Tonight there is a hum of constant traffic on Broadway. Not horns-rudely-honking traffic, or screeching traffic, or traffic that involves horses and pedicabs or dozens of people all passing by on groaning motorcycles or flimsy skateboards. This is the low, steady hum of tires on pavement; a deep, guttural song that sounds like air moving slowly through the earth. It is as private as it is ubiquitous, as deeply known as it is quickly acknowledged and dismissed for being only what it is: traffic.
I hear this and think of the beach, the nights I sat on the balcony of our motel room at the Jersey Shore, awake long after my parents crept into bed, exhausted and nursing their sunburns; in that solitude I heard this same distant roar that became as comforting as it was mysterious. My Mom heard it too—her time was in the morning, early, a listening ritual she paired with instant coffee and the sunrise. I heard it most clearly at night. I thought it was something that existed only in the sound of the ocean, the endless waves and all that lies in and beneath them, churning and swaying in grand, unthinkable ways. I can quickly move from that memory to another, one when I was 16 and strategically plotting my nighttime presence on the balcony; Travis, the amateur/somewhat-sponsored boogie boarder from Wall Township, would also roam out onto the balcony of the hotel room in which he was staying with his family. There he would sit, sulking about being 16 and misunderstood, and I was thinking if I let the wind whip my hair a bit, and if I wore the appropriately comfortable lounge clothes that were not too-obviously pajamas, that if our eyes met at just the right time as we looked out towards the ocean, we would quickly find ourselves making out in the lifeguard chair. What happened instead is that my hair blew into what it always does in the thick, salty sea air: an elaborate, unforgiving knot. It was also too hot to be wearing a sweatshirt and, several times after series of missed glances and nights of just waiting too damn long for something to happen, I would turn in and revel in amazement at the lighting in the bathroom—was my face actually that sunburnt, or was I flushed from wearing a sweatshirt at the beach for the sake of looking effortlessly beach-casual? The next day I would see Travis at the pool and we would talk about the jellyfish and the rollercoasters at the boardwalk which, from our separate balconies, seemed miles away, twinkling the way attractions do.
Tonight, with the beach on my mind, I sit by my window and listen to this traffic, this humming. It is ethereal; it is the earth moving and shifting, energy unfolding and dispelling as I know it does. It is also just traffic and it is insanely human; it is Cassie in her Mazda, windows down, screaming to Jez in the car next to her about stopping at the McDonalds on 78th Street because her dipshit boy needs to charge his iPhone.
I am made of divine dust, I am made of ice pops. I want to breathe into and transcend space just as much as I want to roll around in the sand with a surfer. I want you to know and I want me to know that this is all okay and this is more than okay—it is crucial and, most notably, the point at which all things intersect: in realizing I am human, I start my work.