Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 38 Issue 21 • Sept. 18 - Oct 1, 2008
now in our 37th season

Second Honeymoon

by Robert P. Barsanti

They push each pedal, then rest, then push with other leg.  The bike creeps up the Madaket bike path.  They snowplow around the puddles, then check to see if she sees the puddle as well.  Hunched over into the wind, ankles exposed to the air, they push on into the autumn.  At the corner of Quaker Road, he waits for her, opens the map, and leans against the fence.  Eventually, she quietly pulls behind him.  They both study the map.

Overhead, the rolling gray races southeast on the Quebecois wind.  The  air remains warm and humid, but the taste of bourbon and elm leaves rests in the back of the throat.  Blue heaps of fog hang in the middle distance, erasing hills and houses.  In the Quaker Burial Ground, the grass has faded to gray.  Beyond it, the elms have burst into yellow and the moors burn in russet.  Buried deep in the dying leaves, the blue Fringed Gentian blooms.

The last flower of the summer blooms sky blue.  It hides amid the fading wild grasses and blueberry bushes; its color flashes under and behind the bigger, brighter, and dying.  The flower has Moxie; it bursts in life while all around it the summer falls to an ember.  The frost will come tonight, or perhaps tomorrow, but the bloom will last long past the hope of others.

They look past the flower.  They have come on a second honeymoon.  He   has left the Blackberry and the portable back in the foyer off-island.  She put her grading and her gradebook on the kitchen table.   They took Friday off.  They left plans, told lies, winked at secretaries, and felt guilty.  The kids will be fine.  The office will survive until Monday.  The substitute has a video to show each class.   Fortunes will accumulate without his help.  Learning will continue without hers.

They agree and push off back down Main Street.  The wind dips in town.  The wet leaves build up in the gutters next to Jeeps with Pennsylvania license plates, Wharf Rat stickers, and flat tires.  The indoor shutters have been drawn across the houses and the windows are dark.  No cars pass them until the reach the monument.  There, they pause for a moment, pedal for a few yards down the bricks, and then walk their bikes.

The whaling mansions wait on behind the sidewalks like selectmen on a   bench.  A chandelier is lit within one.  The upstairs reading light still burns in another.  The green holly curls around the corners of the building.  A white fence frames the front yard.  Three pickup trucks bounce down the cobblestones:  the toolboxes, shingles, and empty beer cans hop into the air.  They come to the Pacific National Bank, consult the map, and slowly ride to the bed and breakfast.

They parked the old arguments off-island for $8 a calendar day.  They bandaged up the raw and chafed skin, put on their best sweaters and pants, and came over for two nights.  They stayed in-town.  They had slept soundly after leaving the boat and woke into an October that was still warm, still bright, still vibrant.

The Hummers had left Main Street and the Ferretti’s had abandoned the boat basin.  The Lightship Ladies had flown south to Jupiter Island and Hobe Sound.  The waitresses were patrolling the backfields of Trinity and Hotchkiss, and the church ladies were watching the weddings from across the street.  Still, at noon, it could have been August.

But it wasn’t.  It was a long past August and even longer since the full moon rose over the fields of May.  The summer had worn through the trees and the fall had come with its harvest.  The freshness of summer had long since worn through to everyday use.  The paint was peeling along the edge of the storefront, the branches of the elms had lost many of their leaves and the end-of-the-season sale signs had already faded to a foggy pink.  It was not what it had been.  The rough spots had worn through and the unused had forgotten and grown over.  Stores had closed.  Stores had left nothing but bills and phone books.  In others, clerks read magazines and books.  Baseball games played quietly behind the counter.  No one walked the street with a shopping bag.  No one walked the street with so much as an ice cream or a paperback.

They changed and showered.  They walked down the sidewalks to the wharf.  She looked at the sweaters, and he checked the scores.  She bought three sweatshirts and he bought a set of golf balls.  They passed the taxis and the tour vans.

Several of the sport fishing boats remained, as well as the large white ships from Delaware and Florida.  A boy sliced and cleaned a dozen fish the size of the mans’s hand.  Most of the slips had been given over to low, gray motorboats with large winches and flat tables for the culling of scallops.  The dredges hang from the rear and the eelgrass remained wedged into the corners.  They looked, but did not stop.  Behind a shack, a waterproof plastic case hid in the base of a wall; a maildrop for sailors.

They had a light dinner at the restaurant at the end of the wharf.  They sat in the fading October light, warm in their sweaters and ate chowder.  The harbor lay glass smooth to Coatue and up to into the fog of Wauwinet.

It was not as it had been in May.  Too much had happened.  Too much had changed.  Too many had come and gone since.  But it abided.  It remained strong and warm and firm.  It had bent, it had dried, it had stretched, it had worn and it had faded, but it remained when others had broken and frayed.  In the fading autumnal sun, amid the browns and reds of an approaching winter, it blooms.  The last flower of summer blooms sky blue.

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