FROM THE DESK OF: Deo
There are very few grocery stores in Fire Island. It is almost all beach houses on this narrow strip of land that parallels south of Long Island. From end to end, it is thirty-two miles long, but from its Atlantic Ocean side to the Long Island bay side, it’s only a five-minute walk. There are no room for streets—only sandy roads and wooden pathways. To make it out there, it’s best to bring all your food.
Flatbush, Brooklyn. On our way to the Long Island Rail Road in Atlantic Avenue. I live with my best friend Noel. Her family has a beach house in Fire Island and every summer, from May to the end of September, they take turns spending time there. One of her cousins does the scheduling. Noel and I head to a grocery store down the street where we live. The original plan was Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but time ran out as we slept late. This market has enough of what we need—strawberries, grapes, eggs, frozen pizzas, chorizo, baguettes, salads, cookie dough, tomatoes, basil, cheese, peppers, avocadoes, orange juice. In my bag are my swimming trunks and sweaters, tequila and coffee. These should be enough for two days.
We are seated in the train to Long Island Rail Road, full of groceries. Emily is running a little behind. She lives in the Upper East Side. She will meet us by the Fire Island Ferry when she gets there. This is Saturday on a Labor Day weekend and the train is very crowded.
On the Fire Island ferry. It’s windy and cold. Hurricane Hermine is supposed to come. The weekend may be spent entirely in a beach house while a hurricane rages on. There is hope though. Through the overcast, I can see the sun might break through.
The house is in Lonelyville. It’s a sleepy area of Fire Island. The houses and wooden pathways are surrounded by reed grass as tall as people. Emily’s ferry is here. We meet her by the dock. She brought wine and whiskey and vodka and two bottles of champagne. By the time she arrives, all the clouds have disappeared. Clear skies and gorgeous.
There are four bedrooms in the house. Two upstairs and two downstairs. There are two twin beds in each bedroom, and two more twin beds in the living room. Black and white photographs of Noel’s family are there. Some of her aunts and uncles in their youth in the 1940’s. Paintings of the beach. There is an old tv and VHS player. Emily brought VHS tapes. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Romeo + Juliet, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. We make quesadillas and drink the left over beer that Noel’s cousin left in the fridge the week before. Our phones go off—it’s an amber alert for a voluntary evacuation. The sun is shining now, so we ignore it.
Sunset. Beach as far as the eye can see. The waves are raging and relentless. Emily and I want to go in the water, but we also don’t want to die. We try and walk to where a lifeguard should be. We keep walking but don’t find any. The beach is mostly empty. That’s the best part of Fire Island, but today, we need people to help watch us. Emily and I jump in the water while Noel stays and reads a book.
We are only knee deep, yet the waves are so strong they could almost sweep me off my feet. We are still afraid to jump all the way in. Emily comments that if we could just get past the breaks we it would be chill. I want to believe it. We fight through the waves and swim out. We are being swept sideways. I think we are too far out now. Noel is getting smaller and further out. It’s time to go back in. I’m swimming back to the beach but not getting anywhere. I start swimming harder. Emily is behind me. I can’t fight these currents and so I go with it and let it take me back. An enormous wave comes from behind and knocks me down and I tumble, but at least my feet can now touch the sand. Another wave comes and I tumble again. I’ve never felt waves like this, I feel like a truck just hit me. I crawl back to the beach. Breathing heavy. I’m worried about Emily. She’s fighting back too, but she makes it back. We decide never to go back in. The bayside does not have waves so we go there instead.
We pick up a kayak from Noel’s house and bring it with us to the bay and go kayaking. Noel watches us. The water is calm here. We kayak towards an island in the bay, but halfway through, we decide it is too far and turn back. Emily tells me a story about how her old roommate left her in Croatia and so they stopped being friends after that. After kayaking, we swim some more in the bay. Noel is reading a book and listening to music. It’s almost sunset. The sky looks like it’s on fire. Blue and red and orange and gold.
Back in the beach house. Noel is making dinner: tomatoes with mozzarella and basil with balsamic vinegar. It’s pitch black outside. There are no streetlights. Just other beach houses—mostly empty. The tall reed grass sways from the wind. The moon is out. We hear crickets everywhere. We eat the food and it’s so cool and refreshing. Emily brings out an adult coloring book. We drink whiskey and color. It’s surprisingly therapeutic.
We watch Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. It’s a most excellent sequal. Like totally bodacious. Bill & Ted and their babes and their air guitars are awesome. We love their slogan: be excellent to each other. Totally Bill. Totally Ted. We fall asleep before the movie ends.
Sunrise. Noel makes coffee and we sit on the porch. She writes on her journal. I continue reading a book. We sit on the porch for a while. The reed grass swaying, the morning light softly coming in through the trees. In faint sound of the waves crashing. Birds chirping.
We make breakfast: eggs, avocado, cheese, tomatoes, bell peppers. We make mimosas. I look it up on my phone, its just champagne and orange juice. We eat and begin a Sunday funday.
It’s just a blur of sitting on the beach and drinking and sitting in front of the house and drinking.
We sit on the porch and a family of deer come. There are deer everywhere in Fire Island. I don’t know how they get here, but I think I heard a story about the bay being frozen once and the deer crossed through. The deer pass through all the beach houses throughout Fire Island. We throw celery and carrots. One of them comes close and eats it.
Back at the beach. It’s windy, but the sun is out. Emily and I go in the water again, but only to our knees. I’m not messing with those violent currents again.
We walk Emily to the dock. We wait for the ferry. It is crowded there. People in hoodies and their dogs with them too. We say goodbye to Emily. Noel and I eat dinner: frozen pizzas.
The shower is outside in this little shack. I shower and look up and could see the stars. Afterwards, we read until we fall asleep.
Breakfast. Finishing eggs and chorizo and tomatoes and coffee. It’s no longer sunny. We check out the beach the tide is so high it reaches the dunes. The waves are more violent than ever. We go to the bay side and the water is also high. The sun is no longer out. It’s time to go home.
We clean the house, do the laundry, and take out all the trash. Noel puts up my artwork of a bird from the adult coloring book on the fridge. We head to the ferry shortly after. Until next time, Fire Island.