by David Bradford

Esther’s Cornwallian grandmother feeds me a canned mess of apricot and peaches and cottage cheese. She sits and watches me suck it down slowly, watches me texting my arrival at the Oceanview Cottage. Esther texts “Finally come to rescue me from my family yet, princess?” I text her “Granny is feeding me.” She suggests she might rush back and try and save me from being poisoned, which is melodramatic and silly and makes me smile. I and her Mummama discuss her potentially broken rib and the impertinent worries of her family, the moss-green Subaru she was forced to leave at home. I concur. We discuss the superior mileage on my borrowed Corolla and she is much satisfied. She is not one to mention its pretty candy-apple color. She says “Sour” and I say “Cream” and I knock over a glass of water. I speckle the Maine sun beaming in with that spilt sparkle and she laughs so I do too. We mop it up together and she says “It’s ok” and “You know, aren’t there a lot of black folks on TV this convention week?” and I assume this is what Esther meant when she described her as inappropriate. I assume she was not informed. So I slowly shut my mouth and she kindly invites me to walk over to the beach, to leave her to her rib and I am much obliged and thankful and say “Thanks.”

Maine is, like, not “Live Free or Die.” Maine is a lobster roll wonderland of unlocked doors and cruiser bikes, Dutchman and Shooting Star, discarded sandals entrusted to the sand-glittered dead-end walks to the beach, kept safe by the ever-pearly white Goose Rocks Beach community. Maine is TRU BLU in square indigo Massachusetts license plate letters. Salt-bleached whites and blue skies. “Vacationland,” cursive greens over pure pearly clamshells. Maine makes me grateful for my girlfriend’s blue hair. I’m walking up the dead end towards the shore and she pulls up and gets out of her mother’s white station wagon. We cross a guy, who looks like Goose Rocks’ own token Sahid from Lost, on the seaside road. We nod and smile. So does he, warmly. My wise black and white ambiguity tells me he sees himself. Another other. The “other” is close enough. His smile breaks as soon as we pass by.

Hindu or not, I am American. Enough to be a little blasé in regards to my suburban Victorian home just outside of Milford, CT. I too did not see the point of little league. I too could hit. As cute as the town might have been I am willing to accept it as the prolapsed epicenter of collegiate drug distribution in this here New England. I am grateful, but peeved by the ease of access a resident of Milford has to Xanax. I am American enough to be tired. I am blasé enough to be relieved, albeit un-staring, when I see a white blue-haired girl emerge in a pair of NPS boots from a white Subaru and lock hands with what may be a lighter version of a Ferris Bueller à la Bollywood crossing the street. I too crave hamburgers. I imagine square patties and pickle sliced bacon wonders like every other non-vegan collegian. My parents are Roger and Maude, very formerly Rajesh and Madhoo, and their favorite restaurant is the Olive Garden. They are Episcopalian. I’m American and I sigh a little when a Maine granny with a turkey sandwich in one hand sniffs a bit at me with a tight smile and a “Hello” as we cross paths. I hate Indian food, but I can tell she would beg to differ. I assume cocaine is too far away from this foamy high-tide to inform the meaning of said sniff, and I smile and pop a bit more spicy Oberto Jerky in my mouth, Eat Like An Alpha and keep strutting on. I crest that dead end and hum quietly all-American at the deep. I too laugh and hope for Animal Cops on the tube tonight.

The Animal Channel. It occurs to me, as we witness the Michigan Humane Society removing a pot-belly piglet from a fat lady’s dirty evil uninsulated basement—Esther calls the shots, I don’t. I reach for the remote, knowing she’ll smile and smack my hand away. We and the appalled Humane Society agents are not alone. The mother coyly demands a “nighty cap” and I indulge her. Watching from the foot of the LayZboy that Esther is rocking in, I see her slug the cheap Duty-Free Cutty Sark like banana cough syrup from her lobster mug and smack her lips peacefully. Mummama is dozing in a ball on page 31 of Under the Tuscan Sun, while Cindy watches on and sucks on virgin seltzer. Esther told me, on the walk from the general store, to entirely and strictly avoid offering Cindy a drink. Though she owns horses and seems happy enough now, despite the two childrenless divorces. It worries me how Diff’rent Strokes seems to continually occupy one of the seventeen channels in this state. I’ve decided to avoid the issue altogether and drink up early, head to bed for what I’ve been told will be Quiet Fucking. The mother asks which parent is the black one and I’m used to the question. She says “Ohhh!” pleasantly when I tell her it’s my father. She seems a little dissatisfied when I answer “Where from?” with Pennsylvania instead of Jamaica or Kenya. The beach, I hear, is best at low tides and cold as a block of ice in a recovering alcoholic’s freezer. Cindy’s freezer. I pour myself another pint of Duty-Free Cutty-soda. She is starting to notice.

