Friday, September 9, 2011

close to home

I've talked about Drama Island before.

Look like fun, eh?

I met a few of my very best friends and favorite people and former heart stomping, soul crushing, love there.

The island has been a big part of my life since I stepped foot onto that rock for the first time on a blustery day in 2007. Riding the ferry over for my interview as the vessel was tossed by wind and waves, my stomach was in knots- and not the sea-sick variety, what was I thinking? 

In the end, touring the streets and chatting over pizza that day with my future boss felt more like an invitation than a job interview- and that's what I saw it as, an invitation.

I decided on the three hour drive home that day I needed to take a leap, and that leap would be moving less than three months later to a tiny island where I knew nary a soul for the summer and serving/bar tending for tourists and boaters. No grand internship to enrich my future, just cold hard cash.

Hey, totally NOT LANDLOCKED, of course I was going.

I'd just had an academically kick-ass junior year in college. I finally had the rest of my academic undergrad mapped out. I was going to make it with two majors and a minor in four years. I was doing it. I was fucking rocking it out mosh style.

My personal life, not so grand. Actually, kind of in shambles- blah blah blah heart break blah blah blah bad decisions.

So I ran away to a place where no one knew me. Again.

That tiny island, its quirky little community, and the other lost souls wandering up to staff it for the summer picked me up, shook me around a bit,  and wrapped me in sunshine. And booze. Lots of booze.

Drama ran rampant, real world problems didn't actually make it all the way over on the ferry. I was living in a bubble world, albeit one I knew I'd have to cut ties with eventually in order to thrive in the real one.

Yet I went back for a second, equally booze filled, equally dramatic, equally sunshiny second summer. Despite now having a college degree and a 'real job' waiting. I probably should have left it at one epic summer, but the island beckoned me back and I just couldn't shake the part of me that was content inside a carefree, effortless, irresponsible summer.

As things started to turn sour in early August of my second summer, I left that place and most of those people and haven't really looked back since, I can't really let myself look back. On the rare occasion I let myself mull over my time on the island,  I usually feel physical pain at how much I miss it. Other times I'll shudder at the notion of ever going back to visit-even for the day.

'I'll never have a place like that or times exactly like that again, even if I went back now,' is what I always remind myself as I shake the idea out of my head.

When I think about the people that I knew who are still there, I feel a mixture of empathy and furious jealousy. But with so few people, many returning year after year, relationships and alliances change like tides and even the most healthy friendship can quickly turn to a toxic cesspool. Not to mention the social hierarchies in place, they'll tear you apart if you step out of your line.

But, you also meet people that change your life. And stick with you after the dog days are over. And become your best friends.

It's just a little gem I keep the pocket of my memory, sort of surreal at times. It's smooth and it feels good to rub on the memories. I trust the island, I know it. I've outgrown the tiny rock, but that doesn't mean I don't love that I once lived and flourished there.

I ran all its roads and drunkenly stumbled along its paths. I've cheered, beer in hand, at many a softball game on the single grassy diamond and dined and drank at just about every restaurant and bar. I knew the police, took shots with the locals, saw the underbelly and alleys after a busy tourist-filled weekend. I swam in the pools at every hotel, legally and illegally, and watched the sun set from dozens of points in the shore. I've laughed, I've cried, I've given parts of myself I'll never get back to that place. It was home for those summers and I treasure that.

And now an unspeakable crime has rocked that tiny community.

Over the weekend, a man my age was murdered and left under a tarp, behind a rental cottage in the woods. He was found by his family 18 hours after he was reported missing. Brutally killed.

Plenty of people every summer get alcohol poisoning (myself included on my 21st birthday). Some get into minor squabbles or suffer other alcohol related injuries such as twisted ankles or gnarly sunburn. It's a place where if you get caught peeing in public, they throw you in the drunk tank over night at the tiny jail. Plenty of people get busted up driving golf carts around when they shouldn't be operating a vehicle. It's not a place without its dark side.

But never, ever, has such an act of violence been committed there.

I can't remember once locking the door to my apartment, even on the busiest of weekends. You never know when a friend or acquaintance will be wrapping up their night and need a couch to crash on, after all.

On holiday weekends such as Labor Day, thousands of people flood in on ferries and private boats from near and far for little tropical vacations in the Midwest, making the island families who own restaurants and bars rich, but turning the place upside down with filth and drunken lack of respect or courtesy for those who make the island their home.

And even so, never once did I think such a thing could happen here.

Which just means, it can happen anywhere.

My thoughts are with my tiny once-home island community as they struggle to make sense of a killing in their midst- I'll always think of this special place like a dip in cool water, drenched in sunshine, with music like a pulse coming from every direction.

Xo Sara

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