Dog Day

90 Degrees
You’re in the water for the second time. The first time you went in for just a minute, to cool off when the heat got to be too much. This time you swim out to where you can’t touch anymore, near the edge of the swimming area cordoned off with floating markers and rope to keep swimmers away from the deep water and motorboats. There’s a young couple out here, too, standing face to face far away from everyone else. Though it looks like they’re just talking, you have the definite sense they’re doing more than that.With a sigh, swim back to shore. Give them their privacy. Do a hybrid dog paddle and sidestroke, luxuriate in the coolness of the water.

Getting out of the water, you notice a young woman in a silver bikini has spread her towel out next to yours. She’s on her stomach and reading a book. Look at her beautiful, gleaming body, slick with sunscreen, but don’t allow your face to register any sort of reaction. Focus instead completely on your towel and flop down onto it. Sit up and pull your sunglasses on. Stare out at the water for a long minute. Glance over to see what book she’s reading: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—the book you just finished reading a month ago. Realize you have an in, an opening to initiate a conversation. This is your chance!

Look at her again, her mirrored sunglasses, her slicked-back cinnamon-brown hair, the contours of her body rising and falling exactly where they should. She’s easily ten thousand leagues out of your league—at least. And that’s probably a conservative estimate. Lie back and think about things for a minute. She just got here. She won’t be going anywhere for a while. Close your eyes. Make yourself close them. Wish desperately you were somebody else, someone who actually knew how to talk to women.

93 Degrees
Sit up. Decide this can’t go on. You only live once. People probably hit on her all the time. More than likely, she’s used to it. She looks nice, maybe she’ll be flattered. Even if she’s not interested, which will almost certainly be the case, chances are she’ll be nice about telling you to buzz off.

You don’t know where the words come from. You’ll never know. They just tumble out of your mouth, like small rocks from space.

“That’s a good book.”

She looks over at you—she has to see your plain build, your hopelessly bland face, your stupid farmboy hair—and yet she smiles. She rolls over on her side, resting her weight on her left elbow. Keep your eyes on her face, even when you realize she’s even prettier than you first thought. Still, notice how her body stays perfectly taut, shimmering.

“I like it, too,” she says, with just a trace of an accent.

“I didn’t think I’d like them,” you say. “But I did—like them.”

She smiles again and seems to be assessing you. It’s a look that falls somewhere between simple friendliness and mild interest.

“Yeah,” she agrees. “A friend told me about them. I’m hooked.”

Look out at the water. Nod. Breathe. Keep breathing.

“I like your accent. I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re not from around here.”

“I am not from around here,” she says, in a matter-of-fact manner that emphasizes her accent even more. “I am from Italy.”

Italy.

Your new favorite country in the whole wide world. Any country that could produce a woman like this is worthy of one’s eternal and undying devotion.

Give her a confused look. “What brings you to Minnesota?”

She tells you she’s here on a summer internship, which is almost over. She’ll be leaving in three weeks for Italy, after a quick stop in New York to sightsee.

Nod. Frown. Say, “Too bad,” then try to figure out what you mean by that and how she might interpret it.

“How about you? Are you from around here?”

Look out at the water, make it clear you’re giving the question your every consideration. Say no. Say you moved down here a few months ago and keep talking. Tell her you don’t know many people yet. Tell her you always thought it would be an interesting place to live. Notice, but only for a moment, how the conversation is flowing.

“It is an interesting place to live,” she says, looking out at the city. “It is very different from Italy. The people are hard to get to know, though. I don’t know anyone, either.”

Notice how she took what you said and interpreted it correctly. Find yourself smiling.

Say, “People here are very friendly on the surface. Getting past that isn’t easy.”

“You don’t seem that way,” she says, and smiles at you a little differently this time.

The beach is full of sound; people splashing in the water, radios playing, cars rolling past on the street behind you. Looking at her, all of this disappears. The smile she’s still giving you makes you look away.

“How about the weather?” you ask. “Is it like this in Italy?”

“Near the sea,” she says, “in the summertime, it can be. But it’s not so …”

“Muggy?”

“Muggy, yes.”

She considers the word and seems to file it away for future use.

“My name is Rob,” you say suddenly, touching your chest for some reason.

“Mine is Carla.”

“Hey, Carla. If you don’t mind me saying, you speak English very well. I don’t speak any foreign languages.”

“Americans don’t,” she says, and laughs. “Americans expect everyone else to learn their language.”

“It seems to be working,” you say, with some embarrassment.

“Yes,” she says. “Americans always get their way.”

She looks down then and seems to want to step back from that statement. Look oblivious. Let her know you missed any possible implication—though you didn’t.

“Will you watch my things?” she says. “I’d like to take a swim.”

Nod—several times. Say you’d be happy to. She takes off her sunglasses and you see the way her dark, beautiful eyes shine. Don’t even try to hold her stare. Forget about it.
“Have fun,” you say. “The water feels great.”

Watch her walk towards the lake, but act as though you’re not watching her. Look over at some high school boys who are staring at you.

“Are you hitting on her?” one of them asks when she’s far enough away not to hear.

Shrug and say you guess so, though that doesn’t seem like what you’re doing. You realize then you really don’t know what you’re doing, but whatever it is, it seems to be working.

“Way to go!” says another.

You’re sitting on a warm towel in the hot sun, talking to a gorgeous foreign woman and people are cheering you on.

This is new.

<

Pages: 1 2 3 4