June 21, 2010

Salt Days

My summer days are whipping by and I feel myself toeing for the brakes. I try not to miss it. I try not to let the uncertainty of what is coming steal joy from my summer. My summer, my summer. Laura's birthday was last week and I found that it was not much at all. What would she think of this, of my presence here? What would she think of everything that has happened? What would she regret missing, had she the chance to regret?

In the hot afternoons I bike the mile and a half to the beach at Tin Can Alley and dive into the warming waters of the Chesapeake Bay. I am afraid of jellyfish, but haven't seen any yet. The salt water is hot now, and at night if the temperature of the air dips into the low eighties the wind off of the bay is warm against your face. I swim out to a sandbar, far from the beach, and float around on my back. Once, walking on the soft bottom, I scared a stingray and it went streaking through the shallows, three feet wide and dark. I'll admit, I screamed. Islanders and non-islanders come to the beach and lie on the sand, a half-collapsed house in an abandoned field the backdrop to our summer. Kids play Marco Polo near the shore, and I laugh at their game. The bay is so expansive, so free from a swimming pools boundaries, and they never find each other. They just yell and yell and burn and I wonder, who came up with this stupid game? On my way home I often stop to pick wild blueberries. I get poison oak and poison sumac and mosquito bites all up my legs but somehow it feels just right--like the summer I never fully had as a child.

The kids on the island are out of school now and they run free, racing up and down the lanes long past dusk. Chasing sunsets across the island with a camera in one hand, I run across them. They hunt lightning bugs in the fields and play hide and go seek in the woods and sometimes they play tag on the main road, hiding behind houses and cars. Their home is an enviable one, and I am glad to share it with them. I feel more kinship with them, often, than with their parents, who wave at me from cars and lawn mowers and their front porches. I ride by, sunburnt and salt-haired. This evening I was passed by one particularly unfriendly teenage boy who shares my road, and said hello, and was ignored. When I reached the main road, there he was, handing smuggled beers to two teenage girls from a Jansport backpack. I laughed aloud, so anxious were their faces. As I biked past one girl opened the tab of her beer and it exploded, eliciting screams. I went to the beach and hung my dress on my bicycle and jumped in the water and tried not to think about leaving. I try not to think about regrets, and I am happy. Some moments I am so happy in this place that I feel like I am brand new. I remember, we were children once, before this happened.

June 13, 2010


We all met in Santa Cruz, California. Only two of the five now reside in California, Alex and Hannah. Travis and Jessica now hail from Brooklyn, a world apart from mine. Once upon a time we sat on meadows and lay on beaches and did homework splayed on beat up dorm carpet. Once upon a time we shared rooms and none of us were in love, and once upon a time we didn’t know each other at all. We meet now under different skies, in changed skins, in a place I never expected we would all be, together. There are so many stars, so many stars, they say, and I see them again, the way I did when I first arrived. We speculate on constellations, realizing that these are those we have never been able to see before, so bright are the lights of our homes. We ate crappy French fries in a dining hall and bathed in co-ed showers and knew all the same people. Have we grown up?

The world has stretched now and it has all turned out so differently than we may have expected but we met there, on my island, under skies with too many stars in a world with a few too many questions. We are, none of us, assured. We can’t imagine what our futures might be, or if we will remain friends, or if we will ever be in such a place again, together. So we barbecue corn and ribs and boil butter beans and steam asparagus and bake strawberry rhubarb pie and spoon bread and eat eat eat with abandon and dance in the kitchen with young legs that feel old. I make crab cakes and fresh bread and scrambled eggs and BLTs and hot dogs and cole slaw. We stomp our feet on linoleum we couldn’t afford to buy and wave our arms to music made by people now dead, and laugh. We bake too long on the beach at Tin Can Alley and our skin, our barely age beaten skin, burns bright red in places, and freckles splatter my cheekbones like spilt coffee. We drink, oh we drink. We went to college, see, and that’s the place to learn how to drink. Watermelon sangria and beer and Virginia root rum and whiskey coke and g/t. In the water of a new ocean we fear sting rays and try to dig our toes into the sand beneath the salt water but can’t; the tide keeps taking us, again and again. We ride bicycles on country roads and our teeth chatter on the gravel and sand. The air is so hot here, not like California. Sweat curls our hair, longer now than it once was, and wets our clothes against our skin. All together we drive to Southwind and play music with people who would hate our politics and religion, singing aloud and dancing on old hardwood floors. People with decades on us watch and laugh and ask, Who are they? And I see, I see, how it must be to be the old looking upon the young. I see how it is to mourn time spent, or not spent.

At night, we walk Gumthicket Road. Fireflies like dreams flash in the marsh and trees and the road before us, like lights on a Christmas pine. When we reach a certain stand of gum trees a half mile away, we stand in silence. There is so little to say. What seems like hundreds of lightning bugs flash flash flash in the trees and I will spend the rest of my life trying to tell you what it looked like, but I suspect there aren’t words to say. It was so something that my eyes couldn’t follow, and I felt like crying. We stood in the dark, listening, watching. I think we all felt as if we were seeing a moment apart. Apart from it—from growing up or growing old. Apart from life as we see it and live it. I think we may have time traveled a little, to a time when we were not so worried or afraid or in a hurry. What I saw there, in the trees, was indescribable. I think my friends, my good old friends, would agree with me. To describe such a thing in words would be to attempt to ruin it, and I can’t. At night I climb on an old rusty cruiser and bicycle Gumthicket and it is like biking through starshowers. How to forget it? How to leave it behind? How to grow up, if growing up is forgetting this?