Snarls

The setting is a harbor in Maine. There are working lobster boats and those fey and insouciant yachts at anchor or else sailing away like a poor man’s dream.

This struggling writer is eating his lunch, watching an old guy and his grandson pluck mackerel from the sea. Adolescents leap from the pier into the brine or else caper on the docks vying for attention, desperately needing to be seen. But nobody pays them much attention — as it should be.

There are middle-aged mothers in bikinis with young children marching behind. The mothers are tanned, confident, soaking in the sun, eyes hidden behind shades. If they notice anyone, it’s only with a sigh. They, too, desperately want to be seen. But unlike the teenagers, these mothers want to be seen as the embodiment of youth. Those kids want to escape themselves as quickly as they can, so they continually dive with abandonment.

An osprey meanders above making sad discordant cries.

Tourists plod around, cameras at the ready, snapping up life, eager to dirty their clean, white sneakers. They comment on the postcard-perfect harbor, the light, the air, the lack of parking, the beauty all given to them as if out of a movie. They are so besotted with their vacation, with their wisdom for choosing Maine over California or Nebraska, that they huddle together for a family shot, their smiles so large, they go out to sea beyond the schooners. They’ll be there the next day, too, standing on the edge of the pier, waiting for those smiles to return.

A young couple kiss in the shade. Bodies entwined. They don’t seem to want to separate. They don’t seem to notice anyone else as they grope under the shelter of the tree. Maybe they think the shade is proof of their impulses. Maybe they innocently believe nobody is watching them. And who would in a beautiful harbor made for pleasure boats and satisfied tourists?

Maybe that’s what the arguing older couple think, too. In the face of nature’s beauty, who would fight, bicker, raise their voices, and accuse? It’s the perfect time to have a row. Nobody will be paying attention to the pettiness of man and woman when there’s nature blowing iridescent bubbles of splendor in your face.

“Why the hell did you walk by the lime kilns?”

“I thought we were going to see Andre the seal.”

“We stopped here to see the kilns. And you goddamn walk right by them.”

“I thought we agreed to see the seal and then the kilns.”

“Who the hell decided that. Not me. Why did we drive all this way just to walk by the kilns?”

“You could have said something.”

“Like what? Hey, honey, here are those damn kilns you’re walking right by.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Frank.”

“What?”

“You know what.”

“What?”

“We can walk over to the kilns if you want.”

“God!”

“What?”

“If you wouldn’t have walked by them in the first place, we wouldn’t need to walk back.”

“What’s the problem, Frank?”

“What?”

“The fucking kilns are over there, okay.”

“I know they’re fucking over there, you just walked right past them!”

“You’re hopeless, Frank,”

“Why? Because I want to see some goddamn kilns?”

“No, because you goddamn walked right by them, too.”

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