central park history

Central Jersey Gothic

It’s winter, and you visit the beach. The sky is gray, the ocean is gray, the foul-smelling liquid trickling from the sewer pipe is gray, and sand even has a faint tint of gray. The fog rolls in, smelling of salt and oozing gray.

It is November and you are thirteen. The old wooden roller coaster at the boardwalk creaks when the wind blows, and one of you adolescent friends tells you in a rushed whisper about the boy who died on there once. No one knows his name, but they are certain that it happened.

The boardwalk has survived two hurricanes. You are certain that it will not survive the next. Like the pier, it will one day be in your town’s small history museum. That is, if they ever rebuild it.

Your town was once famous for having the most bars in a square mile. Then nearly everything burnt down. The bars. The roller rink. The condos. Everything burns. Fire is cleansing, they say. A chance to rebuild. No one cries arson. 

You take a field trip to the Liberty Science Center. They tell you, if you look out across the water, you can see the Statue of Liberty. But that is neither here nor there.

You drive to the North to visit cousins. There are nothing but mountains and trees. Your cell phone has no signal. Your cell phone is dead. The clock radio in your car has ceased to work as well. How long have you been on this road? You swear you’ve seen this rest stop before. Maybe you should stop and ask for directions. But a voice from the backseat whispers “Keep driving.” And you do. You do.

You drive to the South to visit cousins. The pine trees grow taller and everything smells of Christmas. But it’s wrong. The cheer is gone. The sun sets and you see something flapping it’s wings in the sky. “It’s just a bat.” your mother tells you, her voice shaking. It’s just a bat.

You’re still in South Jersey. You’re not sure where you’ve come from or where you’re going, but you know you’re in South Jersey. You feel eyes boring into your back. You feel a hot breath on your neck and think there’s a reason Weird New Jersey started in this state.

You decide to go to college in the North. Someone asks where you’re from and you reply “Central Jersey.” They laugh, but you don’t know why. It happens again. And again. Someone asks where you’re from and they laugh. Finally, you ask why. They reply between guffaws, 

“There is no Central Jersey.”