Down East 2013 ©
I went back to The Village today, just to see my old friends. I’m still not over Eliza’s death, but I thought hanging out with the Village Gang might help.
Mitch was on the south beach, strumming a guitar and trying to sound cool despite the absence of actual chords. I sat down next to him and stared out to sea, thinking some more about the changes I’m about to make in my life. I wanted to think them through a lot, because they represent a fairly big shift in focus for me. I don’t want to blow it.
Eventually, I decided to speak. It was mostly a strategy to get Mitch to stop strumming.
“So, what’s happening around The Village?” I asked.
He looked at me in surprise. Aside from occasionally making him King of Talent Night, I don’t think people are very friendly to Mitch down here.
“Hey, cat — not much, man,” he said. I was already figuring out why no one tried to talk with him. “Just the usual groove, dude.”
He went back to his strumming. I’m not sure whether that was an improvement.
After enduring a half-hour of Mitch’s guitar-fed surferspeak, I wandered up the beach and found Summer. She was making out — surprise! — with Wiry Guy, right on the sharp rocks of the beach. It was painful just to watch them, so I moved on.
Bo and Celia the Red-Haired Ice Queen were working on their shack. Given the absence of wiring and running water, the shack was coming along swiftly. In fact, it wasn’t even a “shack” in the same way as the rest of the Village structures. It was upright, for one thing, and relatively square at the corners. Three of the outside walls were up and solid. It looked like the cabin was going to have two rooms downstairs and a loft upstairs. It was all very tidy and proper.
Bo and Celia were working on a counter in the main downstairs room. They had already built a frame out of two-by-fours, and they were maneuvering a large slab of hardwood into position across the top. Bo glared at me — I think it was his version of a greeting — and Celia offered a quiet red-haired-ice-queen smile.
“I’m going to sand this top down and coat it with mineral oil,” Bo explained as he nudged one end into place. “Urethane isn’t good for a kitchen counter — too many chemicals — but mineral oil will let the wood breathe. I’ll have to reapply the oil every few months to keep the wood in shape, but it will be worth it to have a natural surface.”
Celia grinned, her usual frosty features actually becoming warm and human-like in the process. “Isn’t he amazing?” she asked. I didn’t bother to nod.
I was getting steadily more depressed, so I headed on over to the Pad. The Love Shack. Sex-Central for the Village horny. The place smells bad from several paces away, but I went on up to the front door and pulled the curtain aside.
The place was disgusting, but I couldn’t tell if it was any more disgusting than usual. The mattresses covering the floor were stained and grey, and the thin blankets scattered around looked like they had been ripped off some homeless person. The walls were stained, too, but I declined to guess the source.
And bodies were everywhere. There must have been two dozen people in there, mostly naked and fully stinky. They were tangled over and under and around each other like Medusa’s hair, pale flashes of butts and knees and shoulders shining among furry patches of armpits and heads and crotches. They looked like Jim Jones had already served the Kool-Aid, but the snoring suggested they were still alive.
I was feeling pretty bitter by this point. Lost. I felt like my whole perspective was being retooled, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to sign on with the new version.
So I wandered back to Mitch, who was still strumming and occasionally trying to sing along. His guitar was out of tune, and so was his voice, so whenever they meshed into something like harmony it was always a pleasant surprise. I sat back down on the rock I had occupied earlier.
“Hey, dude,” Mitch said, showing no signs of recognizing that I was the same person who had been here before. “What’s up?”
“Nothing much,” I said, meaning it more than usual.
Mitch continued to torture an otherwise innocent song:
He was the man who could understand
The world when it’s cruel and mean.
He was the man who could understand.
The man who could not be seen.
I think he made it up. I give him credit for the creative effort, but the lyrics were the worst thing about the song, except for the melody.
Night was coming, but no one built a bonfire despite the late-summer cold snap, the first warning shot of autumn. I figured the chilly air would stir some of the Cave Zombies into gathering driftwood, but no one was moving just yet. In late August, people are still surfing and sunning on Miami Beach, but in Maine and New Brunswick, it’s approaching time for sweaters and hot rum at night. It’ll get warm again soon — summer won’t give up without a fight — but these little puffs of cold will get larger and larger as winter approaches.
Still no fire. Nothing much to do.
Funny thing about my vision — the idea that I wanted to travel the world, rugged and alone, and do exotic things and write about them for people back home. The problem is that if you’re alone, you don’t have anyone to talk to. You write the stories and send them out into readerspace, and that’s it. No enthralled audience at the Explorer’s Club. No enchanted beer buddies around a table at a bar. No enthusiastic students hanging on my every adjective. Just words into space.
Don’t get me wrong. I look at my blog postings on the Web site. I see the responses. I know some of you by name — Womynfire, SunTanDude, Gemstone, Orson, Edith, and the rest of you. But with Eliza gone, I don’t have anyone to really talk to. And she and I didn’t talk all that much anyway. That’s the bitch about being alone and shadowless, I guess. If you do it right, it’s hard to get close to someone else.
I drove the Island Car back to The Stump. I was out of beer, but I didn’t feel like driving to The Larboard for a drink. I sat on the hood of the Island Car, ate some stale crackers, and stared up at the darkening sky. The stars were so bright and thick they formed a haze across the galaxy, and the air was getting downright cold. I could feel my time at The Sun spinning to an end, and I spent some time trying to figure everything out. That Hypo job might be the right idea. I just don’t know.
Then I realized something was different. It took me just a moment to get it — the mosquitoes were gone. The air was too chilly for the little suckers. I knew that they died in the cold and returned tons of nutrients to the soil around The Stump, but in my mind I enjoyed an image of them all migrating south and tormenting the people on Miami Beach.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — Gemstone: Good things end only if you let them.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here .