Dreaming En Route
By Marilyn Andretta
I could picture the house, a traditional white clapboard with black shutters sitting in a sea of green grass surrounded by lazy old oak and maple trees. I loved the brick walkway leading to the front door and a delicious abundance of Antique Dutch and lavander colored hydrangea.
We were driving on the LIE, headed to Amagansett from Park Slope. I was staring out the window, blank faced, a temporary lapse in my knitting. My husband, Slawek, impatiently gripped the wheel of our 2007 Honda Civic, his sky blue eyes squinting as we crawled past the Rockaways, past St. John’s University, Exit 24, Utopia Pkwy and Frances Lewis Blvd. The windows were wide open. Periodically he patted down wind blown hair sprouting out around his bald spot, no consideration to its owner’s sense of order. It was the first predicted beautiful weekend of the season. He glanced at me, “Can you believe we’ve been coming out here as long as we’ve been married, 30 years?”
“It went too fast, way too fast. It seems like we just got married, in the quickest ceremony on record, by Judge Oldham in Southampton.”
“The one I referred to as the ‘hangin’ judge.”
“Yeah, the hangin’ judge.” We laughed. “He couldn’t wait to get us out of his pristine home, past his perfectly manicured lawn and into our car.” I still had fond memories of our small but intimate reception dinner at the American Hotel.
We usually leave around 9:00 p.m. but decided to head out around 3:00, ironically, hoping to beat the traffic.
Around Exit 41 the honk of horns and screech of brakes startled me as Slawek quickly veered the car to the left lane. “Did you see that? That SUV practically ran into us. Probably on a cell phone.”
“I heard it but didn’t really see it.”
“Be aware; be aware!”
I could sense Slawek’s agitation growing as the traffic continued to stand still.
I could see his jaw tense as his words shot out, “Do you really want to sit in this traffic? This was your idea you know. Do you want to turn around and go back and leave later? This could go on all the way to Exit 71!”
“No, that’s ridiculous. We’re already on our way,” hoping he was wrong about how far the traffic crawled. I cringed, afraid to even look in his direction.
When we leave at 9:00 pm the traffic normally crawls from the BQE to Exit 43 but on this occasion it extended past the big flag waving around Exit 65 right up to Exit 71. It even continued past the Big Duck on Rte. 24S.
I tuned it out. None of it bothered me. It all looked beautiful.
As we drove, the hot air blowing, I could feel my fingers slow to a stop mid stitch in my knitting. I’m getting sleepy again I thought. Better set it down. I leaned my head against the headrest, stretched my feet out. Conversation ensued through my fog like state.
“You know Slawek, this is the moment I’ve dreamed of. It’s one block from the water so we can walk to the beach.”
“Wow, and I thought I’d have to wait until the next life when I come back as a cat to live in a house like this in the Hamptons.”
Slawek was so pumped up he couldn’t stop talking, “Boy, I never thought it would happen to me. Imagine if I had taken the job at Oracle instead of the job at DocuSign, a start-up. We’d be doing fine, but shit I never really thought I’d be part of a start-up that got bought.”
“And to think I was pushing you towards that Oracle job. I thought it offered more job security, after so many months out of work. I saw it as a retirement job and figured we’d be fine. We could take our two yearly vacations, get a new car, share a little with people in the family that needed it.”
I pictured myself taking early morning walks on that beach, so close to the house. I saw the water lapping up on the shore and the seagulls standing proud, waiting patiently for pretzel, sandwich and potato chip crumbs, carelessly dropped by unsuspecting sunbathers.
Once at the house, we stopped at the front door.
The best part was the wrap-around porch. I could see myself sitting there in the evenings, watching the birds pecking at the grass, a rabbit, his ears perked up waiting, the occasional deer. I’d wait for the reddish, orange of the sun drenched sky touching the surfaces around me, leaving a glow over the stillness of the evening.
“Stand here,” I said to Slawek. “I’ll stand next to you.”
I loved our Gravel Grey door with its frog knocker. “Leave the stuff in the car. We’ll get it later. I want a picture of us, just before we enter.”
“Will you miss going to Eudora’s ?” Slawek asked.
“Well, I do love it there so yes, a piece of me will. I’ll miss the company of the other renters too. Her crazy little notes taped to various parts of the house in Amagansett. “Turn off the post light before you go to bed” by the front door or “lock this door if you’re not in the immediate vacinity.” Or the one by the toaster oven, “Turn off the coffee maker before you use the toaster oven.”
I said to Slawek “it took me about 10 years before I was even cognizant of them. And then, it was only because that teacher complained about the notes once. Remember her, she was the tall one with the brown hair. She used to come with a friend and stay in the room with the twin beds outside the bathroom.”
Standing in the kitchen one Saturday morning, the scent of Euroda’s coffee dancing in the air, she whispered to me, “I don’t appreciate paying to stay somewhere and being subject to all these rules. These notes, really, they make me feel uncomfortable.”
I didn’t want to tell her I never noticed them before so I just said, “Hmm. I consider myself fortunate to get to stay here. The price is right and we’re embraced like family. You can’t ask for more than that!”
“Yeah, but we only come out here once or twice a summer. We can afford to stay at a place right on the beach.”
I hoped Euroda didn’t hear this conversation as I didn’t want her to think I felt that way.
Five and a half hours later, after what was probably the longest time it ever took us to drive out east, we finally reached our destination. I felt the car slow down, heard the crunch of the gravel on the long driveway and was jolted from my dream like state. My longed for beautiful house in East Hampton and walks to the beach faded from my vision. The bright glares from the headlights were replaced by the sparkle of a million stars twinkling in the darkness of the night.
“We’re here. “I’ll get the key; you get the luggage.”
“Oh good, she left the light on.”
We dragged our stuff onto the wrap-around porch. “One day soon, Slawek, it’s going to be our turn. We’re going to have our own wrap-around porch.” I was thinking East Hampton, close to the beach.”
“Nice dream. Maybe in the next life.”
I unlocked the door. “Coming in?”
“Soon. I’m going to have one last smoke, look for the Big Dipper and Orion’s belt.”
I stopped and stared at the little note by the inside of the door. It was yellowed and faded with so many years. I love these little notes, what they represent. So many years of jumping into the pool after a scorching day on the beach, playing tennis. Eudora’s fun stories about which celebrity moved where, who got divorced.
The traffic became a blip in the past, my dream, secretly waiting.
I stuck my head out the door, “don’t forget to turn off the post lamp and lock the door.”
“Yep, as soon as I finish watching the stars.”
Some of the names have been changed.