I was born in the city. Never mind which one; for our purposes this city is like most others: independent from the suburbs with those separate houses and driveways versus the city where each inhabitant, in turn, is individual from one another. In such a city, if a frail woman was to cross the street and a younger man was to dare help her it was enough to draw a few eyes and an opinion or two. It was the notion that everyone else in the city was possibly dangerous, and if you kept to your business, you wouldn’t be caught in any sort of crossfire. Everyone was, in truth, focused on their own activities, and rarely recognized the complexity and vividness, the sonder, of each passerby they saw on the street or in transit.
But as usual, and especially for a short non-fiction tale, there is an exception to this urban notion of separation. In this case we can speak of a boy, of only eight years, whose name is obscure enough that I invite the reader to form his or her own name and appearance for the boy, but I will call him Mercer. It was Mercer, who grew up in the same city as I, that would accomplish something so simple and plain, but when put under the microscope of an adolescent eye, was somewhat an achievement for his young age. Something we have lost: a thing of connection and social elements, found in a strip of land which held the name of the East End.
It was in the farthest reaches of the East End, in the small community of Ditch Plains, where the story can only begin, for Montauk is nothing like a city. It is a nice sort of place, the kind of town where you could help a lady across the street or meet someone who had just happened to sit by you on the beach. Ironically in contrast to the name “The End”, Montauk was a place where things started. Things such as habits for surfing and beach days, or a simple friendship with another guy in town wearing the same shirt as you. A sort of faith can be found in Montauk that can only be described as recognizing your server at a restaurant as another human being, one with whom you can share laughs, and one to whom you can speak freely.
Our character, Mercer, was only of eight years, yet at his age he was exposed to both the life of a city, and now the life of Ditch Plains. As many have, he took a liking to the beach and quickly found a sort of fascination with the people. Long hours on the beach sitting and walking on the sand had prompted conversations with others. If another group his age was sitting on the life guard tower, he would sit with them, until they had spoken long enough that they knew their favorite colors, last names, and what pets they might have.
So it was one morning on the beach of Ditch Plains that Mercer found himself talking with a girl of the same years, sitting on the chin up bar next to the tower, which is now long gone. This was one of the days when two children could talk and embrace freely without the glance of the public eye, without the embarrassment and jest of other boys and girls. Something that can only be found in children who are too wonderfully minded to care and something that can only happen outside of the city, where identity is no longer an initial formality. So it was the combination of age and location, which brought two children to connect with each other on a beach to simply just talk to one another.
And all day they spoke, sitting on a wooden chin up bar, spinning upside down, and balancing the small wooden stick without falling. What they spoke of is not so important, or maybe it can’t be remembered, but it is the memory of the excitement, and connection that keeps the girl alive in the boy and hopefully the boy alive in the girl. The day eventually came to slow and the sun was painted in its distant sunset, but neither child left. The girl stays while her family goes home, and the same with the boy, and their talk continues through the early night by a fire on the beach.
After that one day and part of the night the two never saw each other again. One only knows the other exists because of this memory, and even that begins to gather up dust. One doesn’t even remember the features or name of the other, but remembers the day and the talk. But this is not to conclude on a somber note; this short tale is written to illustrate the impression of Montauk on its people, inhabitants, passing visitors. Only outside of the city and up the East End can one spark such connections: it can stand as one of the many examples of the other children who’ve talked for hours on that chin up bar, on the life guard towers, in the town, or down the streets. The East End can do that to not just that one boy in the city, but anyone who is willing.
If there are thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird, then there must be various ways to view connections: we need someone to catch us when we fall, someone to share laughs and memories, and sometimes, just someone to make our lives more interesting. After this experience our character was reluctant to return to the city, or perhaps he was somewhat reluctant to grow up. It would only get harder return to a place of individual and collective isolation. From this recollection of events it should be known how our lives are so confined and simplified that each of us, in turn, miss the realization that each passerby has a life as vivid, and complex, as our own.