lindsay gets in a car
they arrived in panama city.
their hotel was in panama city, not panama city beach, and they were approximately three miles and a bridge away from the beach, even the upper lagoon, and lindsay was extremely disappointed at this, she said something like, “that’s what you get with men” or some other ill word to that effect that she knew was a stereotype from the movies, this was a horrible rom-com and she wanted her redemption, and the only way to find that redemption was to make herself desirable and she left and slammed the door on her way out, she was half-hoping that heyward would come after her, but no one did, instead she rightly assumed that heyward would just turn on some channel and watch shows about lobster fishing boats and capturing alligators, and as she was closing the door, she heard cooper ask him why he liked these shows, and he said nothing, but she understood why, because he didn’t have cable she was sure of it, she knew she wasn’t smitten, it was a singular act she knew how to do, it worked with the football players in high school, admittedly she had taken the baby-talk too far, she had problems with her mom discussing this, she got a sticker in the 3rd grade that said “sex kitten” and she stuck it on her folder, and she got looks and stares from then, and later she read a biography of marilyn monroe that she checked out from the library, except it was an old biography and didn’t tell any of the truth she found out later, about her abuse and failed relationships and how she died, but how did she know?
she was only in sixth grade when she read this book, and it had informed her whole history up to this point, unconsciously, now she was very worried about it, and she took on that voice when she was in the presence of men whom (she thought) were vying for her attention, though sweet brody, she had led him on too long and even let him “experience” her and he told some of the guys at chili’s about it, she knew, even though they already knew probably, they all went to three different high schools and the same community college, there were no secrets left in any of their circles, not even the circles she had given cool nicknames too and the circle that used to watch old “sailor moon” cartoons, this was all ending faster than she thought, the men in the running club were impressed by her high tolerance level and her facility at producing stiff $100 dollar bills for lines, God, they loved her kitten/kid voice then, but unless everyone was out of their minds, she was out of her mind to use it any other time, what the hell is going on? where the hell am i?
she passed by a wendy’s and almost went in, she heard a horn honk behind her, she stuck out her thumb, this was spring break, or whatever it was, she would get a ride, and three guys pulled up in wife beaters and red hats with the name of some skate company, and they had golden tinged hair, locals maybe? you guys hitting the strip, she tentatively asked and one said you need a ride, and she said yes, so they started on their way, and she hopped in the back, there was a little guy back there he was probably nine and scared of her it looked like, he was super quiet, “is this a dare?” and she remembered what her father had told her about getting into cars with strange men and what to do when they advance on you, and then she remembered her father had told her nothing about this, but she listened to them talk and they asked her where she was from and she meekly said “atlanta” and they said, “cool, you like the water?” and she said “i haven’t been yet” and then they laughed and said it’s fun, but then they said they were on there way somewhere, free pancakes it was cool, so she thought about free pancakes for a moment, but then they hit the bridge and the ocean or bay or the intracoastal laid out before her, and she could see the last glints of a multi-hued sun, all of the CMYK in full effect the whole spectrum, the different variations, amazing really, tripping across the water, and she decided she might stay here after all, why not, she could work at a chili’s down here probably, she glanced at the nine-year old who tracing his finger along the window, greasing it up with dots and figures and rounded curves and lines, she watched him squeak out an equals sign and “wow,” she thought, he was doing math, no video games or anything, just a cool, smart kid, obedient, somewhat frightened doing what he was supposed to do, and there was no way this kid and her would ever relate, instead she should learn from him, maybe she’ll become his babysitter, that would be a life.
they pulled into a parking lot of a beachside hotel. outside was a sign that said “free pancakes.” the kid next to lindsay opened the door and hopped out just as the older guy was turning off the engine. “go find dad,” the guy said. brothers. how sweet. the two older guys grabbed their wallets and a tshirts. “time to eat” one of them said vaguely to her, and she opened the car door. she sat for a minute.
she desperately wanted to remember their names now, it felt too late to ask. she shut the car door and walked around the side of it to see the nine-year old grabbing a 40ish man with gray temples wearing a pair of rolled-up khakis and a tanktop advertising some restaurant.
lindsay was at a family event or something this should be good, her mind was taking on a fog again now, maybe it was the extremes of her situation, with heyward to that musty minivan ride, to the smell of sand, to good-looking guys, the seagulls cawing, the old cabinet scent of saltwater and the washing machine vibes from the ocean…she could hear the ocean.
she made it. these men had taken her …to a pancake breakfast at night. she shook the man’s hand in the khaki pants after mumbling “lindsay” at one of his questions, and he opened a door for her and the two guys followed. there were rows and rows of college-looking kids with sunburnt noses and plaid bikinis and neon red board shorts and flipped-up hats and shirts with sayings about living life to the fullest mixed with vulgar euphemisms and a few confederate flags and one or two polo shirts and anemic butt shorts that said “pcb” in the boldest of contemporary fonts. this is exactly what she had thought and nothing like she had wanted, she knew these type of people would be here, they were all on the road on her way down here, but this was a pancake event in a hotel and she vaguely thought about…
“why are they giving us this food, i mean,” she heard a girl say near her, a girl in a purple after-beach sarong that didn’t hug her too closely. they were both standing in line, and lindsay had just heaped 4 pancakes on her plate and was diving into a gallon butter container with a plastic knife. “who cares” said a guy to the purple sarong girl and lindsay grabbed one of the lite syrup bottles and dumped it all over. they had skipped lunch because of heyward and now it was 7:30, she was legitimately hungry. with a spoon she dove into a bowl of chocolate chips and dalloped them on top, it was nice…
“how are you this evening?”
a woman in her thirties probably, dressed smartly in a pastel pants suit, with long blonde hair extended her hand…”okay,” lindsay was able to say and the woman said, “come sit over at this table” and she pointed to an empty table where the nine-year-old she had ridden over here with sat by himself stabbing a piece of circular sausage while a mound a brown pancakes sat in front of him. “that’s good,” lindsay said. this was her one friend and if she was ever going to learn anything about the world this apparently was the time to learn.