The lights made the stars look small. Poseidon hit the sands, hoping to get the attention of the people exploring the boardwalk. The rhythms of the winds carried gossip, love, and sorrow. A city away from the city, its magnificence was enigmatic.
The year was 1999. I was ten years old, living the glorious in between of child and adolescent, seeing tomorrow and living yesterday. I was walking on the wood above the sand, looking up at the glory that was Atlantic City. But I did not feel small. Everywhere we went, there was royalty.
I saw the Kings of the Boardwalk, donning shining black suits, sleek hats, and shoes of scaled skin. They had an air of confidence, smugness, and grandeur. Walking not too far behind or ahead were the Queens, in dresses of all colors, with jewels that shone brighter than the towers that made the Atlantic look small. Cigarettes in hand, they knew how beautiful they were, how high they sat on their thrones of gold, platinum, and glass.
New York was the center of the known Universe, and AC was its heir. The towers were fire, its roads concrete satin, its many halls worthy of Lords of old. I imagined myself, a child, a Prince, one day to return in suits and timeless watches, able to drink the poison apparently sweet and mine for the treasures at the wheels of fortune. My imagination was dazzled. I wanted to be them, the grown, the mature, the wise.
We walked into the legendary Taj Mahal. The capitalistic wasteland was adorned in all glass that made your reflection beautiful. The floors were stainless clouds of reds and blue. The lights came from Heaven. Everyone there was indeed royalty, crown-less perhaps, but the way they spoke to each other, caressed jawlines and waistlines, held their holy grails. It was how Kings and Queens are. There was no denying.
As we delved deeper into appropriated India, we found chained tigers, sustenance from afar, and doors that led to fantasy. As a child, I could see only a few things, but my heart beat faster when I got a glimpse of what lay behind those doors. in these halls, no one was poor and everyone was smiling, basking in the endless night of regrets and misfortune. The labyrinth swallowed me, and whenever I wanted to escape the world, I would think of AC.
I grew tired, fighting to stay awake and stare at it all. But my body was still growing. I was not yet ready to drink the poison, to play the games, to carry the scepter. I returned with my mother to the bed that could sleep ten. Before I slept, I went to the window.
One does not look up to see the stars in New York. One looks south. And there finds the Pantheon that is AC, where are born, live, and die the Kings and Queens of the Universe.