Knife in the Road

Thu, 09/24/2020 - 5:15pm

The first time I noticed the knife in the street near Rebecca, it was bright and shiny, the white of new plastic in the sun. Another year I might have picked it up but this year we are all more hesitant to touch things we would not — or I would not — have given a second thought in the past.

Instead, I watched it with a sort of morbid fascination, a flimsy piece of “cutlery” slowly flattening as tires passed over it, then splitting, and fading to gray, like old bones that have passed from bleached white to a sad, dry hue, or lack thereof.

It had been there a few days when I finally thought to go out and take a picture of it, the split turning to splayed, and it is worse, now, two more days come and gone, flattened to the point I think it may just seep into the graying asphalt beneath it.

It fell or was dropped onto the pavement one of the last days of summer, it stayed in place through the autumnal equinox and the winds that kicked up for a bit, so much less than forecast, winds of a named storm I had already forgotten when someone mentioned it, today. There was still a swirl of wind on the weather map, but way off, up by the Canadian Maritimes.

The only evidence of it we had came in the presence of surfers, chasing the swelling waves around the island, waters some have been riding for decades. I was surprised at the cars heading for the beach late yesterday afternoon, then was reminded the tide was right to surf at Mansion, and I looked up the road to see vehicles parked in the upper lot, apparently part of the ritual of that particular spot.

I stop, sometimes, to watch from the spot near town where even the most land-bound of us can easily view them, gauging, waiting, the most patience rewarded with the most impressive rides just off the beach below the monument.

They are far more patient than I, who find myself distracted by the foamy surf breaking on the riprap put in place after Sandy had torn out the lesser riprap installed in 2008, after a late winter storm that ran through three full cycles of the tides had gnawed the edge of the road and exposed layers of pavements. They were all devoured by Sandy, the monument and its old concrete base dropped in one piece onto the rocks below.

I used to joke about that old cee-ment, back before careful mixing and testing, when whatever was at hand was thrown into the mix and think now there may have been more truth than I realized at the time in my “old nails, bent silverware, scraps of metal” descriptions.

The weekend, the last weekend of summer, brought cold temperatures and chilling east wind as well as wetsuit clad surfers. It felt that the weather that may have been the sole saving grace of the summer, the warmth combined with the lack of rain that let us keep windows and doors open and air moving, had vanished, that we were being plunged into the ever-darkening fall, into that descent that ends only with the winter solstice a long three months away.

Early fall, if not outright summer, is back, that spiral of wind gone completely from the weather map, the brighter colors indicating greater velocities, unformed blobs rather than the defined shapes they were this morning. Or Teddy was.

And with it a reminder that this 2020 season of uncertainty is far from over. There were people around, the way they should be in September but seem over the past several years not to have been but for long weekends. Some are here in their houses later than usual because they are working from home, wherever that may be, managing despite our slow internet. Others have come on vacations delayed because of travel restrictions.

A nice, slow fall, with enough visitors and seasonal residents to keep places open, and put off that hammer of winter seemed in the offing, at least through Columbus Day. Today evolved into a beach day, for beach-goers, not just the surfers and fishermen who appear every fall.

Today, our little state was again added to other states’ bad lists, or more to the point, other surrounding and nearby states’ bad lists. It is hard to know what the impact, if any, will be, just when it was beginning to feel like the real old normal, albeit masked and sanitized.

Maybe normal is more like that poor knife, run over and over, split but, at least as of this afternoon, still of one piece, if only by a sliver of plastic connection.