There is only one house on the island. There is no one else here.
The wood floors are deeply grained and textured. Decade by decade, sandy feet rub through layers of paint. The wear patterns go back almost 100 years, when the house was a small hotel. A topography of time.
A path from the kitchen is worn to bare wood. Most worn by the door that leads to the dock and the marsh. Also by the stove and sink. In front of the fireplace. Same at the door that leads to the porch and the beach beyond.
The paths dissipate, alternating up through layers of white and gray paint as you move deeper into the house. In corners of the far bedrooms – down a long hall, behind doors still numbered 1 through 8 – the paint is fresh as the day it dried.
There are other layers, overlaid on the map. Everything inside the house came from a yard sale or thrift shop, orphans brought here to live out the rest of their days. Each piece of furniture a different style from a different era. The drapes on every window unique. Every lamp, and there are many, is different from every other.
The stainless flatware, cooking knives, utensils, bowls and plates, pots and pans, glasses and coffee mugs – all leftovers, the last remaining ancestors of former families. New items stand out, left behind by more recent guests – a fancy wine opener, a plastic cooler sporting an Outer Banks logo. They look odd in the same kitchen with a pink flowered tea saucer, dowager of a china wedding set from the 40’s.
Items abandoned by visitors over the years include: beach chairs, umbrellas, kites, shovels and pails, floats, etc..
Things made by visitors and left behind:
1. A wind chime made with sea glass, driftwood and fishing line.
2. A door knocker made from an old fishing lure, the hooks removed.
3. A watercolor, rust stained in its frame, of the marsh view to the north.
The island of misfit toys.
Holes in the porch screens are patched with tape of different colors, mended at different times.
The old water tower still stands sentry. The tank and windmill long gone, but in their place an osprey nest, and if you climb the rusty ladder to the top, there’s a stunning 360 degree view over the marshes to the west and the Bay to the east, from horizon to horizon.
It all goes together somehow, it all belongs here, salvaged, carried home from a walk on the beach, like seashells and driftwood.