Heat radiating from the steel girders and the concrete walkway became too much for Abel, and halfway across the bridge he tied his shirt around his waist. He didn't like exposing his pale back and arms to the sun. Skin cancer ran in his family. But at least he had no flab, he thought. His long-waisted torso was lean. He walked on, thinking about the cold beer waiting for him at the other end of the bridge at Cal's Tavern on the waterfront.
Up ahead, he saw the bright and dancing forms of girls. As they came toward him, Abel drew himself up as tall as he could and increased his pace so that he would stride past them purposefully, like a man with somewhere to go. He didn't want to make eye contact. He wanted only to give them a quick look at his body, wanted to feel their eyes on his chest, wanted to hear them whisper and maybe giggle the way girls in groups always did when they liked a boy.
But one girl stopped and separated herself from the rest. She planted her feet apart and waited, daring him to look directly at her. Abel wanted to, but the rules were clear. The girl had to show an interest, had to chase you just a little before you showed an interest back.
She waited in the heat, letting her friends get ahead of her, flicking her hair back from her face.
"Hey there, Abel."
""Hey, Maureen," he said. "Don't you have somewhere to be?"
"Let's say I don't."
"Let's say I'm going to Cal's."
"Let's say I go with you."
He shrugged like there was nothing in the world he cared about less than her company the rest of the way across the bridge. She shrugged, then, too, removing her blouse slowly and tying it around her waist.
He stepped past her and kept on walking, aware of the burning sensation that had begun on his back and arms -- a tingling that had nothing to do with the sunshine, whatsoever.