Atlantic City rises off an island like a science fiction set. Big, tall buildings. Glowing golden paint. Glossy blue glass.
Most of the towns along the Jersey coast stop at a few stories. Houses crowd together wall to wall, but they don’t fight toward the sky until Atlantic City. From the water, I see the ordinary pieces hidden behind the gilded facades. I see loading docks and employees on break. I see functional walls that don’t glow and parking lots. I see trashed canals filled in with mud.
Ten miles past it, I sit on a beach far from anywhere. A fox runs up, stops, shifts its triangle ears, and stares in the darkness as still as a statue. It knows I’m there. It knows I know. It turns and saunters back in a wide circle, detouring around me to continue in the footsteps of a passing possum. I catch the pointed ears in the shadows, see it’s nose pressed to the ground to take in the world. Then it’s gone.
I lean back and watch stars jump into place above the glowing western sky. I find the Dipper and trace it to the North Star. I think of Atlantic City’s bright lights and the show above that no one there will see.
“Pity,” I think.