“Fictional and indulgent beach reads to remove you from the 9 to 5 state of mind…to the To27 state of mind.”

A Jersey Girl in The Hamptons

While my friends toasted frozen rooftop rasptinis at the Gaansevoort and flirted with an endless array of men in Miami, I just wanted to be left alone in my despair. I don’t understand why they squelched me in my disposition. I have spent the past year listening to Tabitha debate whether she should cease all ties with Marco. Ever since we graduated, I have listened to Leila complain about her career ennui and wretched boss. And Krissy, she just disappointed me the most. The lack of call-backs and the absence of invites leads me to suspect that my friends are planning a Fourth of July pow-wow somewhere on Long Island without me. I pictured them coupled up at Krissy’s backyard deck for a BBQ, or a lavish poolside party at Tabitha’s. And here I am sitting alone in New Jersey.

Luckily my cousin from Water Mill is throwing her annual Independence Day party at her family’s Southampton compound, grander than Tabitha’s summer house. I could sit here all alone, but instead I hit the road and by early noon I am on the Long Island Expressway ready to immerse myself in new company.

The Drummer Boy, his American bulldog and I await the fireworks show.

Tabitha nearly wringed my neck when I told them I would stay in our hotel room on our last night in Miami. “You’re being ridiculous Nikki,” she said. “We’ve all been heartbroken, staying in won’t help.” I later heard her talk about me in the bathroom as Krissy and Leila dolled up, “None of us have ever taken out our guy problems on each other. I am done with her.” The truth is Tabitha has never been heartbroken in her life because she has never loved anyone the way I loved Robert. The closest she has come to love is A.J., and she cheats on him with some geezer in Miami. None of my friends know how it is like to love someone so wholeheartedly and give herself so selflessly to one man, so I don’t expect them to ever understand my sorrow.

Before I left for Miami I hosted my sister’s bridal shower at Verdi’s Ristorante. One of her friends informs me, “Oh my God you didn’t hear? Robert married Monica in Vegas, and she’s pregnant. And oh my God you are way prettier than her, don’t even worry.” Monica has been after him ever since freshman year of high school. She’d greet him with an overabundance of enthusiasm and prolonged hugs in the hallway without slightly acknowledging me.

I ran out of Verdi’s and asked the valet attendant to fetch my keys immediately. I sat in my car for an hour, nauseous but unable to cry. Robbie and I dated when we were juniors in prep school. We were one of those high school couples that belonged to no clique because we were in our own world. When I went to Syracuse University six hours away, I stayed committed. I switched from nursing to a lighter liberal arts major so I could come home more often. Instead of late parties, I would return to my dorm by midnight so we could talk until we fell asleep on the phone. After graduating I went back to Wayne, NJ, ready for my ring. It never came. He pushed me away. Our plans to buy a condo together became a non-subject. I heard he and Monica were hanging out. I thought it was temporary. I, after all, belonged to him for nine years. I was so faithful and turned down so many men since 2000 that no one even hits on me anymore. “You’ve been locked in for so long your pheromones still tell men to back off,” Tabitha would say. “Lighten up and let them in!” And after all these years of loving him, looking my best for him, sacrificing my lifelong ambitions for him, he chose an overweight pothead, with over-tweezed eyebrows and a fake degree from a cosmetics school in Jersey City.

The gates open to the Water Mill estate. I pull up to a driveway resembling a showroom for Range Rovers, BMWs and mud-splashed Jeeps. This gives me hope about the potential bachelors at this party. Marie’s friends are all on the patio facing the beach, equipped with two bars and a fully loaded clambake. Her gorgeous friends are day-drunk beyond belief and 89% of them are affianced. The remainder of single men have already set their sights on a woman just as drunk as them. The few who notice me reek of beer sweat and have disregarded to wipe their upper-lip perspiration. I am instantly disgusted.

I go inside where the air seems fresher. I walk into the Great Room which is window-paneled from floor to ceiling. It overlooks the patio party and Mecox Bay, where I see a few amateur fireworks set off. I wonder where Robbie is and if he and his new wife are staying home, rubbing her belly. I wonder where my friends are and whether the damage done at Miami is repairable. I grab my purse and weekend luggage. I could sit here alone, in this wild crowd of excessively attractive strangers, but instead I hit the road towards Route 27 to drive further east. I know at least one of them are viewing the Stars Over Montauk Fireworks show, our favorite tradition during our summers home from college.

I didn’t touch the seafood buffet at cousin Marie’s so I stop at 668 Gigshack. I wanted to dine in the bright outdoors, with loud music. I need ongoing clamor to distract me from my depression. Leila and Tabitha still have not called me. I lost cell phone service when I drove past The Overlook but a voicemail from Krissy says she is busy with a house guest and will call me after dinner. Who is this recurring house guest taking precedence over me? I already foresee me watching the Montauk fireworks show alone tonight. I should head back to Water Mill after this meal.

I order a white sangria and a bowl of mussels in marinara while listening to a band cover The Goo Goo Dolls. The singer is strikingly handsome, shirtless and his on-stage presence has caught the attention of other female patrons. But behind him is the drummer who is gazing at me while he plays his instrument. He has olive skin, sufficient lips, wearing a grey bandana around his head. He is soaked in sweat (but I am not at all disgusted) and often wipes his face with his loose vintage t-shirt, revealing his lovely set of abs. In between songs, a waitress brings them beer and I notice him speak to the waitress and smile. She later brings me a second round of white sangria and points to the drummer. The band is now covering Soundgarden. I look up at him, and he winks at me while he bangs on his drums for a solo. I could sit here alone, and that is exactly what I do until his band wraps up half an hour later and he walks over to my table.

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