You walk along the Mission Beach boardwalk in the morning and it’s seagulls pecking the remains of ketchup-spattered French fries or the ribs of leftover pizza crusts and it’s June gloom overcasting the sky and the packs of bodies walking past you or on bikes, tall girls on rollerblades, teenagers on skateboards and their wheels clacking the cuts in the cement, the vanilla smell of Swisher Sweets and waffle cones and soft serve from Belmont Park, noise and voices, all of the hearts beating and blood pumping and breath from lungs and sweat seeping from pores and trickling oniony from armpits and backs and ass cracks and crotches. It’s hairstyles and jewelry and children shouting, mouths moving, a repeated sneeze (and a god bless you, with acknowledgment), music blaring from a boombox, advertisements on t-shirts, someone coughing, someone using a Russian accent as a joke (but instead they sound vampiric), someone laughing the loudest and ugliest laugh you’ve ever heard as shoulders brush yours, and a shoulder hitting yours, a sticky arm touching you for the smallest brief moment, the sound of shoes on the concrete and the click of flipflops, the sound of a can snapping open and the smell of beer as it foams over the edge. It’s people, people, people, and goddamn fucking people as far as you can see. Walking toward you. Walking away from you. Lying on colorful towels in the sand next to coolers and radios. Standing ankle-deep in the surf, a hand shielding their eyes as they stare out to sea.
Agnes, this is what you hated and this is what you will miss most, eleven months into the pandemic, alone in your apartment with TV, drugs, utility bills, unread books, pink sweatpants or dirty leggings, socks kicked under the couch, big shirts, video games, porn, canned soup, no one calling.
The city is locked in snow.