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Original Essays

Off the Depp End

by Sarah Thyre
  1. Dark at the Roots: A Memoir
    $1.00 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

Last summer, right after the second Pirates movie came out, I began having stalker fantasies about Johnny Depp. Not the kind you might think; no lusty thoughts of commingling juices. More like what a great-uncle-type stalker would shoot for: I just want to be his next-door neighbor. "If Johnny Depp would only invite us to live with him and his family on their private Caribbean island, I'm sure we'd all be the best of friends," I said to my husband one night as I unloaded the dishwasher.

"You just want to bum cigarettes from them," my husband said, reawakening my disgusting, now-dormant addiction.

It's true. I read somewhere that Johnny once said he wishes he had two mouths, so one could be smoking at all times. Yuck, right? Then again: pretty frickin' sexy in its mortality-defying hedonism. Besides, that means the second mouth would be available for other things, like totally interesting conversation. I imagine his wife Vanessa probably gets a discount on Chanel skincare products, what with being a model for their handbags or something. In my experience, girlfriends share employee discounts. And designer shoes. (Note to self: Google "Vanessa+Paradis+shoe+size" and pray that it comes up eight and a half.)

Johnny and Vanessa have two kids, a girl and a boy, right about the same ages as my two kids, a boy and a girl. We could set the children running free on Depp Island's pristine, uninhabited beaches. Trilingual nannies would chase after them, while Johnny and Vanessa and my husband and I lounged on a jungly veranda sipping 2004 Il Mimo Rosato. I would sneak drags on Vanessa's Dunhill Lights. We would nibble on a bounty of figs, crusty baguettes, and gooey unpasteurized cheese imported from the Depps' other home, a tiny village in the south of France. The cheese would be earthy and stinky, positively teeming with healthy bacteria. There are no pesky, prying customs inspectors on a private Caribbean island.

Leaving out the cigarettes, I explained the fancy creams, shoes, 'n' cheese angle to my husband, adding, "Plus, you and Johnny could totally bond over your mutual ability to access your feminine side."

"That doesn't sound very fun," said my husband gruffly, polishing a golf club at the kitchen counter. "Anyway, I bet Johnny's sort of boring. All actor-y and shit."

"Stop it!" I said, plugging my ears. "That's not true!"

But it was true. I'd read it somewhere: "Aside from Sean Penn, there is perhaps no living actor more serious about honing his craft." US Weekly, I think.

"If you don't mind, please don't rain on my imaginary parade," I told my husband. "If they're lousy conversationalists, we'll just sit in contented silence. Stalkers can't be choosers."

I must be peri-menopausal, because these days, this is just about as sordid as my fantasies get.

"If we lived on Depp Island," I continued, "I could finally relax and let go."

"Right," my husband sighed.

I didn't care for his tone. Without putting too fine a point on it, he'd managed to indicate a haunting truth: I never relax. Even back before we had children and used to travel the globe all devil-may-care, I never relaxed. Once we stayed a week on a remote beach in the tiny town located on the middle finger of the Greek mainland. There was nothing to do but lie on the beach watching the locals frolic in the surf alongside a few topless German lesbians, eating thrice-daily meals of indeterminate meat, followed by watermelon. Unfortunately, the beach was surrounded by unstable-looking cliffs and the area was prone to earthquakes.

I spent the first five days envisioning the cliffs above sliding down and dashing my brains out. My body would remain unscathed and twitching. I wasn't a complete pessimist. In its death throes, my body looked thinner than ever before.

After breakfast on Day Five, my husband and I went down to the deserted beach and spread our towels. I still felt tense, but decided to fight it. I stared out at the beautiful Mediterranean, trying not to look for shark fins.

A large, elderly Greek woman came puffing down the path. She was clad all in black: widow's weeds. Placing aside the giant bundle of twigs she'd been toting on her back, the widow removed her shoes, and waded out into the Mediterranean in her dress.

"What's she doing?" I whispered, giving my husband an elbow to the ribs.

"It's hot," he said, re-closing the one eye he'd barely opened.

