Phillip drives a Pontiac Catalina almost the exact shade of blue as my former Plymouth Fury was. I can’t help but feel a pang for my old car as I climb into it;it smells faintly of vanilla. The seats are made of white leather.
He drives smoothly past farmhouses, silos, corn fields and soybean fields; the road before us unrolls like a spool of black thread, briefly illuminated by the headlights of the car. Above us: the stars and the moon. The anxiety, which has plagued me since the moment I stepped off the ferry onto Adermoor Cove, is gone. I haven’t felt this relaxed since the day Tony and I went to see Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
“You’re awfully quiet,” Phillip says.
“I’m just...calm. I haven’t felt this calm in so long.”
“I’m relieved to hear you say that.”
I let my gaze become transfixed on the lighthouse drifting closer and closer. It was just as beautiful during the night as it was the day I saw it from the ferry, perhaps even more so in an eerie kind of way, with the windows shadowed out. Do you ever go up to the top and look out the waves? I want to ask him. Do you ever get to see the dolphins leap up out of the water? But I don’t want to ruin the moment by asking questions. I just want to enjoy it. Because there’s something happening here. I can sense it as I’ve always sensed it when I’m around him: events coming together, colliding with each other as they were meant to. And like me I know he’s different; like me I know he’s lonely. I can sense the loneliness here in the car, coating everything like a residue. I can sense the empty space needing to be filled.
He pulls up to the front of the house, the tower jutting up towards the sky on our right, the dark hulk of a barn on our left. As we get out of the car he tells me the lighthouse was built by Agamemnon Angelopoulos, a business entrepreneur from Greece. “He pretty much built this town,” says Phillip as we climb up the porch steps. “He built this lighthouse and The Clam’s Pearl. He even had a hand in the fishing industry. Without him this little island wouldn’t be as booming as it is. His wife sold it to me in 1949.”
“You’ve lived here ten years?”
He nods, pulling out his keys from his briefcase. They jingle, the sounds mixing in with the crash of the waves, making an odd sort of music.
“Where are you originally from?”
“Massachusetts.” “I have a brother in Florida. He just had a daughter, my niece.”
He opens the door and gestures for me to step inside.
The moment I step inside a wave of deja vu, much like the one I felt upon first seeing Phillip, hits me like a balled up fist. I look around the sparsely furnished living room, the fireplace, the TV, the white curtains. I haven’t been here before, I tell myself. I’ve never been here before just like I’ve never met Phillip before I came to Adermoor Cove. But the feeling is unshakable.
Part of me feels enchanted by the place: by the look and feel of it.
Another part of me is repelled. That part want to run away from the lighthouse as fast as I can.
I turn to Phillip and smile. I have to actually look up just to be able to look him in the eye. “Wow,” I say.
“You haven’t seen the rest of it,” he says.
Phillip gives me the tour of the lighthouse: First he takes me through the dining room and kitchen and then upstairs. There’s three bedrooms, one which he uses as a guest room, another which he uses as his study. Again it strikes me he isn’t married and doesn’t have any children. I’ve noticed there’s no pictures of family around except for his parents, a picture of his younger brother and his daughter...but no children of his own.
Now we’re in the master bedroom and I’m facing the window, with a perfect unobstructed view of the ocean. The waves glitter like black liquid-obsidian.
“I picked this bedroom strictly for the view,” Phillip says.
“I can see why,” I tell him. Everything has taken on a surreal, dream-like quality. It’s all so strange, this place, this...lighthouse. Being alone with Phillip, in his bedroom of all places. A speculative silence has grown between us and I can feel him draw closer. I close my eyes. I turn to away from the window to face him. He’s standing so close to me now it’s unreal. Is this really happening? I ask myself, because I think I have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen - and yet I can’t fully bring myself to believe it. This can’t really be happening...can it?
Phillip doesn’t look like he believes it’s happening either, even as he takes my face in both his hands and leans forward: His eyes are wide behind his glasses and his Adam’s Apple bobs up and down as he swallows nervously.
What’s happening here? I think. What are we doing?
“You can’t tell anyone about this,” he says.
“I won’t,” I say.
And then his lips touch mine and I feel as if my feet have left the ground, like I’m being jerked up into the sky and into the open air. I can’t remember the last time I felt such exhilaration and need. The drugs I take made it damn near impossible for me to keep an erection but it doesn't mean I can’t feel desire in other ways: like the quickening thuds in my heart, the way my breath seemed to cut short, the tingling sensation passing through my flesh when he touched me or ran his fingers through my hair.
