By Adrian Slonaker
It was the end of August, summer’s last fling before what Madame Baker, our high school’s answer to Simone de Beauvoir, had referred to as La Rentrée in an Iowan, rather than Parisian, accent. An army of grown-ups hadn’t yet returned to work, and their kids weren’t yet worrying about algebra or Portia’s “Quality of Mercy” speech from The Merchant of Venice. In just a month, though, the tourism industry at the seaside resort community would be comatose, and locals would be eking out a living as best as they could. But, at least during our stay, the town still sparkled with the illusory and the strange.
You and I had needed to decamp from the city. We were so fucking burnt out. On Friday afternoon, I announced, “I need out of here.” You suggested, “Let’s go to the coast.” So we spontaneously packed our backpacks, bought bus tickets and traveled the 90 miles from dreary urban car honking and concrete to nostril-tingling saltwater and a vibe of tanned regeneration. You talked me into staying at this bed-and-breakfast, successfully arguing that it was cheap and that we would have some privacy. You knew I hated staying in someone’s house, feeling like an invader. And, to your credit, you were right. Our accommodations were separate from the owner’s quarters. I still have no clue who the owner was or where he or she slept. I just remember the youthful, aloof desk clerk, her colorful headscarf, and her blissful obliviousness. We could have been bank robbers on the lam or apes escaped from the zoo, and she would’ve been just as unfazed.
We spent Friday evening and Saturday crawling through the town, watching strangers, going bowling, taking meals at that 1950s-style greasy spoon, watching a ridiculous suspense film at the sprawling 1920s-era movie house, and gazing at cartoonishly unaffordable mansions. Nights were sprinkled with the kind of tranquility I would’ve associated with rural life in 1880. We sat on our respective beds, listening to the same oldies station on the radio we listened to in the city before 1 am online searches to find out how many Facebook users in Singapore were named Audrey, 2 am donut runs, or 3 am trips to the 24-7 supermarket that was actually only open 20 hours a day six days a week.
On the first night you took out your laptop, and I nerdishly pulled out a novel to read, fighting the breeze from the open window that made the pages flutter. Eventually we turned off the light and decided to sleep. But we couldn’t help talking, like kids at a sleepover or like brothers, and five minutes turned into three hours. We wondered about reincarnation. You thought I was a moron because-only just then-I’d realized that Pangaea meant “the whole world.” And then finally we said goodnight to each other with that tender familiarity-the vocal equivalent of a comfortable old loafer.
People in the city-and probably at the coast, too-assumed that we were a gay couple. But we hadn’t been. Honestly. Not even a shared handjob. We hadn’t even discussed it. I was always there for you when your dates would fizzle, and you were there for me when my far-fetched crushes would implode. On that day when we coincidentally both dressed in white button-down shirts and black trousers, you joked that it was like Single White Female except that neither of us was female, only one of us was white, but-we added together- “of course we’re single.”
Sometime during our second night at the B&B, it hit me-I had skin hunger. Françoise Hardy’s atmospheric and charmingly accented “All Over the World” came on the radio to compete with the hissing static. Without thinking, I asked if I could join you in bed. You said, very sleepily, “sure, yeah, come over.” Toting my pillow, I crawled behind you as if I’d done it a hundred times before. I wrapped my arms around you and clasped my hand against yours. You squeezed my fingers. We slept soundly until around lunchtime when we realized that we needed strong coffee and cheesy omelettes. So up-and out the door-we went.
We didn’t comment on our unorthodox sleeping arrangement, merely meandering through Sunday browsing in art galleries and craft shops, listening to the waves tongue-kiss the beige sand and rocks, and sampling blackcurrant gelato. But there was something somehow different about the mood. Maybe it was because we were both so well-rested. Yeah, that was it.
Adrian Slonaker works as a copywriter and copy editor in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Adrian’s work has appeared in Aberration Labyrinth, Squawk Back, The Bohemyth, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Pangolin Review and others.