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I watched Brad and his date on a sidewalk in Folly Beach.
It’s the truth. This whole story is the truth.
Except for the parts I invented. We authors create tales on the flimsiest foundations, but don’t worry, I will be clear which parts of this story are true and which parts are fiction.
Let me confess right up front – I don’t know his name.
We had just finished dinner at one of the many restaurants along the main drag of the little beach town. In the summer, we would have searched to find a parking place blocks away and then battled the crowds on the sidewalk. But, in the off-season, I had parallel parked my Jeep across the street from the restaurant. Our hunger satisfied by dinner, we strolled to the car and settled into the seats. As I was placing the key in the ignition, I noticed the young man standing on the sidewalk a few feet away.
Young twenty-something. Loose fitting jeans and a long-sleeve surf-shirt in the cool evening air. A pair of ragged Vans tennis shoes. Shaggy, surfer-blond hair spilling out under his backwards facing ballcap. Perfect white teeth flashing a mischievous grin against his tanned face.
A college student hanging out at the beach for spring break? Or a young man living on the beach as he figured out his life? Whatever the story, he possessed a fleeting handsomeness of youth that allowed him to sail through life with a wink and a smile, his arm draped around his date’s waist.
We agreed his name was Brad, but his date’s name eluded us. She was much more mysterious. Attractive. Tall. Taller than Brad. Much taller. Shapely. Exotic. So many like her dotting the beach town. Native. Rooted deep in the town. Brad was passing through, but she was here to stay.
Brad didn’t deserve her. Didn’t appreciate her. Didn’t even acknowledge how much she supported him.
How did we know Brad was such a scoundrel?
His arm was around her. He was leaning on her. But he wasn’t paying her any attention. Instead, he held his phone in his spare hand. Ignoring her, he dialed a number. Spoke for a moment until they hung up on him. And then dialed the next number.
Who was he calling while his date silently accepted his ungracious behavior?
Girls. Despite his arm wrapped around this beauty, Brad was calling girl after girl. “Hey, wanna come down to Folly Beach and have some fun?”
“Funny, Brad, I thought you lost my number. Since I told you to lose it. Now get out of my life, pig.”
That wink and a smile charm only went so far, and the recipients of his calls were brutal in their responses. But Brad was undeterred by the hang-ups. He scanned the contact list in his little black phone and hit the dial button. While he hugged his date tighter, he held the phone to his ear and pleaded his case to the next poor girl who answered the phone.
Wait. I promised to tell you which parts of the story are true and which are not. I must confess. I didn’t hear the conversations. I don’t know what Brad said, what was said to him, or even whom he called.
But I could see Brad. A few feet away standing on a sidewalk in Folly Beach. His arm around this shapely lass. His phone in his other hand. Dial. Stick the phone to his ear. Talk for a few seconds. Listen for even fewer. Pull the phone away. Scowl at the screen in disgust. Scroll his contact list. Dial his next victim. Repeat cycle.
Instead of calling girls, perhaps he was dialing buddies.
“Hey. It’s Brad. I’m drunk. Can’t find my car. Can you come get me?”
“Geez, Brad. Again? Grow up. Besides, I live in San Diego now.”
Disgusted by the hang-up, Brad moved to the next name in his friend list.
“Hey. It’s Brad. I’m drunk. Can’t find my car. Can you come get me?”
“Dude. It’s Tuesday. I have to get up early for work tomorrow.”
Did I forget to mention earlier that Brad was drunk? Not tipsy. Drunk. Stumbling drunk. The world-is-spinning drunk. Not-sure-which-side-is-up drunk. Brad’s legs wobbled. He leaned. He tried to focus on his phone. The contact list faded in a drunken blur. He dialed numbers at random. All that is true, though I don’t really know if some of his calls went wildly off the mark.
“Hey. This is Brad. I think. I’m not sure what my name is. Anyway, I’m in some beach town. Not sure where. Pacific. Atlantic. One of those. Can you come get me?”
“No conozco ningún Brads.” I do not know any Brads.
All of those are possible conversations, but I need to stick to the truth. We sat in the car and watched Brad struggle to remain upright, his phone clenched in one hand while he dialed number after number. He would speak. Pull the phone away from his ear. Grimace in disgust and shake his head. Scan the screen. And repeat the process.
No call lasted more than five seconds, so any of the above scenarios could have been true. Or something yet unimagined happened in the calls. Regardless, Brad was determined to converse with someone.
Too determined. He removed his arm from around his date, stood straight up and gripped the phone with both hands, doggedness spreading across his face right up to his bleary eyes.
Unfortunately for Brad, standing without the support of his date was not the wisest move. He tilted forward, leaned back, twisted left, and veered right. His feet shuffled and his head bobbed. Through it all, both hands grasped his precious phone as he searched for someone to answer his calls.
Gravity took over. His knees buckled. His butt sagged toward the ground. He fell backwards, plummeting to earth while still entranced by the electronics in his mitts.
But Brad’s date was there for him. She never hesitated. Despite his disregard for her, she stood for him. His back collided into her body. She stood firm and took his weight with nary a flinch at the collision. Never wavered a single inch.
Brad, always the cad, never took his eyes off his crucial communication device. He didn’t thank her. Never even looked at her. He leaned his back against her, his knees still bent, studied his phone and dialed again. Spoke. Pulled it away from his ear and stared at it in disgust.
Brad had had enough. He was done calling. Perhaps he last called Zach Zebulon without success. With no one left to call, he pushed himself up and away from his stoic date. Glassy eyed, he pocketed his phone without falling on his face, a feat that took several attempts. His hand would slide past a pocket and he would stare in wonder at the still present gadget. He tried again and failed. On the third attempt, he snagged the pocket and the phone was holstered.
Technology secured, he stumbled down the sidewalk. Staggered past the t-shirt shops, restaurants and bars that dot the town. Maybe he was headed home. Perhaps he knocked on doors looking for a couch to call his own for the night. With a wink and a smile, he might have succeeded.
But he would wake up the next morning hungover and hurting. He would still be a scoundrel. A cold-hearted swine. He wouldn’t remember how his date stood by him in his time of need and how he left her all alone on that sidewalk.
That part of the story is true. I know it’s so because he walked away from her without a peep over his shoulder. She had been there to comfort him. Supported him. Met his antics with infinite patience. After all the commiseration she provided, he walked away. Without a goodbye, a thank you, or even a wave.
She remained all alone on the sidewalk. Standing tall and proud. She would be there waiting, day and night, a respite for the next drunk soul. The smooth bark of her trunk supporting their weight. Her palm fronds waving in the ocean breeze. Just one of many of the sisterhood of palm trees in a beach town supporting sodden souls.
Brad didn’t deserve her, but she was there for him.