The Village is holding the Summer’s Death bash tonight.
They do it every year — at least, when they remember to. It’s a big affair that involves the importation of boatloads of booze, trunkloads of pot, and baggieloads of other things. Mitch told me about it, although it took work to decipher his Venice Beach dialect into understandable English. (You start by subtracting the word “dude” from every third position in each sentence.)
We stayed on Out of Step Island all night. The air grew cold and the breeze grew colder, but Meg and I just huddled together and talked. We talked about our lives, and our futures, and our dreams. We talked about fears and sad moments. We talked about loneliness and regret. We talked about moments of joy so powerful you feel that you could grab the whole universe in a giant hug.
Previously, in Island Wars… When he was sent to cover Grand Seal Island, reporter Donovan Graham thought he was being banished to a sleepy Maine backwater where nothing interesting ever happened.
Today was the Big Vote. Henry had organized the referendum, and Meg had gone all over the island stapling announcements to trees and buildings. She even went to The Village, and I’m no longer convinced that it was her first trip.
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.
So I sat in Meeting on Sunday, surrounded by stolid Quakers with closed eyes and peaceful expressions. I didn’t feel especially peaceful — I was still tearing myself up with images of Eliza, Eliza and Bo, Eliza and the sea — all both real and imagined. Most of the other people sitting on the benches seemed settled and quiet, but I grappled with swirling thoughts that were far from tranquil. It was like a debate going on in my head, with neither side gaining an advantage but both willing to battle to some bloody end:
There’s an old folk song that I learned once, when I was a kid. We had the Fireside Book of Folk Songs on the piano in our living room, and I flipped through it every now and then looking for cool stuff. One day, I stumbled on Joe Hill.
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night.
Alive as you and me.
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead.”
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he.
I was in need of another party fix. Not drugs, per se, just the kind of boozing and singing that The Village is especially good for. I needed to get back into the swing. Forget about Eliza. Live life in the moment. Meg was busy organizing the referendum to decide whether the island should be Canadian or American. So I found a bottle of gin under my bed — I’d been wondering where that was — and drove south.
Ah, The Village. Guaranteed good time. I was forcing myself to grin even before I could hear the bongos playing.
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.
The sun set in the east.
I pounded my fists slowly against a large rock, leaving bloody stains, each looking like half a heart. The night was dark and freezing cold. What the hell is it with New England and deep chills?
The sky was brighter over the mainland, streaks of purple and yellow crowning the horizon like orchids on moss. But the brightest star in my universe set in the other direction, dimming like a fading fire that has run out of fuel.
Sometimes, crying makes you feel better. This wasn’t one of them.