Something you must know about people who swim or play water polo.
We tend to get naked a lot.
Because when you spend a life time running around in a bathing suit… changing behind towels at meets, at the beach, somewhere in public… you stop caring who sees you.
And… back in the day when we were all swimming, playing water polo or whatever…. our bodies had no wobbly bits… no bouncing blobs of fat… just nice sleek tan taught muscle.
It was lovely.
Ryan Ballance and Erik Prosser two of my high school friends, were both polo players at Wilson… I of course was a Millikan girl…. you weren’t SUPPOSED to like the Wilson boys…. but we often did…. maybe because it was “forbidden” fruit… going against school spirit to want to make out with the “red and the gold.” How extremely unsportsmanlike.
It didn’t matter to me… I adored them both.
Erik and I had a friendship that went back and forth from friends to boyfriend and girlfriend for years… and I still miss him today… I hate that he is gone from this Earth… a fluke accident.. leaving all of us to miss the beauty of his spirit…
Ryan… was always my buddy… maybe a casual flirtation here and there… maybe a moment of sexual “wit”… but nothing more than that… and today… I take great joy in seeing photos of him in love and happy in Florida where I imagine he still runs around in speedos, mostly naked, with his girlfriend probably shaking her head as she says to herself: “Christ, everyone must think I’m dating a European.”
Anyways… it was the year of Wilson’s 10 year high school reunion, and Ryan and Erik invited me to a night before “pre-party” at Ryan’s parent’s place down on the Peninsula.
Now… I remember that Ryan was dating someone at the time…. but I cannot for the life of me remember who… but… if you are reading this… I’m sorry we were such complete idiots that night. You must have been mortified and by the way… “Well done you!” for taking the high road and not smacking the shit out of all of us drunkards.
I don’t drink often… I really don’t… but with Ryan and Erik… I don’t remember much of that evening except that we thought it would be a really good idea to strip down to our skivvies and go for a swim in the Bay sometime around 2am.
Okay everyone… listen up….
1. Don’t swim drunk. It is probably one of the stupidest things you can EVER do…
2. If your last name is Wood… don’t swim drunk… do you really want me to bring up the whole Natalie Wood incident? I don’t need people running around Long Beach using me as the butt of their driftwood jokes… I’m sure I’m already the butt of so many Long Beach jokes that we don’t need to add another. And Tim Grobaty… if you are reading this… DON’T get ANY ideas.
3. As you are stripping down to your skivvies don’t prance around and prattle on about your body… and how you STILL have it… you just sound like a COMPLETE AND TOTAL conceited MORON and… nobody likes a show off.
Don’t go out in the Bay at 2am.
People will come.
And not in the cool Field of Dreams sort of way…
They will not pay money to watch you play and frolic in the water… as they sit satisfied… content in nostalgic memories of their own high school reunions… no… they won’t…
They will call the cops.
They will have you arrested.
You will be cited for Disturbing the Peace…
Drunk and Disorderly…
YOU NAME IT…. their ON IT at 2 am when a bunch of yahoos wake up the Peninsula.
The ENTIRE Peninsula.
Now, I do remember Erik went in first and he was half way to the buoy before I shot in after him… we were always competitive so I busted my ass… or what I believed was busting my ass… who knows what I was really doing… probably floundering around in circles believing that I was somehow moving forward and catching up to him.
I looked for Ryan… who started to follow but then seemed to pause and disappear… either he stopped because he had a moment of clarity and thought better of it or his girlfriend grabbed him and forced him to the ground….. either way…. he never made it into the water which ended up being a really good thing for him.
Erik and I frolicked about from buoy to buoy laughing and screwing around up and down the tow line, spitting water at each other, slap fighting waves, until someone turned on their porch light and stared us down…it was a BIG SOMEONE… a hulking MAD MAN SHADOW of a SOMEONE… ready to call the cops… we reverted back to high school…. hid behind a buoy whispering God knows what, until he went back inside and turned off the light, leaving us to giggled as we backstroked our way over to the beach grabbed our towels and headed back up to the house.
We were about to enter the gate when I grabbed the pull string… realized the latch was stuck… pulled harder and watched as the string broke, and the metal washer that had been weighting the end flew straight at me and cut a half moon slash right between my eyes.
