Reflections on Forty

***Published in Sasee Magazine – August 2019

by Melissa Face

IMG_4933For the past couple of years, I have noticed significant changes in what brings me joy. A great sale, for example, is pretty darn exciting. An upswing in my 401k balance is another fun topic of conversation, but that hardly ever happens. And scheduling more than one medical appointment in a day gives me feelings of productivity and accomplishment that really cannot be rivaled. All of these habits point to one fact: I’m not young anymore.

And just in case there were any doubts, I proved this truth recently when I called my parents after a visit to a new pharmacy. “They are so nice here!” I said. “They filled my prescription quickly; my out-of-pocket was cheaper than other locations, and I was able to make a cup of coffee while I waited!”

“That’s great, Honey,” my mom said.

I paused for a moment and thought about what I had just told her. In the past, I have called my parents to describe restaurant visits, share updates on an interesting piece I was writing, or repeat something hilarious one of my students said. But today, I called my mom to tell her about a trip to a drug store.

“Holy crap,” I thought. “I’m old.”

Getting older definitely has its challenges. My skin and hair require maintenance that wasn’t necessary in my younger years. I take acid reflux medicine to offset the side effects of my blood thinners. And I make food choices based upon how they will make me feel the next day instead of whether or not I enjoy eating them.

Despite these hardships, I must admit that there are some pretty awesome things about getting older.

For starters, I have learned to say “no” and not feel guilty about it. Whether it’s serving on another committee, assisting with a school function, or accepting additional responsibility at work, there are times when I must say “no.” Years ago, this bothered me a lot more than it does now. But I have learned that there is no one sitting around, brainstorming ways of making my life better or easier. No one else is putting my needs first. That is my job. And sometimes that means taking care of me and saying no when my plate is full.

Another benefit to aging I’ve noticed is gaining the ability to own my faults and not be too hard on myself for them. I know that I can be impulsive and easily distracted. And I realize that those are only two of many faults and imperfections I have. I make mistakes, but I also admit when I’m wrong, and I apologize when I hurt someone’s feelings. These are not easy things to do, but they are much easier now than when I was younger.

I’m also aware that I’m not very domestic, and now that I’m forty, that’s probably not going to change too much. I don’t enjoy cooking and I only clean before vacations or when I know someone is coming over. I’m grateful that there are other people who don’t mind those things, and I’m fortunate that one of them happens to live in my house.

One of the biggest insights I’ve had is that my past does not define me. I am no longer the immature and irresponsible 19-year-old that I sometimes still hear in my own head. My mediocre high school career did not determine my future success, and I can still accomplish anything I want. I can be proud of what I have already achieved, and I can stop trying to prove myself to people who never realized they were asking me to.

The wisdom and confidence that come with aging are incredible. Sure, I go to the doctor a lot more frequently than I used to, and I’m sometimes a bit shocked by my own before makeup reflection. But I love my age, and I especially love that even though my skin is saggier and more wrinkled than ever before, I’m finally feeling comfortable in it.

Thanks for the Invite: Why My Child Will Attend Your Child’s Birthday Party

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By Melissa Face

A couple of weeks ago, my five-year-old daughter handed me an invitation to a birthday party at Swaders Sports Park (think Chuck E Cheeses, but with more activities, tastier pizza, and fewer mice). She insisted that I post the invitation on the refrigerator so she could look at it often until party day. And she did. Every time she walked through the kitchen.

“I’m so excited!” she shouted. “I’ve been wanting to go to Swaders for years (really only about a couple of months), and now I finally get to go!”

Her excitement intensified on the drive to the party. It was a level of chattiness that I’ve only witnessed a few times with her.

“What do you think we will eat? Pizza? Hot dogs? Will we eat first or play first? Oh my goodness! Will there be cake? I wonder what kind! I’ll bet Maddie likes chocolate! What about ice cream? Do you think there will be ice cream? Mom! Do you think she will have goody bags? With candy?”

She asked at least one hundred questions throughout our 15-minue drive, and she didn’t wait for my responses to any of them. She was too excited and so adorable.

I mimicked her enthusiasm to the best of my ability, and it wasn’t too much of a challenge. Maybe I’m in the mom minority, but I don’t think birthday parties are the suckiest things ever. 

