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by Matthew Licht

The Sandy Hook light flashed in the milty haze of day, dead ahead. Sandy Hook meant nude beach. Those two words fused to mean everything that was happy and beautiful about life on earth.

A ferry took off from the South Street Pier. Only one trip a day, departure at 0530 sharp, return at 1730. Miss the boat and you’re a marooned nudist. Used to stay up all night so I’d be sure to catch the morning boat. Sometimes I nodded off on a bench on the pier. A woman used to meet me there. She never brushed or combed her hair. Slim and stacked, she’d have been happy to stay nude full-time, if New York were a warmer place and the natives less uptight. She rode around on a busted bicycle. She wanted me to get a bike too, but it was too much to think about.

Her name was Amanda, which means she who must be loved, she said. She was big on hugs. We’d stand on the pier and hug until the boat showed up. She talked non-stop, all the way to Sandy Hook. I’d pretend to listen. She might’ve revealed the secret of eternal youth under the Verrazano Bridge. Maybe she dropped her astrological ramblings to say she was in love with me and wanted to settle down. The breeze that carried her voice blew in one ear and out the other. I missed out on her secrets and her love. When I saw the Sandy Hook light again, I missed Amanda.

Should’ve been glad I remembered her, what she felt like, what she smelt like.

Before I saw the light, I couldn’t even remember her name. The lighthouse became she who must be loved. The beacon spun slowly, flashed a warning to those lost at sea, then went out for the day.

Amanda would only shut up when we hit the sand. We stretched out nude on her beach blanket, which was also her bicycle seat and foul weather poncho. We put as much of our skins as closely together as possible, barely moved, absorbed radiation, salt, sea breeze. The local fauna was mostly old people. Too many humans reach the hoary stage before they realize nude is natural. The old folks checked us out, but they weren’t gawking. Not even when we heated up and got it on. Go ahead, they said without a word, enjoy life while you can. Life happens way too slowly until it starts happening all too awfully fast.

Summer of Love with Amanda, years ago. She flashed back to Nevada when her all-girl band broke up. Moved in with a motorcycle mechanic in Las Vegas, worked as a waitress, studied to get a blackjack dealer degree. Or at least that’s how her story goes in my imagination. I couldn’t even give her a lift to the bus station.

The breeze was cold, hard. The nude beach was bare. Except for sand, driftwood, and the dry seagrass that shushed and waved on the dunes.

Matthew Licht writes the weekly bilingual Hotel Kranepool column for Stanza 251.