by Kristine Smith
"A vacation spent alone months after the man I loved succumbed to a mid-life crisis and broke my heart. " Then the author meets Bad Amy. Inspiration and rejuvenation can occur when we try on new behavior.
Saturday night was the last night of my vacation at St. Pete's Beach.
A vacation spent alone months after the man I loved succumbed to a mid-life crisis and broke my heart. A dream vacation that consisted of ten days spent half in tears and half in determined hyper-activity. But on this last night I stuck five dollars in my pocket and made myself walk across the street to watch the sunset. After that, ready or not, I was going to walk into one of the beach bars and get a drink. Alone.
I walked down the beach picking up shells and watching the sky turn from blue to pink to orange. I turned my back on the couples cuddled together on the lounges that lined the water and concentrated on the children jumping in the waves. When the sun disappeared and the sherbet sky faded to an ordinary gray, I looked up and found that I had walked all the way down the beach to the Best Western. If I was going to get a drink here, I had a choice between the Swigwam and Jimmy B’s.
I squared my shoulders for courage and headed up to Jimmy’s, where I spent my five dollars on a vodka cranberry and took up residence on a barstool in the corner. Uncomfortable, I promised myself I could go back to my room as soon as I finished my drink.
The owner of the barstool next to me turned out to be a pretty brunette in her twenties, who’d obviously been there awhile. She didn’t hesitate to introduce herself.
“Hi. I’m Amy.” She took a drag on her cigarette and politely exhaled in the other direction before she finished her introduction with, “I’m a bad girl.” She grinned at me and stuck out her hand like we were going to be buddies. What could I do but shake? I studied the tattoo that crawled down her right shoulder all the way to her elbow as she dug around in her purse for drink money. She came up short.
“Never mind”, she said. “We can get guys to buy us drinks.” I laughed for the first time in a long time. Obviously she hadn’t taken a very good look at me!
“I’ll be right back” she said and off she went. She had another big tattoo that covered most of her back and disappeared under her shorts. I watched while Bad Amy linked herself to a gentleman half way down the bar and started whispering in his ear. To my surprise a second vodka cranberry soon appeared in front of me and Amy was back a minute later.
“See?” she shrugged, “It’s easy.”
Well maybe for her. I never was much of a ‘bad’ girl, even when I was her age. More of a girl-next-door type. Maybe even a goody-two-shoes. But the way my life was going, I figured a change couldn’t hurt. What the hell, I thought. Give it a shot.
A few minutes later I shoved my barstool further into the corner to make room for Bob, an obvious tourist with generously moussed gray-hair, decked out in a brand new Hawaiian shirt. After a short negotiation where I trotted out flirting skills I thought I had lost a hundred years ago, Bob agreed to buy me a drink as payment of “rent” on the space I had made for him. I proudly shared the drink with Amy and paid close attention in case she was going to offer more tips on being bad.
More Tips on Being Bad
Suddenly she jumped up and ran off returning a few minutes later carrying handfuls of Gardenia blossoms. She handed some to me, insisting that I smell their incredible perfume. “They’re my favorite,” she kept repeating as she wrapped a bunch around the string of her bikini top between her breasts. Not to be outdone I stuffed some of the blossoms in the v-neck of my tee shirt.
“Smell!!” Bad Amy demanded of the next man who came by on his way to the bar. He obligingly lowered his head to her chest.
Two drinks past thinking I jumped up and stuck out my own meager chest. “Me too!” I cried,and while I admit the poor man got a very strange look on his face, he did sniff my gardenias. I’m pretty sure I blushed.
The new man’s name was Mike and he seemed more my age than Amy’s. He chatted with us while he ordered his drinks, including a shot for each of us as payment of his “rent” on the space at the bar. Bad Amy and I chugged half a shot each, and like the ladies we were, shared the rest with our new benefactor.
The band was playing old songs, some soul, some disco, all dance music. The crowd-pleasing, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, came on and half the people in the bar were sing-shouting along. As far as I could tell we sounded great. Feeling younger by the minute, I asked Mike to dance. To my surprise, he said yes and we headed to the dance floor.
By the time I got back to my seat Amy had decided that she’d been there long enough. She was on the phone to someone she called her big brother,Dave. He’d come and get her she said, and I hope he did. Mike and I left for another dance I didn’t see her again.
With Bad Amy as my role model and irresistible dance music playing continuously, Mike and I danced and sweated and drank and got to know each other until the band shut down.
Some time after midnight I did the ultimate bad thing and took him home with me. I wish Amy could have seen that. She would have proud.