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.
A couple of days ago my husband returned from the grocery store with a pound of bananas and a small coconut. The bananas were perfectly ripe for consumption, and I put them in a fruit basket. I held the coconut in my hand and noticed the beige, hairy shell covering it. The image of a coconut that I was familiar with was of a large, round fruit with a dark brown, hairy exterior. Our coconut had an elliptical shape and a groove around its widest part as if someone had chiseled into it. I read the label on it that claimed that this coconut was “easy to open.” I began to laugh aloud and was barely able to utter to my husband to cut it in half following that indentation. I didn’t believe the label, and the steps that followed in cracking it open proved me right. This coconut intrigued us both, and we wanted to taste the liquid and the white flesh inside of it. We first pierced a hole on its top and drained it. We took a sip and agreed that the liquid was flavorless. My husband had to use a hammer and pounded hard several times across the chiseled line until the coconut finally split open. After that, we proceeded to separate its meat from the outer shell. It was edible but bland, and hard to chew.
The superiority of Japanese convenience stores—conbini—is no longer a secret to the world. Although most residents of Japan consider these corner stores an unremarkable albeit essential element of daily life, the rapid spread of Japanese soft power in the last decade has elevated conbini from a matter of insider knowledge to a must-see attraction featured in travel guides. Prior to Japan’s strict COVID-19 travel restrictions, tourists would flock to Tokyo’s conbini to bask in the novelty of a 7-Eleven that boasts fresh salmon onigiri and matchapurin instead of slurpees and $1 coffee.
Spring Boulevard 50, in the heart of Bucharest’s former nomenklatura, currently bourgeois neighborhood, is where the former General Secretary’s one-story villa can be found. Împușcatu is what people sometimes call him around here, “the one who was shot,” or Ceașcă, “cup.” They were executed in winter: Nicolae Ceaușescu, and his wife Elena, who was also shot, but in people’s minds this was secondary to her being an insufferable pseudo-intellectual who loved fur coats. And their children, Nicu, Zoe and Valentin, spared during the 1989 Revolution.
She remembers a road that she walked along. Something about joy, maybe, something about light. It was her own lightness, or maybe it was the road’s. She walked it more than once, that week in September, a year past. There were rock walls fringed with pale asters. Tiny white butterflies hovered in sunlight, and the hills were green. That’s all that remained. A year ago, and it has faded.
It had been fifteen years since my family left for the US, but my grandparents’ room in Gomel had not changed. I sat on the same Soviet-era sofa, holding the same replica of Cheburashka, my childhood-favorite TV character. The occasion of my visit had prompted Dedushka, my Belarusian grandpa, to take me to the village where he was born, now dilapidated, to generations of ancestors’ graves, through documents that told something of our fragmented history. One evening Dedushka donned his army uniform, and presented me with a newspaper clip detailing my father’s death. My grandmother was quiet, resigned to the shadows of old books and toys.