It Takes a Village

17 Dec

Yesterday afternoon, I went down to Zillie’s to write about my shopping demise and after finishing my thoughts, I ran into Dolores and John, ex FBI agents. They are a lovely couple, and after quite a few glasses of wine, they began to tell story after story. Their experiences are so intense, so heart wrenching, so inspiring. I’m coming to know everyone by name, and this transition of being accepted by the community as if I actually live here is pretty amazing. Scott, the long term substitute teacher was there along with quite a few other O’cockers, as they are called. There is a delicate balance between transplants to this community and those born and bred here, the native accent is unmistakable.

I listen here much more than I do at home. Their stories fascinate me; I feel included in a way that I haven’t since childhood family dinners. The narratives roll out and I think, where have I been all these years? Dolores told me about arresting a man in a crack house in DC; small frightened children in rooms were screaming while they tried to clear them to find a suspect. And then of finding a pit bull puppy locked in one of the rooms, collar grown into its neck. She cuddled it only to find that when the animal warden arrived, the pup would have to be euthanized. No pit bulls allowed in D.C. As she told the story, the pain of having to let this puppy go, knowing that it would be killed, began to bloom in her spirit. I sat and simply listened in acknowledgment of her experience. The brutal removal of the one bit of innocence in a corrupt dysfunctional world of drugs and crime had to be re-negotiated in her understanding. But she told me and in my listening, we connected.

I met an older man, Kenny, who was so funny and friendly. Later, I ran into him at the Topless Oyster where the community gathers for its annual Christmas party. And I’m pretty sure I was the only tourist in attendance, taking photos, listening to stories. Mr Rogers was right. Everyone has a story and they are all so important to acknowledge. I don’t know really how to explain the party except that everyone comes, brings a dish, and then the owner puts out a keg. After that’s gone, people start buying drinks and that’s when the real party starts. As the only outsider, everyone is quite curious about what I’m doing here, who I am. I have become the English teacher, who is writing a travel blog, and working on some historical fiction and taking care of Annie in the Fulcher cemetery. I’m Cyndi, the writer, the gal in the coffee shop in the mornings. I am not Miss Kelley. You have no idea how beautiful it is to hear your first name, over and over. As if it were so obvious that’s who you always were. Most people don’t realize what its like to be called by a formal name for 18 years. Miss Kelley is not . . .me.

And so I have met all these amazing people this week. I had already met Marcus, Kenny’s godson at Trivia Night on Tuesday; he’s so sweet. He rode past me Tuesday night on his bicycle while I was taking Clarence to potty and he yelled, ” H’lo! Cyndi! There’s the dog!” Peter, who works for the local realty company is so delightful; he talked with me liked he’d always known me. As I photographed him sharing a shot with Brooke and Finkle,  I could see the strands that hold this place together. I haven’t seen ties like these since college. It’s as if the whole town is one large senior class. One older fisherman, who had attempted to chat me up despite the fact that, combined with his inebriation and his O’cocker accent, I had no idea what he was saying, floated around me all evening.

At one point, he asked one of my new friends, “Is she yer wu-man?”

I had to tell him, “No, dear, I belong to me…”. That was a brilliant moment.

“I luv an in-dee-pendunt..wuman” His response was just priceless.

If there was any doubt that the Universe was leading me here, there is NO doubt in my mind now. Sometimes, a friend arrives at just the right time. And that friend was another Kenny. Friday night at the Jazz show at Gaffer’s , I was grafted into a conversation with several ladies and we chatted in group for a bit. He seemed so nice and genuinely fun. After our conversation at the Christmas party for over an hour, I discovered that he left a corporate job to move to the Hatteras area to seek authenticity in his life. To “be”. He quit a successful career to seek a more fulfilling life of simplicity. Every sentiment I have been contemplating this week  about learning that the value of life comes from connection to others, about giving to oneself first and then to the world, about authenticity and deep inner peace, he repeated, sometimes with the very same phrasings. We even discussed a love of Rumi and at that moment I knew without a doubt that we were destined to meet and to be friends. He said to me, “You know, when I saw you sitting there at the bar by yourself, enjoying the jazz, I thought…that’s a woman who owns herself, who is complete. I thought, I have to talk to her.” I know we will keep in touch, even though he lives far away. He is ahead of me on this journey, and his encouraging words meant so much. At the end of the conversation he looked at me and said, “So, when are you moving here?” I can’t tell you how much I want to do that. How confused, in a good way, I am about the way my life is changing. When Kenny had to go catch the ferry, we hugged and he said, “Namaste, my friend” How I found him, I’ll never know.

Then, as I enjoyed watching and then dancing to the Rockers a local band, I met another man. This connection was definitely one that reaffirmed that indeed I may not be solo for the rest of my life. It was grand to chat, to dance and even to be affectionate. Our meeting was quite sweet, respectful, and unencumbered by expectations, but brief like the old image of two ships. I loved the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled, and there was a real tenderness there. This morning, when I went to the coffee shop, he was already there. He engaged me in conversation and asked me for my contact info. And then, even though I didn’t assume anything from the previous night’s dancing and chatting, he came over to where I was writing, smiled, opened his arms, and gave me a genuine hug. I’ll probably not ever see him again, but it matters not. The moment was what was most important. That night, in conversation with everyone, and in holding hands and quiet connection with a kind man, I felt a part of this community. I felt as if I belonged somehow. The possibility of place. I began to fall in love with a new me.

So in coming to love this community, I have learned how to listen and to love myself all over again. I will strive to be my most authentic self everyday. It is what keeps me grounded, alive. For love is simple. Principle One.

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