LONG BEACH HARBOR
Across from the Oil Islands, there’s a small park disintegrating into the sand. The islands
refract their multicolored light onto the slick black expanse between us—the lit refineries,
the swings, the rusted rocking rhino, the sand. . . me.
I, too, am disintegrating.
There is a raccoon scurrying from trashcan to trashcan, his eyes green then black then green
again. We watch one another. Every night. I like to think this is the same raccoon. There’s
no way to tell. We keep our distance. Unless one of us is sleeping. Then there is the sound of
scratching and the gnawing fear of losing something.
I tighten my grip around the McDonald’s bag and feel the softened paper. It, too, is
disintegrating. A cold hash brown from breakfast is wrapped in three napkins, wrapped in
the bag, wrapped in my hand. Night outlasts day now and outlasts the pink and green lights
on the islands that snap to life long after dark and die again long before dawn.
Couples sometimes laugh in the sand between us, holding hands or holding their shoes. One
says how lovely the rainbow lights are and the other says there is oil in the water. The
laughing continues, but there are long pauses. Then they notice the raccoon. And the bum.
The laughing stops. There are just long, quick strides, as if one could outpace the dark or time or
the force that distills us into sewage or into fuel.