SUNNY DAYS ON THE ISLAND by KIKI SHAW
I have been on the island ninety-seven days now. There wasn’t much else to do but count the days on the calendar, and when I looked around for somebody to inform, they had all left me alone on the kitchen floor.
At the beginning of all this, when the days were still numbered, I tried my best to write to you. I’m sorry I fell out of the habit; you see, here on the island the sun bleeds into itself as it sets and rises and the mornings stretch on and on until I fall asleep. It is not ideal. Everybody here, by now, has come to this conclusion.
Somehow the money I remember bringing with me to the island has gone. Where it went, I couldn’t tell you, although I am certain I have spent it on something. All I can remember buying, though, is a new pair of sandals, which I pretend I will be able to wear out when this ends. Nobody has stolen it, I am certain of that. What I am uncertain of, though, is whether I will ever leave the island. At least, I tell myself, these sandals are worn in for next summer.
I push away the knowledge that this will be the last proper summer I would have got. Everyone is leaving in the next year or so, and I don’t think I’ll get them back.
Perhaps this is just like all other summers, and the anomaly was last year. I hardly remember the summers that came before I met them, though I know they must have happened. I think I know that, at least. What did I do all that time? Couldn’t leave, couldn’t sleep. What did I do?
I have asked the others, and they said I read. Since then I have forgotten how to do that. There are shrines built to words piled up on my bedroom floor, and I don’t know how to read anymore.
“Don’t worry about that,” they said to me when I pointed this out. “You should be using this time to be productive.”
“Productive how?” I said.
“Work out. Finish your homework. Learn to bake. Start a business. Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine.”
I am no Shakespeare, and I have no homework. School is over and done with. It shouldn’t ought to be over and done with, yet somehow, the deal we struck five years ago was broken. These were the days I had yearned for and worked hard for, and now they are so suddenly over, and I miss the pain of working. It is quite ridiculous. Now at last I have what I prayed for and I am nothing but ungrateful. I should be using this time to be productive - after all, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine.
My sister has been trying to bake lately. She has become quite proficient at it by now, although her first attempts would not suggest such talent. The banana bread she made lacked flour.
We have, unfortunately, run out of video games to play together, as we finished them all when we were children, perhaps somewhere around day seventy-five. Now all we do is we sit with the door closed on one another swiping and scrolling and snapping whenever interrupted. I miss the video games.
Being productive, as they say, is something I miss. I would never again do anything to produce something, though. It would be difficult, and people would ask what I am doing, and it would cost money. The money that has disappeared from my bank account to pay for the sandals that I will now have to wait until next year to wear. So productivity is no longer a goal.
Instead, I have been trying to make new friends, which proves difficult when you live on an island with only four and a half people. Despite this, I found somebody - a boy - who dyed his hair no fewer than three times in the ninety-three days we have been stuck here. I wished I had considered that. He passed through my island for an hour, I think, and his company was good (unless I am just missing company). He has since been ignoring my pleas for him to return.
“If he doesn’t want to come back,” the others told me, “you are better off staying here with us anyway.”
They are probably right. But still, I will send him three more signals, and maybe three more after that, and then another three, before I give up hope. All I need to do is package myself in the correct way and make people know I am here, on this island, and they will flock to me. Or so I have been told.
“Why are you always chasing impossible people?” They ask me.
“I don’t know,” I told them. “I think we would get on well.”
“What if you don’t? What if he really is ignoring you?”
“He doesn’t owe me anything.”
“You don’t owe him anything, either.”
This is true. But I will keep trying anyway. If they are going to fly away, I will need to catch somebody else to live with me on my island.
“Perhaps,” I say aloud to myself, “perhaps I should be using this time to be more productive.” I am out, and the rain has not come yet. Whether it will arrive tonight or in another eight days is a mystery to me, and so I speak only to the infinite sun I remember from midsummer. “You know, they told me Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine. Perhaps I could write King Lear. After all, if they don’t want to come back, I am better off remaining here. We owe each other too much, either way.”
The blinding nighttime sun has always been more indiscernible than the rain. Perhaps it is nodding, and perhaps it is silent.
I look out across the planes of my island, every nook and cranny now explored and charted. The hundredth day is fast approaching. Perhaps then it will be time to search for a new island.