The first time I heard “Pink Cadillac” sung by Bruce Springsteen, I was in the back seat of a blue Chevy Camaro on the way to Phillips Crab House in Ocean City, Maryland. Brett Delacroix sped north on Coastal Highway with Marie riding shotgun and they acted like they were the only ones in the car. Stuck in the back with Brett’s friend, Mike, I belted out the familiar lyrics to avoid conversation and to remind Brett and Marie they weren’t alone. The song had been covered many times but Springsteen was The Boss so his version was the best. It was released as the B-side of “Dancing in the Dark” a month earlier. I usually liked the B-sides.
Music is contagious. I knew that. After the first few lines, all four of us were singing in unison. Squinting behind my black Wayfarers, I wished I was sitting on the shady side of the car. My head throbbed from last night’s homemade wine spritzers and lack of sleep. Twelve of us had been crammed into Marie’s tiny efficiency that she shared with Serena and my ex-boyfriend’s sister. There were two beds and a couch. People in sleeping bags covered the floor. No matter where I tried to sleep, Mike’s wandering hands found me. My arms were tired from pushing them away. I still have a picture of myself from earlier that night standing next to one of the beds, hands on my hips, posing in a strappy purple Ocean Pacific bathing suit wearing Brett’s cowboy boots. I don’t know why he brought those to the beach. He did things like that. Whatever else you could say about Brett, he was ridiculously hot and his last name, Delacroix, made him seem exotic even though he wasn’t. I liked saying it out loud.
The car windows were wide open. Nausea and the sea air in my face made it seem like we were on a boat. At every stoplight, strangers either shook their heads or sang along, sort of like the night before when we had been kicked out of the sandwich shop on 45th Street for dancing on the tables. After that, we danced down the street like a scene from Fame until we found an ocean-front hotel pool to crash, accumulating drunken teens we’d never met before along the way. We got kicked out of there, too.
At Phillip’s, Marie and I ordered the most expensive things on the menu. We knew Brett and Mike were paying, and frankly, Mike owed me for enduring his constant advances. We rarely got carded, despite only being in our late teens. Alcohol flowed, making the weekend with Mike almost tolerable. He spent most of the morning talking about his job at the print shop, and I pretended to listen, focusing mostly on the salt air and the sunshine that was now behind me, gloriously warming my back. I closed my eyes for a minute, imagining myself there alone with someone else.
During the surfing competition at the south end of the boardwalk, wine spritzers and beer filled our coolers. Mike tried to put his arm around me. I walked away to get another drink. I think we went to Assateague or Chincoteague in the late afternoon. There were supposed to be wild ponies there but I didn’t see any animals on that island except us. Brett and Marie wandered off by themselves as Mike and I sat silently on the shore with adequate space between us. I wondered if Brett had told him what happened at the party in 1982. I could have pressed charges, although I felt somewhat responsible and there was no physical harm done. I didn’t have the heart to tell Marie.