Manasquan Inlet, NJ – June 10, 2013
Time is different out here. It slows down and doesn’t blur together. Memories stick, crisp and clear, pinned in place to decisions that mattered, moments that shifted the world, vivid images. Days collect like postcards in my mind, stacked one after another, filled with details that I can flip through.
The first taste of a chicken parm sandwich from Lenny’s, an Italian place on the Jersey Shore. The weight of it in my hand. The warmth of cheese, chicken, and marinara still hot from the oven. The crust cracking with every bite on a two block walk back to the boat.
The way rain fell like the sky wanted to drown me earlier in the morning. Knowing it would rain again. The reason that sandwich mattered and why I held it like it was the last warmth in the world.
The five-minute conversation with a woman as I ordered. Asking about the dollar bill pinned to the wall from the day they opened after Hurricane Sandy. Seeing pieces of houses missing or new, walls that don’t match, buckled and broken docks twisting into the water half a year after the storm landed.
“There aren’t really any vacant lots around here,” she said. “So if you see one, there was probably a house there.”
Staring at a house ripped in half, its second story bedrooms hanging in the air like it was a giant doll house cut with a chainsaw.
Pulling the postcard from the Mississippi. The one with the blue sky and calm water. The one with slipping over locks and watching tug’s spotlights glow in the night. The one with messages from friends asking me if I was ok even though I hadn’t seen a cloud and the storm was a thousand miles away.
I stop on a small island near the mouth of the Manasquan Inlet. I hang a hammock between two trees and pull a tarp above it for the rain, then I close my eyes and add today to the long string of memories stretching back to the Angle. Every holiday, every anniversary, every birthday is there. 4th of July in Ely, Thanksgiving in Memphis, Christmas with the Dolphin Queen. The first day on Lake of the Woods, the endless night out of Miami, and my birthday on Georgia’s coast. The day a blue sky covered the Mississippi while a storm destroyed New Jersey and the day I saw the damage six months later and understood how bad it was, the day I finished the set, the last day, number 365 of a year well lived.