A Summer To Remember
Funny how experiences from your twenties can be etched in the stone of your brain in the finest of details and a whole marriage can account for nothing. I could show you where I always lay down my towel at Indian Wells Beach , precisely the spot, and reenact, if I dare, the beach party nearby one night in a 70’s summer when I ripped off my clothes and dove head first into the wild ocean feeling every inch of my body tingling from it. He was a much younger man then, and “not available”. I watched him watching me as I unwrapped my towel hanging too loosely like a toga around my body and we passed a bottle around the bonfire. I was a city girl, out for the summer to cash in on the rich folk. He was as local as they get with a lineage that went back to the original settlers who came to these shores in the 1700’s. At 30, he was the older man and I was the naive impulsive college girl, new to the Hamptons and the ocean in general. When we could, we’d signal each other at our stations at the stores we were managing and jump on our bikes for a silent spin, I could only get so close to him as we made our way down the narrow shoulder of Rte 27 heading towards Montauk, but his heat was even more dangerous than the sand on the side of the rode threatening to flip me and my narrow wheels into traffic and expose me once and for all. Who wore helmets then? Or seat belts? And forget about lights on bikes for the dark. Clearly we wanted each other but I was not about to get off my bike or he his .
I liked “different” then and he was different, blonde straight hair that he’d toss away from his forehead compared to my brown curly that didn’t toss, a man of a few words who seemed to have a lot to say compared to a girl who spoke without thinking. He studied art and I made it.
And then wasn’t today. All those people who own year around houses now hadn’t grown up yet. They/we were house sitting or living in house shares, stuffed sometimes twenty in a home built for three and Amagansett, at least, was catering to us and our unusual schedules and tastes, which meant ice cream parlors, head shops, stores open till 2Am and a disco within walking distance of the train station that stayed open all night. So we did too.
It was a long day at work but, if it was a nice one, a good part of the middle of it was spent at the beach where everyone else was. Reopen the store at around 5pm, still in my sandy bathing suit and then hang till 2 am when I’d get on my bike for the long downhill trip home to Gerard Drive. Biking as I did exclusively those wonderful years, I learned my way around by feel, I could describe every turn in the road. Who needed a light when you were “one with the road”? The flat mile to the railroad tracks from town and the even flatter expanse past the golf course can feel like forever but then you’re rewarded with the most delicious down hill a bike rider can have as you fly down Old Stone Highway towards the Springs.
There was not a soul on the road that fateful night except me, or so I thought. I was hot and tired and so happy to have finally hit the top of the hill that would take me home without effort. I unbuttoned my faded blue work shirt and exposed my naked chest to the wind. Who wore a bra in those days? Who needed to? How liberating to ride that hill with its sexy curves whilst my shirt tails flew behind me. Pedaling at full speed made it even more exhilarating and before I knew it I was at the junction of Fireplace Road with lovely white Ashawagh Hall as my landmark. Just then a grey sedan pulled up behind me. OK, some people in cars stay out late too but did he have to be right behind me? I turned right and so did he, I picked up the pace to try to stay ahead, eager to get to my turn off. Surely he wouldn’t take that turn, a narrow road to The Point, a dead but beautiful end. Jackson Pollack had actually died on that corner and I was feeling I might too. My heart was pounding with the fear that this guy was following me and that there was no one around who could save me . God knows how fast I was riding but certainly I could be out run by a car, but the guy didn’t pass me. In fact he turned onto Gerard Drive as I did. I was 20 and terrified and I must have sped up ahead like I had seen the devil. I was almost at The Point when I saw a house with lights on and I turned quickly into the driveway, spinning out on the pebbles as I made the wide turn. I jumped off the bike, quickly finished buttoning up my shirt and knocked desperately on the door.