I don’t make a habit of laughing at naked men. Not that every guy I’ve hooked up with has been Adonis. They’ve ranged from unimpressive to average to exceptional—with one sexy-as-hell beast I’ve tried to block out. Still, I never laugh. Not even at the guy who strutted through my room in a leopard-print thong. But none have ever walked around nude wearing nothing but a fanny pack. A lime green fanny pack.
I elbow Shay. “I’m gonna lose it. Like cackle in this dude’s face.”
She squishes her lips so tight she’s barely breathing. “I know,” she says from the side of her mouth. “It’s so ridiculous it’s funny.”
Lily fidgets on my other side, her pale skin pink with embarrassment. She digs her flip-flop-clad toe into the sand. “I can’t believe you guys dragged me here.”
I bump my hip into hers. “I can’t believe you haven’t been here yet. A nude beach in a major Canadian city? This place should be a World Heritage Site.” I inhale the briny smell of the Pacific Ocean, hints of sulfur and fish mingling with the summer air. Even faced with Nude Fanny Pack Dude, I’d take Vancouver’s sea and sand over the constant bustle of Toronto.
Fanny Pack Dude smiles as he passes, his paunch jiggling with each step. The visual reminds me of the Jell-O molds I’d make as a kid. Better to eat wiggly sugar than a plate full of nothing. “It wouldn’t be so bad if he lost the accessory,” I say. “It’s just wrong.”
“This place is a time warp.” Shay scans the long-haired hippies baring it all to the sun, the majority of whom likely attended Woodstock. Gray hair and sagging skin extend for miles. “I bet they still think it’s 1960.”
Without warning I get shoved from behind, and I stumble forward, bile rising up in my throat. If someone’s dick rubbed against my ass, hellfire will rain. Spinning around, I tuck my limbs tight, clutching my purse to avoid touching anything naked.
A clothed man holds up his Frisbee. “Sorry, wasn’t looking.” He does, however, look at my legs in my jean shorts and my chest in my tank top, my black ensemble leaving little to the imagination. “Nice ink.” He nods at my exposed skin.
I smile but don’t flirt back; younger guys aren’t my flavor of choice.
He jogs away to join a rowdy group drinking by the evergreens lining the beach, likely students from UBC. Having a nude beach in Vancouver is odd enough. Having it attached to the city’s main university is a whole other level of weird. At least the steep descent from campus is a natural barrier to prying eyes.
“So, what do we do now?” Lily crosses her arms as though people can see through her white summer dress.
“Walk, I guess.” Shay plaits her brown curls into a loose braid. “It is a nice beach, naked hippies notwithstanding.”
“Walk it is,” I agree.
Shay and Lily, both in flip-flops, go ahead while I unlace my black goddess sandals from my calves. I carry them as the sand sifts through my toes, the grains hot and coarse. We pass clothed beachgoers, the majority seemingly unconcerned by the naked bodies around them. Two ladies stroll by, their boobs swaying. Behind them a younger woman walks alone, her nudity on display. I slow my pace. Her hair is long and black, like mine. Her eyes are dark, like mine. She’s about the right age, too—ten or so years older than me. I study her face, her features. I scan her lips and cheekbones and nose, looking for familiarity. Looking for my sister. Then she smiles, revealing a mess of crowded teeth.
Not my sister.
I run my tongue across the back of my two front teeth, letting it slide between the center gap. As kids, when our mother was busy pickling her liver and my father was betting our rent money at the track, my sister, Rose, would take me for ice cream. Ten years older, she’d use the money she’d earn babysitting, then waitressing, to distract me. We’d count the number of licks it would take to finish our mint chocolate cones, her teeth perfect and straight, mine gapped in the center. My envy knew no bounds.
I haven’t seen her perfect smile since I was nine.
I glance ahead. The girls are waiting for me, and Shay shades her eyes with her hand. “You’re looking for her, aren’t you?”
Lily frowns, then raises her brows in understanding. “Is that why we’re here? To find Rose?”
My friends don’t miss much. “Yes and no. Yes, I thought it would be a good place to check out, considering she only wore tie-dyed shirts and used enough incense to send smoke signals. But I also thought, since Lily’s only ever seen two penises, that she should have a look at the variety out there. For scientific reasons.”
Shay cackles, and the sound eases my tension. A reminder that moving closer to her and Lily was a smart decision. Shay has lived in Vancouver seven months, Lily and me only one. The girls moved to be with the men they love. For me this is a fresh start: new job, new city. And a chance to find Rose, if my intel is correct.
Lily attempts to scowl at me, but she can’t hide her giggle. “I’m not sure Sawyer would be happy about me being here without him.”
Shay links elbows with her and turns to keep walking. My purse bounces against my backside as I join them.
“It’s better he’s not here,” Shay says. “Sawyer would be the first to strip and lounge naked.”
Lily cringes. “You’re probably right.”
The sun beats down, sweat gathering on my forehead. I run the back of my hand under my bangs. “In the name of scientific research, we should work on Lily’s penile education.”
“I’m in.” Shay releases Lily’s arm and tips her head toward a naked middle-aged man reading on his towel. “Exhibit A: the Number Two.”
The poor guy has nothing more than a string of licorice between his legs. Although unattractive, his nudity sends my mind to a place it often goes, the place I try to ignore. To the beast of a man I woke up naked with in Aspen. It may have been over a year ago, but that’s not the kind of thing one forgets. Goddamn Nico.
I ignore the unwelcome thought and focus on Mr. Dick Smalls. “If that’s a two, I assume your ranking system ranges from one to a hundred.”
Shay shakes her head while a silent Lily blushes. “Nope. That bad boy is a two. As in the pencil. Hopefully he’s more of an H pencil. If that thing is a B, he’s screwed.”