After dinner, I stepped outside onto the small porch that leads off from my kitchen. I draped the black cover back onto the grill and stood for a moment by the railing. It was nighttime, but the haze of the overcast evening trapped a dim gray light over the house. The kitchen light behind me cast a shadow over the garage. Not until I moved my arm back and forth did I realize that the shadow was me, looking like a hulking giant. I began to play with my projection by lifting and lowering my arms, which looked enormous.
Just then, I heard the faintest notes of music. I live alone and am not used to hearing noises around the property other than crickets and the consistent low tone of waves crashing on the beach. The music swelled louder. It was so crystal clear that I thought I could make out the song if I stayed so still that not even my shadow wavered on the roof.
Suddenly, the music grew more distinct and I could hear every part. I knew the song: Jump, Jive and Wail by the Cherry Popping Daddies. It had been 10 years since I last heard that song played. No one listens to that song on full volume unless there’s a party going on. I imagined standing outside of a house, the windows all bright yellow and young women swing dancing, their silhouettes rolling over the shoulders of their partners.
On a Saturday night in any other place in the world, I would be, at that moment, getting dressed to go out for a drink and be with my friends. Here on the Island, though, I was minutes away from finishing the dishes, taking a shower and reading in bed until I fell asleep. But out on the porch the music was running up to my face and kissing me before running away just out of reach. I was in love.
I put on my boots and my warmest jacket and found the last flashlight in the house that was still working. In the daytime, I know the surrounding property well. Everything is nearby, and I have been everywhere. But in the dark, I turned past a low bush and was immediately disorientated. I tried to stick to the dirt roads, walking past neighboring houses quietly so as not to alarm anyone sleeping inside.
The roads and paths were frustrating. Every way seemed to take me farther from the music. For a moment I was lost, then the brush gave way to the still pond and once again, I knew where I was. I heard the earth squish under my boots and turned around. I picked up the sound of the music again, as loud as ever, and followed it back to the road. I came to a house at the end of a long winding dirt path. There were no lights on inside or cars parked in the driveway. The music was swelling louder than ever before. I sang along with the song and let myself get that Saturday night feeling again.
Once I was positive that no one was home, I turned off the flashlight and crept around the side of the house. I hopped up onto the deck of the house and stood staring across the water line. The only light I could see was so far in the distance it must have been miles away. I looked around confused, not knowing where the music came from. The wind picked up and I heard in the distance another familiar song. Then the wind died down, and all was quiet save the crickets and waves.
I turned around and went home.
On my way back, the music died out almost completely, but then, as I stood once more on my kitchen porch, it suddenly grew loud again. I looked out at my shadow, looming large across the driveway and up onto the white garage doors. I was a giant once more until I went inside and climbed the stairs to bed.
Gazette contributor Timothy Stanley lives in New York city and Chilmark.