As soon as Nick had finished first grade and started vacation, his family went to spend the summer at Sea Gate. They’d supposedly taken only the most necessary items with them, but they took so much stuff they could hardly fit it all in the back of the rented van. Nick clutched his stuffed leopard and boogie board to his chest while Michelle carried a purse with documents in it and Roy sat behind the wheel.
They rolled up to the booth where a gray-haired gatekeeper requested their documents. Roy showed him his driver’s license and explained why they were going to Sea Gate. The striped barrier went up and the van drove into Sea Gate—a kind of residential resort area in Brooklyn, right on the shore of the bay.
This small area, surrounded by a fence and protected by its own police force, contrasted sharply with the world on the other side of the fence. The city side had dirt and crumbled pavement; there wasn’t one tree or bush. Moreover, the so-called underdeveloped neighborhood was full of high rises with subsidized housing for the poor, which meant lots of fighting, swearing, wild teenagers, drugs, and empty vodka and whiskey bottles strewn everywhere. The swelter and heat in the summer so cooked the asphalt that it seemed it might crumble into pieces.
But behind the fence, in Sea Gate, was a small slice of heaven. Sycamores and cedar trees threw shadows on the clean roads; there were rose bushes and lilacs, and the breeze rustled through the orchids. All was unhurried and relaxed—the strolls, the conversations. Women wore sandals, straw hats, and bathing suits with long, light skirts or towels wrapped around their waists. The men were tanned and dapper; no matter their age, they all resembled tireless, white-toothed bucks. The ocean breezes, the roar of the waves. Security.