Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.
How I Strayed From the Straight and Narrow When
I had to pick my daughter up from her tanning salon downtown, so I thought that if "this" is all that is on my agenda for today, hey, party time! Pedal to the metal. When you are my age, 64, those youthful perks are few and far in sight. I parked in the slots near where a hand-painted sign (my first clue of trouble) that read: "Tan Here! Save Money!" Nope. Not me. Not a bone in my body was aching for me to take a tanning session. So I walked inside, talked briefly with the tanning salon manager and with my daughter being the only client, I thought that she would be ready to go home
Did the Tanning Salon get my Daughter
Nope. The manager sent his wife (a wise move) to check on my daughter you know. Just to make sure that everything, and my daughter were okay. I grabbed a magazine, "Tanning Today" and tried to read a story that I seen on page two. Then I looked at the centerfold of the Newest Model of Tanning Bed and accompanying hot model that sent my imagination reeling, but not rocking that much.
I put the magazine back in the magazine stand, grabbed a free cup of coffee and sat down. No manager. No wife of manager and no daughter. I was about to fume. Then there it was. In my preferential vision. Sitting as still as a Marine at attention. I looked away. I made myself watch cars driving by. I glanced one more time. It was still there--halfway grinning at me, becoming me to come here. Sit with me. I won't bite. Spoken by those cheap girls that we used to see in those classic black and white films about a rogue shipping merchant, a seady bar--equipped with a few drunks and fighters, and a back drop of a peaceful port town in San Francisco Bay area.
Not this time, sweetie. I'm older and wiser. I've been around the block a few times, darling. Don't waste your time. I was tough and stubborn. I wanted nothing to with this Electrical Coffin, a machine just aching to be used in Alice Cooper's next tour. I mean with his genius and this tanning bed, it would be a sell-out affair in any city. It was a win, win for Cooper, the fans, my daughter, and most importantly, Me!
My daughter walked in and we left her tanning salon. The name is not important. But on the way home we chatted. She said that she was enjoying the Tanning Bed Experience and it was really relaxing. All positive stuff that the witchy-woman of a tanning bed told her to say to me, a potential customer. I knew what she was pulling--the old Switch and Tan Routine. It used to work on a lot of people, but NOT me. Not on your life.
At that time, I am not trying to gloat, but I looked gooood. Okay. Decent. I had put on a few pounds from the family vacation, she, her mom, and myself to Destin, Fla., and all of that tasty seafood, what are you talking about? I loved every shrimp and scallop that went down my gullet. I was in paradise. I loved it.
Just to reply to my daughter, I said: "Uhh, Angie. Do you have any plans for going for another tanning session next week?"
She looked confused. That was not a question that I had not used in her presence. I might have blown the facade. I had to think quickly. "I asked because I don't have to work next Saturday, so if you need me to take you to the salon and come to pick you up, I will be available."
She looked satisfied. Then said: "Dad, that's fine. I will get one of my girlfriends to go with me--we get half off if two girls tan." Now I felt sad, but I hid it well. And it wasn't long until I ran to the bathroom in our home and looked at our mirror and said to myself, "what am I doing? I am talking about my family, scandal, maybe a divorce. I had better get a diversion." I felt calmed down now. Everything was okay. It's a fact that in life, many times a person's imagination is stronger than their own will.
My life went pretty much the same during that Monday through Thursday--just going to work, getting things done, and really happy that I had not succumbed to the Hot Beckoning s of "someone" who had, years ago, in my wild days, when that "someone" took me to places that I had only dream t about and given me dreams about each sizzling encounter that would have been material for a book on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Through the course of my job, the main highway ran parallel to "her" in a fairly safe place where "she" and I wouldn't be caught sending waves of humiliation for her and me. I am not an egotist and I did not want to cause someone else to suffer any hint of embarrassment that was due to "my" lack of judgment.
Did I glance at "her" place as I drove by her location? Yes. I wasn't going to stop or get involved with "her" again, that was not going to happen to me again. I would, many times, during the day and day dream about those "hot" days when we were both young and wild and had no real responsibilities to speak of. Just a quick, obscure visit, have a great time, and hit the asphalt toward where I lived. No ties. No promises made. Hold it! Did I hear "Love is a Battlefield," by Pat Benatar?
But as my week wore along, I knew that my daughter was talking to one of her girlfriends when I got home from work and they were discussing making another visit to the tanning salon. I pretended not to listen to them talk. I made myself a bologna sandwich (with mayonnaise and lettuce) and sat down to eat and be happy that my week was finished and all that I had to do was wash a few dishes and then lounge around with a little Sports Center.
