I went to Fire Island yesterday so I’m thinking I’ll write something about it. I haven’t been to the actual Fire Island in years. I went during a field trip in elementary school. We walked along these wooden paths that led to a beach where we could collect seashells. I also remember walking around with socks over my pants to avoid getting ticks.
This trip was a little different. There was no alcohol involved back in first grade. We didn’t collect seashells either. Disclaimer: this is not about the real Fire Island.
I was banished to Fire Island for reasons I’m not yet ready to explain. I’m not the only one here. This isn’t a Robinson Crusoe situation, but none of us are quite ready to band together either. We were all banished because we couldn’t fit in with society. Our actions were most likely caused by us not being able to adjust. They see this as punishment, and it can be, but we’re human; we learned to adapt.
There’s nothing to do on the island. We sit around and stare at each other from a distance. No one has what it takes to introduce themselves, which is ironic because all of us are capable of what They see as the worst crimes imaginable.
I recognize one or two people from the news. One murdered his wife after finding her in bed with another guy. He made the other guy watch. Two is the other guy, who could never get over what happened to the woman he thought he loved. She told him she was single, that they’d be together at some point. He became distrustful, traumatized by the murder, and relieved the pressure by committing those same crimes.
Doctors say that these kinds of crimes typically inspire others to do the same; however, when everyone who’s committing these crimes is banished to Fire Island, they all keep to themselves and live in harmony with one another knowing, of course, they could be brutally murdered in their sleep if they get on anyone’s bad side.
At the end of the day, all we want as a species is to keep going–even those of us who crave the rush of slitting another man’s throat and watching the blood spurt out so violently, but pool around the still-twitching body so effortlessly. Sorry.
No one tries to escape. There’s nowhere to go. Everyone’s known about Fire Island for years and years and years. They tell us as children about Fire Island. They engrain in our minds how horrible a place it is. I wonder who the first to spread rumors about it was. No one has ever escaped; no one guards us; no one ever sees Fire Island except for us.
My hands were shackled, my eyes blindfolded, my body tossed into a skiff. I laid on my side and felt every bump of the waves. Thinking about the cold I felt as the wind hit my soaking body can make me shiver on the hottest days. If I moved, I was hit and kicked. If I flinched from the beating, I was hit harder. If I didn’t react, I was hit for not flinching. I heard the voices of two men go back and forth about when to make me swim for it. They were afraid of getting too close. “They might try to take our boat,” reasoned one.
Fear is the single-best motivator and source of life. No one appreciates life until they fear it might be lost. The ones who don’t fear death are the ones to worry about. If we didn’t do what we did, if They only see us as monsters instead of lessons, maybe we wouldn’t be banished to Fire Island, left to our own devices, objects of their own murderous imaginations. They all think we murder and eat each other, or hold gladiatorial matches to weed out the weak.
I see the fire coming. The hills are filled with shrubs and tall, dead grass. People in the distance are running to the beach. The fires come whenever they want. No one knows how they start, but they do. We’re subject to the flames. They roll up and down the hills swallowing everything whole–until nothing but the bones of the island are exposed to the air where seeds in the charred soil are released from their own prisons and can begin again.