One Buffalo Summer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic
We all have that one very special and warm summer day that we experienced something so surreal and meaningful, special and different that leaves it's memory permanently ingrained within us. This was mine...

Submitted: November 21, 2015

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Submitted: November 21, 2015

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One Buffalo Summer
By Taylor Franklin
 
 
I didn’t know where I was heading at 17. The constant reminders of all those coming home from Viet Nam in boxes and the others who we never saw coming home broken and abused disappearing into the American sunset faceless and unknown, blending into a culture that didn’t understand them nor showed any amount of appreciation nor empathy for them and I did not want to be one of them.
 
It had been something I thought about each night, forced to watch the evening news in front of the television at my father’s request, to keep the daily dinner table bickering to a minimum. I was seventeen and born just a handful years after World War 2 and exactly at the end of the Korean War but this war felt closer to us all as it was the first that was brought into our homes via television just as the world is brought to us today via the internet 24-7-365,  a non-stop cycle of human tragedy.
 
I didn’t want to go to Viet Nam and when I turned 18, I had to register with the Selective Service in Buffalo. The draft board as we knew it. I did have an out. My parents in their infinite wisdom decided for me, while I was in the 8th grade at Campus School, they were going to send me to a local boarding school, De Veaux in Niagara Falls, to see if I could achieve better grades. They were totally unaware that I had ADD. It didn’t really exist in the 1960’s but has challenged me my whole life. Even today, it’s a constant task prioritizing my every move so that I can live in a consistent manner and I do and have done so my entire adult life.
 
The point of all this BS is that I would be held back a year. I would be turning 18 before my senior year which meant that I would receive a scholarship exemption if my number was pulled in the annual draft. A one year delay didn’t seem like much, but as life went on, it became a real game changer for the best.
 
August in Buffalo was a beautiful time. The warmest time of the year and the briefest as well. This year had been unusually dry but would not stop the boys from Buffalo enjoying a drive to Canada. 
 
This day was extremely nice for a Saturday and a trip to Crystal Beach. Johnny would stop by the Exchange in Fort Erie and pick up a couple of cases of beer, meeting us down by the beach, closer to the attraction’s entrance on Erie Road. He was a few years older than the rest of us and loved his part in helping us get our drunk on.  I parked further down in a space off the street on Crystal Beach Drive. It was perfect. Close to the entrance but on a main drag where everyone walked. The smells of carnival foods filled the air, sounds of the Comet whirring and screams from riders faintly, it was a great place to be on a warm summer’s day.
 
We loaded up some of the beer into a cooler I had in the back of my Econoline van that had a carpeted deck, wood paneled walls and a bench that ran the length of one side. It also had curtains on the windows and the front and rear. Not very many mothers wanted their daughters riding in this van I seemed to think though nobody actually vocalized it. Regardless of it’s unearned reputation, it was a great van and fit in along the beach on a warm summer night.
 
A few beers later, the others in my party wanted to head elsewhere but return later. I was fine with that but I was just going to finish the beer because it would never make it back to Buffalo through customs and I so hate to waste. It was a generational thing. We were forced not to waste raised by children of the Great Depression and who in their right mind would ever pour or throw out a perfectly good Canadian beverage? Surly not I !
 
This is now when it becomes hazier than normal. Beer buzz aside, up walks one of the prettiest young ladies I’ve ever seen. I’m not tall but this young woman was all of five foot seven. Athletic in her skin tight, white jean shorts and a sleeveless, spaghetti strapped tank top in orange tie dye. Strawberry blonde hair more on the strawberry side of blonde as can be, sexier than any one lady can be and asking me if I can spare some of my beer. Holy crap I thought and blurted, “Of course, come in…”
 
We started to talk about ourselves. Where we went to school, where we lived and what brought us to Crystal Beach. She was from Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo. I explained that my family had a summer home close by, and once spent summers down the beach in Thunder Bay until my parents sold  it to build a summer home in the Boston Hills. Something my sisters and I never forgave my parents in doing. She related that her grand parents owned the home at Crystal Beach but had given it to her father when they got too old to want to pack up and move across the Peace Bridge for only a few months a year. Her problem  was all the renters . There were new faces every summer and people she would only know briefly. Thinking back, that’s probably one of the reasons this day would be special. At least for me and in hopes for her as well.  To her, I was  another new face. I hoped she liked it.
 
Further into the conversation and another beer consumed, Lori asked me if I wanted to go elsewhere a little more private. I agreed that would be nice so off we headed toward Point Abino. It was about 8:15 in the evening and the sun was going down quickly. 
 
We drove down Erie Road to Point Abino Road and turned south. I was headed to  Abino Dune Road where there was a path at the end of the road, leading through the woods, large enough and private enough where we could drive down onto the beach in relative seclusion. I had forgotten about the sand and it being such a dry summer, would I have the traction or get stuck in the middle of BFE? I decided to take the chance anyways. She was too beautiful of a girl to disappoint. I was not wanting to disappoint this cherub of an angel sitting next to me sipping on a Molson Canadian.
 
We made it down to the beach. I was surprised how effortlessly the van was running in that dry sand. It was actually a pretty light vehicle and I was able to turn around facing the path entrance but in a way that we could open the side doors and sit inside overlooking the rolling, black waters of Lake Erie in the moonlight. Such a pretty site and oh, so quite. Under the bench was an old comforter and two pillows which we positioned to give us a more relaxed view of not only the beach but of each other. What a beautiful specimen of a women Lori was. The light of a moon soon to dominate the night sky highlighted her pale skin and enhanced the glisten of her hair.
 
