At the Crown Bay Marina, people with different eastern European accents speaking in English to each other, two young men without shirts walking past, speaking of “the time we were in Mexico,” the boats in the slips bobbing in the wake of ferries to Water Island and the chop raised by the wind. Gertrude Stein wrote of Oakland, “There is no there there.” Which made perfect sense to me in Oakland, I hate to confess. There must be some there, somewhere. Here, there is only there—somewhere else. Here is a tableau, a few salient details that make up a reason to move on, a reason to return. All is in readiness.
The university library is renovating, removing from their collection titles like the Tzotzil Dictionary, Raising Beef Cattle, and Sheet-Metal Pattern Drafting and Shop Problems, Revised, with its architectural font and unusual shape. I find Migrants,Sharecroppers, Mountaineers and El Reino de Este Mundo, Alejo Carpentier’s 1967 poetic retelling of the story of the Haitian Revolution. (“What is the story of the Americas if not a chronicle of the magical real?” he asks, in the Prólogo.)
We recently got a post office box here in St. Thomas. I went to the Emancipation Gardens Station downtown, in which I found murals from the early forties depicting St. Thomas as it was then—or, as the artist imagined—the green hills uncluttered by cement houses, and, atop the curve of pale sand that the cruise ship docks replaced, a pyramid of cannon balls and a cannon, aimed, perhaps incidentally, at a Cunard Line steamer in the distance. It is beautiful. There were no post office boxes available there, and the clerk informed me that I would have to establish residency (at least six months) in order to get one. She was wrong, but thoroughly convincing; I had already noticed that this was a rarefied place, not for those who simply wander in off the street, entranced by the image of Emancipation Gardens. When I finally succeeded in getting an address—in the Crown Bay Marina, site of transience—Tallulah and I boarded the Safari and headed straight downtown again to the local library to claim borrowing privileges. In the children’s section I found more discarded books with titles like Careers in a Supermarket, Careers in a Restaurant and Careers in Construction, published in the mid-seventies, which hadn’t been checked out in years. The schools in Careers in Education look just like the schools I attended back in Portland, Oregon. I surreptitiously stuffed them into my bag, though the librarian had said we were “entitled to at least two.” I treasure their sans serif font and deadpan illustrations. We read them to Tallulah, adding plenty of subtext.