Life is fantastic when you make yourself the "captain" of your own vessel. That statement never made so much sense as the day when Sports Center (with Neil Everette) came on and a feeling of total-relaxation hit me. I must have fell asleep because when my eyes opened, Sports Center was going off and Neil was talking about The Masters on some date and I just went on to sleep.
My wife had went to visit with her older sister who resides on Rainsville, Ala., and my daughter was not at home when I woke up. I smelled fresh coffee. My daughter had made a full pot for me. This was going to be a great Saturday morning--drinking fresh, black coffee, munching honey buns for breakfast and watching even more Sports Center, the Saturday edition. I was all by myself. I sighed to myself. Yes. All alone. No one in the house. My wife and daughter out of the house. I was by myself . . .all except for "her." Yes, "her" torrid, passionate memories had surfaced to torment me again. I poured myself a second cup of coffee, ate another honey bun and began "the dance" of how we ended things and not in a friendly way. I was feeling guilty as sin for breaking up with "her" and she knew it. But no one knew but me. And God, of course. Even He was not happy at how I left things with "her."
While I had time, I needed to do something about "her" because this thing about our break-up was growing worse by the moment. But what could I do? I knew better to confide in what few trusted guy friends that I had for I did not need a sanctimonious lecture about Right and Wrong and Marriage Being Holy, so I kept my mouth shut. Maybe if I would just man-up, drive to where "she" was most of the day and just be honest with her--and tell her exactly how I felt. Then maybe "she" would look at our break-up in a different light.
That was it. I would dress up, but not too nice. I didn't want to rekindle any of our embers that she might have burning, so I would dress Ultra Casual and relax. I could do this. I mean what could she do, but run her mouth about my friends and tarnish my name. But "she" was nice and oh so understanding. Right now as I was showering, I rolled this situation over and over again and came to the conclusion: "she" had no competition. In a class of "her" own. Very stately, empowered, and did not cower to anyone. What did I have to worry about?
As I drove up, of course I was nervous. I dried the sweat off of the palms of my hands, checked my appearance in the rear view mirror and began a very, very long, dreadful walk. I looked for excuses NOT to have this encounter with "her" after so many years. Things would certainly be changed for the better. Yeah. That was it.
I entered the tanning salon lobby and the salon manager asked if he could help me, but I just mumbled something about needing to see about some "Open" days for my daughter who was not in town. I did this to surprise her. I hated myself for telling this young man such a lie. He said to just sit down and let him get on his computer and print whatever "Open" days were available the upcoming week--and this left me all alone in the lobby. Just me all by my lonesome. Yes, sir. All alone. I could hear cars and trucks driving by the shopping mall. I felt so dirty and naughty. I was a member of the church and had a great family. What on earth was I doing here, with "her" as close as the next room?
My heart was beating like Secretariat after winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes, Fast, I'm telling you. So fast that I was afraid that I might have a cardiac arrest. Sweat was rolling from my hair. My feet beat a tune on the linoleum lobby floor. The manager came back with the "Open" days that I had asked and he said, "I have an Open Session NOW if you want. Just sign in and go Through That Door." I almost fainted. The young manager who was now afraid that I might die, asked me if I were okay and was there someone for him to call in case, well, you know?
I stood with only inches separating me from "her" and that fake wooden door. My chest was hurting, but I had went too far to turn back now (a nod to The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, "(It's Too Late) to Turn Back Now). I shook hands with the young manager and he halfway smiled. I was ready. I was like Gen. George Patton about to storm over Europe. The tanks were rolling. It was time to open that door.
But with perfect timing, the young manager yelled, "Sir, there is one person ahead of you!" as I slid back the door and we seen each other. It was "her." After all these years. Still as exciting as "she" used to be. Tears came to my eyes. She winked at me with that alluring wink that had fascinated me so much in years past. I was still a slave to "her"and her animal instincts. My tongue was dry. I walked slowly toward "her' but just as I reached for "her" a male customer stepped away from her--smiling as if he had won a million bucks. I felt so stupid. And stupid. "She" only let her lights go as bright as possible. I was blind for a moment. Things had changed. I wasn't her only customer.
How many more male "customers" did she have? I slowly looked at "her" and grinned. Her lights went dim. I slowly walked away without looking back. Could I live with the fact that I was much older when I had fell so deeply in tanning in her "bed" that people confused me as being a Spanish man. I was once a golden brown. Tanning each available moment that I had. Day and night. The tanning never ended.
But it did. I walked out of the salon lobby. Looked halfway toward "her" room in the back and left the past in my rear view mirror.
© 2018 Kenneth Avery