Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Well I used to know a girl ...

I went with Fannie's family on a week-long vacation in Detroit Lakes when I was in junior high. The McFansters had been going for years, but one-by-one her brothers and cousins had fallen off, other commitments, and what was once a mad-cap week of water recreation, lawn games and crunchy happy hour spreads for freckly red heads was now just a party for adults and Fannie. And, on this occasion, me.

I wasn't good at going places with people. My big concern was always, first: Where will I poop? Certainly not in the bathroom cubicle of a two bedroom trailer with just flimsy panel walls to absorb the sounds and smells of vacation fare. But there was also this fear that I hadn't really been invited. That I'd show up toting a pink duffle bag and my favorite sunglasses. I'd wave goodbye to my mom as she backed out of the McFanster's driveway and there would be Fannie, behind the screen door, frowning.

"What are you doing here?" she'd say.
"I thought you asked me to go to Detroit Lakes," I'd answer, my volume tapering as she shook her head slowly.
"I was kidding," she'd say, teasing her bangs between her fingers and blowing a pink bubble. "God."

At this point in our lives, Fannie seemed just older than me. She had boobs and whole choreography involving makeup: dark eyeliner, blue mascara, and she'd dot skin-toned concealer on her lips before frosting them pinkish-white. She'd snuck out of slumber parties and smoked cigarettes in a ditch. She'd rolled around on a bunk bed with our friend's slightly older brother, a guy with a perm.

I stayed overnight at her house the night before we were scheduled to leave so we could get a early start. I fretted while she slept next to me on the hard basement floor. My stomach bounced and I wondered if it was too late to back out. Seven days. There were so many potentially awkward situations that could pop up. "Thank Yous" might be forgotten. What if I was too messy? What if I said something stupid or felt sick or didn't like the food? What if I got lake water in my face.

Fannie rolled over and mumbled something.

"What?" I whispered.
"Just go home," she said. "I don't want you to come with."

She was either fake sleep talking or else real sleep talking. I suspected the former, but for the sake of my sanity had to go with the latter -- and go with gusto. Instead of curling into a ball while my stomach rolled and quaked with nerves and homesickness, I told her later what she had said and we laughed. The next morning Fannie and I crawled into the back seat of her dad's spacious brown van and we were off. Her bare feet propped against the seat in front of us, pink painted toenails curled over the back.

That vacation I learned about Belinda Carlisle's self-titled album.
And one time I ordered $12 shrimp when everyone else got burgers.
Fannie bought a cute mini three tiered skirt with splashes of pink, yellow, teal and navy blue.
Some nearby campers asked us how the water was and Fannie said "Wet" and I thought that was the funniest thing I'd ever heard.
We pushed around in circles on a paddle boat.
We shared a crush on a kid named Travis who was from our hometown but went to public school. His hair was feathered and he wore pressed khaki shorts. He had big buggy eyes. We played pool against him one afternoon in the lodge and he punched in the song "Veronica" by Elvis Costello into the juke box.

We proceeded to play "Veronica" every time we went into the lodge after that, collecting drumsticks from the freezer and escaping to the basement to flip through vintage copies of Seventeen magazine.

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