How I would have spent my summer vacation
There's nothing worse than being alone on the ferry to Fire Island on a Saturday night. Okay, there is something worse. Being on the ferry to Fire Island with two bags too many when you're really only going to get one day of beach time.If I even got that, I thought, looking out the window at the dark, overcast sky.
I wasn't even sure why I had bothered,though I did have some niggling thought that it had a lot to do with the three voice-mail messages I had received from my best friend, Sage.
"At least come out on Saturday morning," was the first. This in response to my message,declaring that I wouldn't be done with work until late Friday night. A rather pathetic declaration on my part, considering the financial compensation I was receiving for this particular job.I'm a documentary filmmaker — an award-winning documentary filmmaker, I might add. But before you get too impressed with me,note that the award was received four years ago for a piece on the homeless and that my current film was a digital short for dogsnatchers.com,paid for by a sixty-four-year-old widow who'd had her King Charles spaniel snatched in Washington Square Park. Not the kind of thing PBS will be airing any time soon. Still, it was a job, and since I hadn't had a job in about three months, I wasn't about to argue for beach time with the one person I had come across of late who was willing to bankroll me.
"You're not done yet?"was the second message from Sage.Sage is a sales rep for Edge Leather,which means she has the good fortune of being able to do a job she loves between the hours of 9:00 a.m.and 5:00 p.m.In fact,when I missed our last two beach weekends,she acted like I had committed a federal offense.I suppose she had every right to be offended, seeing as she did put up half the money for my share when I couldn't come up with the cash.
Okay, so maybe that was the real reason I was on this ferry. It was hard to say no to Sage, which was probably why I'd let her slap down the remaining deposit in the first place. At this point, I wasn't even sure I needed a day of beach time,much less a summer. After a Saturday spent explaining to Adelaide Gibson why I thought we should edit down the six hours of home footage she had given me featuring Fifi running in the park,Fifi lying on Adelaide's French provincial sofa, Fifi nipping playfully at Adelaide's designer pumps,I just wanted to go home and sleep through next Wednesday.
"You better be coming out tonight." That was the last message I'd received, about four this afternoon. I could only assume the reason I hadn't heard from Sage since was because she was either mad at me for blowing off two of the sixteen beach weekends she begged me to take on, or because she'd given up on me.
Or because she knew I wouldn't say no to Maggie, who had also left me a message this afternoon. "I've decided to make grilled spicy lamb with coriander sauce," she'd announced merrily to my voice-mail box, "and we have no coriander in the house!" Maggie Landon is probably the only person I've ever known who might find a lack of coriander in her beach house peculiar.I might not even have known her either,if it hadn't been for Sage, who managed to wangle us shares in her boss's beach house. No easy task, mind you, since Maggie and her husband, Tom,hadn't even opened up their house to shareholders until this summer.But for Sage,who had a way of seducing everyone over to her point of view, it was a no-brainer for her to land sixteen weekends in an oceanfront house for her, me and Nick, Nick being Sage's other best friend and beneficiary of her endless — and somewhat strenuous — generosity.
Truth be told, until I'd gotten that message from Maggie, asking me to pick up not only coriander, but a Vidalia onion and "a crisp, citrusy white" because she had also discovered, much to her horror, that she only had a chardonnay at the house, I was thinking about staying home.I had missed two of the three weekends of our share so far — what was one more? But apparently the market at Kismet,the hamlet on Fire Island where our house was located,didn't carry most of these items,and since,as Maggie went on to say, I was the only shareholder still on the mainland, she "surely hoped" it wouldn't be a problem for me to pick up a few things. So of course I went to the market for her, even though, as a vegetarian,I wouldn't even be able to partake in the main course. I had been forbidden by Sage to deny our happy hosts anything. Sage had only two conditions when we took these shares: that we have a good time, and that we not offend Tom and Maggie. As for offending her boss — well, I think I might have already done that tonight. As for having fun
I wasn't even sure I knew how to do that anymore.
