June Bugs

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In the sand, we sat, Sawyer and me. He counted the clouds while I carved hearts in the sand with my finger. The sea ran in, embracing the beach, but running away. So noncommittal, much like myself I suppose. I glanced Sawyer’s way, but when he began to feel my eyes on him and glance back, I looked just ahead of him, so it seemed like I was never really looking at him at all. He’d think he was the one that was so uneasy. In reality, being around him was anything but easy for me. It had only taken me two months to figure out that possibly we weren’t just friends, that there was something more to “us” and that it had always been there, and the thought of there being anything more to our simple relationship terrified me. Being friends with Sawyer was easy, but anything else would just be complicated. I was a runner, and so was he and our relationship, as it currently stood, was already under the risk of ending in abandonment and heartbreak without the complication of romance. So I tried my best to negate everything anyone else thought, and keep us in the purgatory between friends and, well, you know…

He leaned back and started humming some old song I’d only ever heard in movies. It was too old to be played on any SoCal radio station I was used to. And yet It was so familiar I could almost put lyrics to it.

“You look like you’re somewhere else,” I said. Just trying to make small talk as he laid there, slowly sinking into the sand. He took a moment to arch up his eyebrows, peak out of one eyelid, and smirk.

“I am,” he said. He didn’t say anything more, just started humming again. He wanted me to ask, but the stubbornness in me just wanted to sit back and hum my own song instead. He was trying to be enigmatic and while it may have worked with any other girl on that island, he was an open book to me. In the end, I humored him.

“Where?” I asked.

“Drive-in movie,” he said, so nonchalant. As if that wasn’t random; as if it wasn’t the last place on earth I figured he’d be visiting. I sighed and lay down beside him.

“You got a time machine then?” I asked. He opened his eyes and rolled his head to the side to look at me.

“Um, nooooo.” He narrowed his eyes like I was being so silly. “There are several in Texas.” His home-state. Funny how I always forget that. When I think Texas, I think boots and chaps and twang. He had none of that.

“Oh yeah?” I asked, “Which one are you at?”

“Galaxy,” he said. “Galaxy Drive-in.”

“Have you been there before?”

“Yeah. I just remembered it when I heard some old man singing Blue Moon back at the employee building. They play all this old music from like the 50’s and 60’s before the movies start. That’s one.”

“Can I go there?”

He sat up a little. “I don’t know, Kendall, it’s a ways away from this little resort island in the middle of the ocean, and pretty far from your condo in Anaheim too for that matter-“

“No,” I said closing my eyes. “I mean right now. Take me there. With you.”

He didn’t speak for several moments. I was asking him to immerse me in his imaginings as well, though it took him a moment to realize. I kept my eyes closed and I know he was watching me to see if I was serious or not. I opened my eyes just a centimeter and looked at him. “Well?”

“Sure,” he said. “I suppose we could go there.” He sounded uncertain, but I was determined.

“Then take me there.”

He let out a deep breath in harmony with the tide. He lay down again and shut his eyes too.

“We’re in the car, barreling down the highway. Window down-“

“What sort of car?”

I could hear the smile form in his voice beside me. “My cherry red ’68 Shelby GT-500, the one with the white stripes down the middle.“

I couldn’t tell if he was making this part up or not. It was a nice car… “Do you really-“

“Yes!”

“Sorry.”

“It’s warm,” he said. “It’s warm and the air is dry. It’s the middle of summer, about eight o’clock. The sun’s at an angle, taking it’s trip westward and its pulling all the color of the sky out with it. Behind us things are growing dark, but ahead of us, the clouds are on fire…”

And so, we go.