Erik didn’t even flinch… he just started laughing at me which of course led Ryan’s father to become involved.
He wiped off the cut, told me I would live and then insisted on me spending the night… and rightfully so… here is another thing you NEVER do after a 10 year high school reunion pre-party:
YOU NEVER… EVER… DRIVE HOME DRUNK.
Do you hear me children?
I slept on the couch until about 5 am, when I woke up in a Homer Simpson moment and shouted “DOH!” before I rushed home in a plain white over-sized man’s t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans.
I knew I had more clothes somewhere… but I couldn’t figure out what had happened to them.
I drove home at an alarming pace, all windows down, blowing the stink off, praying to GOD that my husband didn’t see me and think the absolute worst because… if he would have seen me… no matter how innocent that evening had been… I would have paid for it over the course of a lifetime.
I looked like I was heading home from a “walk of shame” and you don’t want your wife showing up at home… 5 am… no shoes… another man’s t-shirt on her back and a crescent moon shaped bloody cut in the middle of her forehead… EVER at 5 am… trust me people… it looks bad.
Now, I learned a lot by being sneaky in my youth and I knew that if I cut the engine as I crossed the Cohn’s house… I could coast up to the front of my childhood home (where we all still lived) in complete silence…
I cut the engine at the appropriate time, and let the car roll easily to the front walk.
I jumped out, quietly shut the door before I crept up the steps, into the house and lay down on the couch to wait and see if the coast was clear.
After about fifteen minutes… of shallow breathing and twitching at every little noise… I knew I was safe… no one was awake.
I tip-toed into the back of the house and found my husband asleep with our son…
I went into the bathroom, washed my face, brushed my teeth, cleaned the wound on my head and covered it with make-up before putting on my nighty, that was hanging on the back of the bathroom door.
I was going to have a hell of a hangover day and I had to get some time alone to recover.
I knew what I had to do… I had to find a way to get my husband out of the house and his love for surfing was my ticket.
I went back into the bedroom and shook my husband gently…
“Babe,” I said in my sweetest voice. “Babe?” I whispered again.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“The surf is supposed to be really good today,” I said. “It’s 5:30. Why don’t you get up and go catch some waves… I’ll watch the kids.”
“Okay,” he said as I climbed into the bed and he exited out the other side, grabbed his car keys and flip flops, before heading out for the day.
I’m surprised he couldn’t hear my sigh of relief from the driveway. In fact… I’m surprised he couldn’t hear it from the Huntington Cliffs for that matter.
I slept my stupor off for several hours before heading off to load up my system with a lot of greasy junk food and coca-cola and was right as rain by the time my husband was back home.
I returned to the Peninsula later that afternoon in search of the rest of my clothing… and that is when Ryan’s father informed me that my cowboy boots, my black t-shirt, my jacket and my belt had been strewn in a long path across the bay in front of a block of his neighbor’s houses… and that he had to gather them up, apologizing for our behavior, before he placed them in a brown paper bag which… he was now handing to me… as if it were a bag of something dirty… secret porn… and I took it with my eyes cast down, embarrassed and ashamed, as I rolled the top of the bag over and hurried towards the door.
“Oh,” he said. “By the way D.D….”
I turned back to look at him.
“You and Erik might like to know that the Bay was closed yesterday due to bacteria contamination. So… you were basically swimming in shit. Probably wasn’t such a good idea to go for a swim last night… right?”
I suddenly felt like I was seventeen again.
My face flushed red and my mind flashed back to Erik and I swigging mouthfuls of dirty Bay water and spitting it at each other…
I was sure for a moment… that I was going to vomit… but I didn’t… I just nodded my head slowly and said, “Yes Mr. Ballance. I completely understand Mr. Ballance. It will never happen again Mr. Ballance.”
As he looked at me…. fatherly sternness radiating like laser beams from his eyes… Ryan standing behind him…. laughing his ass off.
Erik and I didn’t get sick from our late night misadventure…it’s amazing really that we didn’t… and I’m just glad that neither one of us drowned that night.
I don’t regret it though… I really don’t… it’s a good story… contaminated… or not and it is one of many great memories I have of Erik and of Ryan…. most of which involve some type of inappropriate activity.