I will always savor that first real taste of you.
We were not dating.
It was a time of formless, adventurous friendship.
It was January. We both had off work for a holiday and wanted an adventure.
Adventures provided the best way for us to hang out, given our respective busy workweeks and generally conflicting schedules.
I don’t count the times I drank a morning cup at your coffee shop or that we lived in the same building.
It was simply a matter of texting in advance, some time in the week, . . . to explore what we might want to do, where we might want to go.
On prior weekends, we had hit almost all of the small towns in Maryland.
This time, we were driving indiscriminately toward Virginia.
No matter what, we could expect some fun from our time together.
(For one thing, we loved wine, bottles and boxes of wine, and drinking by rivers and up on rocks in rugged parts of Maryland and West Virginia. Nature lovers, we could cherish a retreat from the noise and dirty shittiness of the city. Once in West Virginia, off the road, down on rocks and dipping our hands and feet in the water, we had a moment. I adored the surprise. You chewed a corn chip into a mush, whereupon you tackled me suddenly, hovered over me, restraining my arms and coming down on my mouth for . . . a kiss? No, you pushed the gritty mush into my mouth, laughed and joked that you were feeding baby bird. I chewed it up. Swallowed.)
Like most people, we hated driving by DC, and getting out of range of it, we felt we still needed to pass a number of the Virginia exits on the highway.
Then we saw signs for Virginia Beach and decided, why the hell not? It made our trip there a total of about four and a half hours, toward the end of which we drove under some pretty evergreen trees with sandy sun piercing through rhythmically, growing the excitement against the occasional stop-and-go traffic, as we neared the beachtown.
We parked a couple blocks away from the beach by a mini golf place and a Wendy’s. You noticed a number of ICP-looking guys clowning around on bicycles.
The sun was already on its way down. We dashed to the wintry beach and its ocean waves.
Not so brave, we merely dipped our hands in the waves for a minute to feel the sea’s deep iciness bathe our fingers.
I loved being with you on the beach, though it was cold and the wind kept blowing the sand in our faces.
“Want to check out that main street,” you asked, “find something to eat and maybe get some drinks?”
The sun and white clouded sky gave way to beautiful plum and eggplant purples of night, and the moon lit our way. The streetlamps and remaining Christmas decorations did too. There were these two-dimensional wire Christmas displays with lights on them that had still not been taken down from the holiday. We laughed at the horse one, photographed it, and I had you send a picture of it from my phone to my mom.
Tired and hungry, we walked down the main avenue.
“I don’t want to turn around and just go home tonight when we came all the way here,” I said.
“Let’s look into the hotels,” you replied. “You can call out sick tomorrow.”
The Marriott, we should have known, was too expensive, like $120 for a room, and that was after we had embarrassingly dickered with the concierge, citing how it was off-season.
Back on the street, we walked by several bougie older couples enjoying fine dining, cushioned around competing corporate restaurants’ blazing fire pits.
For our part, we stopped in a shitty place and had burritos and margaritas.
We settled on the whimsical Sea Side Hotel. The guy at the front desk kept our price under $50 and, on learning that we were from Baltimore, tried to talk to us about the Ravens, making some joke. We didn’t get it.
We enjoyed the greenhouse-style pool in the center of the building. The water was refreshingly warm, but the air outside nipped us when we needed to grab swimming clothes from the car.
We wore my old things that were in a bag for Goodwill. You wore my ugly boxers. I swam in underwear. We basically jumped in for a minute and got back out. We shivered and froze in our towels on our way to our room.
I fell asleep and you watched Wife Swap.
We had breakfast in the attached ’50s-style diner where Russian waitresses served us bad coffee and pancakes.
Then you helped me think up an excuse for calling out sick. We sat in my car a minute and decided I had a stomach virus.
However, in the course of the day, my boss still called me and needed the business plan, so we had to pull up my work email on your old Palm Pre, and we found the means to appease my boss.
We visited the tacky beach supply store and got a one and a half liter bottle of shit wine and bought a silly Big Gulp-sized, lidded plastic cup adorned with a cartoon surfer guy who looked like Keanu Reeves. At one point we debated buying an inflatable raft to go out to sea. But we feared, despite the unseasonably warm weather that day, that the waves would be choppy and freezing.
We went walking on the beach and tried drinking from our new cup but spilled wine all over our clothes.
Then in Flipper McCoy’s arcade we played hours of skee-ball, earning reams of tickets to buy prizes. We cheated at the crappy basketball game by reaching over to dunk the balls, but it did not give us extra tickets. We posed for our customary photobooth. We played an old Western game where we got to shoot things.
We drank in the arcade and redoubled our efforts at skee-ball.
When turning in our modest bounty of tickets, we decided we wanted the dinosaurs. The fun old guys at the place surprised us with their generosity, saying, “Have as many as you want.”
After that we started drinking heavily, walked up a side street, and ended in a parking lot. We dumped the rest of the bottle in the cup and killed the cup while talking of nihilistic and stupid things.
We found the worst bar on the strip and decided that we would each down a double-shot of bourbon.
At the start of dark we concluded our adventure at a lame Irish sports bar. We wanted to drink some beers, celebrate one last time, and then hit the road back home. We talked and killed the beers in no time. The bar scene was old, loud and glued to the televisions.
You said, “Here, give me the cup. I’ll fill it up when I go to the bathroom, and then we can get going.”
When you came back, we started walking to my car and you handed me the cup, saying, “I got something for you.”
Without questioning, I took a sip. Tomato soup. Warm, murky. Not entirely bad tasting.
You smiled the cutest smile.
“It’s your pee!” I exclaimed. “You filled this cup with your piss in the bathroom.”
“Yup! You have to drink the whole thing.”
I don’t know why I felt like accepting the challenge, but I did, and it was interesting, to say the least. I took a big gulp this time and got that down. Then I put it in the cup holder of my car and started driving.
“Drink more of it or I’m going to be upset,” you taunted.
So there I was drinking your pee while driving. And damn if I didn’t weirdly like it. I kept telling myself it was fresh and probably healthy. It was not too salty. You could still taste the water in it.
At first, it seemed really doable. Just tomato liquid. I drank most of it over the next couple hours of driving.
I was grinning and smiling to you, saying, “Look, I’m drinking pee.” This is fun, I thought, I love being with you and drinking your pee from this Keanu Reeves cup.
You soon fell asleep.
By the time we were almost home, I was taking tinier sips and starting to gag on it. It had grown cold, which made it worse to drink. I did not finish the last quarter of it.
It was remarkable, however. Thanks.