***

He finds the exit, smiling in the success of not missing it like he says he always does. As we slow, pulling onto the road, I run my fingers through my hair, trying to untangle it with almost no luck. The wind has won this time. He takes off his sunglasses, eyes reflecting that sunset and I don’t know which is more beautiful…

From the side of the road, six movie screens rise from a cleared field, monsters of early Americana. There’s a line beside a large marquis with bold letters bigger than my face spelling out the selection for the night. I find our movie, American Graffiti, a total throwback. Sawyer says that’s what he loves about this place, that from time to time they play cool old movies like that from time to time. Above American Graffiti is a large neon sign spelling out Galaxy Drive-in in retro, flashing letters. I find myself growing nostalgic of a time period that I never existed in.

“Two for Screen 3,” Sawyer says to the crater-faced teenager at the front entrance. As we drive over gravel, I see the neon mini golf course illuminated by plastic palm tree lights. We park and Sawyer pulls one of the speakers off the stand. It’s painted bright red and dented and practically ancient. It was obviously accumulated from somewhere else because according to Sawyer this place is only eight years old.

“Food!” Sawyer cries pulling me up the incline towards the snack stand. There’s a portrait on the side of it, a crude portrait of an animated hamburger and milkshake, racing some French fries in bright colored cars while a hot dog watches. The whole thing looks like it was painted in 1953, but the paint is somewhat fresh. There’s a line out the door and it’s thirty minutes until show time. Sawyer waits in line while I pet a small litter of rough looking kittens by the projector box. June bugs buzz around the light fixtures, bouncing off the bulbs.

“It’s like they’re lovesick, the June bugs,” he says, as we see more of them by the door, “They’re completely enamored of the light, too naïve to realize it can’t reciprocate any of their feelings back. Poor, lovesick fools.” He smiles at me and I wonder if there’s a deeper meaning there.

Inside the snack bar finally Sawyer says, “Pick anything you want.” And So I grab a hot dog from underneath the warm red lights on the long checkered bar leading up to the cashier’s. I reach for a bag of cotton candy hanging on a string underneath the black, glittery ceiling but I can’t reach. Sawyer balances the popcorn and his hamburger in one hand and pulls it down for me. It’s baby blue. It matches my shirt. And his eyes.

Somehow we get away with enough food to feed a herd of elephants, adding about twelve items (including but not limited to: a pickle, a box of skittles, and nachos) at the last minute as the cashier rings us up. Sawyer orders drinks, then realizing that there’s no way we’ll be able to carry all of this, settles for one. “We’ll share,” he says. “Hope you like Cherry Coke.”

I do. Back at the Shelby, we barely find enough room for us once our food is secured inside. Sawyer pulls a cigarette out of his visor and lights it up. I give him that look and he takes one long drag before putting it out. Thirty minutes (and half the popcorn bucket) later, it’s dark enough and our screen is suddenly illuminated, flickering through the first several inches of movie reel. The movie starts and the sky goes black. We quote all our favorite scenes because of course we’ve seen this movie before. I tell him how I sat in the little yellow ’32 Deuce Coupe from the movie. He doesn’t believe me but it’s true. I tell him how my dad talked the guy who plays John, who was there with the car, to let me sit in it. I was six and all I had to do was bat those eyelashes… Sawyer laughs as I bat my eyelashes at him to prove it.
It’s a double feature, so as soon as American Graffiti is over, some other, newer movie is playing. But only after fifteen minutes of intermission.

For those fifteen minutes, a hot dog dances across the screen, urging the crowd to go to the snack bar. We laugh a little about the couple beside us that’s obviously on a first date and is awkwardly discussing the relevance of American Graffiti today.

About ten minutes into the second movie, some stupid romantic flick, neither of us are interested. “You wanna’ go?” Sawyer asks. I don’t, but I don’t want to watch this stupid thing. So he turns on the radio and we recline our seats until we can see the sky out of the back window, just lying there talking. Country music plays, and while I’ve always hated the stuff, it’s begun to grow on me lately.

“You like it,” Sawyer says.

“Yeah right,” I lie. I wouldn’t admit that Keith Urban’s new song is probably my favorite ever.