The girlfriend texted me this morning: “Ura shitball. U know dat right? Who da fuck goes to Maine alone.” It occurs to me that her questions are rhetorical. I’d be mad. Then again, perhaps she meant “spitball” and screwed up without noticing. Perhaps she is being flirty to let me know she’s all freaky hot for me in her dorm room, wallowing in the stench from the moldy towel she left there this summer. I surely hope not.

The beach is an esoteric melting pot of rich Massachussetts folks and middle-class Bostonites. It’s nice. They don’t notice each other too much and everyone says “Hi” and smiles. I brought a men’s magazine I found in the toilet and I try to assimilate a revolutionary abs-routine and the BE A BRO column, all while sinking deeper into the Valium before I go and freeze myself in the water, along with the littler Bostonites. They giggle and act a credible silly and are A-OK. Maude always tells me life is “A-OK.” I’ve decided I might try to find my sloop today. A note in multicolor fridge letters led me to believe a “sloop” would be waiting for me around here, beached at low tide. I wikipediaed it to make sure I was looking for the right thing. I might attempt a few figure eights. I’ll find it. Let it rise as I suck on some cans of beer. My LL Bean cap will surely be needed.

A wife beater tan. The mother insisted I lather up for the sun, and my response was “I’ve had twenty-three years experience at this, I think I know what I’m doing.” The beach is my red burnt shoulders bringing out the Caucasian half in me. Esther’s laugh is not too mean and sweeter every minute. I’ve decided the water is slowly killing me. I am living in tremors. Esther’s legs are like prickly fucking cucumbers, but Esther is at home like a seal and I keep her close. Full bellied little fuckers run in circles spouting salt like fountains, wandering farther and farther from mom and dad. There is more pointing and awing than I would have ever assumed and Esther and her blues get it all. She floats in the attention like seaweed and I tickle her like tiny nameless fish under water. I am looking forward to the urine-warm pools in the low-tide glare and I await them like happy hour. I tickle her like the deep sea and she squeals a little louder.

The 99 is like a restaurant-island in a strip mall parking lot. There are ninety-nine reasons painted on the walls inside, protruding from what used to be reason numero uno: things were ninety-nine cents. “Always enough for a doggy bag at the 99”—reason 41. I’m trying to order a hamburger. From route 9 to route 1 and twenty minutes of phantom mist and high beam squints and they won’t let me have a burger. It occurs to me my Darjeeling Limited tee might be too powerfully suggestive. “Ain’t it against your creed hun?” I insist and insist again a little louder and the waitress finally says “OK”, though she isn’t looking too happy about it. She offers chives and bacon on the garlic mash and I feel I can’t really deny her the pleasure at this point so I say “That be great!” She brings some lemon water and I feel a Percocet may be in order. People are a little too involved in looking away to notice. No need to hide. No worries friendo. Bring on the steakhouse patty.

The fat guy at the Burger King. The one with the shiny ASST. MANAGER tag. The one staring down Esther’s hoodie, taking proverbial pictures, forgetting the bacon on my 6$ hamburger. This place deserves me mentioning the one black person I’ve seen around here was wobbling through the parking lot when we pulled in. The Five Points. Biddeford is where they’ve hidden the Wal-Mart and Target from the seafaring folk. They are also hiding the brand new Tim Horton in the Shaw’s parking lot. We stormed in all “Oh Gosh” and “Timmy Ho’s”, demanding sour cream glazes and Double-Doubles. They didn’t get it. They informed us it would be opening on Monday and kindly asked us to leave. We made up for all that by having an ironic make out to the smooth sounds of Just my Imagination on the All ’71 Rock Ride in the Burger King lot. I picked up more liquor at the Liquor Superstore.

Kennebunk Port is silk-screened paper bags and glasswear boutiques, a pharmacy doubling as a heritage site, hybrids and Volvos, mural plates and herbal tea—everywhere. The beach is stupid eager political correctness and hardtimes for pill popping. I loaded up in the car and headed over and am tearful with portside glee and something better to stare at for a while. Really nice knick-knacks and doodads and Limoges gravy boats with little lobsters on the side. Also coffee mugs made out of giant snails, which is a creepy guilty pleasure, like little people wrestling in Don Perignon and Jell-O.

