Friday, December 25, 2015

Black Island

North of Center Harbor New Hampshire is the road to Black Island. There is a beach on the neck across the bridge onto the island. This beach was a place for me, a monument in my life. I always felt peace in that spot, even when youthful trouble filled my heart.  Nearby the beach was a summer camp for rich kids. Camp staff taught the kids to play tennis and waterski and other rich kid activities.
    One summer my cousin Nick went to work there. They hired him as maintenance man. He was good at that kind of work. He walked around all day barefoot fixing a window or repairing a leaky roof or whatever other job happened to come up.  He was always punctilious about his work.
    Nick was friendly with Jules and Cesar, two other of the camp staff.  Jules was from Iowa and she had played tennis on the professional tour. But she got in an auto accident that laid her up. Now she was trying to get back in shape for the tour.  One day the tennis team threw Jules off the end of the dock after the big win over a rival camp.  The first time I fully appreciated her was when she was walking out of the lake.
    Cesar's father ran a resort in Acapulco. Cesar, following the weather, towed a speedboat behind his Cadillac. He taught the kids to water ski wherever it was summer.  He followed the summer with his Cadillac and speedboat.  But he was also a good tennis player and he could round Jules into the shape she never lost. Cesar was an athlete, he jogged and did his exercises religiously. But he became friendly with Nick and he might drink a beer with him after he was done with the kids.
    On beautiful summer evenings Cesar would take Nick, Jules and me on speed boat rides. His boat was very powerful. We drove into Meredith to get beer at the general store. Jules loved to drive the speedboat.
    When they returned with the beer they secretly carried it into the back corner of the parking lot. Cesar parked the Caddy nearby. That Caddy had a nice radio. We got BLM Boston. You could see the lake through the trees in the darkness and the houses of rich people lit up across the channel, their lights reflecting on the still black surface of the lake.
    Jules said, "I'm going home. I'm through with this. I am going home and I am gonna get married. We were childhood sweethearts. His father runs a famous candy factory. They make Caramel. His family owns a big Victorian house on the hill. It must be the biggest house in town. They are society. I'm tired of my dream. It's all over for me. I can't make the big, booming shots anymore."
    "Not me," Cesar said. "I'll teach the kids to waterski. While they are children they can be lighthearted before they grow up and the world puts upon them all its cares. Me the Caddy and my boat will follow the fair weather. I can't change the world but I can leave my mark on it."
    "Oh you're such a dreamer Cesar. These kids won't remember you. They'll grow up and get married and have children and that is what they will remember. Then they will die and be buried on some family plot somewhere who knows where. Lucky if they don't hate each other."
    "Oh, woman! Do you think I will change the world? I won't change the world. But I can teach it something, I can be there when it plays. One day when I have done what I want I'll go home but not until I am old and mean and burdened with too much wisdom."
    "Too much wisdom?" Says Jules. "What does that mean?"
    "It means when I figure everything out and I understand that the world wasn't created with me in mind."
    "Oh! And it has taken you this long?"
    "Sure. Suppose it isn't true? Suppose it is just another lie they tell you to keep you still."
    So that was how they talked, Jules and Cesar.
    I got drunk one night. Cesar had to hold me up to keep me from falling over. What was my dream? Cesar wondered about sodden me.  I couldn't figure out what I was smart enough to do. You live a life a certain way and not another way because you can do it the one way and not the other way.
    Cesar let me sleep in the back seat of the caddy. I left about dawn. I had the old Norton motorcycle then and it was running OK. The sun was rising over the lake. I saw it that morning in a way different than I had ever seen it before.
    After that dawn I was out on my own. I wanted to make my own way true to myself. I would struggle to be like Cesar but then I became afraid that I'd somehow blow it. That fear has remained with me all my life.
    In fact I was so fearful of blowing it that I think I did.

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