The islander

»People often say that island people are special. I say it, too, but the difference is that when others say it, they put air quotes around special. I don’t.

But living on an island does something to a man. (And woman, I don’t mean it like that). I don’t know what it is, like you don’t know what booze does to a man until you see it, you don’t see the island in the man – until you do. But it gets to every one of us, believe me.

Our island is one that, unless you were born here, you don’t get here by accident, cosmic or otherwise. No, to get here, you have to make up your mind, pack your bags, get on a boat, and sail here. It only takes a few hours to get here from the mainland, but those are long hours.

Both ways. I know people who have never been on the mainland.

Anyway, I suppose that in some way, the people who do decide to come here, live here, and have a family here are truer islanders than the rest of us because they have made a decision. They’ve found something here that really makes them want to stay.

Like my wife. (I don’t want to sound arrogant, but she did find me, and I brought her here). She didn’t know anybody here, and she didn’t know anything about the island, and yet, here we are in our little house and our little family.

Not that many people see it that way. I mean, they’d never call the mainlanders who’ve moved heres “honorary islanders” or whatever. Most people see them as outsiders, and there’s nothing they can say or do to get rid of that stamp. True islanders are first class citizens and always will be. I mean, they’ll tolerate mainlanders (such as my wife), but they’ll never believe they could truly understand the island. Not the way born islanders do.

If you think it’s hard to get to the island, let me tell you that It’s not easy to leave it, either. You’re not even supposed to leave, not permanently anyway. Kids leave, of course, because the have to get an education – which is what my mother told my father when I left for the university – but they’re expected to come back and take over the island. The editor-in-chief of the local paper is the daughter of the former editor-in-chief who was the son of the editor-in-chief before that. He was the grandson of the founder.

There are many stories like that. I guess I’m one of them.

I may not be the captain of a fishing boat like my great-grandfather, or my grandfather, or the captain of an icebreaker like my uncle, but I am the captain of a ship. (We have the best sightseeing tours around the island).

Back to my point: people expected me to come back, so I did.

While I’m not using my math degree in my everyday life, I don’t think it was a waste to go to university, not for a second. I met my wife in the university. She’s now a math teacher here on the island – like my mother used to be.

You may think I’m exaggerating here, making a mountain out of a molehill, because you think it’s the same in every single small town on the mainland, but no, leaving the island is nothing like leaving a small town on the mainland. The islanders may not think much of a mainlander moving to the island, but they never forget an islander who’s left it.

It’s a statement, turning your back on your family. Simply put, it’s betrayal.

Anyway, the island did pull me back, so here I am, and I’m happy, for the most part. I love the four seasons, and I love being so aware of them. I love how the islanders come together in the winter, how we keep an eye on each other, and I love it even if it means that people know more about my life than I’d like them to.

I love being friends with the chief of police and the editor of the paper, and I love to see the fishing boats head out to the sea in the morning, and I love to see the same boats come back.

I may not know much, but I do know that I’m an islander and that’s a start.

Ah. Look at me, getting all sentimental here.

Don’t pay any attention to that. It’s just the island talking.«

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