“Ask about the Daytrip Society” someone told me. I was sitting on a bench with a clam roll, an hour or so after driving into town. There was tartar sauce slowly dripping onto my WESC khakis. I believe I was what is commonly referred to as K-Holed. If I had been white, I might have been spat on. The scooter-police, little guys in Glock-strapped shorts, baby-yella polo shirts, just waved and smiled, though the tartar drip gave me away. People just smiled at me, and introduced themselves. They introduced their children, and their mothers and told me, flat out, I’d LOVE the Daytrip Society. They just wanted to talk to the nice quiet brown man. It occurs to me I might be imagining this. So I said “A-OK” and made my way over. I remember Bueller ­à la Vindaloo and his gal friend were around. They were leaving the Society with this far out, porcelain paper cup—a paper cup design made out of porcelain. “This Is Not A Paper Cut”—that’s what was written on it. And I kept thinking oh, oh man. I stopped in the middle of the road and “Woah. I need that” came out of my mouth. And they kind of giggled and toasted me as they walked around me. I asked the lady in DS for a Not Paper Cup. A Not Paper Cup, a “This Is Not A Paper Cup.” We laughed. Unfortunately Slightly Brown Guy and his gal friend had purchased the last one and I left kind of pissed. I spent the next hour buying stuff at the Federal Jack’s gift shop. Scrabble, a captains hat and a lobster shaped beanbag, etc. I got lost on my way home and stopped for organic ice cream on route 9. It melted green all over the car.

Sitting in Kport today, holding breakables as she ran into the drug store for something, it occurred to me I was shaking a little, feeling hungry. I was eating pistachios. An old man kept looking at me and finally I said “Hello” cause that’s what I’ve come to understand you do here and the old man just smiled and pointed to the corner. I ate some more pistachios and sighed a bit. He kept pointing and I gave him a “What” and he sat down next to me. He just pointed some more and said “George Jr., DUI.” And I said “Huh?” And he said “Dubbya, DUI, ’76.” I said “Hell’s Ya?” I shook some pistachios in his hand and he nodded an Affirmative. And we just sat and shook for a while. Experiences with the locals are typically the same.

Old Orchard Beach is Poutine Supremes and Russian carnie kids on drug exchange from Saint-Petersburg. I am told last year was skinheads from Poland, and Esther’s sudden reasonable urge to kick them. I convince Cindy and her to get on the matterhorn and I’m not too sorry. It turns out it doesn’t have any locking mechanisms, just flapping bars you have to hold down. We swirl around to the universal thumbs-up from the sweet Russian teens. The mother looks on, looks away, looks for a corner to quietly vomit in, if need be. I laugh Esther laughs, Cindy clenches her prize toy clam and whimpers and laughs. After we get off I win a fluorescent plush lobster for Esther, but leave it by a tartar sauce pump at a clam shack. I manage to drag her into the haunted house her childhood has made the bane of her existence. The thing is kitschy as all hell and delightful child shrieks throughout and she’s as cute as a button clawing at my arm, squealing. I feel useful and not too thirsty and that leaves me peaceful by the time kids are using bumper cars as their metaphorical ploy for the destruction of my youthful love. Esther just bumps around in a corner and I try not to laugh too hard. Old Orchard Beach is bedazzled sunglasses and my mopy, beat, blue-haired fox. Life is cute and novel. I drink two pints. She massages my neck most of the misty way home and won’t stop changing the radio station. I drink three highballs after she goes to sleep and watch Seinfeld for two hours. The Summer of George taints my dreams like a pre-slumber cheeseburger.

I’ve packed a Paddington Bear style bag of pills, Schlitz and marmalade sandwiches, as well as an entertainment hodgepodge of old movies and Jeeves and Wooster episodes. I have set sail—I have sought the St-Elmo’s Fire of my smithy. What would be the manically depressed Bueller of St-Elmo told me I should watch a little less Charlie Brown and a little more Seinfeld, or better yet, his, my smithy’s, words, “the soothing tea club complex” of New England PBS—say Right Oh Jeeves and take a hint from the help. A local summer millionaire, a rather domestic legacy, told me to stick to the sea, more or less north of Timber Island, keep an eye out for whales and stop hoarding the Percocets. So I did and so I shall. Thank you kindly, Mr. Walker.

Then again, I am running a little low. Eight hours has shrunken my resources. I’ve taken to the starboard side, for puking, when needed. I am rationing, feet deep in the blue sea as I sit over the back edge, sound and heavy, graduating to the smooth sounds of codeine cough syrup and vegetarian sea monsters. I myself am hell, I will not scare, ye saltwater fiend.

