I am trying to get to croatan. I read about it. There was a guy that tacked a sign on a tree that said ‘gone to croatan’ or maybe just ‘croatoan’. No one is really sure. It might not even be a place. It could be a state of mind or possibly it means fuck you in the local dialect. I should probably look that up since I’m trying to go there. It’s a real place though. Only three and a half or four hours away from me.
I’ve been thinking about making the trip for a long time. I was in my early twenties when I first came across the tale. It was very romantic in the sort of swash-buckling way that one might like a pirate’s tale. It wasn’t that kind of story. To me it meant liberation and sounded like a fantasy. A Utopian’s dream and a wanderer’s paradise to call home. I’ve never wandered far except in my own head. I think Croatoa might be home. I think it’s a place for loners and misfits like myself. It’s a place for everybody too. I don’t know what it’s like for sure but I still want to go there. I think people hang out naked or barely clothed most of the time and nobody cares.
I know two girls that live near croatan. I wasn’t trying to meet them because of that. It just happened that way. I’d still want to go there even if they weren’t there. I love them both. It makes the pull even stronger. Maybe Croatoan means I love you and the guy that went off into the woods was in love. Or Croatoa was just that great that once you had gone there you were in love with it and called it home.
There isn’t any Croatoans there anymore. They were Lumbee but there are still Lumbee all around these parts. They had their home taken away. I like to think that there are some that made their way back there and could tell me what it all means. I want Croatoa to be alive and well but I don’t know the first thing about it.
I’m no historian. I don’t want to bring cameras and recording devices and document Croatoa, Put it in a report and give it to the appropriate person to let it collect dust. If there are any Croatoans left I don’t think they’d like that. I don’t think they’d want fame or notoriety either. It’s probably better to keep the whole thing a secret. I think they’d want everyone to live in their own place called Croatoa.
I’m probably wrong about the whole deal. I suspect the Croatoans aren’t swamp people. One might be inclined to think that given their proximity to wetland forest. My strong guess is that they cultivated rice. They weren’t savages that’s for sure but that’s why everyone got so upset at the time.
I want to tell everyone about Croatoa. I’m worried that people will want to build one on every corner and Croatoa won’t be Croatoa anymore. Ever since I decided I want to go there my life has become more complicated. I thought it would be easier. I didn’t think anyone was going to try and stop me from going. They might be jealous because they can’t come with me.
I worry about staying here. I think Croatoa is the place for me. I’d take anyone that wants with me but I’m not quite prepared to go there and another person along would just be burdensome. I’m not trying to get all religious about it. I just think it must be a nice place if I could get there. I just want to learn how to be Croatoan. I don’t want to join a cult.
I have friends that are secret Croatoans but don’t know it. If they did it wouldn’t change anything. I can’t tell them I’m Croatoan or from Croatoa. I don’t think there’s a secret handshake. I’ll never know unless I go there. And If I go I don’t think I’d want to come back. Maybe I will and I won’t need to say anything because they’ll know that I’ve been there and seen it.
I’m not very good at being a regular human let alone a Croatoan. I think that’s why people went to Croatoa. They thought they were swamp people and found out they weren’t and decided they had a really nice swamp. I wish no one had ever found them. That’s not true. I’m clearly conflicted. I go through my day thinking about it all the time. Some of my friends and family don’t want me to go to Croatan. I haven’t told them that I’m Croatoan. They already think I’m crazy.
I wonder whether they have rituals out of the ordinary. Obviously nothing like human sacrifice and I really don’t think the Croatoans are warriors. Surely there is lots of dancing and music and food and sharing. It’s easy to think it’s easy in Croatoa but I’m sure they have plenty of fighting too. It might be that everyone is drunk all the time and forgets about everything the next day. When I get too drunk I want to tack a sign in the woods near my house like that guy.
That guy wanted to be found and he wanted to tell people about it the more I think about it. I won’t make that mistake. It’s sad. He was trying to tell people how to find him. Croatoa is an escape route. I’m trying to get lost. If someone wants to find me they can but I’m not going to announce to the whole world where I’m going. Then I realize it was only a sign on a tree in the woods.
I try to think of Croatoa when I’m going to sleep. I want to dream of it but it never comes. I can’t really conjure it in my head like it’s a magical place. I want to put my hands on Croatoa, feel it in my grasp. That’s when I think I’m not Croatoan at all. Every so often I dream of being underwater and drowning and a hand reaching out. Then the dream ends. My hand reaching out from drowning in shallow water.