Steamboat Springs

Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park.

It would become the story we told all summer: Philippa emerged from the Rocky Mountain National Park bathroom, rounding a corner, and shouting across a parking lot to me. 

"Ariel! Have you seen my phone?" 

"Uh," she had given it to me a few times to carry during our short hike through the woods. If I did have it, it would be inside my backpack. A' jumble with water bottles, trail mix, hardboiled eggs, and spiced pepitas. 

"I hope it wasn't in my pocket and fell in the toilet," she said. 

Suni walked back to the stream where we stopped, maybe it was over there when we were chatting with the other hiker. Philippa went back to the bathroom to check and later, as I was still digging through dirty socks and boarding passes, Philippa screamed. 

"Ariel! Come here!" This time with more sadness in her voice. I walked to the bathroom. She was standing outside, pouting. I expected that it was indeed in the toilet. I rolled up a sleeve of my Obama sweatshirt, totally prepared to pull it out. I'm hardly a germaphobe when there was soap around. 

I opened the door to the bathroom and looked down the toilet. It wasn't a toilet, it was a latrine! The phone was about 10 feet down, sinking in human waste. 

"It's gone!" I heard Philippa saying through the door. I left the bathroom and stood with she and Suni and tried to think of a plan. 

"I can call someone," Suni said. "Maybe a park ranger?" An Italian tourist walked up and put her hand on the bathroom knob. 

"Don't go to that one," Philippa said. "something is wrong with it." 

"Yeah," Suni and I chimed in. "Yeah, go to the other one..." 

The woman nodded and went to the bathroom next door. We stood there a bit, and suddenly Philippa said that we should consider the phone gone. Even if a ranger could get it out, would she want it? Defeated, we walked through the dusty parking lot back to Suni's champagne Subaru. 

"What if I want to take pictures?" Philippa said sullenly as the car climbed up the side of the mountain and towards the tundra covered in snow. 

"Take a picture with your heart," Suni said. Philippa was aghast.

"You can't take a picture with your heart!" 

###

Colorado, in short, is mountain peaks, valleys, wide lakes with deep blue water, and curling roads. Moose, elk, bears, mountain lions. Beautiful vista after beautiful vista. Suni took us up the roads she knew so well: the drive from Denver to Steamboat Springs, a small valley town in northern Colorado. Population 10,000. It was known for being a big ski destination, so it had the sheen that I always imagined Aspen had (clean streets, newish store facades and a main street). When Suni lived in New York she spoke a lot about Steamboat's Fourth of July celebration. Everyone went to a parade, ate free hot dogs, drank root beer floats and danced at block party. Then in the afternoons, they went tubing on the river. That made my barbecue and homemade-ice cream Fourth of July celebrations look like child's play.

At some point, before Suni moved from New York to a monastery, we discussed the idea of visit each others hometowns. Philippa's in Sri Lanka, Suni's in Colorado and mine, in Mobile, Alabama. Suni's was first.

If I had the gall to outline the trip in detail, it'd be another 7-post wonder like that of my Las Vegas series. We piled so many good things in our five days -- like the day we spent in the hot spring, our toes settling in the rocky bottom of the pool. There was the day we did a hungover hike through windy ridge. We had to sit on a rock to rest, and a group of elderly people marched past us. "Don't give up," they said smugly, "you're almost there." A mud pit ate Philippa's shoe. The Yampa river, which were warned was wild and raging, also got the best of us. Suni and I thought we'd just float down the river together on a tube, and as soon as she hit the current she was carried out yards from me. I paddled frantically towards her and a stranger rescued me by grabbing my tube and pushing me into the current. When I looked down, the struggle was so great, half of my chest was exposed and I didn't even know it. 

Between activities, we enjoyed the Colorado quiet. Suni's parents built a fire for us during dinners outside and we sat around eating s'mores. We listened to her parents tell us camp fire stories: the time her father stuck his head down a bear hole to meet a sleeping bear, how her mother and father met (it's the best meet-cute in history). One night Suni called all her friends over for tacos. Everyone was so delightfully western, one of the girls even lived in a Tiny House. 

Taco night.

Taco night.

"Guess how I lost my phone?" Philippa asked the friends. One of them smiled. 

"Hm, did put it in your pocket and forget and then when you went to the bathroom it fell in?" she said. 

"How did you know!?" Philippa and I asked. 

"You look like the type of person who would do that," she laughed. 

Though brush fires cancelled Fourth of July fireworks, we still had a very full holiday. We went to the parade and watched the townspeople represent their various clubs and businesses with floats. That evening, after another outdoor dinner, the neighbors started lighting fireworks. Big, majestic displays started popping all over the town under the hill where we stood. Suni's parents went to the basement and pulled out their supply of roman candles and sparklers and big things that shot up in the air, and on the street we lit a few of our own.

 

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"But, Smokey the Bear says--" I started to stammer nervously. 

"You really listen to him?" laughed Philippa.

###

On our last day in Colorado, we got breakfast and coffee to go, and Suni drove us up to one of the town's waterfalls. It was so early in the morning that we had it all to ourselves. Then we hit the road, going north into Laramie, Wyoming, to check another state off our list, then back down to Ft. Collins for lunch and finally a bus back to Denver and then a plane to New York. 

I've learned that sometimes traveling is like wearing a costume: you do the things, you wear the clothes, you eat the foods. You become something else. (I think that's part of the fun of going to Vegas, the costume is forced absurdity and if you ride with it, you're guaranteed absurdity.) In Colorado we rode in the Subaru, ate elk and lived in hiking boots. Philippa even went to F.M. Light, the household name cowboy store, and left with a pair of boots and a cowboy hat. When we arrived that afternoon to the Denver Airport, we queued under glass ceilings and waited by metal pillars and metal walls. I remember thinking, "no this is too soon" to give up the trees and soft green grass. My bear anxiety replaced with that of currency, timing. 

Candy Rose

On a Thursday morning in Vancouver, Edward and I had breakfast in our hotel room and went outside. We needed "travel things." My comb bristles broke and I needed socks for hiking. He needed another bottle of his signature scent: Penhaligon's in Blenheim Bouquet. 

"Hey look," I said, pointing to a sandwich board on West Hastings that advertised for a perfume shop. Penhaligon was on the list of perfumes. "It's perfect." We turned and walked through a small, quiet mall. The doorway to the shop was open and a shopkeeper was sitting behind a desk. 

"Hello, what are you looking for?" she said. She had short dark and hair and an undetectable accent. Edward told her he was looking for Penhaligon's and she spritzed him with a sampling and boxed up a bottle that he quickly bought. 