For starters, I am an adult, and I realize that the party you are hosting is not for me. I am not expecting trays of cocktails (not a bad idea, though) or bacon wrapped scallops. It is not my social event; it is my child’s. I will make small talk, offer to help pour sodas, or pass out plates and napkins. I will take pictures of my child having fun and do whatever is necessary to help pass the time. I can do these things because I am a grown-up. And I am wise enough to know that it is not your job to entertain me. I can schedule my own social engagements that do not revolve around a child’s birthday party.

Some moms have complained that food allergies are the reason they can’t tolerate kids’ birthday parties. My son has had a nut allergy since the age of two. He is eight now, and we have never skipped a party because of his allergy. Most venues are understanding and allow me to bring in outside food, provided that I can show them a certificate from the bakery. Parents are equally understanding and offer me a list of cake ingredients, as well as substitutions when necessary. Each year, there are fewer and fewer people who are unaware of food allergies and their potential, serious reactions. So, sorry folks – not a good reason to skip a party.

Sure, sometimes birthday parties are at inconvenient times. Sometimes I don’t know anyone at the party except my own child. Sometimes allowing one of my children to attend a party means securing a sitter for the other. Sometimes I would rather do other things or just relax at home after a long week. But I’m not going to bail on your kid like that. If you invite us and we don’t have other plans, we’re coming to your child’s birthday party.

A big part of my rationale is that I don’t want to think of a child having no guests at his party. And I certainly don’t want to be responsible for that type of disappointment. This was one of my fears when my son was little and I organized his first few parties. I was so neurotic about it that I had a back-up plan in mind in case no one showed up. Fortunately, that never happened to us. But it did happen in Arizona. Last year. To a kindergartener. 

But my main reason for attending your child’s party is I remember the magic of birthdays. Birthday parties were a childhood staple for many of us. Sure they were simpler then: most cakes were homemade, parties were held at parks, pools or homes, and there was less focus on entertainment. 

The intent hasn’t changed, though: we are still planning ways to celebrate our children. And you do that however you want: hire a petting zoo, host a paint party, make slime, decorate pizzas, or rent a bounce house. And we will come if we can.

 Birthday parties are magical for children: the games, gifts, goody bags, etc. Every birthday morsel is delicious. And guess what?! The fun doesn’t end when the party is over.

In fact, it has been two weeks since my daughter attended her friend’s birthday party at Swaders. She is still talking about it. She can’t wait to “swing on the purple thing” again and she just HAS to play the goldfish game next time because she’s positive she has figured out how to hit the jackpot.

I’m glad that I was able to help my daughter have that experience. She has the opportunity to attend her friends’ parties without seeing her mom sulk in a corner. Nope, I’m going to be right there having as much fun as possible, maybe too much fun. That goldfish game is pretty awesome, and I can play some mean skeeball if those kids would free up a lane already.

Seriously, though, thanks for including us. We appreciate the invite.

 

Heir to Facial Hair

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***Originally published in the June 2019 issue of Sasee Magazine.***

I remember filling out beauty inventories from Glamour Magazine as a teenager. “What beauty product would you want with you on a deserted island?” was a frequent survey question. Back then, I probably answered lip gloss or face powder.

Today, however, only weeks away from turning 40, my answer would be very different. In fact, I’m not sure it is even a true beauty product. It might be better classified as a gardening tool. 

Tweezers. 

I wouldn’t want to be on a deserted island, or anywhere else for that matter, without my tweezers.

“Damn Eve, anyway,” I recall my great-grandmother saying. She frequently cursed the Biblical female while plucking her chin hairs. As a young girl, I watched her in horror, fingers-crossed, hoping that wouldn’t be my fate. I prayed I wouldn’t become heir to the whiskers of my female predecessors.

But I did inherit them: the whiskers and the cursing.

Long gone are the days when I could get away with Covergirl concealer and a little Wet n Wild lip gloss. I still wear concealer, but I’m definitely not “getting away” with anything. My face just looks old. It’s oily in the t-zone; I have zits, sun spots, creases in my forehead, and worst of all, the unwanted facial hair.

In my mid-30’s, I had to add tweezing to my beauty routine. At first, there were only a few stray, coarse neck hairs. Then, I began needing a monthly lip wax. I’m fortunate to have an amazing stylist who doesn’t make me feel the least bit awkward about my facial hair. “You are one of many women,” she says. “People just don’t want to admit it.” 

I don’t blame them. It’s pretty gross. But I’ve made a habit of admitting things that many people won’t.

Today, even the monthly waxes aren’t enough for me to remain hairless, and maintenance requires almost constant tweezing. Every now and then, one still escapes my efforts.

