Stella Dixon’s take on romance at the shore – where the odds are good, but the goods are seriously odd.
MY FIRST love was a guy named Pete. He was a football player who collected first edition novels as a hobby; his girlfriend was the leggy captain of my high school cross-country team. To me, they were Ken and Barbie. When Pete showed up at a practice, I’d toss my braided ponytail and smile without showing my braces.
Years later, Pete came into the coffee shop where I worked. Excited to see him, I overturned a carton of espresso beans. When he asked me to meet him for breakfast at six o’clock the next morning, I nodded so enthusiastically I spilled his hazelnut–flavored decaf down my apron. The next day, I sat on a bench outside of Uncle Bill’s Pancake House for over an hour, watching the sky turn from red to pink to blue, before finally admitting that I’d been stood up. When Pete came into the coffee shop again, I played it cool. It was no big deal that he hadn’t showed, I told him. Why, I hadn’t even noticed.
The rest of our relationship went much the same way. Pete was always leaving me dressed up with no place to go, and I was always pretending not to notice. I thought men wanted a low-maintenance woman, so I became just that – to a fault. Pete would invite me to the beach, only to spend the whole time flirting with the perky blonde lifeguard. If, later, he tried to apologize, I’d smile and say, “Why, I didn’t even notice.”
Throughout college, turning a blind eye became my unofficial major. If a boy didn’t call when he promised, forgot to pick me up, or hit on our waitress, it was no big deal; why, I didn’t even notice.
Then I started dating Drew, a guy who made being a pushover impossible. Drew made surfboards for a living, so when I drove mine into the sand during a hurricane swell at Poverty Beach, he offered to repair it. He took my board, put it in the back of his garage, and promised to take good care of it. Then Drew got himself a new girlfriend and stopped returning my phone calls. While pretending not to notice had become my M.O., I couldn’t leave my trusty board in the garage of a not-so-trusty guy. I left messages on top of messages, assuring Drew that I didn’t care who he dated, as long as he returned my surfboard first.
Fed up, I vowed my days of being a doormat were over. I stole my board back, right out of Drew’s garage while he was away. I moved quickly, praying the neighbors wouldn’t spot me squeezing through the window. But I did have time to leave a note. “I broke in,” it said, simply. “No big deal, right?” And then, because I just couldn’t help myself: “Why, I bet you won’t even notice.”