"And you, dear?" the woman asked. Edward encouraged me to purchase a scent since I was always unhappily rotating. I was up for trying something new, but I'd barely finished the multiple bottles at the house and I couldn't really afford it. But there was something about that place, if you were going to by a perfume you had to buy it from there. It was quaint, charming, authentic. "What kind of things do you like?" she asked. 

"I wear a lot of things, mostly really cheap silly stuff," I said rattling off an embarrassing list of department store brands that were once the fads. "I like really clean scents. I don't like citrus and absolutely no musk." 

The woman smiled and looked me up and down like she was reading me. I let my vivid imagination and writerly brain run wild -- a story about a perfumer who was actually psychic who reads customers and gives her life prescriptions under the guise of giving directions for perfume. I've romanticized the idea that a stranger can look at you and tell you exactly what you need.

"I think, for you I'm going to give you something absolutely different than what you're used too," she said. "Is that OK?"

I said it was. She started to rummage through her bottles. I didn't recognize them. She made small talk as she selected, asking us what brought us to Vancouver (a wedding) and where we were from (New York). Then she had me hold out my arm, and she took out a bright pink atomizer and gave it a quick, punctuated tap with the heel of her hand. Then she began fanning wildly. "We have to let it sit a bit, don't rub it. We need your own scent to come through." 

After a few moments she gave my wrist a sniff. "What is this you are wearing already? There's something here," she said. The hotel body wash from my shower still lingered. Surely it had worn off on our morning walk.

"I'm not wearing anything," I stammered. 

Edward narrowed his eyes. "There was this awful smelling scent at the hotel," he said. He'd actually said so after his shower. 

"I do not like it," she said. She grabbed a bottle of antibacterial sanitizer and began wiping my arm down with it until the offending scent was gone. Then again, another concentrated spritz from the pink bottle. 

I sniffed. "It smells OK." 

"Go outside," she said, pointing to the mall hallway. I went out of the store, just one step from the threshold to an entry way.  What a difference! The scent was now alive and in the hallway where I stood, it felt like the only living thing. I walked back in, smiling. 

"See?" she said, looking as if the matter had been set, and some balance restored to my aura, if that was even possible. God, the promise of a remedy. But a remedy to what? Everything was fine. I was traveling -- in the summertime -- my dream for a long while when I couldn't afford since summertime travel was often the most expensive. I felt that I didn't deserve to be traveling. That I didn't deserve perfume, sunshine, the comb I'd bought at Miniso. It's just like that trip to Montauk where I felt so guilty I even whispered it to Philippa and she thought I was crazy.

I didn't buy the perfume. The shopkeeper put a sampling of it in a small bottle and wrote the name of it on the side. It was by a maker I'd never heard of, a small French family. Later that afternoon, I looked at the label: "Candy Rose." 

The Record On Repeat (Montauk)

The hotel's indoor pool was on a sub level, reachable by an elevator and a hallway lined with black and white photos from the 1920s. The pool was in a white room with white walls, mirrors lined on one side and a tiny rectangular hot tub. "It's a cave," Philippa had said when I asked her what it was like.

Before 11 pm, still happy from my meal at the Crow's Nest, I slid into the bubbly rectangle in the cave, the water rising up to my chin. I then got up to my waist in the heated pool, then I told Edward I was going to sit in the sauna and borrowed his flip flops.

The sauna and bathroom were also white. There were rows of lockers and I followed the hallway to a corner where the wooden door led to the sauna, and pulled it open. It was empty. I could hear the hiss of the sauna and feel the heat. So I sat on my hands, my bathing suit still damp. A quick seven seconds passed and the sauna grew cold, I imagined that maybe its cycle had run out. I opened the door and stuck my head in the hall, looking to see that the sauna was still on. To be sure, I cranked up the heat a touch by arbitrarily turning a knob that looked like it needed turning, and went back in. 

I had a feeling that is unwritable -- a strange feeling of otherness in the room. It embarrasses me even writing about it, even more embarrassing as I looked around myself in the sauna, as I slowly had the realization that maybe I wasn't alone. And if I wasn't alone, what was there? The sauna wasn't heating up, like someone was playing a prank and turning the knob. I got up and left, rushing quickly through the white-walled-bathroom and back out to the pool where Edward was sitting. 

"That was the quickest sauna trip ever," Edward said. "you look pale." 

"I think...I think there was a ghost in there," I said. "I just felt like I wasn't alone." 

###

I have loved Montauk since last summer after a last-minute girls weekend. It was the kind of thing that's too spontaneous to overthink which made it perfect in its execution, and allowed us to still be surprised and awed of the things we found. We swam in pools surrounded by trees and flower bushes, we drank beer at the beach and had outdoor, bare-shouldered, sunburnt, rosé laden dinners. Perfect sunsets were in excess. The highlight of that trip was a long afternoon sail, where I cried with a sea captain, which I wrote about for this blog. I would return to New York and run into friends who would say: "I love the post about Montauk; about the sea captain." 

I couldn't wait to get back. 

A few weeks before Memorial Day Philippa put the gears in motion for another trip to Montauk. We'd stay at the same hotel, The Montauk Manor. The only issue was the weather, it would barely reach 60 degrees, but we could do hikes, we could have nice dinners and the hotel pool was heated. Philippa would bring her husband, Martin, and I would bring my boyfriend Edward. 

On May 27th, Edward slid into a seat on the LIRR train and said: "I'm feeling rather smug." There were girls were squished together on the floor on top of their monogrammed L.L. Bean canvas tote bags and cross-legged in Lululemon pants. There were people standing the corridors, and Philippa texted me from another part of the train, "We're standing," she said. Someone spilled their Bellini on Martin. 

The last time I was in Montauk the train ride was empty, relaxing. This time I was heading into a big holiday weekend: Memorial Day. The partiers were out and ready, Instagraming and complaining. People were dropping lines like, "I'll die if the one time I don't go to Spain he's there." 

I'm secretly envious of the cool kids. Montauk offers adjacency to the cool kids, enough closeness that I can pretend I didn't spend high school hiding and not speaking, that I didn't have a lonely undergrad at a university that has to be mentioned up north with a, "no ones ever heard of it, it was just a state school where I grew up." I can wear a costume by going to the right beach and dining and the good spots. It's annoying to know that all those social foibles and dorkiness would still bother me at thirty-two years old. 

We land at Montauk and get a cab to The Montauk Manor. When we enter the front corridor I'm met with the same beautiful hallways and soft piano music echoing off the lobby arches. We drop our bags and decide to go to Gosman's Deck for lunch. It's sunny enough to eat outdoors under an umbrella and Philippa and I recount our last trip to the boys. 

A sailboat approached. 

