I wonder whether Kim and Shigem know about this wax Angel yet. I throw my attention out in search of them both and feel it dragged five or six blocks eastward from where I’m lying here, to the beach where they are also sprawled flat, in disobedience of the yellow tape stretched across the steps from the Boardwalk to the sand. Presumably for privacy, they have avoided the main stretch between the Convention Hall and the Casino, and have settled on this lonelier beach further north, across from the fields of concrete and grass at Seventh Avenue. They are clearly set to stay a while here, knowing they’ll be moving away in a couple of days and won’t have time to do this again. So calm and idyllic is the scene, that I cannot resist prolonging my shared tune-in to them. In fact, I’m so very comfortable that I drift to sleep, as I discover at least a couple of hours later.
On waking, I can feel that for those two lovers this has grown into a golden, classic day, an epic piece of sun-worship, as there is an almost mythical aura of closeness and childlike enchantment between them. Ignoring the “No Swimming” signs along the Boardwalk fence, they make regular trips into the water, then cover each other’s body in suntan lotion again after each trip, as the sun breathes Arabian fire without relent. With every splash into the waves, it’s as if they are diving deeper into an ever-more-vivid, not-quite-visible water—a pool both invisible and ultramarine, somewhere behind the appearance of the sea-water here, of an absolutely perfect temperature, that seals them off from the glare and splash of waves above their heads where the gulls cast shadows on the surface. Even when they have both returned to lie on the sand with their eyes closed, it’s as if they are diving together, holding hands, into this mirage of a pool, this lagoon beside a desert palace flanked with skinny palm trees.
Shigem lies on his side, staring gently into Kim’s eyes and holding his hand. “Love you, boy,” he whispers, “my diffident boy.” And they roll together again and hold each other close and stroke each other’s head and face and body, deep in love—two boys together alone, unseen upon this blasted and beautiful beach. Soon they are making love.
“I feel like a lion under a tree on the Serengeti,” says Kim after a while.
“More blond than brunet,” Shigem murmurs.
Weightless and barely moving, my attention floats for another hour or two in their company, while they say hardly a word more.
At last I watch them rise, gather up their things and stand looking out across this sea beside which Shigem has lived throughout his life. Then they turn and meander up the beach. When they reach Ocean Avenue and turn left, walking down the middle of it, Kim says, “It’s funny, but it feels like a story’s being played out here—as if some tale were being spun, involving me. As if all this Asbury Park backdrop (except for you, my love) were some movie being projected onto the air around me, while I walk through it. But who’s projecting it for me? Who’s bringing me into it, and why?”
As he speaks, Ocean Avenue seems for a moment to be much longer than they’ve known it. It is heavy with a furnace heat, wide and deserted. Façades recede in both directions, matte brown and grey, flat as scenery or movie screens. A breath of wind in the dust stirs a cellophane wrapper on the road. Tiny in the distance, the street vista vanishes in glare: where it wets the horizon a shimmer hides the buildings, so the roadway punctures the smudgy blue sky. Shreds of air undulate thickly in the heat…
And there I shall leave them for this afternoon: ambling down the road’s yellow centre-line, each with a bag in his hand and an arm around the other’s shoulders, bodies touching all the way down to the hip, both leisurely and in-step, into the distance.
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