There was an old man sitting in the stool next to my usual station at the Tempus Fugit. He was there when I arrived--unusual because the Tempus Fugit is almost always empty.
Whiskey curled up at the foot of my stool, one in from the end, and the bartender scooted around the mahogany and placed in front of her a bowl of cold water. At about 3AM, Whiskey wasn't interested in the liquid, she instead closed her eyes and continued with her nocturnal canine musings.
The bartender terried the woodwork in front of me, laid down a Tempus Fugit napkin, and deftly drew me a Pike's Ale (the ALE that won for YALE!) They serve beer as it should be served at the Tempus, in small eight-ounce juice glasses so it stays cold and doesn't run to flat.
I emptied my first glass without saying a word to anyone and the bartender presented me with glass number two, He slid over a bowl of salted Spanish peanuts which I declined with my usual demurral, pushing them away and saying, "a pound in every nut."
The man next to me was twirling his martini glass in his hand. He took a delicate sip and spoke to me.
"For centuries," he began, "Sandy Isle, Ile de Sable on French maps, Isla Arenosa on Spanish," he sipped again, "was believed to be in the South Coral Sea, roughly midway between the Chesterfield Islands and Nereus Reef.
|Sandy Island on a 1908 chart.|
"Sandy Isle was charted by Cook in 1774. A whaling ship "Velocity" was said to have stopped there an 1876. In 1881 it appeared on German maps and in 1895 on the most authoritative maps of all, those of the British Admiralty."
He drew another sip from his martini, and the bartender drew me my third Pike's.
"It was marked in the "Times Atlas of the World, 10th Edition" as recently as 1999."
|Satellite photo of where Sandy Island is supposed to be.|
He paused, looked deep into his clear drink, considered the lemon peel floating in the liquid and continued.
"The island never existed. The sea's bottom where Sandy Isle was supposed to be was never less than 1,300 meters from the surface of the sea. Sandy Isle existed only because people believe it existed. Only because people before them believe it existed."
The night had been cool after a warm day and the man picked up his windbreaker from the stool alongside his to the left. He had finished his martini and ordered another one.
As he put on his windbreaker, he downed his second drink in two or three gregarious sips.
"It was, Sandy Isle, literally wiped off the map. It was never anything more than a figment."
He slid two twenties across the bar, which the bartender slid back.
"On me," he said with his usual generosity.
"I wonder how many of us are merely figments," he said standing up to leave.
That last query had me staring sullenly into my Pike's and pondering.
"I leave you with something more to consider," he said.
The bartender drew me number four.
"A martini is like a woman's breast," he said. Then he paused a lengthy pause so we would consider the simile. "One isn't enough."
I sipped at my suds.
"And three is too many."
With that, he slid into the night and, like Sandy Isle, disappeared.