Author Archives

Michael Blair Mount
Novelist and screenwriter based in Asheville, North Carolina. Recipient of grants and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, The Orchard Project, and The Granoff Center for the Arts. Graduate of Brown University and The University of North Carolina School of the Arts. 5,000 mile hiker.

My Year on a Shrinking Island

Historic Map Works / Getty, Animation by Homestead Studio

Michael Mount | Longreads | Month 2019 | 25 minutes (6,236 words)

The home I moved into was not what you might associate with Martha’s Vineyard: it wasn’t a sweeping palatial estate near the ocean with views of crispy white foam. It was a simple shingled house tucked far in the woods, sitting in a rustic subdivision near a graveyard and just beyond the commercial centers of the Island, with power lines cutting an artery through its backyard. I schlepped my things inside, bubbling with optimism about what my year of rest and revelation would bring. My housemate was a 70-year-old man who helped me move my luggage while screaming at the Patriots game every time he walked by. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that he asked questions.

“Most people don’t move out here until May,” he said. “What are you running away from?”

“Just New York.”

“I don’t blame you,” he said, laughing.

It was September of 2013 and I had left everything in Brooklyn. All of the carefully assembled Ikea furniture. My job. It all seemed to recede behind me on that final glimpse from the ferry that morning as I watched Woods Hole, Massachusetts, shrinking to a pinhole. All of the chaos and the heartbreak of summer in New York was like a muted roar — Facebook would remind me, but I had every reason to forget.

Some families have houses on Martha’s Vineyard. I don’t. My friend from home (home is a distant place) had moved to the Island last year to work full time for an agricultural non-profit. I did not know her well but her suggestion came to me in a time of need:

“If you hate New York so much,” she said, “you should move out to the Island for a winter and write your book. There are tons of writers out here.”

I was 24 and as weightless as dandelion molt. Leaving a job meant nothing. My longest relationship had been eight months long. I knew one person on Martha’s Vineyard and — it seemed — only a few more in New York. It hardly felt like a sacrifice. Those in New York whom I told about my plan expressed two contrasting perspectives: “Why would you do that?” and “I’m so jealous.” I chose to listen to only the latter.

It only took two trips to the car to carry all my things into the old man’s house. He seemed fine with me renting the room for next to nothing — if anything he was enthused to continue renting past Labor Day, to have company at the end of the season.

That evening we watched Tom Brady smear the Jets. During commercial breaks he fiddled with a small police scanner sitting beside his armchair; there were distant calls for drunk driving or speeding incidents. When it was time to eat he walked slowly to the kitchen and boiled two hot dogs, piling them on a paper plate.

“No dishes this way,” he said. “Bachelor life.”
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