Tracy Rothschild Lynch
I got ready with my girlfriends. We were sharing conjoined motel rooms, the kind I wouldn’t step foot in today, what with my preference for general cleanliness and all. There were too many of us in there,
first of all,
six to each room, chaos unpacked everywhere, long hairs snaking along the bathroom floors. But we did manage to squeeze in some additional fellow-new-high-school-grads, giggly with afternoon beer buzzes and the day’s bronzes that were deepening with each sip.
First we did our makeup,
then we did our hair, and between each task we flitted and twirled—This dress? Or this? It was fancy-dinner night, the night we had saved our money for, the night we were going to scarf greasy seafood, a celebratory dinner at the most mediocre-elite restaurant we could find. We were on our way to adulthood but
first we had to wait for our friend Greg. We had invited him that day earlier under the baking sun when the taste of lobster dripping in melted butter was dripping into our daydreams already.
The sky was darkening in the June solstice, bright orange to pale peach to blue. Looking out the window, I saw Greg approaching. And I saw his friend.
I saw him
And then he saw me, but not until he was on the cusp of our motel room door. Greg had seen him on the beach, this lanky older guy from my high school, who happened to be on vacation with his family. I knew of him, this guy in the popular band, the one with the long jet-black curls, party in the back, the guy who clearly was too cool to ever have been in high school. But I didn’t know his eyes.
First I noticed
those. Brown like mine, but silkier, milk chocolate to my dark. When he entered,
first I offered him some grain punch from a red plastic bucket on a sticky table because it was 1988 and I was a good hostess and a classy girl at that.
First sip, I watched his lips.
At dinner we sat across from each other at the end of the table, away from giggly conversations that faded a little more each minute the way they do in the movies when camera one zooms in on the couple in the foreground, and I swam in the creaminess of the milk chocolate for two hours. When he smiled (I made him smile again, again), he looked down—shy?—and his eyes would disappear for just a moment. We laughed over something as simple as words on a menu and picked at our disgusting soft-shell crabs before
next course, after which we said goodbye.
Outside he headed right and I headed left. First time looking back to see where his steps had taken him. First time seeing that he did the same, looked over his shoulder and held his arm up in a casual wave. A goodbye that seemed entirely too soon.
First hour back at the hotel, I look out the window again and he is in the parking lot again only this time he is looking up at me and I am as giddy as I’ve ever been.
First time my childish, cheating boyfriend back home slid out of my mind like mercury, slippery, rolling away, untouchable poison.
First time we stood closer, first time we got drunker, first time the chocolate eyes showed something dangerously alluring. First time forgetting that I was a bookish nerd as a novel tingling reminded me that I was sensual and just quite possibly deserved a little excitement. First time flirting, first time leaning into his arm and smelling his deodorant.
First time hotel-room hopping until locations and participants blurred along with our alcohol-drenched short-term memories and we stepped feet
first into where ever the night took us.
It took us at
to the beach. To the crashing waves. To solitude. To where without effort the grains of sand turned into individual stories and sun-baked nuggets of history and I found out he had a sister and he went to school four hours from where I was going to school next year and the moon lit its path down the center of the sea in the way it always does in the most memorable of moments.
First time I told anyone the news of my day—that my brother, fighting leukemia for eight years, was pronounced cured that very morning. The call from my mother confirmed that actualities of chemo and biopsies and vomiting and spinal taps and blood counts and incessant frown lines could start to ebb to long-term memories. First time feeling peace as a teenager which led to the
first time I cried in front of him. It was relief and joy and embarrassment and he told me later that he fell in love with me in that exact moment. And at
there was no way I was going to sleep with this stranger out on these grains of sand and let him do to me what only one other person had ever done to me (I had a boyfriend I had a boyfriend I had a boyfriend) but oh my god those eyes and his gentle hands on my tan flesh and me falling deep deep in love with him as he brushed the tear from my face.
A liquid rush of spontaneity and the lust of being 18 and the alcohol still shimmying in our veins and the pull of wind and the crashing of waves and my fingers trembling on his belt buckle and the way he pulled my dress up carefully and my underwear down gently and he whispered is this okay and I said yes, yes, god please.
First time falling into his kiss. First firing of neurons as I was touched like a woman by someone who did not feel like a boy. First time intangible energy swirled within eddies of passion that threatened to flood me.
First time. The first time in a history, on a timeline I still occasionally sketch in notebooks, when I dream of taking a sip of that chocolate beachy windswept edge-of-adulthood elixir one more time. I sketch and erase and then chastise myself for remembering but every so often I imagine fleeing, running south down hot tobacco roads to that exact stretch of beach. In these moments I allow myself to be sucked backward in time, into the hours of that precise summer solstice before the days got shorter and the nights got longer and all my rooms were packed with years ahead not laughter not sex not firing neurons nor setting suns reflecting in tidal pools. My middle-aged mind does not wander, it races, races there, races backward when I discovered him and therefore discovered me
Tracy Rothschild Lynch has been writing poetry and CNF for more than 25 years. After four years in London living the glorious life of an ex-pat, Tracy has just returned back to her home of Virginia. (Although not happy with the humidity, she’s thrilled to be on the same continent as her daughters.) Tracy is putting the finishing touches on two memoirs: the first is a chapbook of flash essays about her experience with breast cancer, recovery, and micromoments of treatment; the other is an experimental-form essay collection about her mother’s death from secret alcoholism. Tracy recently won second-place in the Lit/South’s annual writing competition; her winning essay, “When Organ Becomes Metaphor” is in the inaugural issue of Litmosphere. She has been published previously in Cleaver, (mic)ro(mac), Epoch Press, Spotlong Review, Janus Literary, Brain,Child, and others. Her essay, “Inappropriate,” won honorable mention in the 2012 Pushcart Prizes. Tracy’s work examines the (sometimes surprising, often dysfunctional) connection between humor, health, and happiness.