We stroll by the houses behind Cold Spring Harbor’s main street. I want to show Alex the two-story on the corner that I already claimed as my own. It’s purposefully overgrown with a bulky front porch and paisley pillows on the swing. I’d imagined myself on that swing many times, coffee in hand, admiring a Sunday morning just like this one. The sunlight pours into the cracks between leaves like water between fingers. It draws swirls onto the road.
I tell her about my conflicted feelings about the island. Sometimes, I desperately want to break the cycle of returning home, to jet off to some random city where I know no one, where I can people-watch and write. Other times, I want to wash sand out of my scalp every night and smell like bonfires in the morning. I want to eat dinner with my sisters and my cousins one day a week. Sometimes, I want kids, and I want to teach them how to hide their Long Island accents in college, letting it fling out only on phone conversations with high school friends or in heated arguments at bars.
Driving through Huntington with the windows down, we noticed tents set up in the parking lot across from the diner. Later, we find out that the tents come every Sunday, 7:30am to noon. I blushed slightly, surprised I never knew. There were jams and jellies and bouquets of sunflowers for $5, and we wandered to an olive oil stand. The guy offering us samples was sweet, joked around with us about the strangeness of the island, told us the company was based out of the Hamptons and that they set up a stand every Sunday. As we finished looking around, Alex began to argue with me about getting his number. I waved her off and laughed.
“I still feel like a child!”
“Why not? It’s just coffee!”
We bickered past the pizzeria that I spent my high school nights, past a woman with laughter stitched into her face as she overheard our argument.
Alex reminds me I need to be more bold if I’m going to have stories to write.
I shake my head because I know she’s right, give her the go ahead to get this guy’s number, and we shake on it. She’s giddy now, always wanting to be my matchmaker, and she rushes back up the street, breathless. I’m still blushing in the bookstore, hiding from second-hand embarrassment by perusing novels I’ve seen a thousand times before. Meanwhile, Alex is swooping into the parking lot, rushing because it’s a little past noon and the tents are packing up.
We explore one of the harbored towns of my childhood and she asks if I’ve ever been sailing. I think suddenly of my estrangement from the water, the tragic loss of that friendship, cultivated from years of swimming lessons in my grandparent’s concrete pool. I used to scrape my knees and bleed from diving too close to the bottom.
That same grandfather once had a boat. As a toddler, I wore a yellow bathing suit with a built-in floating device around the waist. There are still hazy home videos of me, jumping off the back of the boat with my father. The video glimmers with static, only to be replaced by another scene. It’s me, or rather, the wisps of hair on the back of my head. We’re in the boat’s cabin and I’m clutching a fish-shaped pillow, one of my eyes peeking out, a fleeting replica of my father’s merry squint.
Eventually, the boat was sold. Now, my relationship with water is like static crouched in the corners of an old videotape. Waves are silent, and I have nearly forgotten them.
~ Danielle Fusaro