On Block Island in the off-season, the gas station closes at three and sometimes two in the afternoon. I was there at five of the hour. I waited. The attendant came out on the dot and said the pumps were closed. I said, “I have been waiting.” He said, “I didn’t see you.” That was Cliff, Jr. I was so mad I came back the next day and ordered one dollar of gas, just to be annoying. He said, “I won’t sell you one dollar of gas.” I said, “Then alright, two.” He said, “That won’t get you very far.” Which was technically correct because his is the only gas station on the island. I got my gas, and when I had gone the distance that less than half of a gallon will take you I had no choice but to ask my patient husband to go and get some more. Eventually, I had to go back, hoping Cliff wouldn’t remember, which was unrealistic, given the size of our island, but he never said anything and I didn’t either.
He was watching the Red Sox game last week. People in his house said they could hear him shouting at all the big moments. His wife went to bed and he stayed up to watch the replays. In the morning she found him dead in his chair. He was 50 years old. He has left two young children.
I went to the funeral yesterday. I think the whole island came. The school bus was there, having brought all the children from school. All his buddies were there. They said he was generous, that he'd help them when he was tired, that he never wanted any thanks for anything. His grave is in a little valley, and all the people, they just filled that valley. On the way out I stopped at other graves. People can still leave things for their people in our cemetery. There were candles and seashells and notes, and toys and other things.
I went out last night to take pictures. It was a little cold. It was getting dark, so I got my tripod and did longer and longer night-time exposures. I kept thinking of Cliff. The tide was coming in… sliding in on such a quiet night. Every so often I would look down and see my feet were standing in water. I used my new wide-angle lens. Every lens is like a language. It sees things in a certain way, different from other lenses, and different from people. The same goes for these long time exposures. They catch the little light that we can barely see and multiply it over and over.
It was good to give my mind a rest. I could look through my camera, listen for birds, breathe the cool air, hear the waves from the other side of the island, watch Wilson and Molly play all around me and wait for the light to change.
This is for Cliff, Jr.