The Island Theory, a short story

from my short story, “The Island Theory”
jmww, Spring 2014

You know better than I where this is going, perhaps where this has gone.

Maybe this is not a girls’ retreat at all, but a double-wedding weekend (your husband wearing seersucker in Nashville, you in your purple Valentino on Nantucket) or a conference so dense with lectures on ornithology, dental hygiene, maritime law, or the feminist experience in colonial South Africa that dragging your disinterested spouse along would be completely unreasonable, if not justification in and of itself for divorce.

Maybe you are not even a woman married to a man. Maybe you are married to a woman. Maybe you are a man. Maybe you are a man married to a man.

Maybe, though this is riskier, you are the one who stays at home on 23rd Street while your husband goes off on his own man-cation/bachelor party/visit to mother/business trip, and maybe it is in the take-out Indian around the corner that someone calls your name, asks why you are eating alone on a cold Saturday night, asks if you’d like company, but you will not go home to your place, you will not pull your wedding china from the cupboard and sit on the brown leather ottoman. The Island Theory is not effective in conjunction with the Marital Bed.

Maybe it is Hot Ron: six-pack lifeguard at the neighborhood pool, subject of your high school poetry. Maybe it is the Swedish Left, that communist you met in the cinema in Tokyo whose knuckles were like smooth river stones. Maybe it is Julia Fielding, whose body glowed in the moonlight when you went skinny-dipping after prom, whose laugh can knock down walls. Maybe it is someone only you know about: the girl from the bunk above you in that hostel in Venice, the shave-head boy who takes your laundry in.

Whoever it is, you will act first out of altruism, which will mask your underlying self-interest. Hot Ron will find you smoking in the grass beneath the chuppah and ask you for a light. The Swedish Left will drop the notes for his lecture, “Ownership of the Revolution: Mayakovsky’s May First Daydreams in a Bourgeois Armchair,” and you will stoop to collect them. Julia will be short a dollar for the curry, and you will give it to her, she will wonder why you should be eating alone on a cold Saturday night. The person known only to you might be found lying at your feet, hit by a bus, washed up on the beach, in need of the CPR you’re trained in… but that might be going a bit too far.

In the instance of the cancelled airplanes and the snow, you will find Harry Huffman—heavy weight crew ’99, mixed you a drink once at late-night, always smelled of sweat and apples—pacing in front of Ground Transportation, dialing and redialing the 800 number for Delta. Elevator music still pressed to his ear, he will carry on to you about the airline’s inhumane voucher policy, and, when you open your mouth to say something about gas prices and the stipulation in the standard Contract of Carriage about Acts of God, this will come out instead:

“Why don’t you come to the Hilton with me? We have a pre-paid room my girls were supposed to be using, but—” You will wave your hand at the CANCELLED sign.