Chris Burrell


Invasion Anxiety: Cured.

A cheery pop riff is playing over the car speakers. The windows are down. A lone turkey is wandering the sidewalk. Light clouds, like pulled-apart cotton balls, float across a postcard-picture sky. I’m sitting in the passenger seat, sweaty but happy.

The car is either trickling forward or completely stopped, the slow progress expected for Beach Road in August. The traffic is bad, but I have nowhere to be. A few cars ahead of me a man is riding a bike on the shoulder of the road. He appears either drunk or to have never ridden a bike without training wheels.

After a few more minutes of melting in traffic, I am over the bridge and entering downtown Oak Bluffs. Circuit Avenue is usually a place I tolerate in small, infrequent doses. Part of my mind still expects to see it as it looks in winter – expects to see a ghost town, a street that’s both abandoned and bracing itself, the revolving door of businesses all boarded up, the air cold, with a few familiar faces, a coffee shop, and a grocery store. Of course this isn’t the reality of this place anymore. Summer is here and so are the people, and the people are here to have fun.

Looking out the window at the bustling street, it’s almost overwhelming. I pass an old woman sitting on a porch fanning herself uselessly with her hand. On a bench are two well-dressed children – siblings, probably – with ice cream dripping down their hands and all over their khaki shorts. Every few feet the scent of something cooking finds my nostrils, usually something fried. I see a twenty-something dude wearing one of those horrible shirts you buy on boardwalks that says “I’m not gay, but $20 is $20” and a woman wearing a lime-green sari with neon-green Crocs. I’m not used to this much stimuli, this many real people with whole faces. It’s nice to see so many smiles.

I used to have a small but constant angst toward these happy vacationers. It can be oppressive when your home is invaded, all by people intent on having fun, to get the happiness they paid for in the time they’ve taken off. It doesn’t bother me so much now; my summertime sadness has subsided. I want to blast the music and stick my head out the sunroof, take pictures of the sunset. I’ll drink enough of the vacationer’s Kool-Aid to make me sick.

I shouldn’t be such a nihilistic jerk. All around me there are people laughing and chatting and holding each other’s sweaty hands. I am surrounded by their joy, and that joy is contagious. A song is chosen randomly (or almost randomly) by a music streaming algorithm. The song is “Here Comes the Sun.” A family of five wearing matching Martha’s Vineyard T-shirts walks by and I say, “It’s all right.”