Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fire Island

A subway to Atlantic Terminal, some waiting, then catching a real train to Jamaica, Queens, another wait on the platform, surveying fellow travelers - I notice a tall skinny man in his early 60's, perhaps, with sinewy calves and a serious, stuffed, blue, hiker's backpack We all transfer to a double decker train so full that we stand all the way to Bayshore, about 50 minutes. I manage to grab a seat for about 10 minutes at the end, opposite a slack-mouthed girl whose pink laundry bags sits on the seat beside her. I glare her to death. She doesn't care.

We pile out at the other end, ignore the white shuttle vans loading passengers for the ferry, and walk along the pleasant, green-gardened street to the small harbour. Naturally, we miss the ferry.

Soon, another queue forms. Dogs, babies, double strollers, overtanned and overfed persons and underclad ones, spilling out all over, superthin and perfectly dressed, diamonded and sequinned, mini dresses, wedge heels and bare feet. Lapdogs. Everyone plugged into their smart phones. A big storm breaks black over us as we cross the water, lit by flashes of green lightning and pursued by a flat wind. We text our hosts. They ask where the hell we are.

And then we dock, and pour off. Dan waits for us, two massive rain ponchos in his bicycle basket, and he rides off ahead of us to tend to his barbecuing chicken We pull our single suitcase through the puddles, following the route we remember and suddenly realize: we are alone. There is nobody here.

The mass of mewling, squealing, bickering humanity has melted into the side paths and auto-free passages of Seaview, Fire Island.

Enormous white hydrangeas are in bloom against the purple sky, intensely blue spires of ubiquitous Vitex line the pathways. We pull the string on the latch in the gate, which swings open, and step into the other world. Swimming pool, flowers, herbs, house, deck, grasses, sand, bay. Grilling dinner.

A short weekend of long walks, cold drinks, good food, hyenic laughter at charades, ignominious tumbles from a paddleboard into a clean ocean, and then a reluctant, foot-dragging reverse to Brooklyn. On the station platform, waiting for the New York-bound train, I see the skinny backpack man. He is gnawing a loose, limp leaf of romaine lettuce from a plastic bag.

Where has be been?

Dan, Nancy, and Arianna? Thank you!
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