The heat wave was in its 10th day and the humidity was so thick you couldn’t cut it with a saw. I was friends with Bobby since we were both around 7 years old. Each summer we would spend two weeks in Seaside Heights with our families.
We both lived in Brooklyn and at the time, we each didn’t have air conditioning in our apartments. We were heading into our first year of High School and would be attending Lincoln High School on Ocean Parkway come September.
Summer days and nights back then were spent either in front of a fan watching the Met’s play or running in front of an open fire hydrant down the street from the building where we lived.
We played stoop ball, softball and wiffle ball. We watched the girls and even built up the balls to speak to them once in a while – usually falling over ourselves with nonsense words or comments. They still smiled and they still kept on walking by us whenever we were outside.
Summers were hot in Brooklyn.
I remember laying in bed, windows wide open and the street sounds blaring. Fire engines, police sirens, sounds of broken glass, dogs barking and couples fighting. Children crying and isolated screams. Music playing on someones radio and the glow emanating from the windows of the building across the way. Mrs. K was always leaning out her window watching the street and speaking, arguing and laughing with her neighbor Mrs. H. But though all of this noise and activity that affected me the most was the sound of the miniscule and stealth mosquito which seemed to like to enjoy buzzing around my ear each night.
Summers brought out the strangest people and the strangest in people. There were the gangs which each had their own corner to patrol and to occupy. Each day another fight would break out with the cops coming only to leave with a warning. There was also the lady we called the “Lioness.” She literally walked around with a Lioness head on – I guess forgoing the rest of the costume due to the heat and humidity. No one really knew her but there were some rumors that she had been shot by the Son of Sam several years back.
Then there were the bums who went through garbage cans looking for drink or food; picked up cigarette butts from the curb and then asked with the ultimate politeness for a light.
Summers also hyped up the hormones in all the teenage boys who watched as the girls wore their bikinis, short skirts, shorts and tube tops. My hormones at that age did not need any more adrenalin. So when we left for New Jersey – I had a hardon from Brooklyn until we pulled up to the motel on Sumner avenue I felt a change was coming on.
The first night in the motel our parents went out to get dinner with some other grownups and left the kids all together in room 222 with two “older” girls to supervise us.
One of those girls was Talya. Talya was the cousin of Bobby, she lived in Staten Island and was adorable. She smiled each time she saw me and always put her arm around my neck. Tonight, though, she seemed to be watching me and began to walk towards me as my faithful friend stood up at attention.
“Hey Tommy, are you having fun?” She said this which made me feel that she didn’t think I was having fun.
“Its ok.” I answered trying to act like the Fonz from “Happy Days.”
“Want to go for a walk with me? I need to get some orange juice.”
“Yes, of course I do.” I expected her to tell Bobby to come along or someone else. But she didn’t and that kept the sailor at full salute in the land down under.
We walked a block from the motel, it was dark, the humidity was thick and we were both sweating as we sat down on a bench on the boardwalk and she put her head on my shoulder.
“Want to walk onto the beach?”
It was dark, the beach was lit by the reflection of the moon on the ocean, it was kind of creepy and scary.
“Yeah, definitely.” I responded.
We walked onto the sand, both of us barefooted now, she held my hand and my heart was pounding.
We got to the waterline and the waves hit our feet and we both jumped up. It was cold, real cold.
She took my hand and led me to the sand, beyond the waterline and we sat down.
“Do you like me, Tommy?” She asked me.
“Do I like you? I have had a crush on you since I met you.” I said not knowing where those words came from.
She laughed and she put her hand on the side of my face.
“Is it ok if I do this?” She asked me.
“Yes, of course, you can do whatever you like.” Who was speaking for me?
She laughed and she told me to lay back and then she stood above me and placed her lips onto mine. The softness of her lips and then the feel and the taste of her tongue on mine. I tasted her and I realized that my life would never be the same again.
We walked towards the motel, both of us barefoot and both of us changed forever.
They say its a “loss of innocence,” I feel its more of being born again and an embarkation towards an undiscovered world.
That summer turned out to be the best summer of my life and the friendship between Talya and myself has lasted a lifetime. We are both married to other people and have our own children – who are all friends with each other. The memory of that summer evening and the ones that followed are memories that will be with me as long as I live.
The day we drove across the Verrazonno bridge into Brooklyn I felt a pain in my gut I could not describe. It was a cocktail of emptiness, sadness and exhilaration – and the pain was real. The streets of Brooklyn were wet from an earlier rain which broke the humidity and quickly cleansed the air. On the streets were the gangs, the Good Humor man, kids playing sidewalk games and stoop ball. There was music coming from a radio and I asked the guy with the radio who was singing.
“Some guy from New Jersey – singing a song about Asbury Park and a chick named Sandy.” I laughed and felt irony for the first time in my life.
I think back and I realize the world that was opened to me that evening, was a world filled with possibilities with no limitations. Love has no limitations and there is no turning back. We can never undo love – once love is expressed or felt – life becomes a before and after.
The person I was before that hot, dark and wonderful summer evening with Talya was left on the sand on that beach in Seaside Heights. I guess that’s why I held her hand so tightly as we walked on the sand towards the boardwalk. It wasn’t the dark of the beach that frightened me, it wasn’t the sound of the waves or the taste of her tongue. I realized now what frightened me was the innate knowledge that once you have ceded yourself to another person that’s when the feeling of being alone is born. For some people it’s a feeling that never goes away.