"I'll cry if its the same boat I rode on last summer," I say, seeing the sails. It turns out to be the very same boat, so Philippa, Edward and I ran to the deck to get a picture of me watching it sail away. It was a long lunch, two bottles of wine and seafood. We giggled quite a lot. We had ice cream after and took the hotel shuttle back to the manor. Our driver, I realize, was our same driver from last year, a thirty-something local named Peter who knows Montauk like the back of his hand. He had a high aversion to the rich kids who spend all their nights at the Surf Lodge or Sloppy Tuna. He always had good recommendations for the best of Montauk, he would point at a place and tell us to go there, always using the same adjective: "That place? That place is solid.

I get a kick out of knowing someone in this town. The locals never change, everyone knows everyone. It reminds me of all my vacations as a child and teen. We always went to New Orleans, and we delighted in knowing our way around, in knowing just enough to feel at home but not too much. The return traveller has a shallow sort of love, they never want to see what gears turn underneath a city so they never have to complain about the traffic on the twenty-seven -- but they want to know that the twenty-seven exists. 

Back at the manor I decided to give Edward a tour, and we started walking south toward a group of trees. 

"Let's go in here," he said. I hung back, a little frightened of trespassing. Edward held up a hand for me to take. "We'll just look." 

We ducked under some brush and found ourselves in a graveyard. It's very minimalist, none of the plots have headstones but little discrete markers in various places. Flags line the veterans graves, and a massive stone sat in the middle of the yard that belonged to the Native American's who lived on the site. I find great peace there, and so we continue walking till we reach a cliff overlooking a body of water. Edward admitted that he felt calmed by the wild grass and trees and the silence. 

We spend the next hours watching sunset at the hotel, and then went to the Crow's Nest but couldn't get a table, and instead had a a drink on the waterfront and dinner at South Edison. It's cold at night, I wished it were warmer.

The next morning we had breakfast in town, picked up beach provisions at the local market and headed to Ditch Plains. The sun came out and in the warmth we shed our clothes for bathing suits. The water was too cold to swim. Martin, the only brave one, took a dip. We went back to the room, watched a bit of TV and dressed for the Crow's Nest. I'd talked up the place so much: about the table we got under the arbor on the grass, the watermelon cocktails and scallops and ricotta with grilled bread. Is all else failed, we could count on the Crow's Nest to be beautiful and delicious. 

We had a wonderful meal, and went back down to the bar by the water but the weather was cold. Edward and I resolved to go back to the pool and spa after dinner. 

Up to that evening, talk of ghosts had been rampant. Every time we boarded the hotel shuttle a driver would tell us a story about the ghosts at the hotel, which was built on top of a Native American burial ground.

"Once I was in the pool after it closed, late at night," says Peter. "And I saw something in the mirror go into the bathroom. And I'm thinking, 'Who is in here the pool is closed,' so I go in the bathroom and there's no one there. It was a shadow."

Edward called bullshit on this story. Another driver tells us that the fourth floor lights every night at 4 a.m. flicker, and a waiter in the hotel restaurant says that when he was setting tables for dinner service one night the lights were flickering to the music.

"Like, to the beat," he says widening his eyes and raising his hand and lowering it like a DJ. Edward called bullshit on this story, too. 

Martin and Edward did not believe in ghosts; Martin a doctor and a man of science believed it was all a figment of our imagination. Philippa and I were in the other camp. Philippa had a few experiences here or there. Me, nothing, no ghosts, no ghouls, no fantom phone calls from the dead, no devil cars following me at midnight, no rustle in the bushes (and yes, those were all real-life ghost stories culled from friends). The first time I stayed at the Montauk Manor I experienced nothing. I felt so sure that the hotel wasn't haunted that I felt comfortable enough to come back. 

Edward and I put on our swimsuits and walked to the pool. After my experience at the sauna, we returned to the room, and a weak smile crossed my face. 

"Philippa, something happened in the sauna," I said. She'd come right off the stairs, her eyes wide. 

"What happened!?" she asked. I explained the story. 

"But maybe I'm imagining things," I said. 

"You're back-pedaling!" she said. "You saw something!"

Despite this, she and Martin went to the pool and I went to the upstairs bathroom and shut the door to change. I started to feel the fullness in the room again, and trying to convince myself to calm down, looked at my reflection and faked a smile.

"It's nothing," I said to the mirror. 

The next morning a storm crossed Montauk on our last day. The four of us took our last shuttle ride to the train. The station platform was packed all the way down to the parking lot. We were luckily enough to get seats, Philippa and I talked about Noam Chomsky across the aisle. We realized halfway through the ride that we left all our rosé and rum in the hotel room fridge.

We rolled through Long Island for three hours, and for most of it I considered the night before. Hypothetically, if ghosts were real in the traditional sense of what we know, I considered how lonely that would be. How sad and isolating to be apart from human experience in such a concrete way. It didn't seem that far from my own life experience, which strangely made me feel more comforted, rather than afraid, by what happened. That night I still slept with the light on.

###

On Tuesday, I returned back to life, to work. My colleague asked about the hotel, I'd told her before I left that it was supposedly haunted. She is a horror film fan, and gleefully awaited my news, if any. I told her the story about the sauna. 

"I think," she said, offering her theory on ghosts, "that it's like an energy trapped in a space. It's just like a record playing on repeat." 

I liked that explanation best of all those I'd heard. It took a lot of distance from Montauk, and a few times catching myself being envious of the people I saw there, to make the connection: if I keep dwelling on the pitfalls of the past, they will continue to play for me, to haunt me. I need to change the way I think. 

My First Protest (The Women's March in D.C.)

On January 20, I find myself in a hotel lobby in Silver Springs, Maryland. About thirty teenagers in prom dresses and shirts with ties are on the couches in the lobby. You barely hear over the chatter. It's already midnight. 

The hotel attendant gives Edward and I our keys and warm cookies (it's their thing) and we get into an elevator, with more of the formally-dressed high schoolers. On our floor there are more kids on carpet having conversations so involved they don't notice when we step over them.

There's a woman with a clipboard doing bed checks through an open door. I tell Edward that they were probably an Inauguration Band. 

"Well, we're definitely not getting any sleep tonight." 

I'm exhausted. I had a full day of work, I got on The Path Train, I met Kel in New Jersey and we drove six hours to be in Washington, D.C. for the Women's March. It was all a fluke, really. Kel called Wednesday night with an excited urgency I'd never heard from her: 

"I was raised to do what I am told and put my head down. But with everything that has gone on, I said, 'You know what? I need to do this.'"

So here we are, in D.C. with only three days notice. I open the window shade to a main street. I tell Edward that I haven't been to D.C. since 2009, and start into my favorite story about taking the Amtrak alone, writing the whole ride, alighting at Union Station and getting a cab and feeling so independent. I tell him about seeing the monuments from a tour trolley in the freezing cold ("It was April, it was supposed to be warm, it was the Cherry Blossom Festival") and seeing The White House where there was a protest. Then the famous punchline -- it was an anti-circumcision protest. 

