7:30 PM – 15 – run for your life

I am staying in a motel in Wildwood Crest, on the Jersey shore. A family friend owns the motel, and she has invited about 100 people to enjoy a free weekend before the season starts. I am sharing a room with my sister, and my parents are in another room a few feet away. We are not sure we will get along with the other kids here.

They are playing softball on the beach when we arrive. The beach is huge; it is actually too big, nearly a quarter-mile wide. You walk and walk and walk and you still aren’t at the ocean. When you finally get there, it is nice. But it is a walk.

We join the softball game. I think I strike out, though I’d like to think I hit the ball and scrambled toward base. After someone wins, we swim in the ocean for a while and then shower before heading toward the boardwalk.

We race go-carts on an underground track, then go on the Wild Mouse and the Condor, which soars high over the boardwalk with its cheap stores and vibrant nightlife and distant surf. A huge Ferris wheel is oddly thrilling because of the strong gusts of wind along the coast.

On the way home, me and the two girls who are also my age are following two boys who are slightly older than us. They are also staying at the motel. We pass a group of young men huddled around a pay phone. It is late, and the men make some suggestive comments that we should just ignore, we should walk right past them and then get to the road and walk home on the street with traffic passing every second. Of course.

One of the boys with us has a different idea. He turns toward the men and yells, at the top of his lungs, “Fuck you!” He pumps his fist into the air, as if he is at a sporting event.

They break formation and stride toward us. We break into a run. The idiot boy stands still for a moment, then follows us. I feel the wind in my hair, the planks of the boardwalk and then the pavement under my feet as we sprint toward the street. Beneath the fear, I feel an undercurrent of excitement, a live wire singing an unfamiliar tune inside my body. They are behind us, and then they are not behind us, and we are standing on the steps of a hotel, breathing hard.

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