The van moves up the gangway, slowly. The crew gestures and points; as the ferry has narrow aisles, and the shift from the bright light of day to the dim lights of the interior is rather abrupt. Gas fumes assail my nose; it crinkles as I ease the van forward until we're mere inches from the next car. We park and pile out quickly before getting hemmed in by the cars moving into the lanes next to us.
The ferry is one of the newer ones it has an elevator, which is helpful for Jo, as she has trouble with stairs. We move up to the main seating area and find a nice booth by a window. Sitting, I set my laptop on the table, but don't turn it on yet. No, for now, I want to look out the window I must look out the window!
This is my last look.
The Black Dog Bakery sits near the shore of Vineyard Haven Harbor; it's almost close enough to smell the donuts but not quite. I close my eyes and inhale deeply; I want the scent of the Island in my lungs a last time. The salt air, the honeysuckle, and that faint hint of skunk. Yeah, that's what I said skunk. You might not think it's a nice aroma, but in an small amounts, it's actually rather nice.
The engines rev, the deck plates rumble and tickle my feet and an seat. Opening my eyes, I look out the window. Slowly, so very slowly to start the ship starts to move forward.
The tip of the blade touches my abdomen.
The pain starts.
Slowly, so very, very slowly, the blade works its way in and the pain spreads. I want to pull it out, but there's no real knife to grip; all I can do is wrap my arms about my belly and try to holds my guts together.
The ferry picks up speed, and the pain spreads and intensifies. I want to close my eyes against the gathering storm within in, but to do so means being deprived of another look out the window.
That, I can not do.
I can't bear the thought of not seeing every moment, every feature out the window. The ferry moves through the crowded interior of the harbor. Off on the shore are the shipyards, the fuel tanks, and then the narrow causeway that separates the lagoon from the open waters. I focus on every building, every feature all must be committed to memory even though they already are.
After all, so little changes on Martha's Vineyard. Oh, individual buildings may chance a bit businesses come and go but the overall look of the place remains.
The ferry moves beyond the little drawbridge and jetty; the blade twists in my guts, and the pain increases I feel it radiate out and up; it ensnares my heart and lungs. I can barely breathe, and the thrust to my heart and soul leaves be practically doubled over. Yet, I stay upright. I have to, I have to get that last look out the window.
We pass the island hospital I went there when I broke my wrist oh so many years ago, and when my daughter broke her collar bone as a toddler. That's also where dear Cousin Ruth spent the last days of her life in the nursing home section of the hospital.
We move still further on, and a new pain ripples throughout my entire body. It's my very soul; it's being stretched out like a rubber band it is pulled between me and the Island. It's as if the Island doesn't want me to go. No, it's not that; my soul doesn't want to be parted from the place that birthed it. The ferry passes the small homes that line the shores of East Chop; one of them was used as Sheriff Brody's house, in the movie "Jaws." I can't help but think back to that summer the time the filmmakers were on the Island it seems a million years ago, but merely a moment in a boy's life.
Now we come to the final stage. The harbor opens up; East and West Chop splay outward, like the maw of a mighty beast yawning, and we cross that invisible boundary the line in the water that stretches between the furthest points of the two promontories. And, the lifeline is cut, severed, the rubber band of my soul snaps back into me. The force of the shock is overwhelming; my heart feels as if it's going to erupt from my chest like a shell shot out of a cannon.
Now I close my eyes, intent on blinking back the tears and reviewing every image my eyes captured from that last look out the window. Bile rises in my throat, burning, searing, and I swallow several times to keep from puking. A cold, vacant space forms within me, and I know it's the place where a portion of my soul once resided. It's gone now, I've left it behind.
Only those who know and love the Island of Martha's Vineyard can truly understand what it means to leave it. You never really leave it a portion of you remains there for all time. The only for you is when will you return in order that your soul is once more made whole?
That last look out the window, it always hurts, but I can never tear my eyes away. Every image, every sight, every sound, even the scent carried by the wind; they are all a link to my soul, and thus precious and irreplaceable.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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