The contents of the case didn’t exactly swaddle me but still. From a more Panglossian vantage this could be considered an excellent head start in the business of surviving in one of the better of best worlds. For example: what would I have done without the knife? And how the hell would I have got on without the lighter? Right then at the beginning I didn’t dare think about those scenarios. Also, I was somehow too caught up in the exultation of my improbable luck to so much as conceive of the possibility that I might not be the only survivor/inhabitant of what, at the time, I simply assumed but did not know for an experimental fact [e.g. hiking the perimeter] to be a far-flung isle.
I was sitting there on the beach on the first day of the something-wreck with a successfully opened suitcase full of useful contents. Feeling very good about my achievement of managing to open the suitcase. I was full of luck and happy, as far as I recall it, I was smiling, my head wide open like a split orange.
So I was there, looking out at the atoll and ocean beyond, trying very self-consciously to think of what to do next? What would Locke do? But Locke had been full of shit. What did Sayid and Kate and Jack and those other joksters do? No, that wasn’t a thought worthy of further investigation: it had been mostly running and drama and romance and ended badly; not what I envisioned for myself. And the majority wanted to get back home despite the fact that home was a mess.
I had thought prematurely that I knew the script of island abandonment but the fact is that all I actually remembered were a few events and fragmentary episodes, the whole experience as a gestalt, as a setting for cathartic events. But not in its details and certainly not as a didactic guide to one’s own islandic, survivalist misadventures. In other words, I needed to fuck up and succeed in my own terms.
This realization put a splinter of insecurity in my thinking and some soluble grains of sadness in my bloodstream. The sadness quickly dissolved into a too early sense of solitude. I looked down the beach to my left: nothing but sand and leaning vegetation. I did the same for the right with the same result. And then I looked back out at the sea, a liquefied jade iguana to the ends of sight and loneliness ruffled its vast dark feathers inside me. It didn’t stretch its wings or take flight, just rearranged its feathers which were immense. This alone brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t help thinking, irked by the truth of the cliché, that one should be careful what one hopes for.
I hadn’t. Because I had considered it so 100% percent unlikely that I would ever be cast away on a lonely island to fend for myself, I had always just gone ahead and fantasized about it in a careless manner. Which is the only way one should fantasize. And trying to remember more accurately, so as to keep the incipient feelings of isolation at bay for the time being, remembering more in detail I realized that these fantasies themselves were quite laughable: myself inserted into well-established survivor-narratives or, worse, just scenic tracking shots of micronesian islands, gleaming beaches, lush, fruit-studded forests, wild boars roasting on spites, nothing much I could relate to or draw upon in those first few minutes. How could I have been such a boor?
I cursed, wiped the ridiculous, premature tears out of my eyes. Then I sat back down in the sand right next to my carbon clam as if somebody might steal it after all. I was feeling a bit weak but was otherwise in excellent health, no blemishes other than that slight laceration. The moist sand cooled my heels and buttocks and the calm sea did likewise for my mind. I decided to first spend some pacific moments on the beach before addressing the serious business of survival and what to do next. I could already envision myself as very busy in the coming days and weeks so I didn’t want to miss this chance at a few moments of post-catastrophic R&R. Judging from the sun and my utterly incompetent reading of the open book of nature, I estimated it to be late afternoon.
The breeze was still going strong, as was the sun and the combination of the two seemed just perfect. Though I quickly brought it to my own attention that the cooling effect would probably make me underestimate the severity of the solar radiation and that moving into the half-shadow of the forest’s canopy was certainly the smart thing to do. As there was no sunblock in the suitcase.
I got up, grabbed it and lugged it over to where the fronds’ shadows created a meta-morphing intricate pattern upon the sand, sliding crossbars of light and shadow. There I sat down again, delighted by my foresight and thinking that this was a pattern I was establishing right now on the first day: that I would outthink all adversity, that I would be at least two steps ahead of anything that tried to finish me off. In that spirit of joyful precaution I took out the swiss knife and unfolded its longest blade, vowing that I would give any would-be predator in the forest behind me the fight of a lifetime. Looking back now, the sun or the post-traumatic overcompensation had already gotten to me a bit but at the time I felt like the genius version of Maitland, minus the Jaguar.