Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Deep Tan

The ever-loving wife and I have been extremely fortunate in having friends who had summer shacks to share this year. So, for a couple of weekends and some weekdays, we've been invited to spend some relaxing time down on the Jersey Shore and the Delaware Beaches (for those not familiar with the ocean/land terminology, though there are beaches in New Jersey, it's called the Shore and while Delaware has its shore, it's called the Beach. Funny how in Croatia, where you also have shores and beaches, you call it More, The Sea). This most recent weekend was spent luxuriating at one of the only shore spots in New Jersey that the dreaded Jersey Beach Badge Police weren't patrolling. It shall remain nameless as I'd be shot if I'd reveal such a Jersey rarity! As I was working on my late summer burn, assisted by my negligible SPF 8 tanning spray (the dandelion/chamomile ingredients add a salad-y smell to one's burning flesh), I couldn't help but admire the darkened skin on some of my fellow shore-sitters. Memories of previous summers, previous tanning session came back to me as the cool breeze wafted in from the slurping water's edge.

Back in the ol' college days, a female friend of mine went through annual changes come the stronger rays of summer or lower latitudes. We were buds; resembling a sister-brother thing than any other sort of relationship. She was dating a close friend of mine at school and we gradually developed into a mutual story-telling/commiseration scenario halo that surrounded my close friend's exploits/talents/meanderings. It's as if we were collaborating on a college years biography of him. Eventually, she tired of his shenanigans and she broke off her relationship with him but, oddly enough, not with me. We stayed good friends through the balance of my days at school disproving the theory floating around in those days that a guy and gal could really be just friends.
Well, almost disproving that theory.
She, let me call her Sylvie, was French-Canadian which connoted quite a few things. One of the connotations of being Québécois was possessing the trait that one's body would behave as if it were a sunflower. We were going up on a ski-lift one terminally cold bright sunshiny day, I with my scarf wrapped mummy-like around my exposed skin, she with her face tilted at just the right angle to absorb maximum ray-age. "Look", she said pointing to other skiers sitting on the chairlifts in front of us, their heads tilted in the Sylvie angle,"All Québécois." Being an Anthropology major and a native of Province du Québéc , I wasn't about to argue with her. Besides, my scarf would have muffled any pseudo-intelligent argument I'd have presented.

The cold and the limited presence of warm sunshine prompted, I assume, this solar-centric behaviour. Come winter and spring break, Sylvie head off to Florida, the Caribbean, or Mexico with her family or friends. Considering the limited amount of exposure she had in Canada during the fall and winter, I was surprised how much color she had. But, upon her return from places South, she was absolutely Brazilian. A fairly serious and closely-guarded person normally, Sylvie, well really, Sylvie and her tan were a different creature. The extra "coat" she bore lasted 2, maybe 3, weeks, regardless of her futile attempts to maintain the dark armor. As the brown faded, her softer features came back. Her eyes became less calculating and more comforting with each day's passage. Her predatory gait toned down to a sure pace that drew in rather than frightened passersby.

After experiencing the results of a couple of her sojourns, I brought up the topic of her changes and reversions. She was surprised and initially adamant that any changes were on my part and not on hers. She was, after all, a person most interested in finishing her undergraduate academic grazing so that an academic life of permanent pastures was available to her. She took herself quite seriously and hoped that others would as well; this temporary personality change I was suggesting didn't mesh well with her self-vision. It wasn't that I minded seeing these changes in her. There was an unquestionable attractiveness to her Jekkyl/Hyde transformation. Knowing she wasn't to bite my head off or claw me to death made the experience one lacking in death and plentiful in a theatre of one sort of performance. In almost a cruel way, on my part, it was extremely interesting seeing her go through the transformation, in both directions, with nary a clue of the changes happening. The first few times, I was rather uneasy, but after a while, knowing that Sylvie would come back as herself as her bronze skin faded, there was an excitement to see her upon her flight back North.

I confess that I did have my moments of doubt about her changes. I stupidly confided to a mutual and close friend of ours of my observations. She, after observing Sylvie one weekend after Sylvie had returned from a 2 week trip to Cuba, agreed in a voice loud enough (and continuous enough) that my observations were true. Sylvie, hurt that I'd passed on this personality un-masking phenomenon on, flung a few choice curses my way and disappeared down the hallway to her room. Our easy-hanging around days diminished noticeably soon after. We ran into each other at parties or at the college administration offices. At the latter, I was usually eying the employment board, hoping to see names of prospective employers looking for American students to work in Canada. She was there putting in for transcripts mailing to various grad schools deep, deep in the southern parts of the States. I heard that she ended up in a doctoral program in Anthropology in Arizona or Texas. Somewhere where the tan lines were deep and distinct. A place where you were being baked to a color thick enough to clothe and comfort the person within.


You can call me "Shoobie" you can call me "Bennie," you can call me any old thang you please. Just don't call me late for crabs on the dock!
Dear Anonymous,
Man, I'm trying to read the lines, between the lines, even turned the screen 180 and read it backwards and upside the lines.
For two sentences that have verbs, adjectives, and nouns I am completely missing the boat.
What were you trying to communicate? Were these lyrics from a song I should have a clue about?
Thanks anyway, though for stopping by and leaving some words.
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