For example, in the natural light of my workplace bathroom the other day, I noticed a black whisker poking out from my upper lip. It wasn’t a dark hair, lying down, waiting for me to deal with it at the end of the day. No, this hair was at attention, jutting out of my face, negating my attempts at looking presentable. It shouted, “Hey! You can’t hide me!”

I sprinted to the clinic at my school and asked the nurse for tweezers. I went into the bathroom and plucked the demon hair. I swear it was at least two inches long, and plucking it stung so badly my eyes watered. I took a few minutes to glance at my reflection and thought, “This is it. This is what 40 looks like. This is my middle-aged face, and tweezing unwanted hairs is my new normal.”

Tweezers are an essential part of my daily routine and a mandatory packing item. When I take trips, they’re at the top of the list, with my glasses and underwear right behind. So yes, that means I would rather be without clean underwear than have visible chin hairs.

As much as I don’t want to draw attention to my plucking, I often risk being seen in my car performing this awful ritual. My husband drives and I sit in the passenger seat plucking chin hairs at stoplights. And I know I’m technically in public, but the lighting is just too perfect to resist.

Plus, I would rather someone see me pluck than see what I looked like if I didn’t.

And though I know it’s morbid, I’ll go ahead and announce now  that I have decided I want to be cremated when I die. I read that hair can keep growing for several weeks after death. Maybe the truth is that skin simply retracts and gives the illusion of facial hair growth. Either way, I can’t risk the possibility of my body being exhumed, exposing my thick, dark mustache. There are some things the world just doesn’t need to see.

Damn Eve, anyway.

Motherhood: Some Serious Shit

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***Originally published at parhelionliterary.com.

By Melissa Face

“Mom?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Do you think you could use another word in place of ‘shit’ sometimes?” my son asked.

“Sure, if I can send your sister away for a few days,” I laughed.

“Seriously, Mom.”

My son, Evan, is eight. He wants the best for everyone, and he is often in search of improvement for himself and others. He serves as my life coach when he is able to escape the demands of his full-time gig as a second grader.

A few weeks ago, he was considering a career in psychiatry until he discovered that taking classes was a major part of college life and quickly changed his mind.

“What did you think people did in college?” I asked him.

“I thought you just sat around and talked about what you want to be when you grow up,” he said.

I found his response relieving. It’s nice when he reminds me he’s still a kid and needs me for more than groceries and transportation.

And he’s right about my potty mouth. I do need to stop saying “shit” so frequently. But what would be an equally satisfying replacement?

From a grammatical standpoint, it’s quite resourceful, serving as a noun, adjective, verb, or interjection. “Shit” is also incredibly versatile, allowing you to add “aww”, “bull”, “horse”, “oh”, “no”, or “holy” in front of it. You can be knee deep in it, full of it, a real piece of it, out of luck, or in need of getting yours together.

There are so many moments of motherhood for which “shit” is the most natural and appropriate response:

When my daughter spills an entire box of cereal on the floor because she just had to pour it herself – “Shit.”

When my son forgets to bring home the field trip form that needed to be signed today, but remembered to buy another smencil – “Shit.”

When my daughter calls me into her room to show me the stains on her new comforter that resulted from sleeping with scented markers – “Shit!”

When my son comes home with a slice in his new shirt because he “accidentally cut it in art class” – “Shit. Shit. Shit.”

Yesterday, I kept Evan’s request in mind when we drove to a salon at the mall, our third expedition to coerce my 5-year-old daughter into getting an overdue haircut. She has been convinced that even a slight trim would leave her with short hair like her brother’s.

She almost didn’t make it to the salon chair yesterday, either. For a moment, we had a runner. But I caught her and calmed (bribed) her in the hallway, and she climbed into the booster seat. The stylist trimmed about a half-inch of Delaney’s golden locks, and the situation was resolved peacefully. We survived, and I didn’t say “shit” throughout the entire ordeal.

On our way out of the mall, Delaney grew tired of walking. She bumped into two different mannequins in Dick’s Sporting Goods because she was walking backwards. I fussed at her and made her hold my hand for the next few minutes, but I didn’t say “shit”.

Then, in JCPenney, Delaney plowed into an elderly lady because she had decided to walk a while with her eyes closed.

“Excuse me,” the lady said.

“Excuse you,” Delaney responded.

“No, excuse ME,” I prompted Delaney.

“Why? You didn’t do anything,” Delaney questioned.

I grabbed her hand again, ending our reenactment of Who’s On First, and headed towards the exit. I didn’t say “shit”.