We talk and talk for the duration of the movie, seeing four shooting stars during our time there. We get into a popcorn fight with the leftovers and I find that the cotton candy makes for a good pillow. The pickle package is sitting in the cupholder, empty, but souring the whole car with the smell. Skittles are scattered on the floorboard, and the remnants of the nachos are in the backseat, growing cold. My hot dog ended up being a sickly color of red, so I drowned it in mustard. The packets are lying on the ground beside the car having “flown” out the door earlier. Sawyer remarks that we’re slobs, and we laugh and get shhhh-ed at probably one of the most pivotal moments in the movie. We don’t even notice when the radio dies. But we know the night’s over when headlights start flicking on, blinding us through the back window. We now see that a small flock of June bugs has crept into the car through the open windows and they start bouncing around at the glass, desperate for liberation from the Shelby as soon as the light hits them.

“It’s okay,” Sawyer says, “They’ll fly out once we hit the highway. Whether we like it or not.” Suddenly Sawyer isn’t so benevolent to the little creatures.

Sitting upright, I see credits rolling across the screen. Sawyer sighs and pulls the lever on the side of his seat, bringing the seat up with him. The keys are still in the ignition. He turns them. Nothing. He looks at me, turns them again. Nothing. He sighs and gets out of the car, saying he’ll be back.

I look at myself in the mirror and thank God that it’s too dark for anyone to see what I really look like right now. Eyeliner smudged, mascara clumped, hair matted. Is this how all girls in Texas look at the end of the day? Surely not. I play with the fringe on my shorts and wait as Sawyer gets a jump from someone. The car roars back to life and the man who helped us remarks about how beautiful she is. I know he’s talking about the car, but Sawyer looks at me and smiles. “Yeah. She is.”

We get out on the road. Sawyer fumbles with the radio and finds some old station, barely crackling through the speakers. He begins to sing along.

“Blue mooooooooon…”

***

“You saw me standing alone,” he sang, “Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own.”

I open my eyes. Sawyer was leaning forward with his arms around his knees, just singing. I looked around. Once again, we were in our tropical paradise, but Texas suddenly sounded so good. Everything there was so vividly perfect, even if we only imagined it. Sawyer looked back at me, expecting something.

“Someday,” Sawyer said. “We’ll go for real someday.”

Obviously that summer was out of the question. And then I realized that every summer afterward was just as unlikely. Who knew how long this would last? As soon as that season was over, the resort would close for winter and who’s to say that we’d ever see each other again? It was just some stupid summer job and Anaheim, California was a long way from Fort Worth, Texas. We were destined for failure from day one. Goodbye was just a matter of days -though it was unsure how many- away. And that would hurt. So to save myself from hurt then, I decided it was time to leave.

Time to run.

“Maybe,” I said, knowing it was a lie. I stood up. I dusted sand off my shorts. I shook out my towel. “I gotta’ go.”

He looked at me and nodded, going back to his humming. I trotted up the beach, trying not to look back. When I found concrete again, I began to sprint, tripping over my flip-flops. I stopped and ripped each off, running across the hot pavement.

I was almost home free, when something small hit my face, got tangled in my hair. Like the girl I was, I started freaking out, trying to get the thing off me, knowing, just knowing it was a bug or some other undesirable creature. I threw down my towel and my shoes shaking my hair frantically trying to rid myself of the small demon. After running my fingers through the tangles in my locks that weren’t so bad before, I saw it fall.

Looking at the thing I began to realize how out of place it was. It might not have been that big of a deal if I had seen one on the island before then, but I knew they didn’t exist around these parts, it was nowhere near June, and not to mention the little bugs only came out at nighttime. I looked around, waiting for someone to run at me, laughing, guilty of this horrible prank. But nothing. It was so strange, it had to be some crazy coincidence, right? Or maybe the island was magical, after all…

The June bug on my towel crawled along for a moment, catching his breath, getting his bearings. And then he took flight, soaring lamely into the sky with his beating wings aimed at the sun.





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loveandlacy21 said...
Feb. 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm
This is awesome! Loveeeeee
 
diane said...
Feb. 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm
love this!!
 
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