As if to state the obvious. I am not Obama. I do not arrive on Martha’s Vineyard met by an advance team that came yesterday to prepare for me. I do not arrive by plane. I do not have a limo waiting. I am not in a beautiful, seaside home that someone loaned me, because I am the ruler of the largest democratic nation ever. I have not had my penultimate job before 50. I mean, what could top this? It’s sort of uneventful from here on in career-wise, I’m guessing. There is no staff where I am staying, and I am not accompanied by my gorgeous wife who is as pedigreed as I am, nor our Ivy League-futured children. Life does not seem to be so managed and navigate-able over here where I am staying.
Unlike Obama, I am met by an oogley boogley eye’d guy who built the house with his own hands. He tells me he almost killed his wife while hanging “that” rafter (as he points to the ceiling), because he lost hold of it. It fell on her head. Another time she was in a bike accident. She was knocked unconscious. I asked if she had a concussion after. He wasn’t sure.
The listing said there was wifi. There isn’t. The listing said it was furnished with AC. I suppose yes and no. There is a window unit, but it is hot as anything in here. Our red, swollen-eyed host says to keep the windows shut in case of rain. I am schvitzing like an elephant without a mud pool. It takes me about 5 minutes to surmise that my big idea of going without a car and using bikes for an island adventure is a ruse. Forget it. Me who prefers my feet on the ground, and my son who is constantly running into me when we bike, cannot possibly stay safe on these no-shouldered roads.
I am feeling captured; worried the guy’s eye is red because he hit himself with the back end of a hatchet. My boy, with his usually discerning tastes, seems completely not mussed by any of this. Maybe it is all fine, and I just can’t tell. There are at least 3 cars and a tractor haphazardly parked or stopped or stalled (hard to tell) in the middle of what seems like a front yard or back field or I’m not sure what.
They used to own a souvenir store, but closed it. Lived here since 1950, his mom too. Now they drive the island buses and assure us a car is not needed. FYI: the buses don’t stop unless you flag them down, and be sure to have a flashlight at night or they won’t see you (or stop for you) at all. Flag them down??? There aren’t bus stops with a schedule?? He tells me to download the app, so I can track the buses’ movement, as they come about (emphasis on “about”) every thirty minutes. “When they get to the youth hostel they are about 10 minutes away.” Youth hostel???? OH NO. Even when I was a youth, I did not like the cockroached sharing of space. Plus, I don’t like the smell of unwashed bodily dirt. Yes. I am prissy. I am judgmental.
I feel more grounded and equally guilty ugly silly spoiled dumb driving back in the rental car. Because really. I am on an island for a vacation, able to spend money to manage my anxiety. The privilege is a bit empathy-defying.
When my day-to-day is shaped out of my reach, the unknown of the world is what I find hard to maneuver. I imagine this might be true for others – especially when that unknown is way more tangible than feeling stranded in the woods of an island with an oogley boogely eye. Things like food, rent, child care, job, home – these strike me as far more meaningful, their absence far more reasonably and legitimately anxiety producing. I find it hard to square the circle that both are true – this is easier than what others face, and yet it spooked me. Gratitude met with guilt; guilt with gratitude. Tell me how to round that square – if you can.