Right when I feel the sand between my toes and smell the salt air, I relax. There is something about being close to the ocean that brings me to peace. It’s almost as if I feel so small, and all of my problems feel so small, next to something so magnificently huge. Cali and I find the perfect tanning spot and lay out our sheet and towels.
Pulling two water bottles from her bag, Cali breathes in deeply, “It has been too long, for sure! We used to come here every other week.” We both settle down on our stomachs and I make my phone play a playlist of Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley, and other beach tunes. The sun is hot and making my skin burn a little. It had been since before Randy left for basic that I had worked on my tan. I could feel my skin drinking in the missing vitamin D gratefully. “Man, I missed this, Cal!”
The sound of the waves crashing and children playing lull us both into a slight sun kissed sleep. Promptly at eleven o’clock my phone reminds us that Coconuts, our favorite beach bar, is open for business. I get up and stretch looking down at my nice tanned skin gleaming in the sunlight. Luckily, both Cali and I barely ever get sunburns and always turn to a nice olive, bronzed color. Cali’s natural blonde curls are waving in the wind, wrapping around her face as she starts to pack up her things. I do the same, bobbing to Women No Cry and basking in the beautiful day.
We walk arm in arm to Coconuts about two blocks down the beach right on the shoreline, letting the waves roll back and forth over our feet. “Cali, thanks for this!” I wrap my arms around her waist in a half hug, “It’s nice to feel normal for a little.”
Hugging me back, Cali giggles, “What made you think that you have ever been normal, Mags?” I shove her a little playfully, giving her an exaggerated shocked glance. We laugh until we reach the steps of the boardwalk to the bar when we both freeze, startled by the sight of Mitch and Walker standing at the bar. They were surrounded by oiled up sluts giggling and playing with their hair flirtatiously. Even though this was nothing new, a bite of jealousy nips at my stomach. Feeling this way was completely confusing. Brushing the covetous feelings off, I grab Cali’s hand and continue into the outside bar. Walker and Mitch were both smooth talkers with gorgeous tattooed bodies. Girls fawned over them everywhere we went. Cali and I used to always give them a hard time about having no standards, but not too many good-looking college guys do.
“Goodness, look at those two freaking pigs! Isn’t it crazy that we hang out with them?” Cali’s face is twisted into disgust and shame as we make our way for the only empty high top table, which was directly in the guys’ view.
I set my bag on top of the table and waved over to Walker who had already spotted us. “What did you do that for?” Cali whispers low enough so Walker and Mitch cannot hear her as they approach. “Because it’s the right thing to do, Cal,” I snapped at her. I just can’t believe how rude she can be sometimes.
Walker and Mitch both smiled at us, turned to each other, then to the bartender. The cute brunette barkeep smiles and nods at them, turning to shake clear liquid and pour it into shot glasses. The next thing I know, Walker and Mitch are at our table, without their bimbos, handing us tequila shots. “Well, look what the cat dragged in!” Mitch teased handing Cali and I our shots, “To this gorgeous day and gorgeous women.” He winked at me and gave a half-flirty smile. I couldn’t help but smile, for some reason I had a soft spot for Mitch, almost feeling like he was an annoying little brother. Mitch and Cali both loved patron, Walker and I on the other hand were more whiskey drinkers, but we all raised our glasses without complaint and threw the shots back.
Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I cringed making a discussed face, which everyone couldn’t help but laugh at. “Fancy seeing the two of you here,” Walker was smiling right at me and leaned in for a hug hello that I warmly accepted. We all started chatting about how small of a world it was. But, honestly it wasn’t. During college, on gorgeous days like this Cali and I would not have been anywhere else. For a split second I questioned if Walker knew that and dragged Mitch here on purpose. The group of girls Walker and Mitch had been flirting with came over to talk to them again, reminding me why the guys would have probably decided to come here and it was definitely not because of old friends.