Two beers left and another hour down and almost talked out Lori says, “I have an idea.” I respond, ”Ok, what’s that?”. “Let’s go skinny dipping !” she says grinning from ear to beautiful ear. Oh no, my mind is really racing now. I am totally off guard and not in control. This can’t end up well. I was almost defeated mentally. Nothing left to do but stop thinking like an idiot and follow instructions.  Not only have I met this beautiful girl, she wanted to go for a ride to the beach, drink and giggle and now I will see her naked? For everything that’s holy, I must have died and gone straight to hell. I’ve rolled craps. I’ve won with a full house. “Ok, let’s go”, I blurt as she is already undressed waiting for me. Off come the clothes and suddenly, nature is beginning to rear itself. How embarrassing.
 
I realize that nature is taking control of certain elements and I’m wondering if I should follow her from behind or run past her so all she can see is my behind. Decisions, decisions. It’s dark but that moon is very bright tonight but I make it into the water, pride and esteem intact.
 
The water takes a little getting used to and I’m wanting to make a move but then I don’t want to. I don’t want to have her feel like I’m taking advantage of her but I do want to hold this beautiful creature so I just stand there, out deep enough everything foreign is covered and treading water, and she makes the move toward me, taking my hand, we get closer to shore, and we go walking in the water, making small talk. She stops, turns and grabs my arms in embrace with a long and very wanton kiss. She whispers, “Let’s go back to the van. I’m chilly”. “Alright, let‘s go”, we turn and walk back. It’s not warm but it’s not terribly cold. Towels under the bench brought us dry enough and under the comforter we held each other until we were warm and dry, silently, lovingly.
 
Out of respect for Lori and my readers, we don’t have to go further into details of what happens next. I will leave that up to God and your imagination but I will say this, I would not be writing of this event if nothing had not happened and just for clarity, it was her decision as she asked me if I was so inclined. Neither of us were disappointed. I’ll leave it at that. Her beauty extended under her choice of clothing. That I will say.
 
We were at the last of the beers. I had become sober rather quickly and in not a disappointing manner. I did, however, have to get her home safely, so it was a good thing. Now, was I going to even make it off the beach through this dry, very unstable sand, forced to walk home? Gingerly, I crept in second gear, very slowly and it handled just like John’s Blue Boob in 4 wheel drive! Yeah !!!
 
As we drove up Crystal Beach Road to the gate where her home was I asked her for her phone number. She told me that they did not have a phone in the summer house but to give her my number and she’d call. I was happy to do that. We kissed and hugged briefly and out the door she went, through the gate and a wave before disappearing behind  the tall beach grass and Backdune flora. It was dark, late and I needed to get home and I missed her already. What just happened? That question took years to answer.
 
I went back to the spot where I had left from and cleaned out the van of all the incrimination bottles. I couldn’t convince Customs Agents that I hadn’t been drinking underage with a van filled with evidence. They treated us poorly as it was and I seemed to always be the one who had to move right for further inspection that was it’s own kind of hell no body wanted nor needed. Folded up the comforter and pushed it and the pillows under the bench. I hung up the towels and waited for the, I can’t believe it still runs, red Pinto of John’s with Jamie in it , so we can head home. They showed up and off we went. Back to Buffalo and another summer Saturday spent well. For me, one I will never forget and one I will always regret. I missed this girl and was pissed they had no  phone.
 
I never got that call. I never went by the school looking for her though I could have. I surmised that I may have been just another new face and maybe others came before me and after me. That was possible given the time in our lives and on the heels of peace, love and freedom movements now the ‘new normal’ for our generation. I had reservations about my experience and decided that in every young man’s life, there is always a “Summer of ‘42”, ’good thing’, experience and not necessarily with an older woman but one experience that remains with a man forever. One that gives him confidence in himself and teaches him that yes, good things come to those that wait. I had my good thing. I hope Lori feels the same and I thank her for her being a part of one of my favorite memories.
 
On February 2, 1972, the last draft was held. It was for all of us born in 1953. They would be taking 119 days of individuals to draft 49k men. That meant that if your date of birth fell between 1-119, you would be getting a notice to report. My date of birth was drawn, it was 27. We were watching it at home that night. My father smiled and made a fist and belting out a, “Yes!”. My mother, under her breath says, “Oh, my”. I say to my self, “Fuck me…”
 
My saving grace was that I was still in high school, remember? I still reported and was processed, but got my exemption. I graduated in ‘72. Fully expecting to be called, I never was. I moved to Florida and once again, started college in January and I got another year’s exemption. That lasted until late 1975. Right after the last helo left the top of the embassy in Saigon, I was called up. I contacted a recruiter and took the ASVAB. Did so wel, I was able to pick my branch and job. Cool. I went Air Force and I served my country proudly without the threat of Viet Nam. A police action, they called, that I did not agree with, nor did 65% of Americans. 
 
I lived my Buffalo Summer like I had wanted to. I would go back only twice before moving to Florida. A graduation party at Gayle’s home and what a party that was,  and not returning again until 2009, more than 7 years from the speeding ticket I got with Jaime when I wanted to see how fast we could go in my T-Bird on the Dominion Highway, that I never paid for…I had to be sure the warrant was inactive.
  I often wondered about Lori and where she went in life. I still do.  I surmised that she was not all that happy at home but wanted for her to not be sad. Life is too short for that but you have to wait until you’re old to realize it.. I hope she remembers our unplanned moment of being somewhere that felt so special, so good and so oddly wonderful. Her smile I will remember along with her soft, fair skin, faint, pastel pink lips and that more strawberry than blonde curly, hair in front of a black, watery back drop with the moon high in the sky lighting the tips of the small waves on Lake Erie. I still miss her.
FINIS


© Copyright 2019 Taylor Franklin. All rights reserved.

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