By Missy Kurzweil
It’s the summer of 2006. I’ve recently returned from a wonderfully mind-expanding junior semester abroad, and now I’m sitting in a dark cubicle, editing product descriptions for cheap catalogues and longing for the beach.
My parents and professors say it’s time to face real life. But I’m having a hard time accepting this place—this Microsoft Outlook, this filing cabinet, these fluorescent lights—as my new reality. My head says, “Stick with it for the résumé.” My heart says, “Ditch it for the salty ocean air!”
That Sunday, a letter arrives from Dan’s Papers.
Dear Missy, it says. Our editorial intern left a few weeks early unexpectedly. If you’re still available and interested, we’d like you to be our unpaid intern in Bridgehampton for the remainder of the summer.
I can’t think of anything better. Forty-eight hours later, I’m driving my sister’s ’96 Jeep Cherokee, windows down, eastbound on the Long Island Expressway.
* * * *
My first day is full of promise. I’ve already written a story about the dermatological wonders of ocean water, and now I’m driving home from the charming converted house that is Dan’s headquarters to my grandmother’s one-bedroom apartment on Dune Road.
The crickets are singing so loudly I can hardly hear the radio over them. So I turn off my music and listen to their song. If I listen very closely, I can actually hear waves crashing on the shore that lurks just200 yardsaway.
Somebody pinch me; how did I ever get so lucky?
* * * *
I saunter toward the entrance of La Coquille, dangling my keys.
The first one doesn’t fit in the door. I try the other one. Crap. I turn it every which way, upside-down, left and right. I nearly bend it out of shape. It won’t budge.
The crickets have escalated their song to a scream. Goose bumps are now percolating around my ankles.
Mom must have given me the wrong key. Since when do they lock this building entrance, anyway? Since Sunday nights, I suppose, when the weekenders retreat to their cities and towns, leaving behind the geriatric subset of “seasonal full-timers.”
I’ve been coming to Westhampton all my life, on the weekends, but never on a Tuesday at 11 p.m. The full-timers must all be asleep by now.
I press my cheek against the glass. No signs of life. So I mosey around the building like a peeping tom, tripping over dune grass to see who might still be awake. Ticks must be feasting on my shins by now, I imagine.
All is dark in the building except – a-ha! One dim light illuminates the apartment next to my grandmother’s. It’s Rosaline. Good old Roe.
I see her through the slats of the window shades, flipping channels in her curlers and a floral nightgown. For a moment, I consider sleeping in my car or on the beach—anything to curb the humiliation I’ll inevitably face if I knock on her window.
But, like a sign from the Beach Gods, a mosquito bites me at that moment and I know: it’s time to face my shame and grab the lifeline sitting in front of me. Quietly and nimbly, I hoist myself up and weave my body through the poles of the banister that wraps around Roe’s porch. All I have to do is get her attention without giving her a heart attack. Simple enough.
I knock gently on the glass. She looks up with a start and comes to the sliding door, surprisingly composed like nothing can shock her; she’s seen it all.
In her raspy voice perfected by 40 years of smoking, and an accent that’s part-Southern part-Brooklyn part-unidentifiable, she says, “What are you doing, kid? You could kill an old lady like that!”
My face pales. She pauses briefly and continues, “Jesus, I’m just kidding with you. Get your tush inside.”
I apologize to Roe profusely and try to explain: I’m interning for Dan’s. It’s my first night here. Grandma Dotty comes out on Saturday. My keys—
“You look fantastic,” she interrupts. “This face must be giving the college boys a real hard time. Come in, come in, let me fix you a drink.”