I don't like the beach - I grew up with stacks of cargo containers
to separate the sea air from the oily weight of diesel fuel.
It was delineated and mathematical - this, the cranes seemed to say, is home
and that, rotating slowly to point out past the yellow glow of dock-light, is nature.
Woe be the maid who confuse 'em.
In Rhode Island once, with some now-old friends, I found a compromise -
rocks and stones and pockets of movement in shallow pools, waiting to be
reinvigorated by the tides, caught for the moment as a still life.
The math was still there, but softened by decades of water, precisely weathered.
(It's easy to forget that, on any random street corner in Brooklyn,
you're never more that five miles from the ocean - walk in any direction
and you'll hit salt air soon enough; any direction but east).
I started walking late at night. I was looking for something and found Coney Island.
I couldn't walk any farther without divine intervention so I made a boat out of sand,
a simple boat whose lines were taken from my memories of summer camp,
square-backed and thin-sided and just big enough to lie down in,
my head in the prow and my feet lightly touching its rear corners.
I could hear the tide coming in, impossibly loud, louder than real life,
and all around me like I was curled up in a conch shell,
surrounded by echoes of every tide that ever was.
My sand-boat lurched from its sand-bed and drifted in the new water,
not far, a few inches, before dissolving under my body, depositing me
on the edge of the surf in a slick of the cleanest sand, the sand that used to be my vessel,
transubstantiated, not from water, but by water, into me.
I looked south, past the apartment blocks that appeared nicer than they really were,
and saw the cranes and lights and unnatural yellow calmness of the docks at night,
at the retaining walls and dredged channels for deep-draught superships piloted,
so far as I could tell, by peg-legged weather-hardened computer systems,
and scrambling to my feet before a wave returned to baptize me properly,
I ran, following the barely audible sound of steel-on-steel to the subway.