The bus doors opened and the kids tumbled out. Jesus, they were terrifying. Sunburned, long-legged, mosquito-bitten, and hood-eyed, all of them in camp T-shirts with the signatures of friends and bunkmates, and the older girls with the signatures on their T-shirts bumping over the lines of their bra-straps. The wind came off the Hudson.
I was twelve when my family shared a big gray house on Fire Island with the McKennas. The house was at the end of a series of narrow boardwalks, just over a small dune from the ocean, which was easily visible from our veranda. I believe the house also had a sundeck off of one of the upstairs bedrooms, because I have a vague memory of someone—my mother, I think—telling me not to disturb Mrs. McKenna, who liked to sunbathe “in the nude.” I had never heard that expression before and, at first, could not believe I had understood it correctly. Only the weird blend of excitement and disapproval in the voice of whoever was speaking convinced me that my interpretation was exactly right. I have no memory of the sundeck itself, however, nor of ever seeing Mrs. McKenna in anything more revealing than a one-piece bathing suit.
The voice came from a white utility van parked alongside the campus tennis courts. “Hey baby,” it said, in the sort of voice that comes from vans.
Right away, I knew it was the skirt. I tugged at it and looked all around—across the empty student parking lot where I sometimes rollerbladed; at the drab, squashed little dorm that had the best vending machine; at the ivy-choked library where I’d recently borrowed the first season of Twin Peaks, which had gotten me so excited I’d filled two whole sheets of college-ruled loose-leaf about the way the wobbly ceiling fan in my dad’s faculty office might at any second crash murderously to the floor. I looked everywhere but at the voice.