Florida, Pt 3:
On a million-degree day in July of 2000, Bethany, Candice, and I headed to the beach. Clearwater Beach is a man made expanse of blisteringly white sand that reflects the sun back into your face. It's a spring break destination, a total tourist trap; it's where I grew up. As a kid we'd sit on the lifeguard stations to watch 4th of July fireworks. In high school we had homecoming afterparties there, we spent weekends and vacations and sunny hurricane days spread out on towels, cooking. I once slept there for a night the month I was homeless senior year. I had a love-hate relationship with the beach. My super pale skin crisps at the mere thought of sun and I dislike sand in my clothes, but at the same time the sparkling blue gulf and the white sand (not to mention the boys!) always proved irresistible.
This particular day we arranged ourselves on the sand and commenced tanning. We were feeling particularly perky that day; Bethany and I were about to move away to college and Cane had a new boyfriend that hadn't ever been arrested (a huge step up from the last one). Bethany lay on my left; blonde and tan, in a black bikini that was all string and a few discreet triangles of material, she was our showpiece. Cane, on my right, was in her dark red bikini, her long brown-red hair catching the light. The two of them had coated themselves in low SPF suntan lotion, essentially vegetable oil, and were preparing to bake themselves golden brown. I was in the middle, in my bright orange and yellow bikini, long brown hair as ever piled on top of my head. I was coating myself in high grade SPF, hoping I'd come out of the day with only a mild sunburn.
We were, as ever, chatting idly of boys.
"So, Spam, slept with Nate yet?"
"Dude, -fuck- Nate. He's a dick, and I hate him."
"So that's a no?"
"Oh...uh, no, I slept with him. I don't want to talk about it." I turned on Bethany. "What's up with the -Keith- situation, eh?"
"Keith is difficult. Maybe we can get him drunk and you can distract Todd while I work on Keith."
(Oh, for the days that my girlfriends and I traded men like baseball cards!)
"I'll distract Todd, alright. Hey, Adam just got back from Cocoa last night."
Adam was an old friend of mine, Cocoa beach was where people went to surf. It's on the Atlantic coast.
"Yeah. He says that the fins were cresting really close to shore."
That summer, there had been a lot of reports of shark attacks on surfers. We said that the fins crested when they broke the surface of the water, and we were really glad that there were fewer sharks on our side.
"Shit. Here, we just gotta do the stingray shuffle."
The stingray shuffle is what you do in water where there might be rays. If you shuffle your feet along the sand in the water, it disturbs the rays and they swim away. This means that you won't step on them and they won't sting you.
We were pondering the stingray shuffle when Cane noticed a man who was standing a few yards away, down towards the waterline, and apparently staring right at us. She elbowed me.
"Hey, what's he doing?"
He appeared to be pretty old, and from the looks of his white skin and bright red speedo bathing suit, he was obviously a tourist. What had disturbed Cane, however, was the fact that the sun was glinting off of the lens of a video camera that he held in his right hand.
"He's filming us! Oh, -gross-!"
We were skeeved, and a bit scared. We each grabbed for our t-shirts, trying to cover ourselves before hightailing it off the beach. But on our way out we stopped by the lifeguard stand and told Sean, our lifeguard, what had happened. And we still hope that Sean threw that camera in the water.