"I've never protested before," I keep saying. I'm scared but manage to sleep.

Edward and I set alarms for 6 am, we have to meet Kel and the girls at 7:15 am sharp. 

The alarm goes off the next morning and my eyes feel...sore. I put on a pair of jeans and tennis shoes, I hide my purse in my larger overnight bag and only tie the essentials to my chest in an old passport pouch. We go to breakfast buffet. A woman looks over at Edward's pink sweater. 

"I hope a lot of people show up. He's wearing pink, but maybe I'm reading too much into it." 

All is quiet in Silver Lake, Maryland, at 7 am until Edward and I make it to the station platform and we realize that everyone going to the march is there. My heavy eyelids perk up, a smile crosses my face. We're not alone, and everyone is exuberant instead of angry. Kel and company arrive in pink just in time for the train. We exit the metro near The National Mall and start walking to find coffee. 

There is an Au Bon Pain right off the march route, and it's packed. The line is wrapped around the interior three times. A barista is holding a hot vat of coffee high above the crowd. 

"Excuse me, hot coffee," he says, and places the dispenser right beside Edward and I. 

"Has it been crowded?" someone asks. 

"Yeah, but a really polite crowd, much nicer than yesterdays crowd that's for sure," he says, mentioning the inauguration crowd from the day before.

We walk back to a meeting point, where Kel's friend is gathering people from a nonprofit organization to pass out posters. There's a memorable moment on a bathroom break: the women's line is longer than the men's line (naturally) and one of the elderly woman kicks open the door and yells, "I'm coming in! We have to fight the patriarchy and the man, and just make our own way!" Other women follow-suit, and suddenly the sexes mixed in each bathroom laughing uproariously. 

I make a mental note, that I'm going to blog about that moment no matter what. 

The group starts to gather for the rally just a block or two away. Edward and I find out that if we hold hands on our walk, we get television cameras in our face. 

"We're, 'That Interracial Couple at the Women's March,'" I whisper to him with a hell of a lot of snark.

#

The first six hours, are the worst. A crowd forms near The National Mall around 8 am to watch the rally on a big screen. Everyone is shoulder to shoulder. That big breakfast wears off and I wonder if anyone will be able to hold it together until 1 pm, when the official march is supposed to begin. 

Around 9 am, the crowd starts screaming “Am-bu-lance. Am-bu-lance.” The first casualty. This will happen about five more times, someone at one time screaming, “Does anyone have a blood sugar checker?” About five doctors part the crowd but they are helpless without an ENT to lift the body for a man who has passed out. I look around and notice that there’s no cops in eyesight, but why would there be — there are probably cameras everywhere.

For the Rally portion of the march, several celebrities make speeches and bands play music. It would be fun but it’s not what anyone is there for, we’re there to say things, to make noise. For a long time we've watched the news, read articles, felt powerless and out of control, and this is finally the moment we get to express ourselves. We're tired of listening to people at microphones, it's our turn.

The crowd gets more and more angry as we get closer and closer to 1 pm. “When are we actually going to start marching?” someone asks. Even if it muffles the rally, a small group even starts to scream, "March! March! March!" The crowd decides that they’ve had enough. 

“Everyone turn around and start walking,” someone shouts. We’re just going to do this, and so we start off in any direction where there is room. It’s disorganized. Most of the walking paths are short lived and end on giant fields and streets that start to look like street fairs. Our group finds multiple groups to follow down the streets.

The chants are as thus: 

“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Donald Trump has got to go.” 
“We will not go away, welcome to your first day.” 
“We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter.” “This is what democracy looks like; this is what America looks like.”
"Thank you Obama! Thank you Obama!" 

I get the feeling like I’m going to cry whenever I see a sign that I agree with, or just because some rage and disappointment floods me and because I still feel like a pawn in a very large, hard to fight game. We have work to do. This is an exasperating feeling of helplessness that I’ve felt long before the election began. 

Despite this, there is an overarching feeling of happiness, too. People find moments to dance to a jazz band that's playing, to laugh, to be polite to each other. You'd think the crowd would be showing more of their rage, but it's good we're civilized. My parents text me: "Don't go to jail." I read this to my friends and they all laugh, it seems unlikely now. 

After a few more hours of marching, we find the end of the trail. The protesters have dissipated to bars and restaurants or the nearby T station. Edward and I are taking a rental car back the same night. We have six hours of road to cover. We expect to be back in New York by midnight. 

We take a train to Silver Springs, grab dinner, pick up our bags at the hotel and took the train back to the airport to get a rental car. A heavy fog settles over D.C. as we exit. 

"Ah, all the monuments look so beautiful glowing in the dark," I say to Edward. 

We sing oldies songs on the way home and stop at a rest stop in Delaware, stretching our legs beside buses of admirable women in pink gear.

Even though I'm inspired by being surrounded by like-minded people in a safe forum, I also feel discouraged, lazy, and anxious. Sure, we'd had a success that day. But we couldn't all party and rejoice without keeping the momentum going for the many months or years that we would need to. Showing up was only 1/4 of the battle.

Edward and I make it to New York around 2 am. My feet hurt, my lower back sore and I'm losing my voice (a seasoned protester was trying to tell me to preserve it, but I was such a newbie). When I close my eyes to sleep, I think about our rental car headlights on the highway and feel the movement of the car. Roads to cover, hours to drive, unfinished, urgent business. Work to be done. 

I Was There When

So often, it happened like this: my mother, once outside the car opens the driver side door, letting the interior lights (one on the ceiling, two on the floor) turn on. She sits in the driver seat, rears back the wrist and shoulder of her right arm to fasten a seatbelt with her left. Then she hunches over the wheel, turning to me, shivering. 

"It's windy out there," she says, or "not fit for man nor beast."

This was not a regular weather pattern, but the wind coming off a hurricane churning in the gulf. You could feel the winds three days before landfall, a reminder of the things that were to come. 

I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, a city on the Gulf Coast. Before moving to New York, I lived through at least nine notable storms (including Hurricane Katrina). A hurricane gave the city a sort of focus. Small talk disappeared. Everyone could only talk of one thing:

"I heard Lowe's was having a sale on wood if you need to board your windows..."

"My cousin in Birmingham told me I could come up and stay with her."

"They say it might be category four..."

Though we had our bills, our sadness, our to-dos, they were filtered through the worries of an upcoming storm. It was as if the city were operating together as a unit, that we were of one mind. I can't describe it better than that.

