Newsletters from Manhattan — Brighton Beach
I took two trains to Brighton Beach today being careful to pay attention to the stops along the way because I had just almost gotten onto the B train going in the wrong direction. The beach was at the end of the line and when I stepped off I followed a couple that were carrying towels and a cooler. It was a safe bet. When I hit the boardwalk I gazed anxiously over the sand that was covered with a blanket of brightly colored umbrellas. People were crammed onto the beach but sat just far enough away from each other to be distant. It was like trying to find Waldo. The sand was too hot at first. Then I heard my name shouted and followed its sound to Honeybee22274 and her friend. This many people on a beach in Oregon would be awful. I’m not sure exactly why but it would.
I had bought a ten dollar green and white striped beach umbrella and started to stab it into the sand but Honeybee said it might not work. I probably wouldn’t be able to get it deep enough and then the wind would surely grab it away. “And what, poke somebody in the eyeball?” I asked and we laughed and kept shoving it deeper. I was glad for its shade. Then we all proudly listed what snacks we had brought. My list was shorter than theirs but I had Cheese-Its.
Someone with an Ice Cream cart pulled by and I almost jumped up with excitement but then remembered I’m cut off from ice cream. I am allergic to dairy but I ate so much of it anyway when I first got to New York that now I look like a spotted leper and I have to quit. A minute later a darkly tanned Mexican man rolled through the masses with a cooler full of cold beers. Honeybees’ friend decided a cold Corona at the beach would be good and I agreed. She bought two and handed me one and it was perfectly cold. How could he keep them that cold when it felt like we were baking in an oven? I used the sand as a cupholder and then didn’t drink mine fast enough so the last half was warm.
There was a muscle man who came out of the ocean and did vigorous push ups in the sand and then went back into the water. Repeat.
There was another man dressed in black with a black Rottweiler on a black leash wandering through the tides. Sometimes the water rushed over the dog’s head but it never seemed to mind.
There was loud music right behind us. After a while someone else a little further down turned up their beats and the couple behind respectfully took their turn to turn theirs down. I wondered if anything could annoy me being on this beach. It seemed like it should, the loud music, the people everywhere, the crowded water. But all of it belonged here and I liked it.
The ocean was extra salty. And filled with humans. Hordes of them standing among the greenish blue waves that swept to and fro under the water’s silky surface. It was cold at first like water always is. It felt like the Clackamas river in July. All I had to do was dive straight in, get it over with and I would be used to it. I did. The waves rolled and comforted me. My body became limp and the water carried me on its back. I gave myself away to its dangerously unknown tows, trusting that it would let me down safely. It is the most magical thing to swim around in the ocean’s body, if only at its edges. My body is made up of half water. I am sharing space with another body of water that covers over half of the earth’s surface.
In my dreams I can breathe underwater.
There was a sailboat out in the sea somewhere between the horizon and land. It was beautiful and I kept my eye on it. It moved slowly at first. It was always there when I decided to get into the water. Its tall bulged and pointed sail proudly sliced its way through the sky and water, a perfect sight and I thought I’d take its picture the next time after this that I got in the water. But I watched it moving just a little bit quicker and a little quicker and I knew it would land on the Jersey shore soon and its grace would be lost. I was torn, should I run back to grab my phone or could I wait? Or did it matter, it had already lost its perfection. What if I hurried? I didn’t. I decided to just float and watch it leave the horizon’s edge and I actually saw the sail come down. So now I hold the memory of its lovely and lazy journey instead of a photograph of its memory.