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I was restless late at night in our room on the Bay…

… so I got up and first dealt with our too-high-tech door, which would start whoop whooping if I weren’t careful, and then I walked out onto the still-hot lawn. All day boats drifted along our little canal, and the effect was cinematic, elegant, hushed, charismatic; now, at midnight, the water was empty, vaguely lit, moving only slightly in the heat.

In the darkness I started looking for the outline of an Adirondack or a chaise, and I approached a white glimmering seat of some sort and almost sat down until I realized someone was in it.

“Sorry to disturb,” I said, and settled in a chair a few feet away.

“I don’t want to scare you, but would you come with me and I’ll show you this really beautiful bird.”

The person in the chair was suddenly right in my face. I recognized him: He was the teenager with a missing tooth and thick brown hair who had brought water in a pebbled silver bottle to our table at the lodge’s restaurant that evening. We’d admired the bottle; he’d admired the bottle. “I’m going to bring your group a second bottle in a minute,” he said, “but this one won’t be beautiful.” And indeed it was a very ordinary bottle, and we all complained good-naturedly.

Now he brought me right up to the edge of the water and pointed out an egret of some sort, its whiteness startling against the black trees.

“My step-mother is picking me up pretty soon. I live with my real mother, but I’m staying with my step-mother on Tilghman for the summer. Look at the night sky. I stare at it all the time even though I don’t really know what I’m looking at. Even when things move: Airplane or satellite or…”

“Unidentified aerial phenomenon.”

“Then there’s the bottom of the ocean. From the highest to the lowest. I wouldn’t have minded dying in that Titanic submersible. I want adventures.”

“What other adventures?”

“Scuba. Scuba at a wreck or in a cave. Go into orbit. Highest and lowest.”

I thought of telling him about DeLillo’s novel The Names, where the characters are like that – some of them are fanatical archeologists, always digging deeper and deeper into the earth, and some are international consultants, always flying high above the earth. None of them seems to manage being in the middle, where the farms and the cities and the parks and the people are, very well. The whole novel, that is to say, is about efforts to avoid reality.

But I didn’t tell him about DeLillo. I asked him more questions about the adventures he wanted to have, and as he expanded on them I realized that I sort of loved him and also was very grateful to him because I’d left my room expecting at best a night sky that wouldn’t lift my restlessness, but instead, magically, I encountered an instant cure for my restless spirit, which is to say another human being. The unearthly earthly reality of another human being. Someone who moved me, and lifted me out of what was after all just a spot of convoluted ego.

Margaret Soltan, August 17, 2023 7:40PM
Posted in: snapshots from the Chesapeake

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