Click play below if you’d prefer to hear me tell this story, rather than reading it.
When I was about 12, maybe 13, my best friend Dan and I went to stay with his relatives up at Old Orchard Beach, in Maine. If you’ve never heard of it or been there, it’s quite nice. It’s — as you’d expect — a beach. There’s a mini-golf course and plenty of typical beach-like places to eat that sell all sorts of food that are no good for you.
To be honest, I don’t remember what else was up there. It was over twenty years ago, and my brain’s removed the memories of actually being up there for a few days. I only have two memories of that vacation; one was how hot it was the entire time. Imagine the middle of the summer, at the beach, on the second (or maybe it was the third?) floor of a rental house that didn’t have any air conditioning, and no matter how fast the ceiling fan spun on high, you sweated through the night. The second memory is the basis for this story.
Kathy (Dan’s mom) drove us up to Maine, which wasn’t that far. If memory serves, it was a couple of hours in her old Chrysler. (I just checked Google maps, it’s actually less than 90 minutes when going the speed limit.) Along the way, we stopped at a restaurant to have some food, as Dan and I were complainers when we were hungry.
The waitstaff was on the slow side and Dan and I were impatient, so we took the keys from Kathy and went to sit in the car and listen to music. I don’t remember what we were looking for, but we were mucking around in our luggage in the trunk when two girls approached us and said hello.
This sort of thing happened to Dan all the time — not to me. The fact that one of the girls was talking to me was just a side effect of the other girl wanting to talk to Dan. I’d later learn that the Bro Code for this was “tossing yourself on a grenade”. In this instance, I was the grenade for the cuter girl’s less cute friend.
I don’t recall the cute girl’s name, but the girl that talked to me was named Tory. She proved it was her real name by showing me the inhaler that she had in her pocket. That’s such a weird thing to do, right? “Here, look,” she said.
“Cool,” I replied. “I’m Ken.”
Dan looked around Mystery Girl X’s shoulder to where I was standing with Tory, as if to say “Ken?”
“I’m Carl,” Dan said.
So there we were, standing with two moderately cute girls who had absolutely nothing interesting to say, pretending to be people we weren’t. To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t use my real name. This was the early ’90s, it wasn’t like she was going to look me up online, find me on Facebook, or call me. This was a time before cell phones and the internet wasn’t widely in use yet. In fact, I believe around this time was when AOL was $2.99 an hour to use it. I’m thankful that my dad loved the internet as much as I did, because he footed the bill all those months.
It may have been the fact that we were on vacation, heading to some place that we hadn’t been before, and we wanted to be adventurous badasses. Evidently tricking these girls was the start of our road to badassdom. There was no rhyme or reason to why we both decided to give them fake names, but we did, and we rolled with it.
We chatted for a few minutes and everything was going well.
“We’re going to Old Orchard,” Dan told Mystery Girl X.
“Yeah, it’s going to be awesome,” I added.
“Really? That’s where we’re going too!” Tory said back.
“We are! Where are you guys staying?” Mystery Girl X asked.
“I don’t know the address. My family’s renting a house,” Dan told them both.
We mutually agreed to meet up at the mini golf place the following night at 7. I honestly don’t remember if we went or not. I don’t think we did.
Our dubious badassdom was swimming right along, until Dan’s mother came out from paying the bill.
“Hi boys,” she said. “Who are these girls?”
“I’m Tory, and this is Mystery Girl X,” Tory responded.
“Hi girls, I’m Kathy, Dan’s mom.”
“Who’s Dan?” Mystery Girl X asked.
And just like that, our diabolical plan to be people we weren’t was over.
We offered no explanation. We offered no apology. We just got in Kathy’s mid-’80s shit brown Chrysler, shut the doors, and got out of that situation.
Kathy, being one of the nicest people on the planet, tried to apologize for us. She tried to explain that we must have been just goofing off. She tried to explain that we were really good boys and we must have just been being silly.
Tory and X didn’t seem to care. Tory knocked on my window, as Kathy got into the car, and asked “So we’ll see you tomorrow night?” She smiled. I nodded.
I’m fairly sure we never went. In fact, I don’t remember anything else that we did during that vacation. The only thing I can completely remember is the parking lot outside that restaurant and the whir of the ceiling fan in the bedroom I slept in as it did its best to keep me cool, but failed miserably.