Hereafter, Charlene referred to, as I.
My friend Dana and I sat in the backseat of the Rambler as we drove along the winding shoreline of Lake Erie. I was wondering if she felt as stoned as I did. Unless you knew her really well, she was quite shy. Dana and I were closer than sisters; born with almost the exact birthdates, she was two days older than me.
I rolled down the car window. You could almost smell the heat of the day. It was a short drive until we parked the car near a stand of poplars and there was still a jaunt to the beach. Along the way we passed a fruit orchard by the roadside and my brother reached up and grabbed some peaches, tossing one to each of us.
We walked a narrow path uphill to get to the lake where sandy loam eventually gave way to sinking sand. My senses were distorting ... there looming ahead was a Lake Erie sandhill. To me it had the drama of the Sahara dessert.
What had started out as a head buzz moved into a body stone. As a petite sixteen year-old, my legs felt they had the weight of an elephant with every move. Focusing my eyes on the apex of the dune, every step sunk me deeper into the sand. It didn't help that vertical heat waves were emanating off the sand which was scorching to the touch. Each step I took closer seemed to move the horizon further away. I thought I’d never make it to the top.
Rod and his friend were much stronger and climbed the dune light-years ahead of us. We watched both males disappear over the dune to the left. I knew best to go to the right. Rod would give us a shout before they left – after all he wasn’t at the beach to hang out with his kid sister.
Struggling through the sand, Dana and I held hands, and with each other's help, we finally made it to the top. Our efforts rewarded; Paradise waited on the otherside. We ran down the hill sliding in the sand, our high voices reverberating off the land and water.
You see, this was back in the day when the Lake belonged to no one and everyone; and when a working family could live on lakefront property. Smaller homes and winterized cottages dotted the shoreline; some were respected rustic properties, others wind battered. Both gave way to one of the few lakes in the area you could still swim in.
Dana and I found our spot in a little alcove close to the water with a bit of shade from a nearby tree. We spread our blanket out gingerly removing our t-shirts and cut-offs, fearful of others watching then laid down in our bathing suits. I could already feel the high sun sizzling on my skin deep into my bones. We slathered sun tan lotion over each other as a slight breeze blew in off the lake.
I shared my secret with her about the dancing plant and we laughed so hard our faces hurt.
She pushed me playfully,
“Get out!! Plants don’t dance!” she said.
“Well this one did!” I said pushing her back.
“Did not,” she said.
“Did so!!” I said.
Giggling we both tumbled off our blanket onto the warm sand till our bodies were covered like cinnamon sugar cookies. We howled, and ran into the water to let the cool lake wash over us.
After swimming, we laid back on our towels. I watched the water droplets evaporate off my skin.
“The peaches!” I said remembering and reaching into my knapsack.
“Not a moment too soon. My throat is parched.” Dana said.
Handing one to her, we both sat staring at the perfect fuzzy fruit. My salivary glands gushed in my throat at the sight of it. With a mutual glance we simultaneously bit into the succulent flesh of the freshly picked ripe peach. Juice ran down our chins. Flavour exploded. It was the most exquisite taste I have ever had up to that point in my life. Or since.
We spent the rest of the afternoon watching the sun shine like diamonds on the water. For a second I felt the universe smile upon us. Some folks came and set up a blanket nearby playing Pink Floyd from their cassette player until the batteries wore out.
What goes up must come down.
We sat on the beach and watched the orange pink July sun set until my brother called our names and we trekked back descending that dune.
The herb wore off but the memories of the day I discovered the secret nature of plants has stayed with me. It was truly a defining moment in the summer of my youth.
All things come to pass.
Those dunes have all but vanished now too; carried away by bulldozers when rich American bankers came in offered those families deals they couldn’t refuse. Cookie cutter McMansions now replace those unique cottages. No one realized they would restrict access to the lake like they fucking owned it too.
And my best friend Dana? She died after a brutal battle with a rare form of cancer in 2004.
What I would give to have a little slice of that 70's afternoon back again.
© Scarlett Sumac 2012. Part I found here.