He picks me up and sets me on the bed, his lips pressing down on mine gently yet firmly. He helps me peel off my jacket and I take off his glasses and set them carefully on the bedside table. We both kick off our shoes. Our combined weight makes the bed sag slightly in the middle. His hands, so large and warm, are everywhere: reaching underneath my skin, touching me everywhere. It seems in no time at all we’re both completely undressed. His penis presses into my thigh, hard and pulsing and hot. All the pent up need that’s been building up between us has broken loose and is circling around the room like a cyclone.
After I straddle him and work his erection with my mouth and taste his semen on my tongue , he’s back on top. He reaches into the bedside table and pulls out a condom and tin of vaseline.
“Slide it on,” he says, breathing heavily. I can feel his shoulder blades, pronounced against the palm of my hand. I manage to slide the condom onto his penis as he opens the tin of vaseline. His fingers, slick and cold with the vaseline, touch my hole and I gasp despite myself.
“Sorry,” he says apologetically.
“No - I want this. I want this so bad.”
“Me too. I’ve wanted you for a while now.”
The next moments is like taking every excruciating day I’ve spent in Adermoor Cove and turning inside out: The accumulation of all the pain and fury and confusion I’ve felt. On this night, being with Phillip, feeling him inside of me, his sweaty body on top of mine - it seemed worth it.
It was worth it.
I started awake with a shudder. I shoot up into a sitting position and look around, confused, frightened. Where am I? Who is that lying into bed next to me? What was the loud sound I just heard?
It’d sounded like a gunshot.
I look over the shape lying on the bed.
I’d fallen asleep in his bed. Shit, oh shit! What were Uncle Bo and Aunt Tilda going to think? Then I remember I don’t care what they think. Tonight has been a magical night - I didn’t think I’d experience anything quite like it again.
I get the distinct feeling someone’s watching me. Someone is watching me. I look over and feel my heart stop. A man is standing in the doorway of Phillip’s bedroom and he’s looking right at me. I feel my blood turn to ice. He’s older than me, maybe in his early-to-mid thirties. His hair is the same color as mine, a light golden brown. He’s wearing a tuxedo: a white shirt underneath a black jacket with a black bowtie on the neck. The shirt is now mostly red. Blood, I think. That’s blood.
I look at where the source of the blood is coming from: His forehead. There’s a bullet hole there, framed with blood. The bullet hole looks back at me like a bloody black eye. Then I look into his eyes. Another cold chill goes up my spine: Because whoever this man is staring at me - he looks like what I’ll look like in ten years. He has my eyes, my nose, the shape of my face, my lips. All of it. The only difference is his face is thinner and his hair is styled different: all slicked back so that it seems to cover his skull. I slick my hair back but mine is a little longer on top.
I don’t know what to do: If I should wake up Phillip or close my eyes and see if when I open them this is nothing more than a dream. But I do none of these things. I simply can’t. We just stare at each other, as still as statues. He’s the first to speak:
“You must leave this place.” His voice sounds echoey, as if it’s traveling down a long tube.
Blood starts to drip from the bullet hole in his forehead: It drips down the narrow bridge of his nose, down his lip, past his chin, down the nape of his throat.
Who shot you? I want to ask. Who the hell are you? What are you doing here? I want to say: You better get out of here before I wake up Phillip. Instead I ask, “Why?”
“This place is cursed,” he says. “It consumed me. You should leave before it consumes you too.”
Then he turns around and walks away. I do the stupidest thing to do in a situation like this and follow him. I have to see if he’s really there or if I’m just dreaming...or hallucinating or whatever this is. I reach the doorway and come to a step.
He’s gone as if he’d never been there before.
Or maybe he was a ghost. I’m open-minded enough to believe in those things. How can I believe in God but not in ghosts?
But his words are not gone. I can still hear them in my head: You must leave this place...is cursed...It consumed me. You should leave before it consumes you too.
There’s only one thing I’m certain of: It’s an omen. Whether a figment of my imagination, my own damaged psyche or a ghost, the man told me what I’ve known deep down ever since I stepped off the ferry: If I don’t leave Adermoor Cove then I’ll die here. And I don’t want to die here. I’d rather die in the trash-filled gutters of New York City then die in this God forsaken.
I look at his sleeping form and feel only love for him. I don’t want to leave him. But I have to. I have enough money saved up I can catch the ferry to New York. I can leave this place, find a job when I get there, get my own place, start over. I can call Gwen when I get there and have her explain to him why I left.
Maybe he’ll understand…maybe…
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, quietly grabbing my clothes off the floor. Being careful not to make a sound I slip quietly into the night and begin to head in the direction of home.