What Lies Beneath

To think that some of the greatest works of art in human history are not encased in museums and galleries but deep beneath cities, on the walls of abandoned subway stations. The ruins of mankind are exceptionally beautiful.

Ruins

 

(photo taken on September 14, 2013 beneath the downtown city of Rochester, New York. The underground subway operated between 1927-1956 before it was abandoned and left to decay)

Summer’s Lease Hath All Too Short a Date

Sprawled out on a blanket, a mid-September’s dusk settles over the beach. My feet dig beneath the fluffy, cool white sand while a still warm ocean froths and lapses against the shore.
The wind in your strawberry blonde hair covers your large blue eyes but I can see you smile, you beautiful pink lips coated with invisible kisses I smothered you with all Summer. You were the best thing to ever happen to me, hands down.
We met before the season officially started, introduced at a crowded party one evening along the bay. From the moment I caught glimpse of you I thought you angelic, standing out among everyone else and surely someone I could never even be seen talking to. You were so far out of my league, I thought you didn’t even notice my existence, nor did I expect you to.
As I marveled at you from a distance, my heart leapt into my throat as I watched my co-worker call you and your beautiful mother over to us. A passionately outgoing man quite older than I, if it weren’t for him I would have never had the courage to approach you.
A fake confidence washed over me and you gazed directly into my pupils when you spoke to me. You took a genuine interest in my life which was shocking because I wasn’t used to women behaving in that way towards me. There was an incredibly rare honest kindness and yet an exotic mystery about you that picturesque evening.
I was floored when you returned to me before leaving, asking me to call you and giving me your phone number. I didn’t know how to respond. The last time something like that happened I must have been a Sophomore in High School. There was nothing about me that seemed attractive that evening. I was wearing shorts and a sweatshirt, seated on-top of a picnic table with a drink, scoping out the scene, mostly watching people who all know each other mingling and laughing.
For the rest of the night I felt a joy I hadn’t experienced in years.
The next day, in the evening, I called you. I didn’t want to wait too long, since you had asked me to call. Hearing your voice again thrilled me and I asked if I could take you out to dinner.
That weekend I texted you and picked you up at your house for an 8:00 reservation at Mildred’s, a beautiful Italian restaurant on the beach. Over dinner we fell in love with each other.
And so began an Eternal Summer that in my mind, can never fade, since it exists only there.
Days we spent on the beach, soaking up the sun, sharing stories and exchanging books. We met for coffee on your work breaks and you helped me come up with new stories to write. You loved that I loved to write fiction.
We attended events together and took pictures. You published your first story for the magazine I wrote for and helped me come up with new, vintage designs and photo-shoots, some of which you were in. You brought your special touch to my apartment, decorating where I didn’t, spending summer nights snuggling on my couch as we laughed watching Big Bang Theory and FRIENDS.
On the weekends, when the tourists invaded our quaint beach town and traffic heading onto our island was jammed for miles, we took off in the opposite direction and headed into the cities everyone else was leaving from. On various Friday and Saturday nights we would go out to dinner in Philadelphia and New York, Baltimore, Atlantic City and Washington, D.C. We always went somewhere interesting with character, living to explore and many times danced the night away. Together we strolled Central Park hand in hand and raced to the top of the Philadelphia Art Museum Steps. We kissed at the top of the Lincoln Memorial one of those fine summer nights and walked the Reflecting Pool back to the subway station.
At the top of the Ferris Wheel on the boardwalk we watched the sunset and devoured a bag of cotton candy. Together we rode our bikes to church on Sunday’s before heading to the beach. We took Polaroid pictures in the photo-booth at Jilly’s Arcade and played Skee-ball well into the night. We walked across the two mile long 9th street bridge to our favorite bar for drinks and dancing before finishing off the night with a late night meal at our favorite diner.
Our friends came to visit and boasted of our genuine love, our hilarious friendship, our zeal for adventure and our sacrificial care for one another.  At night we walked the beach and braved a couple of night swims, all the while talking about shark attacks. We watched countless magnificent sunsets along the bay and from the Inlet at the far end of our barrier island. Some nights we would go back to my apartment and lock ourselves in the bedroom for the remainder of the evening… We planned and plotted our Fall and Winter travels, making lists of towns and cities we needed to visit together. But for the most part, we simply enjoyed each others presence while we still had Summer in our own personal paradise.
We went fishing on the jetties at the north end of the island, surfed the waves with new boards, visited the free zoo in Cape May and tested our luck a few times in Atlantic City. We changed our names to Jay and Daisy, dressed up as 1920’s as we could and went to see The Great Gatsby, a Prohibition era Pandora radio station playing in the car on our way to the theater. Afterwards we ate at Atlantic City’s elegant, turn-of-the-century styled Knife & Fork Inn before heading back to watch Boardwalk Empire re-runs. Some nights we would get a large tub of Johnson’s popcorn and watch old films and hilarious YouTube videos.
I lived to surprise you, romance and enchant you. And I reveled in the opportunity to do so. You were a gem and I was somehow blessed enough to be sharing my life with you. I loved introducing you to my friends and to anyone at all, really. You were a prize, an profoundly gorgeous treasure, both inside and out.
One July evening we celebrated Christmas, set up a tree in the apartment and decorated it; streaming lights along the windows. We hung a mistletoe and lit pine scented candles. After clearing away the table to create our own intimate dance floor, we listened to vinyl records of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, looking forward to real Christmas in December.
Countless dates we went on to what seemed like hundreds of restaurants in various towns and cities and secret beaches all along the 127 mile coast of the state, but especially our island. We planned road trips to Tennessee and Montauk, Boston and Quebec. To the outsiders, we were a cute, artsy couple who ran a retro magazine in a New Jersey beach town and everyone was jealous of our lives and especially our love. We took pictures of each other and flooded Instagram with our overwhelming joy. While others took shelter during coastal storms, we braved them outside in our bathing suits and kissed in the pouring rain.
We proved loyal and committed to one another, even in the midst of hardships. No obstacle was too big for our prevailing relationship. In my heart I vowed to protect and care and sacrifice for you because I wanted you to be my One and Only for all Eternity. Living for ourselves no longer appealed in comparison to living for one another.
The only flaw in this idealistic Summer was that it never happened.
For some reason unknown to me, you never called back.
Maybe you suddenly lost interest in me, met someone else or simply decided I wasn’t worth responding to. Whatever the reason, that was the last I heard from you, the day after we met at the party along the bay. The Summer that might have been existed only in my mind, where almost all of my romanticism has always dwelt.
And as I’m here sprawled out on this blanket on the beach during a mid-September’s dusk, I think about you and what could have been so that I might not feel so alone.

