Act III Episode 9 - Lynda’s Dream
When Lynda woke up on a blanket on the 9th Street beach a few hours after she fell asleep the other girls – two nurses and the mayor’s daughters were gone, and her boyfriend “JJ” was still asleep. She looked around and most of the others on the beach were gone too, as it was late afternoon.
Lynda smiled as she thought about the most wonderful dream she just had. She was walking along a beach, holding hands with “JJ,” the light surf washing up on their bare feet. It was night, and not Ocean City because there were no city lights and the sky was full of stars and just a sliver of a moon on the horizon. They stopped walking and kissed as their toes dug into the sand up to their ankles, and she remembers thinking in her sleep that she didn’t want the moment to end as the sound of the lifeguard’s whistle startled her awake.
She began to think of the other girls laughing at her for being a virgin. As she later put it into her own words what she was thinking.
“The people making the jokes may have thought they were funny, but I began to feel that the real joke was on me. Here I was a twenty-one year old girl who had probably seen hundreds of penises in nursing school and the emergency room, and I hadn’t yet seen a single one being used for its intended purpose. I began to feel like my virginity was an albatross. I had to get rid of it. However, there was a problem of finding the right situation. When it happened the first time, I didn’t want to be on the floor while my girlfriends were asleep. On the other hand I was afraid that if I waited for the perfect circumstances, I would end up being a fifty year old virgin, stil anticipating ‘the night.’ Even at that, I still had to convince myself that he person I was going to make love with for the first time was the person I would marry.”
She looked at “JJ” asleep beside her on the blanket as he started talking in his sleep, yelling something about “gooks,” and as she shook him he was covered in sweat, he opened his eyes and suddenly jumped on top of her, put one hand on her throat and drew back the other hand as if to smash her face, then woke up and realized where he was, stopped cold and looked around scared; Lynda was terrified.
“Is something wrong?” she asked.
“Don’t touch me now,” he said. “Just a bad dream.”
Then she thought of the time at the gas station, when the attendant didn’t have any high test gasoline for his Barracuda, and “JJ” as Lynda herself recalled, “got this wild look in his eyes and acted like he was going to kill the guy. He screamed obscenities, smacked his hand against the dashboard, and then floored the accelerator, leaving a patch of burning rubber and a perplexed pump jockey. He would sometimes come out of his depression with a bang and immediately begin partying like there was no tomorrow. He could be a wild bronco – unruly, loud and full of fire. But he was always gentle with me. I was sure I loved him, which was why, a few weeks after I got the engagement ring, I told him that I was ready to make love with him.”
“JJ” had been called back to Army duty early, and was leaving the next day for a domestic deployment he didn’t know where, probably anti-riot duty in some big city where they anticipated trouble like Watts. It was also just before Labor Day, so the entire Jersey Shore was packed with tourists.
As Lynda herself related, “As soon as J.J. got over the shock, we began the search for a nice place. Unfortunately, trying to find an open room at the Jersey Shore around Labor Day weekend is about as difficult as locating the Holy Grail. We started in Ocean City at seven o’clock. Next was Somers Point. Then Longport, then Margate City, then Ventnor City and al the way past Atlantic City to Brigantine. It was all the same – NO VACANCY. We drove out to the parkway and headed south. By midnight we had tried motels al the way down to North Wildwood and the only thing we had to show for it was frustration.”
J.J. wanted to go back to Lynda’s room at Mrs. Nick’s rooming house, or do it under the boardwalk or in the car, but Lynda refused.
As she later recalled the details: “We headed back to the Anchorage to drown our frustrations at seven beers for a dollar. JJ had such a sad expression on his face that he looked like a little boy who had just seen his puppy run over by a train. We sat in silence, both of us staring into our beers until around two in the morning. Suddenly, J.J. snapped out of his mood. He grabbed my arm, swung me around on the stool, kissed me and laughed.”
Then the guy next to J.J., who I recognized as being in the band at Bay Shores, interrupted us.
“There’s an open room upstairs, and Andrew,” he said pointing to a young man sitting at the bar by the dining room doors, “will probably let you have it. He’s a soft touch, especially when it comes to love, and will probably let you have it for the night for nothing.”
A moment later Lynda saw J.J. talking to Andrew, the owner, who was nodding his head.
Lynda: “He came back to his seat with a key in his hand and a broad grin on his face. We walked up the steps to what must have been all-time sleaziest rooms in the world. It had boxes piled all around, a dirty mattress without any sheets, and a single exposed light bulb hanging directly over the bed. Outside the window was a neon sign “The Anchorage” that kept blinking on an off.”
“I’ve waited twenty-one years for this, I thought, only moments before I felt the quick sharp pain that marked the end of my virginity. I think it happened when the neon sign was off. Or maybe it was on. It was hard to tell because the damned thing flashed so quickly. I guess I must have been in love.”
The next day, after breakfast at the Point Diner, J.J. left to rejoin his Army unit that was being domestically deployed for anti-riot duty, while Lynda went back to work at the Emergency Room at Shore Memorial Hospital, wearing her bathing suit under her uniform so she could immediately hit the beach after work and tell the other girls what happened after they left her asleep on the beach.
[Author’s Note: Lynda Van Devanter’s quotes come directly from her autobiography “Home Before Morning – The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam” (Beaufort Books, 1983) from the chapter 4 – Dunes ‘til Dawn)
Lnda Van Devanter US Army Nurse (Cica 1969)
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