Earworm: Part 21—The Girlfriend Experience

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 20 — Not So Sweet Remembrances

Sunlight skipped across the water. Emily saw it glinting between the tree branches as she carried William through a path in the woods. She came out of the path to an incline of sloping rock and a small, crescent beach of coarse sand. Here and there, scattered families gathered in small groups. A burly, young man’s voice cut the quiet like revelry, “Geronimo,” he called, swinging on a rope swing hanging from the bridge. The man released the rope and dropped into the water with a crash. On the water’s edge, two men and a woman cheered and whooped. Sun glinted off their sunglasses and the tops of beer cans. Emily heard a sharp, forceful laugh, and she realized it was Starling standing there with the men. The rope swinger popped his head out of the lake and squirted water in a spout from his lips. “Yeah,” he called, “that was pretty cool.”

“You get a two from the Special Olympics judge,” one of the men called.

“Ha,” Starling laughed. Emily watched them for a moment, bouncing William on her hip. It was nice of Starling to invite her down to the beach again—for like the fifth time—but Starling, although only a few years younger, was definitely at a different place in life than Emily. The child bouncing on Emily’s hip being proof. Emily turned to start back up the sloping rock as Starling called, “Emily.” Emily stopped. Starling trotted along the crescent beach, holding an oversized towel wrapped around her waist. “Hey,” Starling said. “How long have you been here?”

“Oh, I just got here,” Emily said, surveying the beach with eyes hidden behind a pair of Glenn’s aviator sunglasses. She bounced her baby boy.

“What’s up? You leaving?” Starling said.

“Um, well… no,” Emily said. “I just wasn’t sure if that was you.”

“Well, it’s me,” Starling said. “C’mon. You need a hand?” She took the canvas bag hanging from Emily’s shoulder, Starling’s body shifting violently as if one side was connected to a counterweight. “Jesus, this thing weighs a ton.”

“You don’t have to carry…”

“Nonsense, you got the kid.” Starling said. She then nodded for Emily to follow. “C’mon.”

Emily stepped onto the beach, coarse grains of sand becoming trapped between heels and flip-flops as she walked. The rope swinger now stood with the other two men on the shoreline. “Hey, guys,” Starling said to them, “this is Emily, my neighbor.”

“Hi, Emily,” they mumbled in unison like an AA meeting welcoming a member.

“And that’s William,” Starling said, making a goofy face at Emily’s son.

“Hi, William,” they mumbled.

“And this is the Moron Squad,” Starling said, motioning to the three men. “This is Danno,” Starling motioned to the rope swinger, who stood with his arms across his body, trying to conceal his spare tire. “And this is Ernie and Bert,” Starling said, gesturing to the other two men. One was very tall and thin, the other had the small frame of a boy barely out of his teens. “That’s really their names too,” Starling said, motioning to Ernie and Bert with her beer can.

Danno said, “And after meeting these two idiots, your kid’ll never be able to watch Sesame Street again.”

“Ha,” Starling laughed.

Bert, the taller of the Ernie and Bert duo, charged Danno, driving him into the water. Ernie followed, the three men splashing like frolicking dogs.

“We’ll let those bozos burn off some testosterone,” Starling said. She placed her hand on the small of Emily’s back and guided her to a disheveled site—beach towels, cooler, a trash bag filled with empty beer cans. “I’m glad you came to hang out.”

“Yeah, well, like you said, I really should get out more,” Emily said. “I mean, there’s all these beaches here and I never even go to any of them.”

“It sounds like Glenn’s got his friends, why should you just sit around?” Starling said, dropping the canvas bag on the sand. “I mean, you need yourself a girlfriend.”

Continued in: Earworm: Part 22 — Bats 

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