June 1, 2015 by The Citron Review
by JC Reilly
It’s not like you remember it; the boardwalk deserted except for a few sullen gulls, the carousel closed, its verdigris patina as gray as the sky on this damp March day. Bits of paper, cigarette butts, litter brownish, oily sand like leftover snow. Even Tillie’s smile on the side of the Wonder Bar seems tighter at the corners, gritting his teeth against the wind.
I’ve forgotten my gloves, and my blood, thinned after another round of chemo, forgets to move in my veins. My hands tinge almost as blue as your eyes, which glint with cold and reminiscence. When you were sixteen, you say, you spent all your afternoons playing Skee-ball, smoking Marlboros, hoping to earn some girl’s second glance.
You pocketed the tickets you won, saved them for something special. Once, you traded for a jacket, but just as often you’d jam them into the glove box, forget about them. You’d always come back for more—to the reek of hotdogs and piss, and the carnival music always just off-key, dueling with pop songs that blared from the arcades.
Here was more home than home to you—the mothers pushing their strollers, teens in miniskirts and leather, the skaters, the drunks: a family of proximity, even in the chaos. You’d stay until your quarters ran out, when the sun was low, and twilight’s purple shaded towards navy, to postpone the mystery of what you’d find at the house.
You stop then, as if you’re ashamed to tell me this story, remembering we’re at the Jersey Shore because of family—because it’s your brother’s wedding tomorrow, and you’re the best man. I know you’ve brought me here because I’ve always loved the ocean, and you wanted to give me this place, your place, even if it’s not the same. I’m colder, though, for the telling.
JC Reilly is the author of La Petite Mort and 25% co-author of On Occasion: Four Poets, One Year. She has had work published or forthcoming in Glassworks, Compose: a Journal of Simply Good Writing, Apeiron Review, Bloodstone Review, Kentucky Review, Dirty Chai, and others. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, three feuding cats, and a sticky-fingered ghost.