ARTHUR TANNEY - BUNGALOW LIFE

CHALET LOVE STORY

Of course, they were going to proof you at the gate, but you had that covered. You possessed a draft card and a voters registration card, both testifying to your new and advanced age-19. They'd done the trick the other times, no reason to doubt their ability now. Anyway, 16, 19, who really cared?

You met the guys in the colony parking lot. Brian wore jeans so tight it was possible to peg his religion. Paul's afro was spiked so high it was doubtful he'd fit in the car. Jerry was already behind the wheel of his mom's Olds Cutlass, revving the engine and adjusting the air conditioning, and scavenging a box of 8-tracks to find the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever. You were just happy to be getting off the colony, away from your mom and your little sister (brother?), far from the colony girls who had made you feel inadequate. The Chalet was a new venue, a fresh canvas, and you meant to paint yourself anew-cool, confident, suave, and mature.

Jerry carefully negotiated the night roads, and the ride took longer than you'd remembered it, but finally you pulled into the stone and gravel parking lot, tucked the car into a spot near the chains, and emerged, prepared to take on the night. You cleared the bouncers proofing without a hitch, secured a beer from a cute, comely waitress, and moved out to the deck to survey the scene.

You felt cool and in charge, better than Travolta, because you knew how to spell. You were John Claude Van Dam before Van Dam. You weren't too secure in your dancing abilities, but it was better outside, leaning back against the railing of the deck, deftly lighting a Marlboro Light and letting the first drag slowly snake from your nostrils. The earlier clouds had moved out, and the sky was a blanket of stars. From inside came the solid, driving rhythm of the music, the bass response shaking the planks of the deck. But it was somewhat muffled, and distant, and overpowered by the incessant noise of the crickets and cicadas.

Then, across the deck, sitting on a white metal chair, regal as a princess, as unaware of her beauty and presence as an angel, this girl, this woman. She has long, silken black hair, and as you crane your neck you see it reaches down her perfect back to just above her jet-black jeans. She wears a black halter. Her tan is even and well formed, and her eyes sparkle and glisten in the moonlight. When she smiles, her teeth are even, and white, and there is a small dimple in her right cheek. She takes a cigarette-a long, thin one-from a pack and her girlfriend offers her a light. As she takes her first drag her eyes catch yours, for a moment, and she smiles. You feel a chill in the hot summer night, like someone has reached inside you and tickled your heart, and for just that moment your legs are wobbly and weak, and you grab the rail just to be sure.

Your mind begins racing, but it has a long way to go to catch up to your heart. What will you say? How to approach her? Who is she? How old? Where from? Her name?

Then, from inside, a guy appears on the deck. You know him. You've seen him before on the dance floor. He has something to do with the Chalet. You heard someone say he runs the music. He has his hair pulled back into a silly, little ponytail, and he is sweating from a non-stop hour of "doing the hustle." But when he reaches out his hand, your angel places hers in his, and then, in an instant, she is gone.

Through other summer nights you will see her again. You never speak, and you never even get her name. You discover she's "with" the guy who runs the music, and you haven't the nerve, or the sense of self yet, to intrude. But you think of her from time to time, as the years fall off the calendar. You wonder what became of her. Where is she now? Did she end up with the music guy, or is she a mom somewhere, with a house-full of kids and a mortgage and a husband who comes home grumpy and tired. Did her smile have the same warm glow, did her eyes still sparkle and glisten in the soft night- light, and did she ever even know how she'd once touched your heart?

Table of Contents

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