There's little escape from the stifling quiet that is my parents' house at night. You have your choice of watching my dad's new high-density TV as it shows high-density movies from the high-density dish, going upstairs to read while the ceiling fan spins endless loops above your head, or flat-out leaving and finding something else to do.
We chose that latter; me clad in khaki cutoff cargo capris and a sliver of black tank top, Sean in a retro-hip striped polo and long shorts. "Where are you going?" Dad inquired mildly, glancing up from the high-definition movie he was watching on his high-definition TV.
"We thought we'd go by the Tiki Bar, have a drink, you know, whatever." I replied noncommitally.
"oh." he said, looking terribly disappointed.
"Well, you could come, too!" I quickly added.
"Your mother wouldn't do that." he said sadly.
So we set out alone at 9:30, heading back towards civilization.
The bridge to Calvert County (Maryland is very much seperated into COUNTIES) is vast and lovely, sprawling across the sky in gravity-defying fashion. Even once you are driving on it, it appears to be nothing more than a road in the sky with a few scant scattered pillars holding it up. It seems impossibly high, the lights of Solomon's twinkling far below.
We pulled into the parking lot, easily found a space, and set out walking on the boardwalk. It was quiet that night, especially for a Friday. The waves lapped at the piers as I gestured to the bit of bustle across the street. I pointed out what used to be the Rhumb Line, which had a great view of the docks in the back but a postage-stamp sized dance floor. Next, there was Catamaran's, which was one of my favorites, if for no other reason than that it had a big deck on the second floor where I could escape cigarette smoke and the endless pawing of drunken rednecks.
We came down further and passed Solomon's Pier and Bowen's Inn, where I used to go for all-you-can-eat tacos on Tuesday nights. Since I was a vegetarian then, my tacos were a bit plain. But it was great after the bunch of us from my then-work had finished rollerblading.
Down and around the bend, by this time on sidewalk instead of boardwalk, we finally made it to the Tiki Bar. People sat on wooden railings and benches, hovered in little groupings on the asphalt, chatted loudly and swilled drinks.
We looked at each other doubtfully. "We could walk down the pier" I suggested, waving my hand at the long pier over the bay that sat directly opposite the bar. Sean nodded encouragingly, and we strode down it. The voices carried over the water, laughter and whoops. We stood on the far end, looking down into the bay's inky blackness and balancing against pylons. "I used to come here a lot" I offered.
Sean looked at me, a half-grin on his face. "I already met you," he volunteered, "I don't need to go there to do it again."
I smiled broadly. "Me either, I guess."
We walked back down the pier, back up the hill past the Tiki Bar, heading towards the causeway. I pointed at the last bar/restaurant on the strip, a place I had sat in more times than I care to count. Sometimes, I was laughing at what some man I had just met had to say. Sometimes, I was sitting at a table, head in hands, wishing I were anywhere else in the world. That's how most nights there were, either one scenario or the other.
Turning back towards where we were parked, we walked past the Tiki Bar once more. "I can't believe women wear shorts to bars here." I exclaimed incrudulously with my learned Boston Snootiness.
"They're comfortable. It's outside." Sean replied mildly. I rolled my eyes and pulled him the rest of the way up the hill, showing him a book store, an antique store, more restaurants. We walked a bit in comfortable silence.
"Boy, you weren't kidding about the New Englanders loving their ice cream thing, were you?" Sean stammered. "I keep thinking to myself as we come up on these little clusters of stores, this one will be the one with the ice cream shop. But it never is." He pouted.
I laughed. "I told you! We could go across the bridge and get something at Ruby Tuesday's or some unearthly chain like that, if you like."
Sean nodded gamely as he unlocked the car. "Ok."
So back over the bridge we went, the past behind me, the future up ahead at a lousy chain restaurant with a tall smiley boy. Who really likes ice cream.