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VOL 012: San Diego sisterhood with nude dudes
and Bazooka Joe

    I showed a keen prescience, staying in Tunisia just as long as I could. 


    More accurately, it was a smart move to delay entering Washington Irving Junior High. Compared to its Carthage counterpart, this institution was a circle of adolescent hell. The building’s layout alone was intimidating, from the seemingly door-less central courtyard to the isolated exits that served only as out-of-view portals for illicit smoking or bullying. Once a week during those first months I would get lost and find myself at the end of some hall with yet another double door to outer suburbia. I would have nightmares of unsuccessfully hunting for my locker. This was likely a byproduct of the stress caused by the regular bruisings from my personal bully, Jason. These were the sorts of bruises that left the family doctor wondering if I was a victim of child abuse. No? Just the result of a little adolescent roughhousing? Well, then, that’s fine. It all made me fatter. Two weighty classmates and I would keep an eye on each other, always relieved when we could point to another as the heaviest kid at school. At least, that was the eye I always kept on them. In my merely 12-year-old body, at least there was no need for a seatbelt extender. 




    That was a relief on the flight at the end of the school year for Megan’s graduation in San Diego. Dora and I flew out for a stay of about four days, staying with Aunt Betsy and Uncle Bob. Sadly, this was not the American Airlines Luxury Liner of my dreams. This was a plain old narrow-body plane that made no impression on me. The trip, however, made a huge one.

Framed photo of a young woman in a graduation cap, smiling

Family photo of Megan on graduation day at the University of California, San Diego.

    I don’t remember making the request, but Dora and Megan must’ve had some sort of consultation. Instead of flying back with Mom, I was going to get about a week more in San Diego, staying with Megan. Fine by me. All I was missing back in summertime Springfield would be hot afternoons indoors with grilled-cheese sandwiches and daytime TV. With Megan newly out of school, not yet working, we could actually do things. Minus Obie and Dora, it was great to spend some extended California time with my primary mentor, the woman who exposed to me Ronald Reagan’s failings and other assorted political tidbits. We weren’t entirely alone. Her best friend, Robin, was there. She was so sweet to me. I can still feel her kiss on my cheek. What I’d done to earn that is beyond me. By trolley – the pride of San Diego at the time, having just opened – to the border at San Ysidro, the three of us went to Tijuana for the afternoon, primarily for frozen fruit. Megan hadn’t yet married, but it was relatively imminent. Bob, Patrick’s college housemate, had graduated from Georgia Tech and was living out there. One night during my stay, we spent the night over at Bob’s, where I was allowed to overdose on HBO after those two went to bed. Stripes is a great movie, but Megan’s place was much tidier. The little cottage she rented always had a wonderful slight whiff of garlic, among her favorite ingredients, and bubble gum, with a tub of Bazooka Joe always at the ready.



    Most of the time, though, it was just Megan and me. She took me to the San Diego Zoo, which gave me a thrill of living the sort of life that the So Cal kids of Three’s Company enjoyed. I watched her smoke a cigarette – a surprising and very short-lived phase – as we tootled down the highway in her old Volkswagen Squareback station wagon. The highlight, though, was Black’s Beach. This afternoon activity required some perilous hiking. It was also psychologically perilous, in that the notion of a nude beach terrified me. I thought of myself, justifiably, as a human marshmallow. Did I really want to expose my pasty, gelatinous body au naturel? But I trusted Megan. Going nude was an option, she promised; not a requirement. I still trusted her when she showed me the brushy, sandy incline we’d need to descend to get to the beach. We arrived without me tumbling. As a fat kid, I was always surprised that fit people rarely grasped our limits. Can’t you see how much weight I’m carrying?! Megan, a college soccer player, climbed down to the beach effortlessly. Not that she went completely unscathed. Walking along the beach in search of the perfect encampment, we passed between a couple of gorgeous nude dudes playing Frisbee. “Heads up!” one shouted. Thunk. The Frisbee hit Megan in the back of the head. But when you’re in a socially awkward situation – like being in a public space with people who are butt-ass naked – you’ve got to look cool, un-phased. You don’t want to appear to be paying attention to anyone or anyone’s thing. The downside is that you may become so unawares you don’t heed the “heads-up” warning. At least, it was a lazy sort of toss, nothing that looked like it hurt her. We found our spot and for a couple hours we laid on the sand. I tried to sleep, but there were too many naked men to spy on. It was unnerving. But I survived. I thought I wouldn’t as we climbed back up the steep incline – now more like a cliff – back up to street level. Heaving all my weight, grasping at bits of root and weeds to pull myself higher, I finally made it. Megan was slightly concerned by my near-puking afterward. But lying in the sun, dehydrated, exerting my pubescent fatness had me lightheaded. Nothing a little garlic and bubblegum couldn’t cure. 


    Megan put me on the plane home, and I again got a big, laminated “unaccompanied minor” card on a bright lanyard to hand around my neck. 


    Sorry, I’ve just spent a week with my cool sister. A little rubbed off. Why don’t I just carry the little UM card in my hand. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. 

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