Seconds later, she stopped in the middle of the walkway to get a rock out of her shoe. She had to “unjust” it. I tried to tell her we would be at the car in mere moments, but she was adamant. It had to be fixed right then. I was annoyed and exhausted, but I still didn’t say “shit”.

Finally, we made it to the car and opened the door. Delaney started to climb in, then for some reason stepped backwards, planting her Mary Jane shoe right on my big toe. I was wearing sandals.

And it happened. I didn’t even have a chance to think about it. It was completely visceral; the words just shot right out of my mouth.

“Holy Shit!” I screamed.

I don’t know what else to say, but I’m open to reasonable suggestions.

Lessons and Goals

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by Melissa Face

“I want to learn how to wipe my butt,” Delaney said to the principal during her admissions interview. He had asked her what she would like to accomplish in junior kindergarten. Delaney’s response, completely heartfelt and sincere, proved that she understood how to set a goal. It also proved that I was still susceptible to embarrassment from my children.  

That was exactly one year ago.

Now Delaney is one month away from completing her first year of full-time school. She accomplished her initial goal early in the school year, and she has done so much more since then.

Delaney has made many friends in her class, and she talks about them constantly. Each afternoon, she gives me the rundown of who was on green, yellow, and red for the day.

“How about you?” I ask her.

“Green, of course,” she says, with a sprinkle of sass.

And with only a few exceptions, she has left school “on green” every afternoon.

The uniform I worried she would refuse to wear became the one item of clothing that we didn’t have to argue about. In fact, the uniform allowed us five days of fuss-free dressing most weeks. We still had many hairstyle battles, but the plaid jumper was a pillar of stability in our home.

The cafeteria food that I feared she would snub became her most balanced meal of the day. Carrots and broccoli are much more exciting when the school chef sings and does a happy dance after each bite a child takes. It also helped that her friends were sitting next to her, eating the same foods.

Delaney learned how to write her name, spell a few, short words, rhyme, count, and add single digit numbers using her fingers. She learned about religion, how to get along with others, and to treat people with kindness – even when they were unkind to her.

Our proudest moment this year was when Delaney was recognized as the March Peacemaker for her class. Her school held a ceremony, and each child’s teacher read a personal letter that detailed the student’s selection.

Craig and I sat and listened as Delaney’s teacher described our daughter’s charitable acts that included: helping friends when they felt sad, giving up a coloring sheet when someone wanted the other side, and encouraging her classmates to make good decisions.

Then, we had the opportunity to take home a sign to display Delaney’s award in our yard. We placed the sign at the end of the driveway, and when Delaney came home that afternoon, she hopped out of the car and kissed it. She was so proud of her award.

I know this is just the beginning; she has so much to look forward to. And as her mom, I will have many reasons to be proud of her in the future.

Delaney is registered for kindergarten at her brother’s school next year, and she has already decided that she will need a unicorn backpack in September. She’s aware of the transition and is looking forward to it.

And while I am also looking forward to having them both in the same place next year, it’s Delaney’s turn to be patient with me for a while.

I am having an adjustment period.

I am experiencing separation anxiety.

I need to hold on to these last few weeks of junior kindergarten as long as I can. I need Delaney to forgive me if I drive more slowly than usual on our morning trip down Washington Street. I need her to understand if I take the scenic route walking her into before care.

Far too many times, I have wished the weeks and months away, counted them down, looking forward to something better. But it occurred to me that even though we have great things to anticipate, maybe this is the something better. Right now. These are the days that should be savored, not counted down.

I know Delaney was a great student this year, but you can probably guess who learned the real lessons.

 

Miss Thing and Mammie Talk Facebook and Family

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I call her Mammie; we all do.

And ever since I was a child, she has been one of my most favorite people in the world. We look very similar in pictures from our teenage years, and we both appreciate coffee, hunky men on the Hallmark Channel, and a good belly laugh.

Last year when I received a Facebook friend request from her, I was thrilled that we could communicate online and that I could share essays I write,  pictures of my kids,   and some of the events Mammie is unable to attend.

I’ve enjoyed her presence on Facebook so much that I wrote a story about it, and it was included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents.

I love that on Facebook, I am Miss Thing and we are all Mammie’s Doll Babies.

I wanted to celebrate the release of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents this week by interviewing Mammie about her Facebook experience. Here is what she had to say:

 

Q: Why did you want a Facebook account?

A: Being at home a lot, I figured it would be fun and interesting and would help me keep abreast of the world and my family.

