Bloodhounds are said to be unstoppable once they pick up a scent. The definition of instinct: unable to control, unable to differentiate between gut and mind at the moment of impression. Jacob is bloodhound-like; limber tanned legs and arms, orby eyes to match the somber earth, his somber round face. Single-minded, too, some might think, but there is nothing to carry him beyond Somnambulist animation; his father, a seasoned rolling stone of his time and not an anchor, his mother caring for elder sister’s kid states away because his sister has never gotten her shit together, can’t cope with living (an inherited gene from the pool-line) miles and miles away. No bodies to chain the canine to.
The way Jacob becomes fixated on the scent of dying salt under layers of waves is synonymous with how a bloodhound only needs two skin cells to become fixated on a track with golden eyes staring through fences, shacks, palms to see into scent, silent. With the weather channel forecasting wildfires, thin red flags are visible, wagging down the Florida-Georgia line. Plumes makes a black welcome sign in the north. He inhales the scorched scent, air thick with burning bark, miles of looming white cedars.
Now that college courses are scraping by, friends from before seem stuck in the past, only caring for the “good old days” of sticking two-liter bottles in toilet tanks to fill with weed, strung out in bathroom stalls, house parties. The peers begin to wink out like stars. First it is his cousin Blake, 24, over-dose, they say. Then it is his buddy Scott, 28, accidental over-dose, the papers write. When it is soul-brother Charles, 25, unexpectedly, a four a.m. buzzing came from Jacob’s cell phone at the side table.
A different friend: “A quick needle over-dose in California. ——— was with him. Told me it went Pulp Fiction… Sorry, man. You guys were the closest.”
A muffled, “Thanks. Thanks, yeah.” A skeleton thumb pushing, screen tap, hang-up. Jacob has to think of the last time, but the reel he last saw Char in is a blur, choppy: murmurs of cicada warning, fan rattling from a porch ceiling, some string of lights falling behind dark faces… Too many faces to impress around party town, the pressure of having fun, of taking what is offered (it’s only etiquette), of feeling something, came in too high a load this time. Jacob can see Char’s lake-sand razor-cut hair sweeping whatever pocked-up piece of gutted furniture he was slumping against, or the small apartment room, not sleeves scrunched up, no doubt in a black T-Shit advertising some band like Silverstein or Say Anything. There is always foam covering half of a face, the other half of foam covering whatever surface the face has landed on. The details don’t matter. The nights and Pulp Fiction no longer feel the same.
Funny, how all this winking out happens when Jacob is not around, but he always is around when the dazing hours come, more frequently with sun cycles grinding along. Quickly the days begin to grind to atoms. The island, he realizes, is cursed. Breathing in the angel’s share, breathing in for years and years is bound to be toxic to the mind. This island is laden with bones of conquistadors who washed up with Ponce de Leon, ashed of a wooden city mixed with soot, English battalions blasted to silt. “Fountain of Youth” only with the youth this cage immortalizes. Any reassurance these waves don’t reflect blue mutability, won’t hold bones for too long? Nothing. Constant grinding away, against each other, then apart, wave after lulling salted wave filling Jacob’s breath and head, too buoyant with longing to sink. Bloodhound mentality back. How he wishes lucidity and ghosts would drown…
Dusky time trickles into black, hours of driving swerves, he creates smoke-chains around the shoreline, quiet. Then he drives the blueish hatchback Honda Civic to the pier on Anastasia Island, walks out to a sunbaked bench and gazes downward. A walk along the shore brings him whispers of a singed town, pillaged again and again, coral and barnacle blues. All he can smell are bones ground into coquina streets. Gripped by the black mass moving mysteriously beneath him, enough to take away sensation of stuck, he continues to stare without any wonder under black sky littered with lights of shrimp boats, ferries coming back from tourist spells, hardly stars, nothing to look up for.
Children are taught what lies within the infinite capacities of the ocean, but the darkness and single preoccupations play tricks on the mind, what is seen. Minnows, star things, sea shells… Jacob never cared to learn the names. More things that never matter. The waves sloosh purple and blue or black together against lowlight. Salivation creating cankers becomes stronger, wanting to fill his insides with shark’s teeth, better teeth, or sea pods. Atlantic waters are ideally filled up mediocre-temperature water so full of salt, hand-harvesting was just a part of every-day vacationing, but the blackness makes it a comforting Sherpa throw. Attractive.
This time, he’s going to be the one to take the first dive. To embed his bones in sea ground, add to the curse, until he rises to the exposed skies. He gets up from the bench, takes two slumping steps to the chipped rail. His spine, an axis against the breeze, he feels the heaviness of briny hair from hours of sea-air caressing, pulling…
He can hardly see the kaleidoscoping waves by the reflections on water, only specks, can’t grasp or find on the surface. Too far below the pier to touch. The stars hanging loosely become something he envies. Cradle of perpetual black a reason for perpetual sleep. Then a distant rumbling, clouds blurring the horizon, muffled sighs. Up in the sky, some vague chariot points to the one fissure not filling with stars. There’s nothing hollow in all that penetrating velvet blue-black: emptiness comforting the stiff breeze. He watches far-off shrimp boats blinking red and cream. Looming, the shore’s lighthouse stands higher than everything within miles, alone on the peninsula, head forever whirring, searching. Jacob is the lighthouse.
To forget what’s known, it’s a daunting task hidden high in the morning, rituals soft as orchid petals. Better to stomp it out before dawn. Sometimes that fire is so swollen, reddens the cheeks, keeps one continuing on. But it’s not easy keeping secrets, it’s easy to turn velvet as night–Star-studded mind, he’s choosing the remainder and he’s clamped to a path.
Ocean comes and goes, entices with new secrets, he covers his face. Tired of reality, heart is willing to jump blindfolded, take a different plunge…
The same way the other boys went out: Air rushing, salt falling up, up away.
Eyes shut, when will—crushhhhhhoooossshhh not pain, surprise. Down, up. Suspension. Waves moving more violent. Blackness and heaviness and heaviness and heavy.
Wet, drag him down, cold.
Thrown, him in—down, down to the—Sea slip.