My vision of this Labor Day is an empty beach battered by storms slung out up along the Atlantic’s edge by the hurricane, rain battering down, the sea unsettled and raging up on the camel-colored sand stretch abandoned by the Jersey girls and the sunshine seekers and the last vacationers and the crowds for this secular sabbath, left to the opening skies of falling water and empty to the violence drumming itself upon the ground. The beach is empty to the storm, with only me standing there for the last of the weather-rage in the lash and froth of water on the rasping sand.
It’s September and the last of the summer’s wearing out. The college-stickered cars with out-of-state plates circle into my gas station asking for directions to the school and the Wal-Mart and the IHOP. I remember Hillsdale with September, skies blue and the smack flip flops, days with long evenings of shorts and jackets, everything cooling out into the fiery colors of fall. This is Hillsdale’s month of glory, when you meet new friends and re-meet old ones and no one has yet slipped with the overload of it all under the wheel of that since-1844 depression, when up-all-night hasn’t been translated from a foreign pleasure to a familiar chain. Here is the time when the syllabi are still in working order, not yet laughed-out monuments to the folly of plans, when you still get to class five minutes early and can talk about the possibilities of opening the world with questions that might be asked, might be studied, before the hope of coherence hasn’t reeled away in reality. I call feel the call there, as persistent and unarticulated as a bird’s feeling the time to move, to set out, go back, feel it down in the bottom of my stomach where all I can say is I’ve been thinking about Hillsdale.
But even as I look at my truck pointing out to the Hillsdale road, ready in it’s unavoidable green, even as the migratory devil sets up shop on my shoulder saying move, move, I remember the growl the scowl the squint of untouchability I had to have, I’d have to have, to get off the turnpike at exit 13 and make that turn past the most popular fair on earth and up that little towered hill.
Even then I remember the scam that I always was and had to be to that place and don’t know that I’m ready for even a weekend of those recalled ghosts in the looks of admiration and the looks of spite. And even out here, pieces of the place are coming out to me in half stories of they broke up, maybe he likes her, expelled, goth freshman, in the street, half keg, slapped in the face, no more again, and I know I’m not ready yet, can’t go yet and don’t want those keys back even though and as I know now the place is mine and I am its, know that I’ll go back if I can in a return from this banishment of mine.
I’m being given things here, in this Philly year, here where here leans out into the dark of the future and way out’s always unclear, things I couldn’t have taken before. Some of them I’ll tell you about, maybe, when we sit in a circle on the porch and testify with scars and stories, and maybe some I won’t tell you about. Maybe some I couldn’t say.
For today, at least today, I couldn’t say but maybe you could see, would see and come with me into the storm thrashing out the shore, watching as the divots left by tanning toes fill with the rain, as the hurricane dumps itself into the emptiness of sand.