On November 8th at 6 pm, I exited the subway at 42nd Street and felt this focus for the first time since I left Mobile. Crowds of people were speed walking west toward the Javits Center where Hillary Clinton was hosting her Election Night Party. I didn't know the numbers -- how many tickets had been given out, how many crowds were due to show up, but I thought I'd try my luck. I'd spent an hour on Sunday standing in line at her Manhattan headquarters just to pick up at ticket. I'd come too far to go home and watch it from the sofa.

The crowds were bottlenecked into a barricaded area that ran up to the back entrance of the Javits Center. For at least an avenue block behind me, all you could see were hundred of heads and people taking photos. We were a civilized, but complaining crowd. I was all alone, promising to meet up with my sister as soon as she could get to midtown. After an hour of shuffling and stopping, and a brief security check, a woman directed me to Eleventh Avenue in front of the building for the "Street Party." A jumbo-sized TV ran Clinton campaign videos and switched between the news networks. There were a few food trucks, people were complained that there wasn't any booze, and everyone wanted to be inside. A volunteer told us that no one was going inside. 

I was united with two friends from my trip to Rhode Island. A volunteer passed out American flags. Whenever Hillary won a state the crowd would cheer, and whenever Trump won one we would all boo. 

A small stage was set up on the street and the mayor, the governor and even Katy Perry spoke, among others. Trump began winning many states. People started sitting on the asphalt. By 11 pm, friends at home were texting me. If the world held it's focus on the election, then I was standing in the eye of the storm. 

"What are people saying?"

"Morale is low," I wrote. 

I overheard a cameraman saying to his producer, "We need more shots of worried faces." 

I looked to my left and right. Everyone including myself, had their jaws open, bitting their nails, near to tears, groaning, texting, calling friends, pacing. Someone even started to smoke a blunt, the smell wafting over the crowd. People stopped waving their flags.

By midnight, and without full results, me and my friends decided to go home. We joined the crowds back to Tenth Avenue and eventually reached 42nd Street. I said goodbye to them, and waited on the corner to hail a cab. Three Trump supporters from his Hilton Hotel party had made their way down 42nd Street. They were drunk. 

One of the men ran the back of his hand along my shoulder and giggled. 

"Sorry, darlin', I had to switch sides," he said. Then he burst out laughing and so did his three friends, they were all wearing "Make America Great Again" hats. 

"I mean, this is the best part," said one of the men, he stood next to me, so that we were nearly shoulder to shoulder. He held up a stack of about 50 Trump bumper stickers in bright red. 

The signal changed, and they could cross the street. 

"Have a good night," they said politely and continued down the street. A cab pulled up just then, and the driver saw my two American flags. One had broken into pieces. I'd forgotten to throw it away.

"So, what is happening down there?" the driver said. He was wearing a skull cap, he had a long but plump baby face. He turned in his seat to look at me through the glass partition in the cab. This wasn't small talk -- he really needed to know. I swallowed, was I really going to have to break it to this stranger?! This man with eyes so big and wide, it was like telling your child some very bad news. How do you do it?

"It..." I said, "it doesn't look so good." 

He nodded. "OK," he said. "OK." Then he turned in his seat, put the car into gear and we went up the West Side Highway and eventually home. I recall the small amount of money I gave to the Clinton campaign and while shaking my head, tears welling up, say to myself: "I would have given it a million times if I could have." 

I got into bed and remembered a conversation I'd had over the summer. I was working with a strategy and branding expert, and she was scrolling through this blog. 

"What is the purpose of this?" she asked. 

"I write about my life, I tell stories and vignettes," I said.

"But...why?" she asked. 

I could see the answer in my mind, but couldn't verbalize it well. My own reasons had been so self evident that it wasn't even a word -- but a feeling, an attraction. The night of the election I was able to verbalize these feelings, because I recognized the conditions from which they come.

I write because I live (and have lived) the majority of my life in sadness. There are times when everyday life is very, very hard. But the past is the only thing I know for sure. When the status quo is too overwhelming and unbearable, that is when writing has it's value. I can reach back into happy and sad experiences to keep myself moving. To escape. 

This is what art is for.

I woke up at intervals during the night to check the news. My Facebook feed fell into chaos.

"No one really cares what I have to say," I said to myself as I drafted status updates and posts and deleted them. I knew I wanted to write about that night, and I knew it wouldn't be an all-encompassing post that did anything of worth. Even with the distance from it, I could never write it right and catch it all besides saying: "I was there that night." 

But that does nothing. 

Shelter Island

A year ago, "Harry" brushed past a cactus on a hike. It was one of those cactuses that loses limbs for protection and fell into his left hand, the spikes digging into his skin. Little scars now run up the knuckles where a doctor removed each spike in the ER. I watched this same hand guide the helm of his boat, The Montauk. His heel of his right hand he used to accelerate the motor. 

"This whole bay is so shallow," he said as we turned from an inlet into a larger bay. He'd gone there the weekend before to water ski. Now, just a week or two into September, it was already too cold too swim, too hot for a jacket. A beautiful Friday regardless. I looked at the time, nearly 3 o'clock. If I hadn't taken the day off to escape to The Hamptons with Harry, I would be in the office. To think everything had started with a pineapple.

On our first date on Labor Day, Harry showed up to a bar with a pineapple instead of flowers.

"I couldn't find any flowers," he said. "so I texted my friends to see if a pineapple was a good idea. They were like, 'abort, abort.'" The date went well, the pineapple came home with me in a taxi, cradled like a baby. The next day the whole apartment smelled sweet. The following weekend we watched a film and celebrated my birthday on his parents rooftop in the East Village. He grilled salmon, I made us gin fizz's. After giving me a gift, he played Fred Astaire on his laptop.

"It took me all day to find a song for us to dance to," he said. So we laughed our way through a dance. We'd gotten along famously enough to plan a trip to his parents Hamptons house for a weekend. A week later my friend Patrick pushed a copy of Max Frisch's "Montauk" across the table to me at Cafe Grumpy. I read it in less than week, totally engrossed in the plot that would soon be my reality -- a writer taking a new romantic interest to The Hamptons.

On the evening of the 22nd, Harry and I boarded a Hampton Jitney and arrived to the ferry to Shelter Island a little before ten. I remember the unpleasant chug-chug of the ferry slowing as we pulled into the dock. I remember looking at the other side of the ferry and sighing.

"This, Ariel Davis, is the craziest thing you've ever done." Maybe I'd reached my limit, maybe I'd done something too crazy. I think of my idol, George Sands, who whisked Frederick Chopin to Majorca. I think of Max Frisch. Maybe this is just the great literary tradition.

Harry put a hand on my shoulder. 

"Made it."

