He feared not seeing his co-workers, feared abandoning his daily routine, but his number of unused vacation days would soon draw comment from the human resources department, so he decided to take a week off.
He knew he could not stay in town, cohabitating with but not taking part in his daily routine. So he booked a week at a tiny resort on the Florida Keys.
The bus dropped him off at the entrance. At a glance, the main building, adjacent swimming pool, and smattering of cabins, all looked somewhat more worn than they had appeared in the brochure pictures. Before entering the gate, he looked up and down the highway.
The next morning, he left the resort and started walking south. He walked on the shoulder of the road or, when he heard the sound of a car behind him, on the dirt slope just beyond the shoulder.
Sun burned the back of his neck. He had not thought to buy sunscreen for the trip. He pulled up on the back of his t-shirt. He covered his neck with one hand and then the other.
He imagined that at any moment he would see signs of a small town, or just a restaurant and a gas station, something brightly colored and familiar.
He was used to walking, but here the additional weariness of each step seemed wildly out of proportion to the distance he covered.
He realized that he would reach no small town or cluster of stores, realized that he needed to turn back or risk not having the strength to return. The moment brought a sense of defeat as palpable as a boulder and a sense of calm that was formless.
Back at the resort, he bought aloe gel at the gift shop, then went to his cabin and waited for evening.
That night, he initiated the routine that he would follow for the rest of the week. At the first sign of dusk, he put on fresh clothes, went to the main building, chose a paperback book from the case next to the reception desk, and entered the resort’s dining room. There, he ordered a cocktail and the day’s fish special. He read while he drank and ate.
After dinner, he returned the paperback book to its shelf, walked to the pool, and sat on one of the upright chairs.
Each evening, as darkness emerged, he studied a light in the distance. The light appeared and then disappeared. It was so faint he was not sure it truly existed. He imagined the light was a signal, part of an elaborate smuggling operation taking place on the Gulf. He imagined that he would track the light to its source: an empty pier near a shack on an otherwise empty stretch of shore. There, he would hide in the dark and watch.