lease

 

Therapy

My feet trek across cold sand through a subtle early morning mist.
The stillness of the sea is spread out before me, a limitless scope of blue constant. 
Thoughts race through my troubled and scattered brain as I climb into the empty lifeguard stand; dusted with sand and damp with dawn’s dew.
It’s all so beautiful but what is the purpose? What is the true intent of it all?
I examine the perfectly rounded lines on the tips of my fingers.
I try to call my thoughts into order before they race out of control.
I’m filled with wonder, awe and plagued with unanswered questions. 
I am so limited, bound and constrained by my brain, my body, a 24,000 mile globe.
Sea breeze nestles against my face, tossing my summer sun-kissed blonde hair.
The season is over, the shore is mine, but I get this feeling in the midst of my loneliness that I am anything but.
As the thoughts press on, the questions pile up.
I finally exclaim, “I need to hear You!”
And suddenly, before the last word reaches my lips an ocean wave breaks, crashes against the beach with a beautiful thud and an expanding hiss.
It sucks back into the murky blue only to form again.
It’s then I see The Artist in everything.
The Intelligent Design behind my entire surroundings, my entire existence, all that I know.
I sense the unlimited in the tiniest details of the beautifully well-constrained. 
The Artist has made Himself known.
Rest and peace pervade. 
All is calm.
Another wave breaks.