From The Lighthouse

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The lighthouse outcropping sat across a narrow channel of sea, but the tide was low enough that we might have been able to reach it. Lange said she knew people that had gone over — to what was just barely an island given how close it was to shore. The red and white paint was like Mount Vernon, and everything around the Potomac — perpetually under restoration, fenced off in unrolling frames of green. Her sister — with two kids that make a niece and nephew for an aunt, and a cat hiding upstairs and a bag of chinese fried rice from tee-jays on the center island stove-top — mentioned that it’s the most photographed lighthouse in America, and you’re in Maine, and it’s the thing you go to see, so that is how we end up otherwise here and off the pre-dinner itinerary (readings, rick and morty, rental of car).

I step down from the parking lot and onto the rocks and begin my short hike across the lower tableau, directly to the lighthouse. My shoe slips and my hips follow. Where I first want to make my curved path, closest to the shore line, the parallax just won’t cooperate with the deceptive viscosity of the rockface. I double-back, and make half a dozen attempts on the least odd of the uneven surfaces I can find on dry land. I guide my feet blindly along a crack in the rock line, just beyond the line of the higher tides, and guide the red pixels of the second house into the cross line of the white grid of thirds, impossible to gyroscope steadily between the ground and my hands. I borrow Lange’s larger phone with its second lens and experiment with telephoto compression — closer and stabilized. I immediately notice, instantly, after reviewing the first pass the benefits from having this other lens with me at all times. So obvious that I’m as equally upset as I am excited about it.

My hands are cold, the New England evening contradicting the pink and white tree blossoms ticker taping every path and sidewalk. I grip around this larger black frame again but it’s time to go to dinner so we exchange phones back and after — here’s the funny thing, I don’t have any concept of how long I had her phone — Five minutes? Twenty? However long it was for my single lensed phone to now feel just “OMG it’s so Tiny!” Lange agrees, but warms up in the car and I’m still walking my lines and we probably need to go to meet her boyfriend and neighbors for dinner but none of that seems close enough yet to be late. The sun is still here, I’m still here, maybe the only time I’ll ever be here, as close as I’ll ever be. I walk back up to the parking lot above the rocks, uncertain if I got it.

Higher up and further away, the pavement surface I’d been missing is now under steady feet. And the angle reveals a sunset just smack dab directly in the window. I can move it by moving me, painting the glass in a motion of light. There it is. Instead of waiting for night and the beacon rotation, or brushing against the shore as helplessly as the tide, I revolve gently and carefully, and the light changes.

And there it is — the best right distance.

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Close enough to look the lobster in the eye, to consider it, to order its death, but to then change my mind. The cashier tosses it without looking, backhanded, back into water, the  tail riding over the lip of the tub.

Close enough from New Hampshire to just cross a river. The shipyard was named for Portsmouth but the exit was in Kittery, Maine. There had been nothing in Kittery. Now it served hipster cocktails and complete vinyl record soundtracks and at eight fifteen pm I’m no longer on hold with Fourteen-Fourty to register for the first workshop of the diy mfa and the sunset reaches the jet contrail.

Close enough to feel the water massage her head and the tide bathe her feet, simultaneously. She’d always wanted descend unto the beach at McWay Falls.

And if she got stuck down there they’d fly a helo out and charge her five or ten thousand dollars if she wanted rescue. They do that. Like, credit card over the loudspeaker? People die down there, you know. Doesn’t really sound like a choice. It seems easy to get back up, but it’s not.

I never thought it was safe, or easy. The view felt better from the top of the path, anyway. Because once you let people down there, then there would always be someone down there. Even the footsteps we saw there — just once — felt like mistakes. But maybe I was wrong.

Like a Zeno’s Paradox of direct experience. Always an approach toward an asymptote, never really close enough to have apprehended the thing unless you could somehow become the thing.

 

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