointedly ignored Adonis. While getting fresh clothes, I slid something from the bottom of my bag into my pocket. Emotion roiled my guts in a way I hadn’t felt it since I was a child when waves of impotent rage overtook me when someone bullied me, which was often.

In case you didn't know what a balisong is.

In case you didn’t know what a balisong is.

Out on the porch where the rest of the guys gathered, I sat down on the steps and tried to focus on a crack in the sidewalk. By-the-by, Adonis and Mel appeared, attired for the beach. When they reached the bottom step, I stood and drew the balisong from my pocket. I was spared a knowledge of prison life when, just as I stood up, a guy I’ll call “Big Bob” put his hand on my shoulder to gently but firmly press me back down onto the top step. He looked at me, shook his head and — as scalding rage tears wound down my blistered cheeks — quietly said, “I know, but it’s not worth the cost.”

Instead of riding back Saturday with Robby, I packed, met up with two guys from a town near home who were going back that afternoon, passed out from emotional exhaustion in the back seat by the time they left Horry County, and slept until they woke me up in front of The Little Barn. Mama saw the earring soon as I walked in, put her right index fingernail (she had such beautiful long nails) into the pyrite-plated hoop, and snatched it out with the words, “I prayed for a boy; not a girl.”

I’ve wanted to tell that story for a long time. I don’t know why.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

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