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  • Writer's pictureCole Grissom

F is for...Fire Island

I sat on the ferry as we pulled off the dock, remembering the day I arrived. I was expecting something magical. I’d heard so much about this mystical land where gays frolicked in tiny speedos, reveling in debauchery from dawn to dusk. It was an alternate reality where time stops and Dionysus rules. A place that intimidated and excited me.

I looked back on where I was, mentally, when I arrived, wishing I’d known the spiraling of my life would influence my decisions—ultimately allowing others to make them for me. I think… I couldn’t have been in a good place with as much as I was drinking, but what was I supposed to do? Not go? I was yearning for something to help me forget. I guess I found it.

I tried to process what happened as the physical distance between me and the island grew. Unfortunately, something about the way the sun reflected off the dock blinded my memories. It shielded the details and enhanced my confusion. I couldn’t remember if I’d dreamt the pills falling from my friend’s pocket—hours before anything went awry. I was unsure whether or not staying silent as I watched him scoop them up off the floor was the right choice. The light kept me from seeing that my reaction could have changed everything. Protest could have saved me from the following weeks—months—filled with anger and fear. The reflection drowned out the ghosts—blinding my faded innocence from sight. Something about the shimmering fantasy distracted from the harsh edges of my reality, hiding the traps that’d been set and sprung. It hid the shame and the unknown, the mysterious stains and the disappearance of my facilities. It tucked my lost consciousness deftly from sight, camouflaging it among the shrubbery. It lulled my senses into submission and refused to let me see the enemy. If only the same sun hadn’t blinded me when I arrived.

The taste from my iced coffee muted the lingering drinks. The ones that started by the pool and continued into the night, ending...I’m not sure. The coffee masked the taste of whatever was hiding in those drinks. At least, whatever I think was hiding. That’s the hardest part...I don’t know. My friend mixed my cocktails out of eye-shot, away from everyone else. It continued as he ‘accidentally’ ordered extra drinks, which suddenly became mine—my responsibility to drink. I wasn’t sober. I had too many drinks that night. But—something didn’t taste right. Something wasn’t right. The iced coffee masked any way back to the truth. I think I was happier that way.

It was the sound from the deafening engine that drowned out the screaming voices in my head—the ones trying to figure out what happened during the lost hours, begging for an explanation that made sense. I don’t remember what was said that night—or even who said it. It was black. Not grey or filled with flashes—black. It was like it didn’t exist. I did remember the angry words from my friend each night leading up to the event, however. He must have been high the first night—he was vicious and predatory the way he leered after boys. He was furious no one would fuck him. He was aghast when I forgot to buy him a drink and threw a tantrum a day later as he stormed out of dinner, jealous I’d befriended his people. But all these sounds blended together as I drifted further away. Reason left me and I couldn’t piece together the truth. I don’t know that the truth is anymore—how I got here. The sounds blended and mixed into a cacophony of confusion. I am lost.

The feel of the hard plastic seats was the only thing to ground me. They reminded me of the hard bench I woke up on that morning. As I stood, confused, euphoric, trying to get my bearings, everything was familiar and foreign at the same time. We’d stood there and waited for the water taxi the night before. It was one of the last touchpoints before the world began to fade away, but I don’t know how I got back there. I don’t know how I didn’t fall into the water, feet away from where I was left. I don’t know why I was outside. I don’t know why my throat and rectum were dilated. I have no idea what happened. The plastic of the ferry seats did little to calm me and more to churn up the questions that had been silenced by my other senses. I needed to feel this reality. I couldn’t rely on my memory—I needed something tangible. I needed to surround myself with facts vs conjecture.

The facts:

I came to Fire Island to visit my lover.

I had a wonderful few days where I must have made someone uncomfortable—upset.

I didn’t see all of my drinks being made my final night on the island.

I have never blacked out like this.

I have no memory of anything midway through the water taxi ride at 10pm until I woke up at 5am.

I woke up on a bench on the dock where the water taxi picks up.

There were intense amounts of drugs in my system.

My throat and my body were dilated.

I have no idea what happened to me.

I floated away on that ferry a shell of the human I was when I arrived. I don’t know how to get back there. I don’t know if I want to go back there. All I know is that everything is different. Some days that’s better. Other days, I yearn for the simplicity of a Rosè on a warm summer evening. I was clueless to the monsters that walked among the living—the ones who set fire to the island.


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