I pictured the house, a traditional white clapboard with black shutters and one bowed window. It sat far enough from the road to appear unassuming on a carpet of Kentucky bluegrass, and was shaded by the low hanging branches of venerable oak and maple trees. I loved the brick walkway snaking to the front door and the arrangement of Antique Dutch and Lavender colored hydrangea puffed up around its front.
My husband, Slawek, and I were driving on the LIE, headed to Amagansett from our coop apartment in Park Slope. I was staring out the passenger side window, blank faced, a temporary lapse in my knitting. Slawek gripped the wheel of our 2007 Honda Civic, his sky blue eyes squinting as we crawled past the Rockaway’s, 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 sunny, warm weekend of the season. He glanced at me, “Can you believe we’ve been coming out east as long as we’ve been married, 30 years?”
“It went way too fast,” I said. “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.
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 slowed to a stand still.
I could see his jaw tense as his words shot out, “Do you really want to sit in this traffic? Leaving in the afternoon 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.
Normally, we leave in the mid-evening and the traffic crawls from the BQE to Exit 43. 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. I wanted to return to my reverie.
As we drove, warm air circulated within. 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.
“This is the moment I’ve dreamed of,” I told Slawek, “Our first night in our own house.”
Slawek cocked his head, a mischievous glint in his eye, “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.”
“Get serious,” I told him. It wasn’t necessary. He became so pumped up he couldn’t stop talking.
“Boy, I never thought it would happen to me,” he said. “Imagine if I accepted the job at Oracle instead of at DocuSign. We’d be doing fine, but shit to be part of a start-up that got bought and left us with a windfall.” He kissed his fingertips. “Tell me I’m not dreaming!”
“And to think I was pushing you towards the Oracle job. I thought it offered more job security, after so many months out of work. At best we could take our two yearly vacations, get a new car and share a little with people in the family that needed it.”
My eyes opened briefly. I sat up. Still driving, I thought, as I leaned back into the headrest. A gentle smile emerged. My eyes closed.
I pictured myself taking early morning walks on the 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.
The car stopped. I jumped out, pinched my cheeks and stared for a moment.
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, nose twitching, 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.
My heart rate quickened as we approached the entrance. “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.
“Of course, after twenty years of summer weekends, don’t you?”
“We’ll invite them over!” I told him I’d miss the company of the other renters too and Eudora’s crazy little notes taped to various parts of the house in Amagansett. “Turn off the post light,” by the front door or, “keep this door locked.” Or the one by the toaster oven, “Turn off the coffee maker before you use the toaster oven.”
He chuckled and shook his head.
Was he listening? I didn’t care. I continued, “it took ten years before I was even aware of them. And then, it was only because that teacher complained about the notes once. Remember her? Joan. She was the tall one with the brown hair.”
“Sort of,” he said. “She always came with a friend and stayed in the room with the twin beds outside the bathroom.”
I thought of one Saturday morning. I walked into the kitchen, the scent of Eudora’s coffee danced in the air. Joan approached me, empty cup in hand, and whispered, “I don’t appreciate paying to stay somewhere and being subject to all these rules.” And pointing to a note, said, “This is crazy. These notes make me feel uncomfortable.”
I didn’t want to tell her I never noticed them before, so I just said, “Hmm,” and started to edge away from her. “I feel lucky to stay here. The price is right and we’re treated like family. What more can you ask for?”
“Yeah,” she said, “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 Eudora didn’t hear this conversation, as I didn’t want her to think I felt that way.
My thoughts floated on.
The car slowed down. I heard the crunch of gravel along the long driveway and was jolted from my dream like state. Conscious, I blinked my eyes and looked up. Where were we? It took a second to materialize. My heart sank, a little. We were at Eudora’s house. I looked at the clock. It took a record six hours to get there. My longed for beautiful house in East Hampton and walks to the beach faded from my vision. The bright glare from the headlights was replaced by the sparkle of a million stars twinkling in the darkness of the night.
We unloaded the car and dragged our stuff up the steps and onto her wrap-around porch. “One day, 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 loved these little notes, what they represented. 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.