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 became homeowners in the middle school cafeteria. School had been out about a month, the halls eerily empty, except for the huge skeleton of a humpback whale suspended 20 or so feet high above. It washed up on shore some years back, it’s bones bleached by the sun and sand. I washed ashore, too.
On Nantucket Island, the median home price is 1.2 million dollars. That’s what they say, officially. Most of the homes around the million-dollar mark have kitchens from the 1950s, and bathrooms from the 1970s. The new owners usually tear them down, or turn them into bunk-style housing for restaurant staff. None of us in the cafeteria ever dreamed we’d own anything, let alone a house, let alone here. I balanced on an itsy-bitsy red chair, nabbed out of a nearby classroom, something fit for a first grader. My knees were in my chest when they called my number.