The summer I was fifteen was the summer I wasn’t sure if I had a steady boyfriend or not. Teen communication being what it was, his ‘Well, have a good weekend. And summer. I’ll see you around.’ had left me problem solving our togetherness. Sure, I wanted to still be going out with him. He was two years older than me. What was not to like? But if I wasn’t, the summer might be more fun. I decided to just play it by ear.
One afternoon, I took my jean-squared blanket backed with flannel out onto the front lawn. Normally, if I was actually tanning, I would have laid out in the backyard on top of the flat, tarred carport cover. But, not today. I wasn’t actually trying to tan. I was trying to be seen.
I heard that my (still?)(ex?)boyfriend was driving around town, dragging main with some friends. I figured being on the front lawn drinking a 42 ounce Dr. Pepper with lemon and tons of ice, with tanning lotion all over every exposed part of my body, casually painting my toenails or reading a book would look completely normal and it gave me a great vantage point with which to watch for his car coming and going on my block.
I had the orange extension cord coming from under the ivy, which was long, full and very green early in the summer, before the hot end of July hit and made it turn slightly brown. On my boombox was the Top 40 countdown and Boys of Summer came on. I kid you not. It was the part of the show where they play what was hot last year or the year before that. And Don Henley’s voice, with the guitar echoing came out of my speakers right as my boyfriend’s car came around the corner and stopped in front of my house.
He was with a couple of his friends. All so very, very cool. He yelled a hello. I yelled a hello back. His friend punched him in the arm and then he yelled, ‘See you around!’ and they took off. I was underwhelmed. Seriously, after all the effort of getting everything outside and after trying on every item in my closet, picking the plaid shirt with the tiny red lines that I could tie at the waist to show just enough belly and finding the jean skirt that was just short enough to almost give my parents a heart attack but they would allow me to own and popping every zit on my forehead and then covering it up with foundation and applying 5 coats of mascara and heavy eyeliner on my inner lids and searching everywhere in the bathroom drawers for the banana clip that matched my shirt and two hours getting my bangs just right, it wasn’t much of a payback.
I sat there, legs stretched out, fresh pale pink polish named ‘Cotton Candy’ on my toes, musing how unfortunate my life was at the moment when a car stopped in front of the house. A boy from Australia got out, came over and asked me for directions to Denny’s Wigwam. He was cute. Very cute. But more than that, he had an accent. Holy crap, an accent from AUSTRALIA. Only the very best place in the entire world that I wanted to visit more than anything.
I told him how to get there and he thanked me. He started to pull away and then unrolled the window, leaned his head out and said, ‘You’re just about the cutest visual a guy could ask for on a summer afternoon. You’d make a great postcard.’ And then he smiled and drove away. Something about the way he said the word ‘visual’ kind of cracked my heart a little and it made all the effort worthwhile.
But that wasn’t even the best part of the day. No, the best part of the day was later, when I walked downtown with my friend and we strolled past Denny’s Wigwam about 8 times, asking each other important questions like I wonder if that cute boy is still in town? Why was he here in the first place? Who’s car had he been driving? What was his name? Was he really lost or did he just want to stop and talk to me because I was so cute? I relished every second of that evening, the possibilities that could have happened.
I didn’t run into him again. I’ll never know if he really stopped just to talk to me or if he was so blind that he couldn’t find the biggest landmark on the only main street right in the center of town. But I imagine he’ll always think that every small town American girl sat outside on a summer afternoon, painting her toenails on a blanket on the front lawn listening to Casey Kasem and America’s Top 40.