Nantucket Essays

A Moment in the Fog of In-Between

by Robert P. Barsanti

In May, the boat trudges. You round Brant Point and watch the houses disappear into the fog, then the jetty fades and you are stuck in-between. In the new millennium, you can cross the Sound with games, movies, or card games. Or you can just watch the fog blow by and wait. When you are stuck in-between, we wait with skill and practice. As soon as we get there, we can get a Big Mac, donuts, and a new iPhone. Until then, we watch the fog tick by.

We have been rolling in the fog for the last few weeks. Spring has ticked over on the mainland; the maples, the elms, and even the sober oaks have unfurled the lightest of green and felt it deepen and mature at the furthest edge of summer. Across the state, the school room windows are open, a breeze begs its way across the floor, and the students cry for a class outside. But early this May, time on Nantucket rolled back to mid-March The wind blew strong and cold, the boats remained in Hyannis, and the contractors call the excuses in to their clients.

For our visitors, the weather has become a sick joke. Steve and Sarah left Greenwich and Newton in short sleeves, with the air conditioning on. The purple fog mounts the horizon as soon as they cross the bridge, then surrounds them as they approach Hyannis. Shivering as they walk down to the boat, they ask “Is it always like this?” No. Never. Better get some polar fleece.

We drift “in-between.” The summer, with its lines, and its demands, and its invoices sits two hundred feet over the island. Sunburns and sunglasses are five minutes and a strong wind away. There are so many things to do when we get there; we never stop. We have jobs, we have friends, we have a nice couple from Hingham who are renting the basement for Wine Festival. For the moment, in the “in-between,” we wait, watch, and do the laundry. Real life happens between laundry loads.

At school, the seniors mark time. Jess and Jennifer have chosen their next destination, whether for work or for school, and their days in desks and lockers just drift on by. They sit, peering through the fog, and hang fire. For today sits in videos and exams and bells between classes, but through the fog they can see the sharp edges and glittering flashes. They are never coming back here again.

In short order, Jess and Jennifer will learn the disappointment of destinations. You wait, and you wait, and you wait, and then, when you get to Olde Ivy the bathrooms are backed up, the traffic rants, and you have to do your own laundry. You don’t feel the magic change; Cinderella’s fairy godmother doesn’t bop you on the head with “Bippitty-Boppity-Boo” and transform you into the Heart Breaking and Beautiful Princess. If you get lucky, you might get to be the footman. More likely, you remain the same bag of flesh you have always been, just in a new zip code with clean underwear. Adulting is what fills up your laundry basket

But the destination and the transformation, is not just an arrival but a departure. That’s the trick. Jennifer arrives at Olde Ivy all by herself—without Jess, and Amy and Kelly, who rode around in the back of the jeep memorizing Taylor Swift and eating Veggie Straws. Those girls, while they are stuck in the fog, will drift into the word “Never.” It will never be like this again; everything changes and nothing changes back.

On island, we believe in circles and cycles. The seasons and the visitors come in waves and leave in waves. Surfside opens in June, closes in September, and then waits to open up again. As do the restaurants, as do the stores: “Never” doesn’t feel like a stop on the cycle, only “Later.” But the Jennifer that walks across the stage in May will not be the same Jennifer that walks off the boat next June. She can never go back to high school, she can never play lacrosse again, she can never spend a singing night with her best buds as they bump dirt roads.

Nor will her island. We drive the same streets, avoid the same people, and walk the same path around the produce, but this island slowly changes. In the fog of the in-between, the land shifts. Or more to the point, it gets dug up into big piles so a new basement can be put in for the next investment-grade property. Just because we are surrounded by fog doesn’t mean we aren’t moving. The cherry trees have blossomed, the forsythia hangs on, and nature keeps ticking by in an unending stream of Nevers. We aren’t in-between anything. With every boat, a new islander arrives and an old one leaves. They are never coming back. That’s how 58 million dollars in overrides pass along with our new topless beaches.

Even before that ordinance passed, I liked to spend time at the beach. As I have gotten older, I spend more time sitting at Cisco. My Boon Companion likes to chase seagulls, catch blowing water bottles, and make friends with two- and four-footed visitors. He doesn’t do any harm. The beach is never the same, day to day, evening to evening. The break moves or the sand sometimes drops in a cliff or there are no waves at all, just a few bored seals commuting back to Muskeget. I never feel as if I am in-between anything by the shore.

Those high school seniors have been out as well. Their white jeep comes bumping up the washboards with songs and laughter, then comes to a riotous stop at the edge of the cliff. They have the stickers, they have the dents, and they have this time in the curl of the wave, when they can all be together in this dank, oceanic moment in-between goals, dreams, and laundry.

Articles by Date from 2012