Q: What do you like about Facebook the most?

A: Seeing my grandchildren’s pics and family’s pics and knowing what they’re all doing.

Q: What do you dislike?

A: Rude remarks and vulgar language. I quickly delete it all from my feed.

Q: What is the funniest thing you’ve read or seen since you opened your account?

A: Too many to keep up with. Something one of my grandchildren said.

Q: Which grandchild?

A: I’m not telling.

Q: What advice would you give to others your age who might be considering joining Facebook?

A: It brings you closer to your family, even in thought. Maybe you can’t always be there in person to keep up with changes or their education, so this is the next best thing. Also, don’t put anything too personal out there, and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.

Q: What is the best part of being a grandmother?

A: When I’m at home, sitting in my chair, they come in the door, run straight to me and say, “Hey, Mammie! I love you!”

Q: What is something you would like people to know about you?

A: That I’m beautiful! Hahaha! And that I have the best family in the whole world.

 

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents is available online and in stores March 26, 2019.

Below is an excerpt from my story, “Mammie’s Doll Babies.”

Sometimes, Mammie’s presence on Facebook makes me chuckle. One day, I woke up to 38 notifications from her. She was up at 3 in the morning, liking pictures from two years ago. I figured she must have had trouble sleeping, and she was looking at pictures to help pass the time.

Then there’s her special way of commenting on posts. She calls us all her doll babies, even those of  us who are approaching 40 years old, and she always signs her comments, “Love, Mammie.” After I posted a picture of my kids and me on a recent camping trip, she commented, “Here are three of Mammie’s little doll babies. Looks like a fun and happy time. Love you, Mammie.”

A friend asked me the other day if I was going to tell her that she didn’t need to sign her name at the end of her comments.

“I sure am not,” I told my friend. “She can use Facebook however she wants. I’m not criticizing a thing about what she does.”

Read more in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents.

 

Myrtle and Me

another farm pic

by Melissa Face

***Published in Parhelion Literary Magazine – February 2019

When I first arrived, Myrtle greeted me with the embrace of a summer cousin, welcoming and warm. Her palm trees and wide beaches summoned me. Her nightlife on Ocean Boulevard by the Pavilion captivated me. I couldn’t wait to settle in and taste all the excitement she had to offer.

My stay on the Grand Strand was supposed to last only for that one summer, then I would return home. A month earlier, after wrapping up my sophomore year at a Virginia college, I begged my parents to allow me to do something different with my break from school, let me go away for a while. I couldn’t take another claustrophobic summer working at the diner in my hometown. My mom wrote to her cousins, Betty and Garrett, who lived in the old Dunes section of Myrtle Beach, and they agreed to host me for a couple months and offered to help me find work.

As soon as I heard that Myrtle was official, I started packing: clothes, books, pictures of my high school and college friends, and my bathing suit. I was going to be at the beach, after all.

Betty and Garrett couldn’t have been more accommodating. They provided a room, a large rack for my clothes, and a new bed. Almost immediately, I found my first job as a hostess at Chuck’s Steakhouse. I worked as often as they would schedule me, and when I wasn’t working, I shopped and chatted with Betty. She made coffee in the mornings and cooked some in the evenings. In the first few weeks, I read every book I had brought with me and walked to the beach several times by myself. I wasn’t the least bit lonely; I found the solitude completely liberating.

My hostess job was intimidating initially. Everyone else had been together through the spring months, and I was the new girl. Because we shared tips at Chuck’s, I worked hard to help out the wait staff and bartenders in hopes that they would tip out a little more than the required amount.

I helped Antonio more than the others. I quickly cleared his tables so he could seat new parties. He thanked me with secret smiles and a playful grab of the arm. I liked watching him work, his muscles bulging beneath his white Chuck’s t-shirt.

“This is just my part-time gig,” he told me. “I own a business.”

At first I felt offended, as though having just this job were not enough. But I soon learned that almost everyone at Chuck’s had a second job. It was essential to survival; beach rent was high, and wages were low.

One night Antonio and I clocked out at the same time. He watched me climb in my ‘73 Chevelle and pulled up next to me in his red, convertible Camaro.

“Hot girl in a hot car,” he said with a sly grin. Then he peeled out onto Highway 17, a red streak headed north.

At that moment, I knew I had to have him, just a little taste. And I thought that still might not be enough.

