Fire Island

By Callie Samton (’18)

Summer, 2006

After the rain, the island was mine. The ground was damp, the air smelled like salt water, and the bay was still dark and brooding. The pavement was dotted with puddles, like oceans to our eyes. The sunlight came through the mist in ethereal tendrils, bathing the streets in an unworldly glow. Parents huddled inside, away from the rain and the earth and the worms, but to me, it was magnetic. An ineffable force, it drew me onto the wood porches and outside the gates. This hour belonged to all of us; as if by some unspoken word, we pedaled our bikes to the end of the street, captivated by the petrichor in the air and the water droplets on our skin. Finally, it was my turn. My legs moved at the speed of light, black pedals a blur. The trees became a watercolor brush of green, and I felt time slow down. The front wheel touched the puddle, and like sparks, water came up on both sides of me: an iridescent wave. The puddle deepened, tsunamis forming beside me. I was infinite, eternal, electric, riding with legs out to both sides like wings. I felt like I could fly, and then I was in the air, floating above the bike and the puddle and all of the island. It was a moment of serenity, like the eye of a hurricane, and everything stood still. The waves stopped breaking, the dragonflies froze, and it was just me and the salty breeze. Then, just as quickly as my wings had sprouted, I was back on the ground. I was a body of bruises, pink and purple and yellow splotches in the shape of bike parts and cement. My knees were cut and my elbows scraped, but I had flown. A graceful array of knobby knees and bare feet, I had been lifted into the air by some strange, ephemeral spell as old as the island itself.  

Summer, 2010

At night, my friend Emily and I padded, barefoot, into the town. Flashlight in hand, I walked, guided by the small hand in front of me and the luminescence of the bulb. Together, we giggled, toes in the cold sand and whispers floating up to the speckled sky. To my right, the bay was black, and so foreign to us that it seemed like a Kraken would reach out of the water and pull us in. This walk, 2 blocks from my house to the ice-cream store, was the drawbridge, leading two small girls over a pit of snapping alligators and to the castle. With wide eyes, we wandered, led by sweet scents and florescent lights. Cotton candy and mint chocolate chip dripping onto our hands, we gathered napkins and sat on the swings, kicking our legs in unison. Backwards, forwards, backwards, until we were miles in the air. Below us, the crescent light reflected on the water, like the watery stain left behind on a table by a coffee mug. I felt like I ruled the world: the strange fairytale underneath my feet. There was something captivating about it all, from the soft blue glow bathing the boats beneath to the melancholy cries of the seagulls circling in the dark. As the two of us sat, legs dangling, side by side, I searched the sky for shooting stars. Nose pointed up, I strained my eyes, searching for something, anything, until a glimmer caught my eye. Something flew through the sky. Its lights flashed, red and blue and green, coloring the moonlight. Wide eyed, I turned to look at Emily. My heart was pounding in my ears, crashing waves inside my brain. Together, we sat, hands clenched together and mouths open in awe, staring at this preternatural object in the sky. The only possible explanation: a UFO. So Emily and I sat, drifting back and forth, pondering the distant ship with a curiosity that only children could muster. This could not have been a normal airplane, no. It was something mystical, some rocket that had come from a planet with rings and moons and swirling dusty winds. Quietly, I concluded that this particular celestial body had sped through all of the galaxies, dark and quiet and vast, in search of such an amaranthine place as this.

Summer, 2016

The ocean had crept up, over the sand and into the dunes. Earlier, the waves had swelled, until they towered like a skyline: their own city against the horizon. Wildly, the water had rushed onto the beach and under the houses, as if sloshed over the sides of its cup by a trembling hand. Hours later, though, it was tranquil. The choppy waves had grown still, and all that remained of the tempestuous afternoon was lakes of water between the ocean and the damp boardwalks. I stood ankle-deep in the cool water, watching rings form in the water, ripples spreading out and dissipating. Squinting against the amber light, the tidal pools seemed endless. Vast and deep, they stretched farther than I could tell. There was no division between the sand and the sky. The cerulean sky and rosy clouds made up the entire world in front of me, a kaleidoscopic reflection on the glassy water. With one step, I could tumble into the sky, past the wispy clouds and into the cosmos. Behind me, Emily laughed, and the sound drifted, a message in a bottle. I sat at the edge of the mirror, my fingers mindlessly circling the wet sand. The pools were a strange world, a tiny one within my very own. Jellyfish drifted through my fingers, invisible except for a wine colored fringe lining their amorphous shapes. Fish darted underneath the surface, silvery flashes that reflected the falling light. I was warm, with the sun on my back, and happy. I scooped up a handful of sand, letting it fall through my fingers, golden. I was left with smooth grab pebbles and a piece of seaglass. The small piece sat in my palm, a vibrant red, clouded only by the wear of time. Tracing its edges with my fingertips, I was sure that this glass had travelled through time to reach me, tumbled in the waves as empires rose and fell. This broken bottle was not mine by sheer luck, but by a syzygy in some universe, somewhere. It had landed at my feet, dropped from a larger world in which I existed only in tidal pools.