- Vol. 03
- Chapter 03
Six False StartsNan-tuck-et. The name of the island catches in the throat, sharp like hoes in its rocky soil or the harpoon barbs that won its inhabitants their liquid gold. The English called it the little grey lady of the sea. She punishes his memory of his own green carapaced island home, carving it with bitter winds, casting its shores in ice. Neither place has escaped the twin ravages of greed and soul-loss. For him, as it was for the Wampanoag, Nantucket will always be the far away island.
No one loafs under umbrellas on Nantucket, he notices early on. The sun has chiseled the features of the islanders into a ruddy granite as unyielding as the land itself. When they finally stop sailing-golfing-fishing and convene on the hotel veranda they don't order umbrella drinks, either. No rum and coke, no daiquiris. Just gin and tonics, the juniper taste ascetic, unindulgent, an echo of a Quaker past.
He is fully aware of the irony, that by emigrating to America he has completed another leg of the triangle trade, albeit this one by choice, unlike the one which brought his ancestors to the the Caribbean. That he has traded servitude on one island still paying the price of colonial rule, for servitude on another which profited immensely by it. But for his son, at Catholic school on the mainland, anything.
Every evening the memory recurs, of the ending to a similar day's fetching and carrying, when twilight dissolved the clamor of a thousand requests. He remembers watching a woman watching a digitized sunset through a three centimeter square pane. He remembers thinking how small her world must be, not to have registered the child on the dock slipping into the water as easily as a duck after a minnow. Alone in his room, he is grateful he knows what he's missing.
Six False Starts
His son calls him, an event as rare as the discovery of a piece of blue sea glass. I don't want you to pay for school anymore, Rafael tells him. The public school's football team is better, anyway. American football, he translates to himself after they hang up. Like rugby, but not. He's only seen it a few times, on the television in the hotel bar. He wonders if Rafael is telling him the whole story.
He packs his duffel bag. He leaves his key on the front desk without saying goodbye, as if he were a paying guest. He buys a ticket for the ferry, then one for the bus up to Boston. For the first time in his life, he will live on the mainland. He won't be like the woman on the dock, with nothing but the wet ghost prints of a diver left behind. He won't live in a pixilated world, everything a fragment of what it really is.