Antonio and I dated for a while, if you can call it that. He took me to a couple of pricey restaurants and flashed stacks of cash around when the bill came. His money made sense to me at the time. Antonio was a hard worker. He distributed spring water around the Grand Strand during the day and waited tables at night. But after dates and after our shifts at work, there was no place to invite me back to, nowhere for a night cap or a make-out session on the couch. Antonio was essentially homeless and shacked up with any friends who would have him, from Little River to Murrells Inlet. He stayed until he wore out his welcome, then moved on to the next spot.

I saw him settle up with a former roommate one night after work. Antonio grabbed a small container from his car and handed it to his buddy. He referred to it as payment, but it definitely wasn’t money. I pretended to not notice their little exchange, but I wanted to know what was inside the bottle. I had so many questions. I hoped Myrtle would answer them.

*** 

After work, I saw a side of Myrtle I hadn’t encountered before. Myrtle’s nights were filled with sirens, a darker side of the resort city that tourists knew little about and events that didn’t make it into The Sun News.

I was glad I wasn’t a tourist any longer. I was officially a resident, South Carolina driver’s license and everything. I had the inside scoop on the place I had fallen in love with many summers ago. I loved it even though it was nothing like I thought it would be. I was learning and experiencing things I had never imagined, things that would give my parents nightmares. Things that, if they knew, they would come get me and take me back home.

***

Myrtle was my home now, and I was making friends. And not just Antonio. About a month after I started working at Chuck’s, the manager hired a dark-haired girl named Rose. We hit it off right away and started chatting about tips, customers, and beauty routines.

“You should show more leg,” Rose said, in her sexy southern accent. “Let me take you shopping after work one day next week.”

I explained that my tips didn’t come directly from the customers, so it really didn’t matter how visible my legs were.

“Oh, it always matters, Honey,” she laughed.

Rose and I were happy when our shifts coincided. Time passed quickly for me when she was working. After a few months, she began waiting tables, but I remained a hostess. I was convinced I had made the right decision when Rose fell in the kitchen with a full tray of glasses and dishes. I helped her clean up in the bathroom, wiped her dripping mascara, and picked broken glass from the cuts in her legs.

A few minutes later, she was back working, chatting and serving. Rose was a force, and she made great tips.

“You should see the tips I make at my other job,” she told me.

“Other job?” I asked.

I had to be the only Chuck’s employee who wasn’t moonlighting.

“What are you doing after work tonight?” Rose asked.

I didn’t have plans, but I told her I would need to tell the people I lived with that I was staying the night with her.

“Well, don’t just tell them that,” she said. “Do it! Stay with me. Hell, I’ll even stop by and meet them if it will make you feel better.”

And that’s exactly what we did once my shift ended.

We pulled up to Betty and Garrett’s and went inside to grab my things. I was careful to pack several tops since I still wasn’t sure exactly where we were going. While I grabbed my make-up bag from the bathroom, Rose was already in the middle of a conversation with Betty and Garrett.

They were instantly charmed. After all, Rose was a local. And everyone in Myrtle Beach looked out for other locals.

We said our goodbyes and headed to Rose’s apartment to get ready for our evening out. She applied my eye make-up and loaned me a bra that gave me the extra boost she said I needed. Even though I had brought some tops to wear, I ended up wearing one of Rose’s. It was a little more revealing than what I was used to, but I liked how I looked. And I really liked how I felt.

***

My “summer” fling with Myrtle evolved into an 8-year love affair. It wasn’t always beaches and palm trees, though. There were many dark times, and not just at night. Myrtle introduced me to poverty, addiction, and emptiness. I witnessed an overdose, lost a friend to murder, and learned to work any type of job that would pay my rent.

Myrtle was a stern teacher.

Months after ending things with Antonio, I learned that the Camaro wasn’t even his. He borrowed it from a friend. For some reason, that was an incredible let-down. He didn’t have the financial capability to secure an apartment or make a traditional car payment, but he was able to amass a collection of little bottles that he used for currency. Today, Antonio is in prison in New York state for stealing thousands of dollars worth of equipment and tools from his last job.

I don’t know what happened to Rose. I can still see her silhouette behind the curtain that night we went out together. I remember how the room reeked of stale tobacco and sweaty bodies, but Rose glistened onstage. I was mesmerized by her southern accent initially, then completely enchanted by her movement and confidence.

Maybe she left the area after I did, returned to school and found a stable career. Perhaps she’s still living in Garden City and some nights, she paints her lips ruby red and wraps her legs around the metallic pole before an appreciative crowd. Wherever she is, I hope she is okay and that Myrtle was good to her. I hope she still shines.