Jill was suspicious when I said I was fine with returning to Fire Island.

"Just go ahead and book it," I chirped.

"Ummmmmmm." Jill sat back and stared way to the left, bugging her eyes and grimacing. I giggled.

"Look! I can't stop going there. It's my favorite place on Earth. If I started avoided places with memories of Ben, then I couldn't go to Union Square, where we met. The entire Upper West Side would be out of bounds. I'd never be able to leave my house."

"Okaay" -- she leaned in -- but we're not going to have Miss Morticia. NO MISS MORTICIA on this trip."

I took this to mean: Limit snuffling jags to 1 minute or under; no calling names into the air (i.e. That Dead Bastard!) and shaking fist; no openly reminiscing about sexual encounters.

Jill had had infinite patience thus far. She was being honest in telling me it's time to cut back. But that didn't mean leaving Fire Island behind forever.

I am trying to look at life like an athlete. Sometimes a bone must be rebroken and reset in order to heal properly, and so it is with the heart.

Our first night we went to Maguire's, a bar on the bay, for a drink. It was twilight and they were playing Jimmy Buffett-style music. The place was almost empty except for 2 older women across from us. Jill ordered a beer and I ordered red wine. A waiter sailed past us to the next table and set down a beautifully irridescent green martini offset by 2 bright red cherries. Jill started to discreetly photograph it.

She wanted to get closer. She approached the women and asked if she could take a close-up.

"Certainly," one said, "but could you take our picture, too?"

They turned to the camera and smiled -- one with coquettish precision, one with a hint of shyness.

"What is that drink?" Jill asked.

"A red-and-green martini. Can you believe this waiter had never heard of a red-and-green martini!"

They started asking questions. Who were we? What were we doing here? If only I knew the answer to that.

Jill and the ladies chatted away in the twilight. I moseyed over to the table and stood there, swirling my wine in the glass.

The ladies -- Joann and Evonda -- invited us to join them. "Can you believe," Joann said of Evonda, "this woman is almost 80? And she rode her bike up and down the island today." Evonda flashed a chipmunk smile. She lived in Berkeley.

"What do you do in Berkeley?" Jill asked.

"As litttle as possible!"

Joann had spent almost thirty summers on Fire Island. "I was an activist here," she said.

"What was your cause?" I asked.

"Oh, you name it, I was against it," she said.

The stars came out. Evonda referred to her husbands as number 1, number 2, number 3. Joann had lost both her husband and her son. She had not been able to return to Fire Island since her son died ten years ago. She sold her house. This was her first weekend back to visit.

"Oh God, I'm so sorry." I was sloshy on wine.

"Thank you, dear."

Jill was coming back from the bathroom as I was telling them about Ben. Oops. Morticia strikes.

"Oh! Darling. I'm sorry," Joann said.

"'Sssokay, you know? And I wasn't sure about coming back here."

"But you came back."

Joann spontaneously shared with us her man-finding strategies from when she was thirty. She went places where men went that, at the time, women didn't go: golfing, skiing, to the races. She ended up marrying someone she worked with. Jill and I still are not sure what to make of this advice.

Finally we scooted off -- Joann and Evonda to get a a lobster dinner, Jill and I to crawl under our blankies and watch TV. The women called for us the next day at our b&b, but we missed them. I ran into them on the main drag -- Evonda on her bike, Joann riding in a golf cart due to her mending broken hip.

"Your hair looks nice up," Joann said. "You should always wear it like that."

I miss them already.


Eulogy II


by Erica Smith


I opened the door and found Roxy and Saro right on the other side, sticking their snoots in the widening door crack. I had to step carefully over them and try not to drop the mail or let the door slam.

Saro turned around, ran ahead of me, turned to face me, and screamed.

"Eeeow! EEEEEOW!"

Rox hustled to the food bowl, talking care to give a wide berth to Saro.

The food bowl was always seriously overflowing but Rox would pause, waiting for a refresher. I shook a few kibble on top of the pile. Rox crunched a little. She looked up at me, purring and crunching.


I was sitting on the couch reading. Rox approached me. She often studied a situation for a long time in order to figure out how to insert herself into it. Sometimes she waited too long and I'd be ready to get up and do something else before she could make her move. This time she acted fast. She alighted quickly onto the arm of the sofa, and then jumped to the back.

She stretched out along the back of the sofa, right behind my head, and started purring.

Time passed. Out of nowhere I felt a foot pressing against my shoulder blade.

"Roxy!" I giggled.

The foot pressed harder.


There are 2 kinds of cats: the cats who wake you up and the cats who wait.

Often I wake up with a paw squeezing the tip of my nose. That would be Saro.

Sometimes I woke up to complete stillness. Usually it would be after a long, heavy sleep. Whoever had already tried to wake me up had long abandoned the project. In this complete tranquility, Rox jumped onto the bed, quiet and cool as a breeze.

Rox walked a few steps toward me, purring. I lifted my head and she smudged my forehead with a kiss. Then, as mysteriously as she arrived, she left.

I got up and followed her to the food bowl. Just a few kibble to top her off.