Atlantic City Mirage



My cousin the lifeguard sees his mother in the Atlantic Ocean.  One day, a year ago, she didn’t wake up in her bed but actually she spent a lot of time not waking up in her bed for years but maybe that’s a technicality, after all what is waking? I have been prepared. I have been primed for the sadness of this sound bite without really an explanation. I have been told that in her last years, his mother never left the house, never left her mattress-disheveled-sheet-haven, the cats, the ice cream cartons, never unpacked her boxes a year after she was extracted from Vegas against her will but here she floats in the Atlantic Ocean and how does that happen? How does one create a memory like that? I have seen past lovers on couches. After my first dog died, I heard her nails clicking down the hallway, but these ghosts were all where they belonged. She should be a shiver at the breakfast nook, a creaking door, not a curling grey wave.


My cousin the lifeguard tells me about a couple of months back when a woman lost her son to the sea and for weeks they could not move her. For weeks she sat curled up in the sand dunes shaking and staring into the saltwater, waiting. She sat until she became a boulder. Someday, after we are all gone, she will become sand. When he tells me this, I wonder if he sees the connection. I wonder if he sees the mirages cross in his mind. I wonder how long they stay, how far from the sandbar one has to swim to attempt rescue until they finally disappear.



 “See that Casino over there?” He says, gazing through a sun-leathered squint. Yes, I say. It is quite large and I was wondering about it earlier. It just opened, he says it cost the city billions of dollars but is hemorrhaging money. It will be closed by winter. I spend my afternoon bending my neck back into my shoulders, attempting to see the tops of these things, imagine how they would be brought back to the earth.


My mother says that the neighborhoods behind the casinos have not changed since she was a child.  Not a smudge. The pastel siding and stoops sit perfectly preserved. One summer, when she was a teenager, she came back to visit and while walking around her uncle’s neighborhood one afternoon, a woman in a car followed her down the street and proclaimed: “You are Nancy’s daughter, aren’t you?!”


This is because it’s rare that anyone ever leaves they just become the ghosts of the people who do. You linger and you start to become people you never knew. You start to become fixture. You start to wait.


Everyone who lives here does it knowing

someday this city will sink.