A cool ocean breeze whips into the shore, its brisk slap hinting of autumn -- still a good month and a half away. An alley glows in the early morning light, full of bottles and trash, and perhaps a few bodies hidden beneath, a cool moon still lingering in the sky while gently yellow light creeps in from the rising sun. I turn down one alley, the round top of a temple floating ahead like one huge sea shell waiting to be drawn out with the tide. It's shell of tan and green painted metal bears the faded red message of ``Jesus Saves.'' They even have that here, I laugh, but the salt air robs even that of its freshness, making the message seem like a 1930s languishing emblem like the Coca Cola sign or the Coppertone naked bottom.
The ocean roars loudly with the early morning sun, an infuriated nocturnal lion enraged by the end of his reign, its breath vacuuming up cups and sandwich wraps and loose gull feathers. There is little lack of these as the wobbling, clumsy creatures stumble into unhurried flight, leaving a trail of feathers as they squabble over scraps.
A terrible loneliness reigns here in the morning -- though any place can be lonely, even with the crowds. I have walked many sand bars feeling this way while around me millions buried themselves in sand, or struggled to catch wildly tossed Frisbees in their grab for happiness.
Yet this loneliness has a different touch, resounding in my footsteps as they stride over the concrete onto the wooden planks of boardwalk, their thud echoing hollow in my head as I walk. It is emphasized and underlined by the laugh of irreverent gulls and the watery giggle of the pigeons, bobbing at my feet. The tanned faces of the few wake strangers offer no relief, their hard eyes struggle to stay open after a night at the clubs. They wince and crawl by me like snails whose shells have grown too heavy over night. Each refuses to even look at me as if each had pennies over his eyes.
Even the lovers do not look, cuddled onto benches with limbs entwined, cooing like excited pigeons as I pass. I envy them. Years ago, I spent a week lost on beaches such as these, looking to coo like that, looking to make some poor girl's eyes as sore as my eyes felt. Sore as a gull's cry. Sore as a stone locked into a beach and beaten by the repeated ways. Sore as the pull of my pants and throb in my chest. Even that had a hollow sound as I think back. The pain has not completely vanished over time, it has simply faded like the Coca Cola sign into a scar that only bothers me now and then, when I hearing the ocean calling.