I was handed a hot Diet Pepsi in a little glass bottle in the back of Dad's red Oldsmobile convertible. It had six headlights. We rode with his wife. The wind popped and blew in my ears. Hair was everywhere. Bette Midler sang about Miss Otis not being able to make it to lunch because she shot someone.
What was it with Bette Midler and this time?
We got to the beach. Everyone sat on the beach under the sun. There was no escape from the sun.
I was handed a hard pastrami sandwich. It tasted like sand and sunscreen, and the slices didn't match up when you held it. Mayonnaise squished between my fingers, and the slices of white bread flattened against the salami. The Diet Pepsi and the glass bottle was hot like coffee. The label came off in strips and felt like thin styrofoam.
It was a real family day. There were people everywhere. I wasn't one of them.
In contrast, I remembered once flying down route 18 with Dad in his Thunderbird before he left. It was just the two of us. I sat up front, back when you could do that. I could hardly see anything above the dash except for the clear, cloudless sky. He grabbed my hand at a stop light. He gunned the engine. Highway to the Danger Zone played on his Top Gun tape. We peeled through the intersection and took off in a rocket of excitement. With my heart climbing up my throat, I felt like I belonged then.
Another time, I did the same thing at the same light with some friends in my Plymouth Reliant. It was the month I turned eighteen and graduated high school. I got a speeding ticket for $220.
Dad was already living in Florida, by then. We hadn't talked for years. His mother, my nana, died alone in a nursing home in Massachusetts.