Coming back to Vieques was always a thrill.
Okay, the journey itself had become a little humdrum—it’s hard to get excited about being crammed into a seat designed for a masochistic, smaller-than-average elf for almost four hours with a grudgingly-offered cup of Diet Coke the only bright spot on the horizon…
But once we landed in Vieques we always felt a shiver of anticipation. We were back!
And yet no matter how excited we were, we invariably experienced a sinking feeling when we turned that final corner and began climbing the hill toward our house. After all, we never quite knew what to expect.
Our return that October was no different.
The neurosis du jour was our suspicion that Jane had somehow managed to photograph the spiral staircase from its only favorable angle. When viewed in person, we feared, it would have all the appeal of a giant barnacle on a ship’s hull.
The night of our departure from D.C. my overactive imagination had even transformed my fears into a nightmare in which I began going down the stairs and literally couldn’t stop—there was no bottom. It didn’t take a house call from Dr. Freud…
…to figure out that the never-ending downward spiral of my dream was a remarkably apt metaphor for the staircase project itself.
I tried not to think about it.
We unlocked the carport gate and turned, with equal measures of excitement and foreboding, toward the staircase. I’m not sure exactly what we expected—maybe just that this new addition to the house would somehow ruin the whole effect—but our fears were unfounded.
If anything, the stairs were a plus. Pristine white, faultlessly aligned, and elegantly compact, the staircase was like a modern sculpture with benefits—it not only looked good, it got you from one place to another with admirable simplicity.
I went up first. The structure felt sturdy yet supple, and as I wound my way up, the ocean view slowly unfurled itself in all its glory. And then suddenly I was at the top, standing on the broad white balcony, the verdant landscape spread out below, the ocean a turquoise banner in the distance.
Yes, I regretted that the project had probably shaved a few years off Jane’s life. But it was worth it.
As we stood awestruck on the balcony, mesmerized as ever by the view, it slowly dawned on us that the voices we’d been hearing since we’d come up the stairs were issuing from inside our house.
Our hackles, as it were, rose.
Michael edged his way along the breezeway running along the east side of the house. He stopped beside the bedroom window, listening attentively, then uttered a hushed “hello?”
A short pause. “Hello?” an equally tentative voice answered.
“Who’s there?” Michael asked, this time in his most authoritative voice.
“It’s Kevin.” The voice was muffled now, almost inaudible.
We didn’t even know Jane had a Kevin.
“You mean you work for her?”
“And what are you doing here?”
“She said it was okay.”
Michael digested this information. “Let us in.”
A pale, red-headed waif with a wispy goatee padded out to the great room in his bare feet and unlocked the door.
Michael introduced himself and asked again, “So what are you doing here?”
Kevin tugged on his goatee nervously. “I didn’t have anywhere to stay the past few days so Jane said I could stay here.”
“I see. And she didn’t mention that we were coming in today?”
Kevin looked perplexed. “Not at all,” he said, as if there were degrees of mentioning the imminent arrival of the owners of the house you’re essentially squatting in. “But man oh man am I embarrassed,” he giggled, darting a glance back toward the bedroom. “Caught red-handed watching The Dukes of Hazard.”
Regrettable as this was, his taste in TV shows was the least of his worries.