An array of sights and sounds darted at me like rainbow pellets from a shot gun. The boardwalk I knew and loved as a child was camouflaged with young girls jiggling advertisements on the back of their skirts and tattooed boys sporting pastel-colored hair and facial piercing. A tangerine sunset blanketed the rippling waves as they crashed the surf, while rap music and micro phoned solicitors silenced them.
Although, the medicine I’d run back to get in my hotel room had taken effect, my pulse became erratic again after I stepped off of the bus onto Pier 36 and realized my tour group headed toward Pier 26.
Lila had said she’d wait for me, but I said, “Go ahead, I’ll catch the next bus.” She didn’t argue, after seventy-five years of friendship she knew my stubborn ways.
“I won’t let the boat leave without you,” she said, and waved as the bus pulled away.
With the absurd thought that I’d make it to Pier 26 before the boat tour departed I shuffled along as quickly as I could. Although, I’d made an error reading the numbers on the bus, I made no error in what I didn’t see on the boardwalk. Nothing reflected God except for His initial creation.
T-shirts lined the walls of clothing shops plastered with lewd mottos and cartoons. Not only did the mottos on the t-shirts lack God’s voice, but the size of the matching skirts barely contained enough material to cover one’s bottom. Portraits of mafia, film characters were glorified on t-shirts in shop windows while t-shirts bearing the face of our country’s leader communicated words that mocked him.
Sadness overwhelmed me, my feet ached and I was thirsty. I pulled a few dollars from my fanny pack and staggered to a lemonade stand. I remembered sharing lemonade with my father on the boardwalk as a young girl. This time, the tart juice relieved my thirst, but the flavor was not reminiscent of the freshly squeezed lemons and three scoops of sugar from my childhood.
I placed my empty cup in the trash and searched for a seat. A few benches lined the boardwalk sprawled with young men clad in over-sized jeans exposing their under shorts. The young ladies beside them wore what looked like only their under garments. No one offered me a seat.
Off to my right, I discovered an inlet to another pier. I desperately needed to rest. Three chairs with a sign above each seat read, “Foot massage, 50 cents.” I inserted two quarters in the slot, inched myself onto the seat, and placed my feet on top of the silver platform.
Suddenly, the sound of an engine ignited and my feet began to vibrate. The vibration moved up through my calves, legs, thighs, abdomen, chest, shoulders and then my head. Certain the electric chair I sat upon would kill me at any moment, I began to pray. The massage abruptly stopped. I couldn’t have gotten out of the chair any quicker if I’d tried. I was a giant paper clip and the foot massager a coin operated magnet. I lifted myself up with the little energy I had left and stumbled back to the main strip. I prayed. Lord, please give me strength to make it to Pier 26 or provide someone who’ll help me.
Everyone and everything blended into each other. Everything but the bright, yellow tramcars that sped up and down the boardwalk like yellow jackets looking for someone to sting. They only stopped if one could raise their hand high enough to be seen or holler loud enough to be heard. I could do neither.
I prayed and walked. Beads of sweat trickled down my forehead. I became dizzy and weak. I thought I was dreaming when I saw what appeared to be a choir under a pavilion. A beautiful hymn flooded the air…Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh how I love Jesus, Oh how I love Jesus because he first loved me…
The choir stopped singing. A voice yelled, “Stop the tram car, please!” The breaks screeched. Silver hair and wrinkled skin, I lay sprawled on the boardwalk wrapped in my smock dress and fanny pack. A young man dressed in black pants, white shirt and tie gently lifted my head and said, “Are you alright, Ma’am?”
His eyes reflected the sea behind him with God’s light giving them life.
My pulse stabilized and I said, “Yes—yes—I’m fine, now.”
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