clap clap blog: we have moved

Sunday, October 24, 2004
Went to Coney Island again a few weekends back, this time with our friends A. and K., and A.'s 9-year-old sister, Ar. The first place Ar. wanted to go once we got off the train was the ocean, even before our customary first stop, Nathan's, which was especially amazing when you consider that hot dogs are her second-favorite food (right behind cheeseburgers and ahead of pizza--we discussed this at one point, because it is important). She had never seen the ocean before. It was regrettably a cool day in the city, the first burst of fall, and so we were neither inclined nor allowed to go swimming, but Ar.'s pant legs were rolled up and she waded in tentatively, running away from the waves with a shout as they rolled in. I, still in socks and shoes, skittered back along with her, bending down at the edge to run my fingers through the thin foam. There was almost no one there. The sky was perfectly clear.

We left after a little while and rode the Wonder Wheel. I was in front and Ar., K., and A. were in back. I expressed some terror as the metal cage slid on its rails toward the boardwalk below, as I did the last time, and later, Ar. made fun of me for this (she adamently expressed her non-terror), which was fair enough. We also rode a log flume ride, taken around a water course in a cut-out plastic boat, which terrified my companion and delighted the hell out of me. (No roller coasters please though, thanks.) Then Nathan's, eaten on a bench on the boardwalk. Ar. sat for a while on the metal railing, her feet dangling over, and a few kids of concurrent age ran up to her and took a brief look and continued running. She rejoined us and decided to have some cheese fries after all, which I felt was a good decision.

It was then decided that we were to attend the sideshow, which as it was the last show of the season, we were admitted to for a discounted price. Everyone but me was surprised to discover that the majority of its performers stood a good chance of having attended a liberal arts college at one point. (I'm unclear why this didn't surprise me, but it really didn't.) Me and my companion were actually called up on stage to assist Eek the Geek, most likely not an attendee of a liberal arts college and all the more charming for it, by standing on a board with nails driven through it placed business-end down on his very large and very tatooed stomach, while at the same time he was lying on a similar board. My companion actually fell off, which was sort of funny. He told us to examine his skin afterwards and there were little indentations on the front and I think one puncture on the back. We sat down and he lit a torch on a girl's tongue and gave a speech about bigotry and how in the real world there were no freaks, only people. He closed by encouraging us to vote. Then there was a snake dance, at the mere mention of which K. and Ar. fled the room, but Ar. returned to watch, fascinated.

After a quick stop to get cotton candy for Ar. and cola for me (I was falling asleep, this minutes after seeing a woman put a snake in her mouth--clearly I am overdosing on pop culture here), we went back to the ocean. Ar.'s pant legs were rolled up again and she ventured in again, this time with far less hestitation. My companion and I took off our footwear and rolled up, too, and we ventured farther and farther in, jumping over waves now instead of running from them and laughing as the waves got bigger and started to send drops and sprays onto our clothes. This progressed as it was naturally wont to do until my companion and I had our whole lower halves soaked and Ar., being considerably shorter and even more considerably enthusiastic about the ocean, totally 100% irrevocably soaked, and loving it. Her sister had, of course, suggested she simply strip down to underwear, but Ar. had resisted this, and now, well, now she had made a bathing suit of what she had. My companion ventured back to the beach to dry off and A. and K. stood at the edge of the surf. I stood out in the water with Ar. as she taunted the waves, crouching as they approached and then attempting to jump with them, or against them, depending on her mood, as they crashed. When she faced back towards shore, I would warn her of the approaching wave in an excited voice and jump with her; when she faced away from shore, I stood a few paces behind her, far enough behind so she could forget my presence if she desired, but not so far back that I could not help her should she encounter trouble, wanting desperately for her to fall in love with the salt water and the rocks, or to fall in love, at any rate, more deeply than she already was, to remember it forever and to associate it with her first kiss whenever it might come; wanting, at the same kind, desperately to keep her safe, although this was only the second afternoon we had spent in each other's company, wanting quietly but infinitely that she suffer no harm aside from a mild chill, that she not only be OK but better, that no harm befall her wherever she might go; I am new at this, but it feels like second nature, although I may not actually be very good at it--it feels like second nature, this balancing of allowed pleasure and carefully monitored safety, this silent, breathless observation of total joy coupled with an all-consuming desire to see the joyous one be OK forever and always, to have all good things that she might wish and to wish then for even more, to forget her troubles and to smile like this always, to throw her arms up and embrace the air like it is, well, like it is what it is: the perfect encapsulation of this surf and this beach, the weightly confulence of enjoyment.

We left the ocean after a time, left and tracked up the dirty beach to the beachouse, where Ar. washed off her sandy feet under the foot-washer as K. went and got her a new outfit. She came back with a sweatshirt and a snug-fitting pair of shorts that she told us, somewhat disturbingly, were actually adult-sized, apparently being of the "booty" variety. Out of the water and cold now, Ar.'s face fell into the expression it had taken for most of the day. It might be presumtuous or wrong-headed, but I felt familiar with her, based on that expression and my knowledge of her recent history; it was an expression I felt I myself had worn before, and maybe, sure, would again. Which is OK. But I wanted to sit with her and play Connect-4 and talk about subways and sidewalks. And maybe I will, sometime. She may be coming to stay, as might a new addition, who I will buy a ukelele for, but will take it with me when I'm not there.

Then we went home on the train, but I don't remember this so well; some people slept, no doubt, and some people were hugged, and maps were consulted, and watches were checked, and we all ended up at home, safe and sound and warm and home.