In return for my laughing with them at my sand-encrusted body, my friends saved me having to wear clothes or open the bagged donuts and brought dinner in for me. While I worked on my boxed fish dinner--struggling to use the plastic fork with my left hand--they rushed their turns in the bathroom. Each of them left a contribution for my sand removal on the sink, and then turned the shower over to me for the evening.
I started with Karen’s huge jar of Vaseline, thinking the sand would adhere to the gooey substance and then I could wipe it all off together. This convinced me that the words wipe and Vaseline should not be allowed in the same language, and made my job harder. Three bars of hotel-sized soap and a bottle of shampoo later, I tried Rhonda’s facial cleanser, and Sherry’s peel-off mask. After exhausting the contents of every tube, bar, and bottle in the room, mentally adding replacement costs, and removing the stubborn layers of skin that clung to the sand, I exited the bathroom, ready to dress and do something fun. My friends were sleeping.
An hour of good sun passed before I woke on Monday. Determined to get out as soon as possible, I skipped the donuts, ignored the lectures, packed my beach gear, and left my friends with their soaps. My skinless body screamed no as I approached the pebbled area behind the Bates. Trusting that I had not washed every particle of sand down the drain, I walked down the beach toward the hotel where I had met new friends the day before, hoping to find a comfortable spot.
The absence of motorcycles did not discourage me. I spread two towels on the soft sand and centered myself with plenty of terrycloth between my body and the remaining sand. Oiled and content, I read my book and waited, for company that never arrived. Other than what a few kids accidentally kicked up while running past, I managed to stay reasonably sand-free most of the day.
When the good sun faded, I waked back to my end of the beach, carrying my sandy towels away from my body. For the first time, I noticed how difficult it was to walk in deep sand without shoes. Because my arches ached when I ran into my travel mates in the Bates’ parking lot, I declined their invitation to join them for a quick swim.
I showered, covered my body with aloe, and opened the phone book to find a restaurant within walking distance. A quarter-page ad for a Greek restaurant with entertainment ended my search. I gave my friends an hour before I would leave without them and was pleased when it was more than they needed. Karen surprised me by cutting her protest about the prices in the Greek restaurant short, and convinced the others to join us if I covered the tip.
They dressed quickly and we walked three blocks to what looked much nicer in the ad than in real. Too hungry to care, we stepped into a dark alcove that housed an assortment of gumball machines, a rack of travel brochures, restroom doors, and a cashier station. A balding man, wearing an apron over plaid shorts and a souvenir tee shirt, rushed across the restaurant to shake our hands. He apologized for having to ask us to wait for a table and left as quickly as he had appeared.
Rhonda’s scowl said she was good for a maximum of five minutes before unleashing tears or a rant. Karen wiped her hand on her pants and grumbled about spending good money to eat in a dump. My heart set on Greek food and entertainment, I pointed out the many empty tables visible from where we stood and asked the cashier why they weren’t available to us. The girl, either mute or uncomfortable with English, waved the apron-clad man back. After an attempted joke failed to pacify Rhonda or Karen, he finally explained. The belly dancer had called in sick and he was trying to find last-minute entertainment.
Sherry volunteered me. The man looked me over and nodded, not at all reassuring. I told him Sherry was teasing; I was not a professional dancer. Karen said she had seen me perform and was sure I would dance in exchange for four free dinners.
Another lesson learned. Near-death embarrassment is not the only risk for an amateur who dances, without a costume, in an unfamiliar location. Sometimes, the stage changes during an impromptu performance. I learned this when one second my leg was safely in the air, and the next it crashed against the back of a chair that an innocent patron had left in the aisle on his way to the men’s room.
I did not become a star that night, but I did see a few. My friends enjoyed their free meals and another good laugh. I carried my dinner back to the Bates, to eat when my stomach settled, or to leave for the roaches if that never happened.
Karen and Rhonda walked down the road until they found a hotel with an ice machine, where they swiped a cup of ice and brought it back for me to hold against my sore calf. Although it did little to ease my throbbing leg, the swelling in my hand had almost disappeared, and I hardly thought about my sore arches or bruised ego.