The Mast-Head: Village Reverie

A stranger in my own town

   Downtown East Hampton Village looked nice enough Tuesday afternoon when I walked through to get some salad and something to drink. The shop windows were full of expensive men’s and women’s clothes: colorful prints for her, blue-and-white checks for him.
    Three Public Works Department employees in bright-orange T-shirts were removing tiny wisps of weeds and grass from between the bricks near London Jewelers. One singed the offending plants with a handheld propane torch; the others swept up the small ridges of charred remains. A smell like that of burning leaves carried along the sidewalk.
    I can’t say that I knew no one along the way. Crossing Main Street, I said hello to a second cousin and one of her children and spoke briefly to a real estate agent I recognized from his Web page about how dangerous it seems to step off the curb. A little farther on I greeted a writer and composer who lives in Springs who once taught a boat-building course I attended at the Town Marine Museum.
    Other than those four, I was like a stranger in my own town. The shops held nothing of interest for me except to note which had potential customers in them and which did not. As I looked in a new shoe store, too new to even have a sign out or for me to have noticed before, three people sitting near the cash register swiveled their heads in my direction quickly as if they had been having a slow day.
    It was, truth be told, what might be considered a beautiful day to be at the beach, not shopping or walking the village streets. A sense of how far removed Main Street and Newtown Lane are now from what once was figuratively the center of village life hung in the air, a subtext to the colorful displays.
    I ate my lunch at one of the concrete tables outside Citarella. Two young women on a lunch break from the shops sat nearby talking about men and checking their phones every now and then.
    The Public Works guys had just about finished up by the time I went past again. The brickwork they left behind was neat as a pin.