This was the summer of the heat waves, where even the ocean’s cooling breezes did not always come to the rescue, and streaking was popular. Wayne tells us of his streaks through the estate section of Southampton. His brother would pull up to a break in the tall green manicured hedge, drop Wayne off sans-clothes but with sneakers, and then peel off to the rendezvous zone. Wayne would run full speed trying to locate a pool or patio, body parts bouncing along.
We return to the base to fish out more beer from the cooler with melted ice. There is a huge barren tree that washed up high on the beach during a storm, and we perch there continuing our talk. The sun settles and there is no moon to illuminate the quiet water in front of us. Although dark, we remain hot and covered with itchy sand. The cold beer provides no comfort and neither does the night. The water looks enticing.
Suddenly, Wayne strips off his clothes and runs in. We all follow. By now it is a completely black and actually difficult to make out where we all are in the water except for one miraculous natural effect.
As I easily stroke through the calm water, my motion excites single celled creatures that glow in a white green luminescent light that forms trails streaming from my finger tips. We all notice this right away and now move through the water to amplify the effect. Running through waist deep water makes a trail of star points emanating from your thighs. When we spin around we are trapped in a spiral cage of pale light. We are yelling to each other how amazing and unreal this is – as if we were all hallucinating on LSD. We stay as long as we can, skin all wrinkled and prune-like, drying ourselves the best we can by sacrificing some of our clothes lying on the tree.
Betsy had asked me to meet her at the beach at the end of the road to Holmes Hill. It is a rocky beach and known more by the locals and not the summer folk, so was often private. And that was her intent: to be able to practice lifeguard saves without anyone looking on. I had just received my Bay Certification last year and had landed the chair at Haven’s Beach in Sag Harbor. Betsy was going for Bay cert too. Although athletic like her brothers, Betsy was petite and the popular girl at High School. I pull up in a green pickup truck. She arrives in a yellow Beetle. The day is perfect with a dark blue sky, white puffy clouds, and a light breeze. We greet and I drop my jeans to reveal a baggy bathing suit. Betsy does the same to show a single piece black spandex.
The interesting part about water rescue is that once in the water, size doesn’t really matter. For my final test the instructor volunteered the biggest lacrosse player he could find at Southampton College. I could hardly get my arm around this 250 lb’s barrel chest. The key lesson is not to panic and roll with the victim. They will tire themselves out and then you can drag them to safety.
On land we walk though what we would do in the water. You approach the rescue from underneath the surface of the water, work your hands up the side of the body, turn them up to the sun, and lock your arm across their chest, side-stroking them in. We try it in the water.
No one is around. The tide is half way up. In close quarters, water amplifies our body heat and I can feel her warmth as I lock my arm just above her chest. At this stage, touch between a man and a woman even in High School can bring on additional meaning and new sensations. I focus on the sequence and then we switch off so Betsy can practice on me, her arm barely across my chest but secure in the grasp and strong in her stroke. I am saved.
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