Down East 2013 ©
Twenty hours after Eliza chose to leave this world — leave The Village, leave the island, leave me — I still sat on that rock, watching the eastern sea. I wasn’t looking for her. I knew she was gone. I was looking for the reason why.
Cliché, I know. Elephants wait at the site of their mates’ demise, hoping something miraculous will happen. And Eliza wasn’t even my mate. I felt like a fool, sitting there, doing nothing. Some time previously, some Villagers had wandered by asking for Eliza. I couldn’t talk very well, so I just pointed at the streak of clay that rippled on the waves. It trailed as far as the eye could see.
“She swam off,” I blurted out. Damn, I’m an idiot.
“Oh,” they said. They wandered away.
A short while later, everyone in The Village was down on the eastern beach, staring out to sea. Wiry Guy and some others got into the canoe, but they came back an hour later with nothing to show for their efforts but a sunburn. Eventually, after some sobbing and some anger and some theatrics, they all went back to The Village for some drug-induced comfort.
And I just sat on that rock.
There’s an Inuit legend about a hunter so skilled, he could kill a bowhead whale miles out to sea, paddle his kayak back to the island, and wait there until the carcass drifted to his feet. He would sit on that stone for days, but eventually the whale would arrive.
At least he had something to wait for. I just waited for nothing. I just waited because I couldn’t stand the thought of not waiting. When something like this happens, how do you decide to return to normal? How do you get the keys out of your pocket? How do you start the car? Put on the seat belt — why? Drive away — where? And then do what? Drive to The Stump, eat canned mac-n-cheese cold and read crappy detective novels by flashlight? What if the detective does something funny? Do I laugh?
So I sat. I didn’t cry, or moan, or anything. I just sat. The sun set behind me, looking fiery to the west but casting pink and dark-blue shadows to the east, just the way the sky looked when Eliza swam away.
Isn’t it stupid? I was unwilling to use the word “died.” I couldn’t think “died,” “passed away,” “killed herself,” “drowned.” I had to use words that described what she did just before all that happened. She “swam away.” She “left the island.”
I’m an idiot.
I sat there all through another night. I was freezing. My butt hurt. I walked up to The Village from time to time to get some beer, and I hiked up the beach every now and then to pee, but otherwise I sat on that rock. I didn’t even think anything. I wasn’t reflecting on the time I had spent with Eliza these past several weeks. I wasn’t thinking about the walk up the beach we were going to take together. I just sat.
Even I can only feel like an idiot for so long, however. I probably have a greater tolerance for it than most people, given my constant practice, but I do have limits. As the sun began to lighten the eastern sky once again, acting like nothing horrible had ever happened in the history of the solar system, I stood up.
I blew a kiss out to sea, returning the one Eliza had blown to me. And I poured the rest of my beer into the ocean.
“That’s for you,” I said out loud, to Eliza. “I wish we could drink it together.”
Then I crumpled the can and hurled it as far out toward the horizon as I could. It landed with a puny splash just a few yards off shore, and the waves immediately began the process of washing it up on the beach.
The ocean sucks.
Then I dug my keys out of my pocket, walked up to the Island Car, and started the engine. I didn’t bother with the seat belt.
I drove to The Stump, where I ate a can of cold mac-n-cheese, and I read a crappy detective novel. The detective didn’t do anything funny.
And then I fell asleep. I slept straight through the night, getting up — creaky and stiff — only because I seriously had to pee.
As I ate some breakfast and listlessly killed a few hundred mosquitoes, I remembered that I hadn’t seen Bo in the crowd at the beach. He must have still been on the mainland with Celia.
Bo and Celia married. Eliza gone. OK — I can do this. Eliza dead. I gathered up some beer and chips and drove back down to The Village.
Some people were singing songs on the western beach. A bunch of people were in a shack drinking Everclear. Activity in the Love Pad sounded lively and disgusting. And between me and the mainland, Bo and Celia were in the outrigger, heading toward the island. The boat was loaded with stuff, but I couldn’t make it out at a distance.
Summer emerged from the Pad, topless until she put her shirt back on. Wiry Guy and two others came out a little while later. Another stoned grope-fest. Give me a break.
The outrigger drew closer, and I could see that the stuff on board was building supplies. Two-by-fours, plywood, shingles. It was clear that Bo and Celia were going to build a place of their own, breaking the time-honored Village tradition of sharing absolutely everything with absolutely everybody.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here .