A cab took us to his house, a beautiful, wooden two story place surrounded by green grass and trees and nestled so far from the street it was entirely private. I was instantly envious. Harry gave me the tour: a living room and dining room with a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows to the porch. Up the stairs, two bedrooms, ours the small one with twin beds, high ceilings and a large green plant. In the backyard, a grill and a farm. I had a glass of wine and Harry had a glass of whiskey. I taught him how to fry an egg without it burning, and we had it as our dinner.

We were up by 10 am the next morning. Harry gave me a primer on the espresso machine, so I made us both lattes. He was out in the backyard tinkering with the Vespa.

"Hey, can you come out here?" he asked. He'd just hung up the phone, he'd been talking through the repairs with his father. "I have a feeling you're lucky."

He pointed at the ignition on the right side. I tried turning the keys and the engine started to sputter, without gaining the expected hum.

"This thing!" Harry said, defeated. "We can ride bikes to breakfast."

"Bike?" I said. "I haven't ridden a bike since I was in Paris."

"When was that?"

"2012."

"You'll be great at it," he said.

"Are there a lot of cars?"

"These are back roads," he said.

Back roads. One-laned roads and a traffic circle. A little residential street that passes the elementary school and the library. There was supposedly a bike path, but we never found it. We parked our bikes (without locks) at the local diner. My hands shook from the ride, I was so nervous.

"Look at that," I said, and pointed to the tremor. Harry gasped and took my hand across the table, which reminded me of what a gentleman he'd been since the trip began. We'd slept in twin beds, and he grew upset when he caught me washing dishes. There was a spider hanging over the toilet in the bathroom (Me: "There's a large, vicious spider in there!" Him: "That little guy?"). He put it in a mug, and discretely released it on the front lawn.

Harry is an environmental lawyer by trade, but spends all his time hiking and climbing mountains. Biking in the streets was easier for him than it was for me. He was always biking in cities. He joked often that he was "a caveman" even on our first date -- he was worried about his table manners. He's a pragmatist. He never wears matching socks because matching socks is a waste of time. If he can turn something into a sport or a competition, he will.

He taught me to play penny soccer until our breakfast arrived. I won.

We climbed on our bikes for a short ride to the pier. Though I was frightened by the speed of the hills, the cars rushing past, the branches in the streets, I think a bike ride is the best way to see Shelter Island. We got lost in a neighborhood of only old houses and a very old church. We stopped riding so Harry could consult the map.

I began to feel a strange, dull pain in my neck, blood rushing to the area. I'd been stung by a bee in the same spot I was stung when I was seven. When I was seven I cried and made a phone call from school to my mom. The school nurse opened a paper towel to show me the stinger. She'd found the bee laying on my shirt collar.

"You must have squished him," the nurse said. She didn't know, like I did, that all bees die after they sting someone. I still don't understand the biological need for them to die after defending themselves. Growing up, I erroneously translated this into a lesson: don't fight until you die fighting. Give up.

Now, at 32, I can be stung by a bee and not notice it.

"Harry, is there something in my neck?" I asked him. He, being six foot three, loomed over me, leaning down.

"There's something," he said. I took my fingers and pinched the spot, putting pressure on it and dragging my hand downward, like I've seen people do in the bee documentaries.

"I think a bee stung me," I said.

"We're going to the hospital," Harry said. "get you some cortisone."

"I'll be fine, I..." I started laughing. "I hardly felt it." ("I've grown up.")

We continued on. We would need to cross the island to make it to the pier. My neck only hurt when I turned it to the right, then it stopped hurting at all.

 

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The closer we got to the pier, the more beautiful the ride became. We saw the water between the trees; the sun bouncing off of it. We parked our bikes against a garage and raced down to the boat. Harry asked me to be the Skipper.

We began to navigate the waters. Harry at one point revved up the motor and we bounced along the waves.

"This is too fast!"

"That was nothing!" he laughed. "You have to hit the waves head on."

We found an empty body of water, there was only a massive yacht bearing Australian flags beside us. Harry cut the engine and we layed down with our legs up, talking about life.

On the way back to shore I waved at the boats we passed and he let me drive her for a bit. We made it back to the pier, back to our bikes, back to the streets. At the house, the sun had drained our energy. Harry was insistent that we watch an episode of my favorite show, "Poirot."

"You'll fall asleep," I warned him. Twenty minutes in, and he was out. Talk about idyllic! Harry was still holding my hands as he slept, his chest rising and falling, his eyelids fluttering from a dream. I could see out the front windows. A doe wandered on the property; it's mother not far off. Harry shifted.

"How long was I sleeping?" he asked.

"Not long," I said. He yawned and decided to take the bike to the market to get us dinner before sundown. He returned with a salmon steak, greens, an avocado and bread. We stood side by side at the counter top chopping vegetables while listening to jazz.

"Hanging out with you us just so easy," Harry said before a very romantic toast.

"I agree," I said. We took the salmon and mixed it with onions and a variety of spices and mayonnaise then grilled them like burgers. Harry whisked Dijon and lemon and olive oil into dressing.

"I'll cry if I have to watch you eat cold food," he said, looking over at my salmon burger patty resting on the counter while his simmered on the grill. 

"You're spoiling me," I said.

We turned off all the lights and lit the candelabra in the dining room. My phone rang. My mom. I told Harry I'd tell her where I was when I was back in New York.

After dinner we decided to watch a movie. I'd never seen "No Country for Old Men" and Harry wanted to see it again. With all the violence, I was most offended by the scene where the sheriff notices a bottle of "sweatin' milk" on a coffee table as a sign that their culprit has just left the house, I jumped up out of my seat. The sheriff pours himself a glass.

"You can't drink that!" I shrieked at the TV. "That milk is sweatin'!"

Harry laughed and squeezed my shoulder. I blushed. "You know how I am about expiration dates."

We went to bed around midnight and woke around 10 am. If we had gone to bed in summer, we woke up in fall. It was so chilly we wore jackets and sweats and shivered on the ferry ride back. The bus ride home was three hours, and we held hands for most of it. At Grand Central he was to take his train and I had to take mine. He gave my hand three sharp squeezes before running down the subway stair.

In two weeks he'd be in Hawaii. In two more weeks, still traveling the world, destination unknown. I felt a sort of sadness, not only about his departure but about my life. I was staring down my nose into the next few years, and there was nothing to see, nothing to look forward to. Not one hope nor milestone. Madame George Sands wouldn't have cared, perhaps? But I'll never be her. 

Unfinished Business (or, The End of Summer)

This summer, I can't even believe it. The summer of good surprises. It began with a list of plans and none of them got finished — better ones came instead. I began August in a frenzy. I didn't know that my birthday (in early September) would come with the best end-of-summer gift anyone could ask for (Harry, and our trip to The Hamptons, a post is coming) but there was a new friend to make before that. I needed to meet Kent (nickname of course).

