If Looks Could Kill…Florida Tan Tuesday – Part 3

I could be wrong, but I’m 99% certain that saying was coined late in the afternoon on July 6, 1980. We rolled into the parking space beside the trailer and Donahue, Bin and I were already fearing the worst, certain that another day on the beach would be out of the question for two reasons; one being that we’d not be let out from under adult supervision for the remainder of the trip and the second was that, even though it was unspoken, it was a unanimous bond between the three of us that we might have gone overboard our first day out.

As we pried ourselves out of the car, trying to make ourselves as unnoticeable as humanly possible, I caught a glimpse of my grandmother standing in the door, staring at us in disbelief. She’d heard the car pull up and wanted to warn us to be quiet because Grandpa and my mother were sleeping off the long drive. I won the toss to see who would shower first and so I gathered my things from my suitcase in the back bedroom and made my way, slowly and painfully toward the bathroom. “That’s gonna hurt.” That was all Grandma had to say for the moment. She didn’t say it in an outright condemning way, but rather in that soft tone flavored with self-righteousness and superiority one uses when I told you so seems too condescending. This type of calm reprimand cuts to one’s soul more deeply than a harsh and violent redressing and it was then I knew I was in trouble, but I made my way, nonetheless, to the shower.

I remember there was a fine line of getting the right water temperature; a hair this way and I was freezing and a hair the other way, it was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. But no amount of lashing water jetting down from the showerhead like sharp knives cutting into my already raw flesh could compare to the silent glare I got from my mother who had woken up in the meantime. And quite frankly, I didn’t need a look or a saying to support it. The sunburn was killing me all on its own.

Moans of pain accompanied by tears and mostly unsympathetic reassurances of our stupidity filled the trailer for the remainder of the day and by bedtime I could barely move and Linda was in no better shape while Donna seemed a little more ambulant after our ordeal. On hand in the medicine cabinet was some sort of spray ointment, slick as cooking oil and both my grandparents were insistent Linda and I be covered in it, so there on the linoleum kitchen floor we were bathed with this slippery unguent. Then I was made to slip on a pair of my grandfather’s pajamas and then I painstakingly lowered myself onto the cot that was set out for me in the middle of the living room. I’m sure Linda got herself settled in her bed, probably with Donna’s help, but for that moment, I was too concerned with avoiding the tearing sensation on my skin to care.

The increasing heat and added pressure of the cotton pajamas and the top sheet over me was making me sick to my stomach during the night and by the dimness of the nightlight in the kitchen, I miraculously made my way to the bathroom. I had to walk on my tip toes because the little bit that feet spread walking flat-footed felt like my skin was being torn from my body. I persevered toward the bathroom, over the soft shag carpet in the living room, across the kitchen floor, and I slipped on the one spot of oil that was missed during the cleanup. I’d have to make sure to tell someone about it. I think I remember at that moment wishing I could have fallen and clunked my head so I would be out of my misery, but rest wouldn’t come until I got to my destination.

I eased myself to the cool floor in front of the toilet, I could feel my stomach was going to give way at any moment and I waited. Relishing the coolness of the tiles beneath me, I waited for the hurling to begin. I waited so long that the next thing I knew I was waking up. I had either passed out or eased into sleep, but I never did get sick. I made my way back, deftly avoiding the oil slick on the linoleum and carefully lowered myself once again onto my cot and slept peacefully through the night hoping against hope my condition would be reversed by morning.

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2 Responses to “If Looks Could Kill…Florida Tan Tuesday – Part 3”

  1. Nanc Says:

    I felt your pain as I was reading…..

  2. Donna Says:

    Parts 1 and 2 were so “light” and comical. Part 3 is quite the opposite. How awful. I almost don’t want to “re-live” it. But, we (or I should really say YOU and LINDA) made it through!

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