"You'd sleep through the avalanche that ends my life," I said.

"'S no snow here, babe," he said, snuggling into his towel without a care in the world.

The widow waded out into deep water and flopped onto her back, floating. Robbed of her husband, the love of her life, surely she intended to end it all now. She disappeared on the other side of a swell. I stood up and shielded my eyes against the sun until I saw her again. She floated further out, surrendering herself to the cruel, cruel sea.

The widow was almost out beyond the cliffs surrounding our little inlet when she started waving her arms in the air and screaming. She'd changed her mind — she didn't want to die. I would save her! I had taken Lifesaving I and II at summer camp. That was 15 years ago, but I remembered how to make a life vest out of a pair of jeans. If need be, I could fashion a raft out of the widow's dress.

I ran to the water's edge, imagining how grateful she'd be when I pulled her ashore on her raft/dress. She'd pinch my cheeks and cover me with kisses. A few months to a year later, she would eventually die a peaceful death, of natural causes. Back in New York, I would receive a letter written on onionskin paper, in cramped Greek script. The kindly waiter down at Joe Jr.'s coffee shop would translate: the widow had bequeathed me her house — a cottage on prime beachfront with mature fruit trees, along with a centuries-old artisanal olive oil business that practically ran itself.

I took some steps into the sea. The widow was still screaming and waving her arms, only now I heard another noise: the put-put of a scrappy engine. A prop plane falling from the sky? No, just a very low horsepower motor, which was attached to a small boat full of smiling Greek men, some of whom were pulling the widow on board and handing her a bottle of wine, which she swigged with life-affirming gusto.

I skulked back to our towels and lay down as quietly as possible. My husband snored, oblivious.

Dammit, I would SO relax. We paid good money to relax here. My body went rigid as I concentrated on relaxing. I felt a black hole, a contrived nothingness growing in the center of my mind. I reached for it, wondering if this was what people see when they meditate. I couldn't quite reach it. And yet, maybe it was the reach that mattered. Like Kierkegaard's leap of faith, the attempt to relax was more important, more inherently valuable than actually achieving it.

I gave up.

"I give up," I said, without meaning to, aloud.

"Put the apple on the shelf," my husband mumbled in his sleep.

Without meaning to be, he was right. I would put the apple on the shelf.

I wouldn't say I actually relaxed. Rather, I gave in to not relaxing, embracing my destiny of being buried alive.

I'm going to die here, so I may as well try to enjoy my last days and take some comfort in the fact that I saw the ancient Pelopponesus before I left this life, I thought, closing my eyes.

Down came the cliffs.

My brain, though pulverized, retains its auditory capabilities. The last thing imprinted upon it, trapped within the dying synapses, would be the lamentations of my fellow sunbathers.

"Oh my God!" they would wail. "Look at her skull!"

They would wail in Greek and German. Both of which, in death, I would magically understand as well as my native tongue. I always wanted to be fluent in Greek and German. Better late than never.

See? Optimism. I would take some of that and run, run, run to Depp Island!

"Remember how relaxing Greece was?' I said to my husband, who was standing in the middle of the kitchen, mock-swinging his golf club. "The olive trees and that beach and those tiny fried fish and the giant bottles of Amstel?"

"You mean the trip when you thought that old hooker was trying to drown herself?" he asked, shifting into a putting stance.

"Whatever. Depp Island'll be ten times better," I said, charging ahead. "I heard Johnny and Vanessa have their own sushi chef, a fancy one imported from Japan. Maybe even one specially licensed to prepare fugu, that pufferfish with the toxic liver."

"Seems like more trouble than it's worth," murmured my husband.

"The Japanese have a proverb," I said. "'To eat fugu is perchance to die; not to eat fugu is never to have lived.' Or something like that. Anyway, that's my motto from here on out."

My husband's eyes glazed over for a second, then gleamed as bright as his newly polished club.

"You think Depp Island's got a golf course?" he asked.

"Don't go horning in on my fantasies," I said. "One stalker per family." spacer

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