To my surprise Walker and Mitch shooed them away, turning their focus right onto Cali and me. “What was that about?” Cali looked just as shocked as I was. Mitch and Walker just shrugged it off telling us that they wanted to hang out with us. I called them on their bull and they just laughed at me. Figuring the best bet was to not question their good behavior, even if it was out of character, I just laughed with them. “I guess everyone has to grow up eventually,” Cali giggled.
After about ten minutes of waiting on service, Walker was able to flag down a very tall, overly tanned server for us. She ran over, apologizing for the wait with a huge perfectly whited smile. Against her dark skin, her teeth almost shined in the sunlight. We all ordered our coronas and pulled chicken nachos with extra jalapenos. It was fantastic that we all loved spicy food. As the server started to walk away, Walker flagged her down really quick, asking for extra limes with our beers. I smiled widely at his thoughtfulness and the fact that he remembered that my corona needed to be drowned in lime juice on beach days. It is those small gestures that remind me how sweet Walker really is, how good of a friend he is.
Even though Cali had been a brat about wanting to talk to the guys, she seems to be enjoying their goofy company. Walker and Mitch tell story after story about drunken nights that Cali and I don’t remember. Mitch starts in on one evening that was especially excruciating for me. Randy was out of town at some Army training session with Walker. Mitch had decided, that since I would most likely be bored in their absence, to take Cali and I out with some of their other fraternity brothers. We took shot after shot, alternating with beers and mixed drinks while we line danced the night away. I barely remember even getting to the bar, let alone boot stomping around the joint, but apparently Cali and I were the talk of the bar.
By the end of the night I needed Mitch’s arms around me to stand up straight. Luckily, this was while Cali and I were roommates and Mitch drove us home. Having to carry me into the house, Mitch tried to help me into bed. Before he could lay me down, I puked all over the both of us. Trying to be respectful, he carried me to the bathroom, turned the shower on and told me I had five minutes, if I wasn’t out, he was going to have to come in after me. Mitch changed into some of Randy’s clothes from my room and waited ten minutes. When I didn’t respond to his knocking, he opened the door, finding me passed out naked in the bottom of the shower with scolding water turning my skin pink. Apparently, Mitch stripped down to his boxers and showered the puke off of me and put me into bed. The next morning I woke up not remembering a thing. Needless to say, it was one of those drunken college nights that mortified me and my friends love to tell over and over. Even now, sitting here years later my cheeks flush bright red. Luckily, the sun had already started turning me a little pink, so no one seemed to notice my embarrassment.
We sat, talking and drinking for a few more hours. It was like old times again. For this short time, the emptiness seemed to subside. By late afternoon all of our skin had become angry at our drunken, sunbaked Saturday. Our server trotted over to us with our seventh round of coronas, informing us that it was shift change and she was about to be sent home. Taking it as a sign, we asked her for our check so she could close out her report, not wanting her to have to stick around just for us.
Ripping the check out of her hand before anyone else could grab it; I passed my card to our smiling server without even opening the book. Everyone sighed at me and started badgering me for always doing that. It was true, I hated other people paying for me and I loved being generous, especially with some drinks in me. I just laughed their frustration off wondering what we were going to do now.
“Well, Mitch and I were thinking about going to get another tattoo. Want to tag along?” Walker was nervously smiling at Mitch, knowing that he hated having an audience when he was getting inked. Walker on the other hand, loved company no matter what he was doing. Besides, I had been with Randy and Walker every time they have gotten tattoos since their first ones years ago, it was kind of tradition.
I gleamed at him in my drunkenness; I was excited to go on an adventure. “Yeah, for sure,” My excitement oozed through my words, “Want to go Cali?” She shrugged at me, “It is Kyle’s only night off this week. I think I better head home.” I frowned at her and wrapped her into a huge hug whispering, “Thanks for today. I really needed it.” Cali hugged me back telling me that is what best friends are for then said goodbye to the guys. We had parked a few blocks south of the bar and Cali decided to walk along the beach alone, refusing Walker’s offer to drive her. She claimed that she needed the exercise laughing a little. I didn’t question her further, Cali liked to do things for herself and when her mind was set on something there was no changing it. We hugged one more time and she set off for the beach.