It certainly looked like the low-key Brighton Beach I knew: same Russian restaurants along the boardwalk, same jut of Breezy Point across the channel. I don't think I'd ever been there when it was pushing on 100, though. I had to prep for my Fine Arts Work Center class, and the thought of all that reading at home, in the dry blast of air conditioning, just sounded like work.
So--the beach. Reading at the beach seemed like a better idea. But once I got to the Brighton Beach station, I was so confused by the pour of teenagers coming out the subway car, onto the platform, down the stairs, that I went up a side street, in the wrong direction, away from the ocean. Maybe the heat was doing something to my compass points. Or it was the roar of voices coming up from the sand, from two blocks away. When I turned myself around, and walked up on the boardwalk, I felt: no. I couldn't even put words to it. Not crowds, not heat. I don't think it was even the footballs flung, or the moving sandstorm the soccer players were kicking up on the beach. An animal sense, even though people were laughing, were having a good time, a great time. I heard a gunshot--or something that resembled a gunshot; heads turned toward the sound; maybe it was just a balloon popping--and I headed back to the brain-freeze of the subway car to read Lydia Davis.
Less than an hour later, someone shot eight shots into the crowd, at the very spot on the boardwalk where I'd parked myself on a bench. Who knew about turf wars, or gangs, or the long history of trouble in the neighborhood on Brooklyn-Queens day? I'm just trying to get my head around the fact that I might have talked myself into staying had I relied on reason alone, whereas the animal in me said go.