Could everyone write one simple essay about something that once happened in Saltaire…that they saw or were a part of…and put it on one big website? Somebody should collect a lot of stories before we all forget. Otherwise it is like a line in “On The Beach” : The history of the war that now would never be written.” -(JO'H)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Saltaire Story

"That guy has everything."
I didn't say anything. I was just watching the sun starting to set.

"That guy has everything," he said for a second time.

Jack and I were standing at the bike rack in front of the Yacht Club, looking out on the bay. Jack was almost whispering as if he did not want “them” to hear.

The "guy" Jack was talking about was sailing his sailboat with his girlfriend about 100 yards out on the bay, so I doubt if they would have heard Jack unless he were shouting.

But it was quiet. Just a little bit of a breeze at the end of one of those perfect summer days.

"That guy has everything-- he lives in Saltaire, he has a sailboat, and sails with that girl."

Jack had spoken to  that girl a couple of times and she was really nice, but that was about it. He never learned a whole lot of social skills at the Catholic junior seminary that he went to for high school. And he definitely did not have a sailboat to take a good-looking girl out on the bay.

So the boat was sailing back and forth, back and forth. At first, it looked like they were practicing maneuvers for a sailboat race. But now with the sun setting things were slowing down. It looked like they were just quietly sailing back and forth. Like they had nowhere to go in the world. Nothing to do but sail together. They sailed a hundred yards west, turned around, sailed a hundred yards east.

Jack was just a visitor for a week or two in Saltaire that summer. Now that he had decided that he wasn't going to become a priest, he was trying to fit in. That was never easy for a new kid in Saltaire. He would carry an “old Goya” guitar around and sit on the beach or on the dock and play for anyone who would listen. I liked Jack and so did a lot of the other kids, but he never felt like he fit in. And he really wanted to. And he was really taken with that girl. From a distance.

The sailboat came back around and it crossed in front of the huge orange sun, which for a second was sitting on top of the horizon. They sailed past the sun, went on a ways and turned around. Every time they came back and passed in front of the sun, it was lower. Now the top of the mast was higher than the top of the sun.

It was a perfect scene.
It became so quiet that even Jack didn't say anything for a couple of minutes. Just one more "that guy has everything" after the sun was completely below the horizon. That's how the conversation ended. Just like it began: “That guy has everything.”

I never saw Jack again after that summer.

That was more than fifty years years ago.

I sometimes wonder: if I could travel back in time to that evening more than fifty  years ago, should I go back and tell Jack:

"Don't feel bad, Jack, that guy does not have everything. I knew that guy and that girl and I can tell you it is not going to last forever between them. It won't end up all sailing and beautiful sunsets and endless summers for them. Nothing's permanent."

No, on second thought, I would never tell Jack that. Jack might have believed me and run out on the dock and started shouting out to her: "Forget about him. He's not going to last. You are wasting your time with him. Come talk to me!"

I wouldn't want that.

That would ruin a perfect scene.


(first posted 4/17/08)

1 comment:

JOH said...

"Oh, how stubbornly does love-- or even that cunning semblance of love which flourishes in the imagination, but strikes no depth of root into the heart-- how stubbornly does it hold its faith, until the moment come, when it is doomed to vanish into thin mist."

--Nathaniel Hawthorne
Rappacini's Daughter