The neighbor children are in the Evangelical cult that Vice and The Guardian wrote about last year. They’re not allowed to speak to us, which is a thing no one has ever said aloud but is true, nonetheless. This town is full of true things that no one says aloud because we can’t or wouldn’t dare or because no one would believe us anyway.
Marilynne Robinson, I think, or maybe Ruth Ozeki, wrote something about how the wheat here is green before it’s yellow and everyone from elsewhere gets to selectively forget that and picture us golden and glowing year-round.
From my window I see a boy shaking the bougainvillea for flowers. My parents talk of pruning it. They talk of little else. The tree, spilling wildly past our house into the gulley—where boys come to smoke or piss, lanky against betel-dyed walls—acrid ammonia, posters begging for votes, pink crowning above them. The boys linger even when it rains. Each drop caught briefly under the golden streetlight, and me, holding my breath.
We are losing this place twice over: first to money, and then to sea. There are ways to quantify these losses: only 3,200 bushels of scallops were caught this past winter and more than $2 billion in real estate transactions were recorded last year. My parents aren’t sure where they should be buried; all the graveyards in all the towns we have ever lived will one day be inundated. I imagine horseshoe crabs trolling along the bottom, pausing to read the names etched on headstones.
All over the island, it looms: this is the end of something. I walk along the dune-tops, what’s left of them, at the very end of South Shore Road. Over one shoulder is the Atlantic; endless. Over the other are the sewer beds. A sandy strip separates the two. Second homes are not the only creatures perched precariously on eroding shorelines. Our wastewater treatment facility hangs in the balance.
We grew up on salty rocks, collecting bullets, holding onto hope as if it were a jump rope that come our turn, would go on spinning forever our feet never failing us. We ran through sunburnt alleys, kicking up clouds of dust that were quick to settle as if somehow knowing that we had nowhere else to go.
The minibus stops in the middle of the road and the driver opens the door, he says something in Russian which I take to mean I need to get off. I begin to walk on a red dirt road that meanders down, and in front of me, the vastness of the Crimean terrain opens up, splotches of yellow overgrown grass, young bushes and wildflowers, the quiet dark sea in the distance.
There is comfort in a lack of context, dishes on the floor, jewelry on a peg board, grand piano next to an abandoned plastic phlebotomy practice arm. All the parts of the world shuffled and randomly dealt amongst rooms. A sort of magic trick, skinned in dust, connecting all things to a singular body—the auction house. I remember finding a large bowl of teeth.
The body of water that runs by the neighborhood is in fact a river, but everyone used to call it longkau—a storm drain. The Hokkien word has a crispier edge than the Mandarin longgou. Calling it a river would require a proper name, a division into upstream and down. Nobody knew about that stuff, so we went with what was the easiest. Anyway, a name is just a name, and it was kind of endearing after you got the hang of it. The neighborhood does have a proper name: Dakota. There’s a place called Dakota somewhere up north in the States, but that’s not what we’re named after. No, our origin story is local and commemorates the crash of a Dakota DC-3 aircraft nearby. Maybe by giving the neighborhood a name tinged with disaster and exoticism, we were also foretelling its premature demise.