Atlantic City 1972
minutes?” Howard says, smirking. “Same place?”
Room 314, he
means, of his dad’s old hotel. Where we meet, secretly, to do dirty stuff.
Everything but fuck. I wasn’t ready for that, yet. “Pam the Prude,” he calls
“I guess.” But he
knows I’ll be there.
Howard is fourteen,
too, but a slut. Groovy-looking, with blond curls like that guy from the Who. Greenish
eyes that madden me when he takes off his glasses. He’s short like me, but has a
deep voice. God, I love him.
So much, I almost killed him.
I’m nuts, right?
Back home they call me “Psycho,” but now it’s summer and nobody here in
Atlantic City knows that.
My mom—I’d love to kill her, too—thinks
I’m crazy, too. In sequined evening gowns with matching turbans, she screws all
the guys in the bar. First, Marco, the bandleader. Then everyone else. Last
night she left with some guy with creepy eyes. She hasn’t come back, yet.
She never knows what I’m up to. Or
cares. I could spend all day and night with Howard in Room 314.
‘Cept there’s other girls.
But today it’s my turn.
Today, Howard and I are gonna fuck. In daylight.
With the sun making everybody else lobster-red on the beach, and seagulls
screeching outside the window.
Last night, while Mom was out with
Creepy Eyes, I lay in bed, imagining Howard’s penis inside me. I even touched
myself there. Sometimes he touches me there, but just so I’ll lick him. He makes
me lick him till my jaw aches.
Downstairs, Marco and his band—I call
them the Mustaches—played loudly. I felt like every corny, romantic song was
about Howard and me.
Maybe we’d get married, someday. Or . .
Sneak down to some hick state and do it now.
I could make myself look older. Wear Mom’s heavy eyeliner, and her white turban
. . .
I would never come back.
She’d miss the turban, but not me. Never
wanted me, to begin with.
“ ‘Daddy’s girl,’” she calls me,
sneering. She hates my Pop.
“ Play ‘Something Stupid,’ ” she told
Marco, the other night. Just so I’d cry.
Frank Sinatra had sung it with his daughter. I wanted to go home to my
Pop. I love him so much.
But I love Howard more.
The plan is, Howard goes upstairs before
I sit in the paneled lobby, on this
vinyl chair that sticks to my thighs. Howard goes up to the front desk, to pester
his dad, Mr. Hertzberg, who’s flirting with some bikini blonde.
“Honey,” Mr. Hertzberg says, with this
phony smile, showing every tooth in his head. “Wash the sand off, out back.” He
means the sleazy bathhouse. “Pul-lease?”
"Qu-est-ce que c-est?" the blonde says.
When he hears French, he leers. Those French-Canadians
are as wild as my mom.
“Dad?” Howard says. And the blonde sneaks away.
The look Howard gets chills even me. “Nothing,”
mumbles and hurries upstairs.
Five minutes I’ve got, before following him up.
Early as it is, the bar door’s open. The jukebox
“Alone Again, Naturally.” That hit song by that dorky Gilbert-somebody.
Howard, I think, don’t leave me alone.
“Pammy,” Mr. Hertzberg says, “I haven’t
seen your Mommy,
I just shrug.
“Maybe she got up early,” he says, “and
hit the beach.”
Again, I shrug.
“She’s really into those turbans, isn’t
Sighing, I join him at the desk.
“My favorite is the gold lame one,” he says,
“That matches that dress.”
More than anything, I hate that gold turban. Each time
wears it, I wish she was dead.
“They all match,” I say, bitterly.
Still grinning, he looks past me at some new blondes
coming in the lobby.
The swordfish wall clock says it’s been ten minutes,
Shit, I think. Howard
might think I stood him up!
Or, worse . . .
He’s with another girl.
Like Cécile, from last week. Or Melanie, the bitch from Maryland . . .
with the bug-eyed, fat sister. Her family’s been here way too long.
Howard and Melanie . . . sneak looks they think I don’t
She’s on the third floor!
The elevator’s in use, so I take the stairs. By the
I reach the third floor, I’m panting.
Then this strange feeling comes over me. I can’t
it. It’s not about first-time sex, or even jealousy. In a nearby room, I hear
Melanie giggling with her bug-eyed sister.
All the hallway windows are open, and the sea breeze
blows the sheer curtains all over. Like daytime ghosts, they look.
I approach Room 314.
Outside Room 313, Jessie the maid is taking a smoke
break. “He’s waitin’ for ya,” she says. Her smirk reminds me she once caught us
in the act.
“Jessie works Pacific Avenue,” Howard once
The door to Room 314 opens for me.
“What kept you?” Howard is nude, all exposed,
daylight! With the door open! And Jessie
Smiling, Jessie unlocks the door next to ours.
As Howard pulls me into Room 314, she screams.
And keeps screaming. Till every guest not roasting on the
beach comes out of their rooms.
Howard can’t stop me from joining them. He fumbles
his shorts, tripping as he pulls them on.
I can’t see a thing. Too many people. When Melanie
sister get there, some guy tries to block their view. “Don’t look!” he yells.
But they do, and scream, themselves. Melanie starts to
cry: big, heaving sobs.
Mr. Hertzberg flies off the elevator, just as I squeeze
through, and see the body.
Spread-eagled. Handcuffed to the headboard. Eyes wide
open. Gold satin turban askew.
My heart feels like I ate it. I can’t believe what
seeing. Wildly, I reach behind me for Howard, but he’s not there.
Arms around the sobbing
Melanie, he’s walking her
back to her room.