One feature of the tidewater, Tom, which I could and probably will tell you to your pornstachioed face today, is there’s always, always a ton of moisture in the air. I feel it in the way I feel the creepy electricity passing through my skull in a Verizon store. And on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, even in the midsummer heat, the sky clear and blowtorch blue, it really feels like it could rain at any moment. Like it could, and should, storm. So in my mind, when I’m here, there’s always a chance of precipitation, of immediate change.
But this is probably wishful thinking, because not much happens on Chincoteague. Or, to us—to modern, capable, mustachioed men, and to recently demi-tachioed men such as myself—who are riding high on the techno wave that’s inundated what was once wilderness with wifi, not much seems to happen here. But really, it’s just that our sensors have fallen into desuetude. And we definitely need to guard against this, this lack of respect for the incremental, because here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the wilderness is never far.
I’m writing this from the shed in our garden, mooching wifi from the unguarded “Wilson” network next door while Tropical Depression Beryl idly drums her fingernails on the thin roof above me. The rain today seems a welcome reprieve from the ninety-degree temps earlier this week, but gentlemen of Zoe House, I warn you: this means trouble. See, while Tom and Will can grow full-on beards and mustaches and so on, I, three months shy of thirty, still can’t readily muster waves of cellular death to my cheeks, and if I want facial hair I have to settle for a sparse, boyband stubble. But I like to think this actually means I have a more fertile face than your average adult male, a face where cells thrive, a garden—like Chincoteague, a refuge.
But I’ve recently tried shaping up a mustache. It looks Frenchy, though, and I only have one striped shirt, so it’s only looked right once. The rest of the time it looks like I’ve been drinking chocolate milk. Plus, the mustache is wispy and only appears in special light. A mothtache. But the mothtache, while faint, fickle, and decidedly French, has its virtues—namely, its antennae-like sensitivity. And these past few days, it’s really been tweaking, guys.
When I was last on the island, almost exactly a year ago, I took my girlfriend Elizabeth for a romantic sunset bike ride through the wildlife refuge, a plastic bag with our picnic supplies swinging from my handlebars, the Tupperware inside thumping my knee. But no sooner had we dismounted than we were covered—covered—with mosquitoes. They were in my nose. No problem, I said, bringing the full force of my insect knowledge to bear on this problem, We’re in the marsh now, and it’s moist, so we can just bike another mile out to the shore, where the dry breeze and salty air will surely save us. But the mosquitoes were there, too, in force, all the way down to the water. So we fled, back to the main island, passing through vast clouds of mosquitoes that clogged our ears, eyes, and noses if we slacked any on the pace. I’m convinced they could have killed us, through suffocation. I’m sure it happened at least once to early settlers here. So we ate our picnic in a nearby McDonald’s, where I met an HVAC guy from Delaware.
When asked, the locals noted it rained heavily a few days before our picnic, which precipitated this phenomenon they called “The Hatch.” So now I’m looking at you, Beryl, the slow passage of your soggy haunches over the island. My mothtache is vibrating sympathetically.
Roger is a composition teacher at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He's working on his first novel, and would like to tell you all about it.