romance + rejection--meet marty

summer lovin': let's recast Sandy as a skinny
Asian American nerd with an overbite, and see what happens.
Summer, 1989
Cedar Point Amusement Park, Sandusky, OH

The miserable summer after high school graduation--the summer of Chaz, my first kiss--my best friend calls to tell me I can get a job with her, living and working at Cedar Point Amusement Park. She's working at the Chuck Wagon in Frontiertown, and it's totally awesome. The only catch: my job is in the "Restroom Hosting Division." Potty Patrol. 

Potty Patrol, where the retarded and underaged employees work. But I'm willing to scrub toilets all summer if it means leaving home.

Cedar Point: 364 acres of rollercoasters, french fries, and farmer-tans on a little finger of land jabbing into Lake Erie. Rednecks from Indiana to Pennsylvania save their nickels  to visit the park. And 4,000 college students arrive on Memorial Day to work, party, and get laid all summer long.

For the first time, I'm not the only ethnically challenged person around: among the hordes of my horny coworkers there are blacks and Latinos, plus gays and straights, class presidents and class clowns. There a few kids dressed in all black who seem especially welcoming to me.

We work six days a week and drink seven. We swill rum and Cokes in our dorm rooms, on bunk beds under Echo and the Bunnymen posters; we sit on the shore with six-packs and listen to Depeche Mode tapes. Seagulls mew. Waves tumble and splash the distance from Canada. We question authority and mourn the lack of meaning in our lives. For the first time, I think I'll fit in someday.

One night, wobbly on gin and lemonade, I'm wandering by the boys' dormitory and a guy's leaning by the door and says, Hi there. He's wearing short OP shorts and a polo with the collar up. He's older and taller and tanner, and we go walking to the beach. His name's Marty and Marty magically produces a blanket from the thin damp air. (These events make sense using drunk-logic, when everything's fast-forward, close-up, then lost like film loops on the editing floor.)  We're sandwiched together under the midwestern summer stars, the air thick with sweat, dew, pinewood, diesel. I love you, he says.

How stupid am I to believe him? Remember, until then I know only three things about boys:

1. Blow jobs do not involve actually blowing (like hair dryers)
2. It supposedly tastes like salty mayonnaise.
3. Chad likes Jenny and not me.

I won't know the cardinal rule about dating until I'm about, oh, 38: sex equals love.

I've read Thomas Hardy and aced geometry. I can swim 50 yards in 30 seconds. But no book smarts, no athletic skill has prepared me for boys. A film strip in 8th grade about zits, fallopian tubes, and rubbers did not prepare a girl for anything but the art of passing notes in the dark.

hold me now: there are phases in life when music
saves you. 
For a week I don't hear a word from Marty. Then I remember that he works the birthday-game booth, handling giant 12-sided dice and half-dead prize goldfish. One day after potty patrol (and washing my hands) I visit/stalk him. His coworker has flowing red mermaid hair and grapefruit sized boobs. She looks--as most girls do--light-years more sophisticated and knowing than I am. They trade sly looks--was that an eye roll?--as Marty mutters hello. People gather around the booth and take turns throwing the dice across casino-green felt. Marty won't look at me as calls out the winners: February. July. December.

April doesn't turn up. April goes home. April builds her alcohol tolerance and tape collection and leaves that fall for college.