Hair gel always smells like the beach to me. I dabbled in using it for a little while in the late 90's when I cut all my hair off but haven't touched the stuff since. It was the same hair gel I brought to Wildwood when six of us crammed into one hotel room and the same hair gel we shot into a pair of poor ol' Reinhold's trunks while he was on the deck chatting up some girl. I'm not sure if he noticed they were loaded before he put them on because I was probably passed out on the floor between the bed and the air conditioner, wrapped in a blanket or two.
On every pass through I made it a point to stop at Castle Dracula, I don't know why I have some weird affinity for haunted houses. I don't even particularly like horror movies, I just like Halloween and haunted houses. Castle Dracula sounds like a goth-club and it probably is somewhere but this was just a building that was made to look like a castle with some plywood, drywall and stucco.There was a moat running around and under the building and slabs of wood wrapped in rubber that ferried you around while people jumped out at you along the way.
The Castle itself was a longer attraction. You went through a parlor where a man appeared seemingly out of thin air and warned you to go no further because his "master" wouldn't be happy with guests. I worked in a haunted house for many Octobers and the 'master' theme was prevalent in each incarnation. I'm not sure if it's just standard haunted house procedure or if maybe it was ripped off, either way, everyone was just an Igor serving their faceless master.
It's not hard to fall for girls in places like that. Heaps of makeup, tight black dresses, fish-nets, candy-striped socks under high boots. Things like that.
And that's what happened.
I got smitten with some girl who worked the guillotine.
We caught up with her at the pizza stand across from the castle and barraged her with questions like the drunk teenagers (re:20) we were.
She just moved to Wildwood and sort of had a boyfriend but not really. It was complicated.
It's always complicated.
She has to go back in, her break was over.
She stomped her cigarette out on the boardwalk and told us she might be back around later if we were still in the area.
We were but we didn't see her.
A few weeks passed by and Professor Hogan, (then only Mr. Hogan) decided he wanted to take an impromptu trip to Wildwood before the summer was over.
I was already in Brick, not living there, merely visiting the empty house that was about to be shut down for the season. Headmaster Porr of Slytherin was also down there. We had a few random beers left over from the last party and were enjoying them when Hogan showed up in his his fire-truck red SUV blasting Metallica, armed with a bottle of Vodka.
"I'll drive" he said as we gathered a cooler and threw in anything remaining in the refrigerator that could be considered an alcoholic beverage.
Hogan sped down the Parkway stopping only at toll booths to open his door and recover any change that weak-armed drivers threw but didn't make the basket, until he was yelled at by a collector.
We made it down quick and checked into the first place we could find that had a 'vacancy' sign.
Let's call it the "Ocean Gate".
It wasn't but I can't remember what it was really called and Ocean Gate sounds the most motel-y to me at this late hour.
We walked into the office; two shirtless children, both girls, chased each other to all corners screaming at each other while their mother, behind the counter, held an infant in her arms and yelled back at them to "knock it off."
"Y'all want a room?" she asked.
Her hair was ragged and unkempt, and there were teeth missing from her smile. She handed us the key after we handed her our cash and she returned to yelling at the children after our brief interruption.
The only thing missing from the room was the chalk outline of a body. The rug was shit-brown with enough water stains to make it look like a map. The television looked like it was shipped directly from 1967, rabbit ears and no remote. There was no clock in the room but there was a musty smell as if no one had been in here for years. We put this aside and opened the cooler. There were two patio chairs in front of the room and if we turned our necks left we could see the ocean clearly.
Two hours later the weather had picked up and I was alone. Headmaster Porr and Professor Hogan were snoring the song of vodka drenched dreams in the room while Happy Days flickered on the screen. We were out of booze, and I couldn't sleep.
It was still early but the wind had started whipping around anything that could move. The patio chairs were dragged and some turned over as the gusts gained strength. I decided to take a walk down to the boardwalk even thought it looked like most people were packing it in.
My head was helium filled, drowsy but incapable of sleep. Not in that place.
I passed by the large hotels along the coast of the town. Bright beautiful lights, devoid of the sound of any people or cars or any other interference. Just the wind swelling up and down and the hum of the lights.
If that girl was working I was going to ask her to get a drink. Or a slice of pizza or whatever.
And it wasn't a psych-yourself-up moment. It was just a simple light bulb flash. Oh yeah. That girl might be in there. I should see if she wants to do something since my two traveling companions have passed out.
I waited in the short line. Went through all the attractions. Finally the guillotine room. She was there. "off with his head" she shrieked before pulling the rope to release the wooden blade. As the group filtered out I hung towards the back of the line, she pointed to the exit, I approached her and took my "Hey I don't know if you remember me but we hung out a few weeks ago and I don't know what you're doing after this but I wanted to see if maybe you wanted to get a drink or something to eat when you're done" inhale but nothing came out.
She looked at me for a second and kept up with the "get out" routine, perhaps knowing instinctively what I was trying to blurt out.
A few minutes later I was walking back to the hotel. It started raining now and I pictured myself as some dejected-hero in a movie, walking in the rain.
I got back to the room and the two were still passed out, having only rolled over in the last hour. The Mary Tyler Moore show had replaced the Fonz. but I knew there was no way I was getting any sleep. Not in that place with whatever microscopic-DNA-monsters were swimming on everything.
I pulled up the patio chair and lit a cigarette. I started scribbling some bullshit, post-high-school-yet-still-high-school-sounding thoughts or poems about the tall girl in the vamp costume who I choked in front of. Then I heard a grunt.
I looked into the room but it wasn't coming from there.
Another grunt followed.
It was coming from the open window directly across from me; the upstairs level of the office.
Another grunt, a moan, a shriek, a moan, a grunt.
Head board slamming into the wall.
Yeah. Harder. Yeah. Oh. Oh God.
The tooth deprived woman with the ratty hair and topless toddlers was getting it good.
Good and loud.
The rain started up again drowning her and Mary Tyler Moore out.
The wind threw the rain around splattering up in my face a little.
I was awake and it looked like I was staying that way.
Only a few hours til the sun came up.
Plenty of places to go for breakfast and kill some time until Hogan and Porr recover and we can get out of this town and flip the calendar to Fall.
Until then I sat on the patio chair hoping, Mr. Hotel Keeper didn't have the stamina for another round.
Slightly drunk and wide awake.
Pretty fucking haunted.