Saturday night, at Shaw’s. It’s late as shit and we’re just wandering round Shaw’s, me with a bottle of Maalox, she just scratching her arm, doing her thing, complaining about latex, when all the sudden there’s this kid, this like 9ish girl. She’s standing at the top of what feels like aisle 5, slowly raising faithful arms to a Fresca sale display when she suddenly turns and just stops what she’s doing arms still in the air and goes “WO! Your hair. My head. Now.” She then proceeds to run down aisle 4. I have a swig of Maalox. Esther keeps telling me about her latex allergy issue.

We make it to the condom display in the corner by the health food and she starts looking for polyurethane. And then for “non-rubbery-plasticky” urethane. Like non Ziplocky. And then, to Esther’s want, I look for extra thin polyurethane, which doesn’t exist, which really peeves her. That kid is still running around in the background. Esther makes up her mind. We leave empty handed.

Later in bed, I read in the paper that David Foster Wallace hung himself.

The little plastic bottles are all empty. I’ve switched to Gin and Schlitz, which is not as good as I had assumed it would be, but it’ll do. The night is high tide apocalypse in to the lowlight flicker of Emilio Estevez wigging out. On drugs. I have never wanted to be Emilio so bad. Breakfast goes down harder in the lonesome night. Tomato soup has come along with some saltines and the brave spoon shakes a little more than I am willing to describe on its way to my mouth. Molly Ringwald became such a loser after this. To think of The Breakfast Club as a life’s masterpiece is so sad. I will now argue that John Hughes invented the Teen Movie and is presently drowning in Montauk. I imagine him bobbing along with the gulfstream, here by daybreak, a dead, not so youthful Ariel gleaming fish-nibbled irises beneath my dry-heave gaze. We’ll have a little eye contact. It’ll be pretty cute. And I’ll fall in and give him a hug and we’ll go drink and laugh at a bar in Atlantis and everything will be everafter good times and salted beer. Everything will be A-OK.

School starts in three days.

I had a dream. I had a dream we were trying to fuck. And her family was in the other half of the room, Cindy watching Seinfeld, others sleeping. And her ex-boyfriend, whom I’ve never met, was sleeping in a LayZboy I’d made up for him. And we were trying to fuck at her insistence, despite the Brillo pad between her legs. We were disturbed by my substance abusing friends of yore knocking at the door. And she insisted we answer and climb up to the roof. And she pushed one of them off the roof. Laughing. And I kept wanting it to rain, sticking my tongue out for rain. That never came. And she insisted we climb up to the other, higher roof. And try to fuck. All I wanted was a little rain.

I was all shaky again when I woke up. I headed out to the shore before anyone else woke. Watched Diff’rent Strokes, the white face episode, and walked down to the beach with some left over fruit salad that came back up again. There was this low tide quiescence in it that left me wandering towards what I assume is that Timber Island Esther mentioned. I was alone, smacking the air with a few blood-red rosehips I’d tripped on and cussed at and picked up. I remember how dark it was. How I still felt a little sick, even after the sour-creamed salad. Hungry like a teenage panic attack that wouldn’t actually happen, just lingered. Smacking the air with the rosehips, wandering. So many snails covering the rocky island. Lying on the snailed rocks. Trying not to kill any. Trying to still myself, and listen for the tide I would not hear coming in. Chattering teeth. Closing my eyes.

The mist is kind of nice. Like a wailing, monotone vacuum.

The sun rises and hunger is welcome. I head back like Mr. Walker said, wading slowly around timber island. A lone haggard party—the slumped sloop, as dull as ultracane. The shore is kind of nice from this far out, all the Nantucketty little cottages and the beachfront Estate houses hiding them here and there. Retrievers are running on the beach with L.L. Bean models, possibly p.34 of the fall of ’85. I breathe it all in a little; imagine the state pride, coon cats, singing beneath the boat, my own little smithy’s chorus. I stare out. And I see him, the bluehaired girl’s boyfriend. He’s lying in a rising pool by the island, half-disappearing beneath the waves. A huge snail looks like it’s trying to eat his face and I nearly sloop him over I’m so surprised. He stares at me, eyes as cold as the deep blue wasting him, Bueller the Untouchable looking at me like help is a bad idea. He gives what I can only assume is a sigh, ambivalently heaving his arm and purplish hand out of the water, towards me. I pull him in. And he just lies there, staring, and I look at him, shaking. I pull the snail off his face. He looks it over and tells me its “a moon snail” and I say “OK.”

I get us moving again, I look into the dry wind, towards the shore. He asks if we can kind of wade around for a while, before heading back in. I tell him that’s “A-OK,” that that’s what I was doing anyway. He says “Thank you.” And we take it a little farther out.

No comments:

Post a Comment