Drop down a gear, the back of the car kicks out and wiggles to the music, rasping along to the high notes. These old American convertibles, like oil tankers to us Brits, always feel so lazy until you give them a sniff of a beach. Which is part of the reason why we are here. There’s also the person with her sandy feet on the dash, chipped toenail polish peeking out from the yellow and brown.
She always loved beaches, hanging her head out of the window like a dog on the highway. She looked for the blue streaks, where the water collected in between the ridges of the sand after the tide had washed away. “It’s like the sky is above us and below us, breaking out from the ground.” This kind of wank used to get on my nerves, but now the only thing I truly enjoy listening to – more than Nirvana, or Depeche Mode, or the Sex Pistols – is the sound of her breathing softly next to me, snoring gently after a hard day of feelings and sensations. I’d burn my record collection to know that no one else will ever hear that. Even if I cannot, no one else is allowed either.
She stood up on the seat, arms aloft like Christ, then pointing in a Superman pose, singing the famous refrain; da da-da-da daaa, daaa daaa daaaa. I switched it back up a gear; one unforseen wiggle and this thing could turn into a trebuchet. Da da-da-da, da tadaaaaaaa!
The previous day we’d built a treehouse from scavenged timber and bedsheets stolen from a back garden – she kept them talking at the door by pretending to be lost in that oh so adorable accent whilst I scaled the fences. Even when the dog started barking at me they didn’t even look over their shoulder, just shouted at nothing – Brutus, shut the hell up – Brutus? I’m wrapped in sheets like I’m pretending to be a tornado, but who calls their dog Brutus? Even as I’m sprinting away along the pavement, trailing white flags behind me, I discard a bra accidentally smuggled in with my loot, throwing it onto the lawn of an elderly man with his hose pipe, ‘G’MORNIN SIR’. I’ll never see him again.
So we build this thing on the outskirts of some woodland, with one random tree seemingly on its own fifty yards from the border, which obviously appealed to her, because in her world the tree had been ostracised from the woodland society and needed some love. We slept in makeshift hammocks, untouched by mosquitoes.
The car was stolen of course, not something I’m proud of. The timber and the sheets were also stolen but no one misses that kind of stuff. No one is taking out insurance on bedsheets and duvets. It was almost too easy, so I’m fairly confident we will get caught eventually. I walk into a dealership asking about a test drive, we head out, I say that I feel ‘something wrong on the nearside rear corner’, and because this fat greasy fuck is so desperate for a sale he actually gets out of the car with the engine still running to check, because I’ve convinced him I’m a mechanic and there’s something wrong with the bearings. We didn’t even bother looking back at the expression on his face when the rear dipped, the front bucked and we squirrelled away into the traffic.
“Are we actually allowed to drive on the beach?” she asked. “Don’t they have guns here?” Generally, it felt safe. It was mostly empty, and people who saw us coming scattered pretty quickly. It was difficult to ignore the roar of a big thirsty V8 being driven irresponsibly by one of those ‘goddamn limey foreigners.’
‘It’ll be fine’ I said, full of bravado. ‘They’ll just throw us out. Anyway, it’s not the worst thing we’ve done so far.’
“True, true” she said, nodding her head forwards. “It’s not like we belong here anyway.”