On August 30 at 8 am waitress set before me the first soft boiled egg I'd ever eaten in public. Kent ordered the avocado toast. A pot of coffee steaming between us.

"Thanks for meeting me this morning," Kent said. He lifted up his toast and a lump of avocado went into his lap.

"Did you drop some?" I asked.

He nodded his head "yes."

"You know when you meet someone new, and you're nervous?" The two suits to our left looked over, their ears picking up his British accent from far off. Kent was petite, in both height and build. His nose, eyes and mouth reminded me of Matthew Goode. His hair was salt and pepper. He would later complain that he was losing "a bit off the top."

"Don't be nervous," I laughed. Then to change the subject: "Its really nice to be out before work. I love walking through midtown in the morning. I saw them taping the 'Today' show on my walk over. And, it's nice to have a big breakfast before work."

Kent had a piece of avocado now dangling from his mouth, struggling to get it all in. When he did, he did so with his eyes wide and his cheeks blushing. I stifled a laugh and looked down, pretending to miss it completely.

I'd met Kent online. Within an hour of matching and messaging each other I learned that he was in New York working for the US Open. He wasn't seeking dates but friends, specifically a local tour guide who wouldn't mind an afternoon in Central Park.

At first the idea was unattractive — a time suck. In my 20s this sort of thing was fun, "a new friend!" I used to say. With tourists you never see them again, two or three texts after, but you never see them again.

My heart decided there was room to play tour guide one last time. Besides, I was already closing out August like a madwoman. I had been meeting so many men for cocktails I was always sleepy from midnight cab rides home. It felt like nothing to add a new face to the rotation of faces.

Kent was running off a list of New York must-dos.

"But I don't want to do anything too touristy," Kent warned. "I like the unseen, underground hidden stuff."

I put a finger to my chin.

"There's lots of things," I said. "Let me give it some thought. I'll send you a list."

Two weeks later Kent agreed to meet me for an afternoon uptown, the last neighborhood he had yet to explore. I was impressed by his itinerary without my help: so far he'd walked all through Williamsburg, made a pass through Queens, crossed a bridge on foot and did the dinner and drinks thing in West Village. Together we'd had a time trying to get into a speakeasy on Labor Day (it was closed) and had to suffer at an empty spot nearby playing the Open on a big screen.

I planned the usual uptown tour: jazz at Marjorie Eliots, a walk to The Highbridge and the Little Red Lighthouse, and drinks somewhere near 168th. At 3:30 we buzzed Majorie's apartment and entered the wide, white marble lobby still done up like something from the 1920s.

"Every Sunday she opens up her home and gives a free jazz concert. It's the coolest thing in town. The only tourists that know it exists are Norwegian," I said as blondes filled the little folding chairs of Marjorie Eliot's apartment.

Marjorie Eliots Parlor Jazz. 

Marjorie Eliots Parlor Jazz. 

 

I'd always gone to Marjorie Eliots in the winter, when the sun set early and a darkness overtook the room. In the summer the parlor windows were open, the breeze lifting the curtains. The music was as good as it always is, I closed my eyes and swayed in my seat. We left just before 5.

"That was really nice! Can you imagine, it's so nice that she's able to do that every week," said Kent as we walked north on Edgecombe, past the prison.

"Hey! I see you!" shouted an inmate from a window. We could barely see the face, the window was laden with bars.

"Who said that?" Kent asked.

"That's a jail," I said. "A prisoner just yelled at me from a jail cell!"

"That's never happened to me before," Kent laughed.

"Hey!" yelled the voice again. "When I get out I'll come get you! That man ain't doing nothing for you! Don't you want a piece of this!"

"Well," I said to Kent, "it's not like he can get out."

"I'm getting out someday!" yelled the man.

"I can't believe this is happening," Kent said, beside himself. We'd now made it to the end of the block, turned down towards Highbridge Park, where two adult community teams were playing basketball. He pulled out his phone and started snapping the large, animated crowd.

"Is this local enough for you?" I asked.

"This is amazing," Kent said. He put on a face I'd seen so many times before, the wide-eyed wonder of a tourist. A face I'd made when I was still "just visiting." The face I still make when New York surprises me. Before moving here, all the art I'd ever seen about the city I thought was just exaggeration for arts sake. Then you get here and you see the train rats, the public pee-ers, and the jazz bands, the lights, the couples, the sparkle. It's all very, very real.

I took Kent to the Highbridge that connects my neighborhood to The Bronx. Then we went East so I could take him to the see the George Washington Bridge and the Little Red Lighthouse.

He was in awe of the fire hydrant that was left open so the neighborhood kids could splash in the heat. He was in awe of the elderly woman dancing to bachata with a cane balanced on her forehead. A documentary film crew followed a couple arguing down the street ("We'll be the faces waffled out when that thing releases.") He was in awe of that too.

We started the path to the lighthouse just before sunset. It was my first time there, and I was glad Kent was with me. The walkways were dotted with teenagers smoking marijuana and small tunnels covered in graffiti. We caught a couple being lewd in the woods, and when they saw us, directed us to take a left to make it to the lighthouse.

The view from the Little Red Lighthouse. 

The view from the Little Red Lighthouse. 

"I hope it's worth it," I said to Kent. The sun was setting, so the sky was getting it's color. The whole area by the Hudson River was quiet, the water was low enough to wade in. There were big rocks on the shore, we climbed from rock to rock. You could see all the way to downtown.

"Why couldn't it always be summer? Always beautiful weather, a day or two just before or after my birthday, why couldn't I eat fish everyday and drink rose, just keep pretending," I said.

"But it's so hot," he said.

"I like it," I said.

We walked back and Kent wanted to buy me a birthday drink, my birthday had been the day before. I'd celebrated with Harry on his roof (post to come) but otherwise wanted it to be very low key. We had a horrible pair of cheap cocktails at the local spot. A homeless man, overhearing my conversation and clearly mentally impaired, yelled at me from the sidewalk.

"You're a fucking vampire!" (Clearly, he's been reading my blog.)

I just shrugged, as if I'd been living here 25 years instead of just nine. I'd heard it all before.

I walked Kent to his subway stop, hugged him goodbye and watched him descend the stairs. He would return to London in a couple of days.

He hadn't exhausted his to-do list yet.

I hopped on an M3 bus and recalled the days when I had a "list." Every trip I made to New York (which was twice or three times yearly after I began college) the list got bigger. Counting down to a flight home was the most depressing thing on earth. I couldn't wait for now, when I would finally have a forever in New York to take my time, see everything, do everything.

