At that, Roberta lowered her head, eyed us a sly glance, and pointed a crooked finger, “Don’t let anything come between you and your stay here. You won’t regret it. It’ll last ya………Now go on, I don’t want to bother you.” Her joints screeched louder than the door’s unoiled hinge as she rose, but her vigor matched the tots’ beside us who pulled faces behind their folks’ backs. After munching for a good hour and paying with whatever money we scrapped out our pockets, we found our way out the door and back into our automobile with full intentions of reaching Montauk.
“Nice joint,” Mel said as he swigged from his fogged up Coca Cola bottle. He had switched with Mitzy who now hugged the oversized steering wheel and pumped the car forward with all her might for miles on end, though it slowed down from 55 to 25.
“What’s that mean?”
“It means were near outta gas. Ah! We’ll have to pull over so we can re-fill her.”
By the time we made it to the nearest parking lot, whatever was left of our gas had evaporated. The coupe heaved its final breath across fromEast Hampton’sGeorgicaBeachand while Mel and Mitzy ran out to the filling station, I made my way over to the sandy shores to plant myself on some jagged mass of rocks that overlooked theAtlantic. To my left, a gal painted madly at an easel nested in the sand, to my right, a fisherman grinned while reeling in a two pounder. In houses behind me, a blue-jeaned chap plunked on some chords while his girl captured a photograph of the pounding waves against the jetties I sat on. Above us, seagulls flew in and out of fog, waiting to snatch up a sleeping kid’s ice cream cone. The sand seeped warmly through my toes only to be given a stinging splash of cold, frothing water. In a sudden burst of my own inspiration, I flipped open the notebook that never left my side and scribbled: August.East Hampton,New York.GeorgicaBeach. Let this feeling never flee.
With one deep breath, I filled my lungs with the fishy, oceanic atmosphere. Then I looked afar to see Mitzy signaling me with the wave of her handkerchief.
“Yoo-hoo! Hop in.”
“Already?” I abandoned my thoughts in a frenzied rush toward the Jetta.
“We’ve got it so gassed up we could drive toPennsylvaniaand back! Mel’s got it running and if we leave now, we should make it to Montauk by the end of the day.” As we piled in and rode off into the sunset, I took one last glance behind me at the kiddos chasing kites and folks lounging in eternal quietude. By and by, we disappeared into the east and to wherever else the wind blew us next.
Two years went by before I visited theHamptonsagain, each one spent mostly in motion, hopping from state to state and occasionally crossing over international borders. But even as a seer of the exotic, I felt the urge to return to the place that once struck me with its pristine serenity. On a shadowy late July afternoon a couple years later, I rounded the corner where our car had previously broken down. I wandered around listening to those all too familiar sounds of laughs and squeals. I followed my footsteps past the sprawling houses, jetties, and foaming waves. Two years down the line, yet I felt like I had never left.
Inching toward the wooden picket fence, I crossed paths with what seemed to be the same fisherman—scruffier, grayer, but still smiling and mumbling to himself as he cradled an empty wooden bucket between his legs. “No luck with my fishing today,” he spoke. “But to hell with that! Sometimes I get lucky and scoop up a nice meal, but when I don’t, I still get to come back to shore knowin’ I got a damn good catch here already.” He extended his arms out as if to hug the land, and with that, loaded into a wobbly boat and set sail into the sea until he became but a mere speck in the distance.
I looked out at the silhouettes on the horizon as thoughts rushed my head. Of all the places I’d visited,Long Islandsimply never lost its spirit among ever-changing times. It teemed from its depths, from the heart of every resident, from its history, deeply rooted, never to vanish. With the pulse of the town throbbing in my soul, I whipped out my pen, a crumpled napkin, and wrote: Ah,Long Island, its spirit shall never wither.