The sun had been up for hours when Myra woke me.“You need a day off. Call in sick.” She laid out a change of clothes for me at the bottom of the bed where I had spent the night crying. The room was bathed in sunshine. I did call in sick, sobbing all the way through the exchange.
Myra tried to console me. “We can go to the beach, shopping, whatever you want to do.”
“I don't know. I really feel awful. Perhaps a walk on the beach, fresh air.”
“We can go to Malibu like that time.”
“I ended up with a sun burn I couldn’t explain. It was so bad, I couldn’t go anywhere after that. Didn’t I tell you about that?”
“I thought you had different schedules from me. I had to drop out soon after; so, we both kind of disappeared. You don’t know do you? Do you want coffee or tea?”
“Coffee, please. What happened?”
“How I moved to this place?”
“Tell me what happened; di you quit school?”
She packed the car as she told me her story. “I got pregnant right after my birthday. That weekend, I think. Anyway, I quit school, had the baby, put her up for adoption and went to work full time. I got this place just a couple of months ago. When you called I happened to be at Mom’s. Now, are you sure you don’t want to go shopping?”
“I don’t feel like shopping. Besides, I don't even have a cent. She took my purse and everything. I don't get paid for another week; I’ll wash my blouse and underwear and I'll be fine until then.”
Myra drove us to a place where kids were waiting for the waves to grow bigger and the fog to dissipate. It was cold.
“These are all friends I’ve known for a while; see that dude with the red shorts? World Champion!” Myra stripped down and rushed out to join them. This is just like Gidget. I thought, They are really good out there. Waves can wipe you out and kick sand in your face, but these people are really good.
The place was deserted except for the surfers who paddled out and waited for the big wave to throw them off once they stood up to ride it. They kept doing it over and over again, never tiring, never fearing the force of the surf. They just got back, time and time again.
They all had cars, jobs, time to hang out. Everything I didn’t have, including NO Fear! I walked for miles, thinking about my situation, the options I had. It was not a good time to be homeless and penniless, but then, I did have a job, and I was making enough to support myself for a few months until it was time to leave for Italy.
At one point, Myra came on shore and I saw her looking for me, yelling and waving in the distance. When I got to her she explained that the time flew by and now she was late for work. A friend of hers agreed to take me back to Myra’s place where she'd meet after work.
“Oh, you’re the Italian girl!” The friend greeted me as I got in the front seat.
“Myra told me about you. What do you do?”
“Interesting that I meet you just when I need your help.”
“I need to learn Italian.”
“What exactly to do you need?”
“Can I take you to dinner and explain?”
“Sorry. I have things to do tonight.”
“It's just that you would really be helping me. I have an early audition tomorrow morning, I would be listening to you, picking up your accent.”
“Are you an actor?”
“Did you see the Aqua Velva Commercial?”
“My name is John Kaneen on screen. Steve O’Donnell in person. Take your pick. So, how about dinner?”
“O.k. But we’re both hungry and we can get burgers on the way.”
“I love burgers, fries and strawberry milk shakes are my favorite American foods.”
So, after a day at the beach, after sun and water had done their magic, after a delicious ride through the drive- in for a fantastic meal, I made a plan. I had nine months to learn to be an American before I took my flight back home. First thing, find a place to live. Second thing, learn to surf and ride the waves. Third thing, eat American drive-in food every night. I was in the real America now. I needed to become an expert.
"First lesson," I said, "try to put a vowel at the end of each word."
"Lika dissa?" He tried.
"Yes! and throw in any Italian word you know, whenever you can, adesso!"
"Ah, si,si, signorina."
I could teach anybody to be who they wanted to be. Now, I had to teach myself to be normal. My life was not the movie I wanted to be in.