dock sunset

It’s in the name of the island, at first. “Nobody knows quite how to pronounce it,” your dad laughs. Your friend and you laugh too. It doesn’t quite reach your bellies. It’s in how none of the day sailors stay the night at the dock. It’s in the sunset, where the sky looks like it’s melting and sun lingers far too long on the horizon. It’s in the old hermit’s cabin, who people swear is there but you’ve searched the whole island and not seen it. It’s in the old hermit himself, who they say vanished one day and was never seen again. They say it was a storm. People don’t just vanish. They never found him or his boat, no wreckage or anything. Those on other islands don’t look you quite in the eyes when they tell you. There are no other people anywhere. The seals sunning themselves have slightly too human eyes. It’s in the old growth forest, undisturbed for hundreds of years. It’s in an arch of trees that are far too perfect, and when you look the next day it’s gone. It’s in how your friend and you walk around the island, done in ten minutes when it took an hour to row around. “It’s because we’re inland farther,” you tell yourself. It’s almost believable. It’s in how you feel eyes watching you in the wood, and you make eye contact with your friend and walk a little faster. You don’t run. You never run. It’s in was that mud patch there before. It’s in when you reach the dock and were the planks that old before. Isn’t the tide supposed to have changed. Your friend jokingly asks if you were replaced by a changeling behind her back. You laugh. She still asks you a question, just to make sure. You have a notoriously bad memory. What was the answer again. You see the fear in her eyes when you fail to answer. She asks a different one, and you both pretend the relief is not very, very real when you answer correctly. It’s in when you row back to the boat and your dad asks if you’re planning on going to the island because you need to leave soon. You tell him you’ve already gone and come back. He laughs and remarks that time flies. He looks at his watch and you see his eyes go grave. It’s in how later, you comment that time felt like it was on pause while you were there. Everyone agrees. It’s in how exactly when you leave, a tour boat full of people goes into the cove. You wave to them. Funny how when you look back a little later you can’t see them. You thought the boat was taller than the cliffs. It’s in how you only relax when you have an ocean of salt and running water and iron-filled fishes’ blood between you and the island. What was it’s name again.

What I’m saying is maybe it’s not the fair folk. Maybe it’s a type of distant relative. What I’m saying is if that’s a single island, what’s a school. What I’m saying is you’re never prepared.

Inspired by Elsewhere University and one very strange visit to a particular island in the San Juan