To know that I have that gift now? The thought eased every anxiety. On the bus I let my legs stretch out in front of me. Sunk into my seat.

I got a text from Kent, he'd made it to the hotel. A few days later, a text before his flight. Then they stopped, just like I knew they would.

Montauk Journal (or, The Young Man and the Sea)

1.
We are on the train. Specifically the LIRR.

"You have a type," Philippa says.

"I do not have a type, none of these guys look alike!"

Philippa pulls up a picture of an Edwardian man in a morning coat with a flower in his lapel button. "This is your type."

"What's your type?" I ask. I can't stop laughing.

"Byronic hipsters who are also assholes."


2.
Our train rolls into East Hampton, and the majority of the passengers rise and exit. A girl in all-white is standing in front of us.

"Everyone wears all-white in The Hamptons," Philippa says.

"Why?" I ask.

"I don't know," she raises her eyebrows in the direction of the girl. "everyone just wears all-white."


3.
Around 11 am, Philippa and I alight with a bunch of 30-somethings carrying Everlane weekender's. From the stop we could see our hotel on the top of a hill: The Montauk Manor. Kennedy, our hostess and the organizer of the trip, walks us through the Tudor style entry way through the grounds, where there is a spectacular cliff overlooking the Montauk Pond. She couldn't have picked a more perfect place to stay. I am in disbelief that such a perfect turnkey vacation has fallen into my hands.

"I don't deserve to have this much fun," I find myself whispering to Philippa many times over.


4.
By noon, I was twisting a can of Montauk Summer Ale into the sand at Ditch Plains. I ate a fish sandwich, we caught the end of a surf match and sipped my favorite rose from a solo cup. A man starts digging vertical lines in the sand.

"What do you think he lost?" Kennedy asks.

"That's says more about us than it does him," says Philippa.

The Crowe's Nest.

The Crowe's Nest.


5.
Kennedy has made us reservations at The Crowe's Nest. Philippa and I agree to go early to secure a table, it is the most beautiful restaurant I've ever been to. Tables for 8 were arranged under little thatched roofs on a lawn overlooking the pond. String lights hung above an outdoor lounge with firepits and couches. Philippa and I drank watermelon cocktails and sunk into a sofa. By 7 we had our very own thatched-roof table sharing whipped ricotta and rose and scallops. The best evening I'd had in a long time.


6.
I fall into a deep sleep at the hotel.

The Surf Lodge.

The Surf Lodge.


7.
Philippa, Irene and myself take a car into town for iced coffees and exploration. We meet up with the other girls for brunch at The Surf Lodge, a place so insta-famous I know it before I see it.


8.
There is a woman dining at the adjacent table who says: "This is the second Shaggy song they've played in an hour, so that means it's time to go."


9.
I swim and sun for hours. Philippa sits at the edge of the deep end of the pool and smiles.

"Goodbye," she whispers, before diving in.

Dureya's Lobster Deck. 

Dureya's Lobster Deck. 


10.
More rosé and lobster rolls at Dureya's. Kennedy and I leave there and head directly to our scheduled sunset sail. (The anxiety of knowing that I'll want to write about said sail, creeps up on me.)

Sailing.

Sailing.


11.
"You said you were going to sing with me," says the sea captain, he's playing guitar. I laugh, embarrassed.

"You'll lose all your customers," I say. I look at each of the passengers on the boat. They are sitting in small groups -- an Irish family all blonde and smiling, six Chinese tourists sleeping off the end of a beach day, a young couple on honeymoon popping a bottle of champagne. None of them laughed, the captain did not laugh. The joke doesn't translate.

My friends are the last to board, and I see them dashing up the pier from afar. We all greet each other and sit on the floor of the catamaran. The captain stands to put away his guitar and turns on the motor to start towards the ocean. My second sail of the year.


12.
The captain is able to steer the catamaran by a large pole connected to a rudder at the back of the boat. He and his skipper take turns pulling up sails, catching the wind and eventually pulling us out of an inlet and into the sound. Me and the girls open up a bottle of rosé.

But then something happens.

The conditions are favorable enough that we're able to coast at 8 Knots, and the captain as he wipes his brow, is beside himself. This is a rare ride, normally a sail isn't as smooth.

"If we keep going this fast we'll be in Bermuda in two days," he says.

"Let's keep going," I laugh.

"I'm doing a sail all the way down the coast in October," he says.

"By yourself?" I ask excitedly, having visions of what that pure solitude out on the water would be like.

"No!" he laughs. "That's why I'm telling you."

"All alone for a week?" I say.

"Yes. You just sail during the day—and then sleep—it's nice."

"Do you put down an anchor?"

"No, you'll get a feel for the water and see how she moves through the night. No need for an anchor."

We change directions and head back towards our pier. The captain looks at me and sighs.

"I hope you felt that, I hope you felt what just happened. That was the best sail I've had--" he stops because he's starting to cry. "The best sail I've had in the last 25 years. I mean, it was just..."

In his excitement, he reaches down for his conch and blows it triumphantly. People dining at a waterfront restaurant turn and wave to us. Tears are streaming down his face. I start to cry too, at the realization that he was someone so devoted to his sport and craft that he was willing to do it even if a good day only came every 25 years.


13.
What does it mean then, to truly be passionate? Let's say I hadn't had success writing at all, would I still be doing it? Would I do it for 25 years like this man? And to have a hobby such as his, that depended so much on the sea and the air, and the nature? These are the things I thought as I cried.


14.
"I learned how to sail when I was seven," the captain says, "from a boy who was seven years old. I built this boat myself. I spent so much time." He is still talking through puffy red eyes. He looks out at the other passengers.

"I hope you felt it, I hope you realize what just happened out here," he says. One of the Chinese tourists lifts up a fist in the air.

"I felt it."


15.
Philippa and I are reunited at the hotel and went back out for tacos. Monday was coming and Philippa and I will be the first to depart Montauk on the 1:35 am train.


16.
"I feel like by riding the 1:35 am train we like, 'go hard' or something. Like this train is going to be full of drunks," I laugh to Philippa as we sat on the empty train platform. I suddenly feel very bonded to Philippa and appreciated that she was also an easy traveller, making no complaints. It is announced that the 1:35 am train is delayed by two hours. We decide to go back to the hotel and take the morning train.


17.
We sleep for two hours, hit the train again at 5 am. We arrive at 9:15 am to a sunny, hot Penn Station, thick crowds that move like schools of fish (an undulating carpet of heads and hats and cars). It feels as though I've been in Montauk for weeks and not days. I flop into my desk at the office, there's no time to go home and freshen up. I feel sun kissed. There's sand in my shoes. My hair smells like chlorine. I enjoy this little reminder.