Hippie Squared: Some Things I Remember and Some I Don’t

I was working the Sunset Strip that night. I pulled my cab over to the curb in front of the Rainbow, or Gazzari’s, or the Coconut Teaser. It was a Friday or a Saturday night in early 1987—a long time ago. There are some things I remember, and some things I don’t. I remember her.

She got into the cab first, while he held the back door open and I watched over my shoulder. She ducked her head and her straight dark hair hung down, a little mussed. She lifted her face as she sat and it was utterly lovely. Lovely and young. I was young, then, too. But she was younger.

She held her long gray-and-white checked coat tightly closed with one hand. With the other she tucked it under her bare thighs as she slid along the seat. As the full length of her legs came into my sight between the seats I saw that she was barefoot too. She caught my eyes and gave me a shy, up-from-under look. Up from under long lashes. And shy, yes, but she held my gaze. As if she might have a secret. A secret she might like to share.

He climbed in after her. I have no memory of what he wore. Black, probably. Short, tousled, dirty-blond hair. Chiseled features. A good-looking enough guy. Not a match for her necessarily, but not too much of a stretch.

The English accent closed the gap, when he opened his mouth to tell me where to take them. Not posh; it sounded working-class to me. “Could you please find us a liquor store? Or somewhere we can pick up a bottle of something? Then on to Venice? To the beach?” He looked at her, patted her thigh, and she smiled at him.

“No sweat,” I said, and pulled away from the curb to flow into the river of lights.

Terry, he said he name was, and we chatted a little as I drove. He talked to me like a peer, as if we’d just bumped into each other in the club and struck up a conversation, not like I was working for him.

So when I pulled into a gas station with a convenience store and the word Liquor in cursive neon on the window, I felt casual enough to say, “This okay? I could use some gas to get us out to the beach.”

“Sure, mate, no problem,” he said, and we got out of the cab together. His girl stayed behind. He went into the store while I pumped the gas. When I finished he was still in there. Through the window I could see his shoulders hunched forward as he moved slowly along an aisle reading labels.

I decided to go in and grab something myself, water maybe, or chips and a Coke. When he saw me come in he motioned me over. I could see right away that he had a secret, too. And he wanted to share it.

But first he asked my help in picking out a bottle of wine. I knew nothing of wine, really, but he showed me something French and I said, “Looks good to me,” and that seemed to be enough for him.

Then he leaned in close and motioned with his head out to the cab. “That girl,” he said. “I just met her tonight. At the club.”

“She’s beautiful,” I said.

“Yeah, thanks. She’s really sweet, too. I really like her.” He leaned in a little closer, dropped his voice a little lower. “And under that coat, mate? She’s got nothin’ on. Not a stitch.”

I remember the tone of wonder in his voice; a lascivious sweetness. He couldn’t believe his luck. He just had to share it with a mate, if only a passing one. “I asked her to dance and she shook her head no. But we fell to talkin’ a bit. And then she just opened up her coat, just a little, so only I could see.”

When we got back into the cab I met her eyes in the rearview mirror. Shy, yes, but knowing, and with the faintest hint of a smile. As if she could see that her secret had been shared.

I drove them out to Venice. I don’t remember the route I took. But I remember pulling up to the curb along Pacific Avenue, somewhere between Venice and Washington Boulevards, at the end of one of those walkways with the white sidewalk, just a block off the beach. It was a misty late-winter night, but we could see through to the expanse of damp dark brown sand, and past that the gray of night and ocean mixed together; the intermingled sounds of waves and wind out there in the dark.

I looked back over my shoulder as he climbed out and held the door open for her. She met my gaze again, gave me just a tiny, shy-bold smile. I smiled back. I watched frankly as she pressed her naked legs together and tucked the coat under them, very ladylike, in preparation for sliding along the seat toward the door. I didn’t think she minded my watching.

He held his hand out, her English gentleman, and she placed her delicate hand in his, before lifting one leg to place one bare foot outside the door of the cab, and I could see a hollow of darkness where the coat opened, and I could guess at the wonders therein, though I couldn’t really see a thing.

He opened the front door of the cab and leaned in to pay me. He grinned and gave me a secret thumbs up. I returned it, down below her sightline, while she waited demurely out on the sidewalk, wrapped in her long coat.

I remember them walking away from me, down the white sidewalk toward the dark, dangerous, romantic beach. He held the wine in one hand and her small hand in the other. The streetlight no doubt caught the white souls of her bare feet as she walked. I think that I started up the cab and pulled away discretely, before they got to the sand. But some things I remember and some I don’t. I remember the wonder in his voice. And I remember the secrets in her eyes.

featured image credit: Matt_McL