For my twelfth birthday we spent a weekend on Woodley, a mossy oblong island that lays just off the coast of Washington. I had been there only once before, but remembered nothing besides the way shadows fell in eerie shapes across the dark winding road. This time, what struck me was the abundance of neighborliness. Without fail, every car coming from the opposite direction waved hello; in the grocery store, we waited in line for twice as long as we would have back home due to the prolonged conversations carried on between the cashier and other customers. My sister, sighing loudly in protest, only received a grin from the old woman in front of us. The old woman was buying hardly anything. Three apricots, that was all – and every time the conveyor belt halted, the pieces of fruit bumped into each other gently, as if kissing.
After dinner my parents and sister sang to me and then we ate the cake that had been purchased from the slow grocery store. I unwrapped gifts while sitting on the hotel bed. Later, asleep under the floral print comforter, I woke to a pair of frantic feet kicking at my calves. I tried to shake my sister out of sleep. "Hey," I whispered forcefully. "You're having a bad dream." She wouldn't wake. But she did stop kicking, just before rolling away from me and pulling most of the comforter with her.
The next day we drove the circumference of the island. My mother took photos through her open window, lowering the camera from her face only when we stopped at a designated lookout point. There was no one there to take our photo – it being the one time that a friendly islander was nowhere to be found – and so my mother set the timer and positioned the camera on the roof of the car. In the photograph, as it turned out, we're all cut off from the chins down, but the view behind us remains immaculate: a breadth of satiny water, ferries cutting across it in diagonals, and the faraway foothills that stretch for miles.