When you're a kid, losing those golden stripes will tip you into an existential gloom…
I grew up, like every other kid, building a castle of unfulfilled moments, lost opportunities and slammed doors. An accumulation of regrets so painful – all those gals never kissed, all those set waves never ridden, all those heats lost cause of, what, nerves? – that if I ever let myself wade back into ’em I’d drive myself into the arms of crazy.
But, there was this one time.
I don’t remember her name, but I can’t forget her deep brown skin. She was just short of sixteen years, but lived alone, or so she said. The small house was one street back from the beach, an hour from my parent’s house, where I lived.
The situation was unusual, sure. But, when you’re 15-and-a-half and staring at a gal whose breasts speak of buttery milk and carnal abundance and she tells you there ain’t another soul in that house, in that house with the bedroom that faces east and so the morning sun pours onto the bed, onto her sweating body, you don’t argue the point.
I had met her outside a bar on a Friday night and she’d invited me to her house the following weekend. She was tall and had long limbs, a face too pretty, a gal built for modelling.
I was just coming out a summer of eight-hour beach days. My dark hair was balayaged with blond stripes, my body was tight enough and brown, too. I was riding high. A surfer. And, surfers ruled my town.
In my pre-surf life, this gal wouldn’t have exercised her neck to check me out. Now, suddenly, I was going to her house, to the the empty house. I imagined her deep and fathomless submission to me. She would experience a seething electric female ecstasy while I controlled her like a master puppeteer.
I imagined this many times in the week leading to our appointment.
I spent so much time in my room, my mom thought I’d become clinically depressed.
Two days before we were to meet I decided to get a haircut. At the big-city hairdresser, I showed ’em a photo of a CK model and paid fifty bucks for a cut and blow-dry. I watched handfuls of blond waft onto the floor, little golden parachutes whose contrasting beauty had secured me this erotic rendezvous. I watched as they were swept into the trapdoor at the corner of the salon. I might’ve whispered goodbye as the flap slammed shut.
That afternoon, I cried in the bathroom as I stared at the stupid boy with monotone brown hair stiffened by gel on the sides and awash with paste on the top panel.
Then, I ran to the drug store and bought a bottle of “Honey Blonde”.
While my parents slept, I painted the peroxide in long stripes. It turned my dark hair red.
It looks okay, I said to myself.
On the day I was going to meet her I scooped up a handfuls of pomade, gel and mousse. I worked it in, I smooth it over. I shaped and sculpted.
“It looks okay,” I said to myself.
But, it didn’t.
And her face said it all when my bike came up her driveway and her vision was filled with an ordinary boy and not a surfing superhero.
“What happened to your hair,” she said, although the question rang rhetorically not quizzically.
If I was a painter, I could’ve made a masterpiece of that moment, a study of disappointment.
Then she said, “Let’s go to the beach.”
On the beach I showed her my right bicep that I had inflated by lifting my school bag 200 times a day in front of the mirror.
I invited her to run her hands over the bulge in my arm.
“It feels pretty good,” she said.
But she kept looking at my hair.
“It’s red,” she said at one point.
I left at exactly three-thirty pm that afternoon.
I know because the radio news was on and there was something about the Australian surfer Martin Potter winning the world title, and I now hated Martin Potter because his hair was a bed of sun-burnt curls and I knew that if Martin Potter was here on this driveway, near this girl in the scoop leg shorts and the loose singlet that was cut low on the sides, he could take her, he could take her now, right in front of me, and they would bang and they would bang.
And, then they would laugh at my red hair while they smoked cigarettes and the sun coming through the bedroom window baked their skin even darker.
Regrets, yeah, I’ve had a few.
(Editor’s note: You might’ve read this story before. That’s ’cause the author is currently in a shitty country town full of gas stations and trucker memorials and fast-foot joints writing, or at least attempting to write, a book with an actor you might call an iconic. Book out next year!)