Don't get me wrong. I love the beach. Sage, Nick and I had practically grown up on it, the beach being one of the perks of our long-suffering Long Island youth. I'd left lazy summer days on the beach behind when I moved to Manhattan during college, but three summers ago Sage had joined the ranks of those urbanites who flee to the shore and had been badgering me to get on the bandwagon ever since. I hadn't been able to allow myself such an indulgence — not with my income. But I had come out as Sage's guest last summer,and during one brief shining moment, I had even bought into the dream while sitting on what was likely the very same ferry.
Except last time I wasn't alone.Wasn't sitting in the damp,half-empty bowels of the boat, breathing in a nauseating mix of sea and fuel. That evening I was with my then-boyfriend, Myles, on the top of the ferry with the wind in my hair,the sun setting and splitting the sky open into a spectrum of color that always induced a kind of silent wonder in me. Myles had felt it, too. I could tell by the way his fingers paused in the midst of the gentle circle he was making on my shoulder. Once the sun had dipped beneath the horizon, we both looked at one another and vowed to come back next summer."Maybe we can even get our own house," he had said, a bit of a heady claim, since, at the time, our combined income didn't even come near the median household income required to support a Manhattan existence,much less a Manhattan-plus-beach-rental existence. But we had just turned the bend on our second year together and were still in that blissful state where everything seemed possible.
By February, when it came time to put down the first deposit, even a shared oceanfront room seemed too much for Myles. "I don't know, Zoe. Sixteen weekends is a big commitment," he'd said.
By April, the relationship I had once imagined would see me through the rest of my life was over.
Of course, backing out of the beach house was not an option for me at that point."What are you gonna do in the city all summer by yourself ?" Sage demanded. When I pointed out that I wouldn't exactly be alone, that surely some of the eight million people who lived on the island of Manhattan wouldn't be fleeing to the shore, she simply rolled her eyes at me. She knew as well as I did that out of those eight million people, there were only a handful I could truly claim as company. Actually, less than a handful.When Myles had dumped me,he'd taken with him the smattering of friends I had adopted as my own. Now I was left with Sage and Nick, Nick being more Sage's friend than mine, but who was counting?
"When was the last time we did anything together?"Sage said, and it was this last comment that had me slapping down the first five hundred bucks for a deposit, whether out of guilt at being one of those women who had ditched her friends in favor of her boyfriend, or because I believed what I needed most in the post-Myles phase was the solid bolstering of a summer spent with friends.
"Is this yours?"
I looked up to see an overly freckled, lanky teenager holding a somewhat bruised Vidalia onion."Uh,yeah,"I said,my gaze dropping to the shopping bag I'd placed on the floor beside my seat. It now gaped open, making me wonder what other vital ingredients I had lost. Not that it mattered. Because the other bit of ridiculousness was that I had missed the earlier ferry because I couldn't locate a jar of coriander in a timely manner. The first two stores I'd tried had sold out of the stuff.Who knew coriander was in such high demand? Though I did finally find a bottle at Gourmet Garage, I had missed my train and was out of the running for anything but the late ferry. Which meant that, despite all my efforts to please Maggie, I had failed miserably. I had left her a message, but whether she'd had to postpone her gourmet meal until ten when my ferry arrived, or whether she'd been forced to bag the whole thing and was sitting fuming at me over a badly cooked burger at one of the two restaurants in Kismet, was anyone's guess.
"Um,thanks,"I said,taking the onion from the kid with a grateful smile,though what I had to be grateful for at the moment was beyond me.
"Where're you going?" he said, making me realize that this kid was not some eager do-gooder but none other than an employee of the Fire Island Ferry Company. At least that's what his T-shirt said.
Excerpted from Killer Summer by Lynda Curnyn Copyright © 2005 by Lynda Curnyn. Excerpted by permission.
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