She got in the car at half-past two in the morning.
It didn’t really matter to her where exactly she was going as long as it was away. There was only a certain amount of time that she could ignore the steadily growing pressure in her chest – right underneath her collarbone. Right above her lungs. She had lain in bed for hours doing absolutely nothing productive.
It wasn’t exactly a feeling of sadness. Or pain. Rather one of unease, which no amount of deep breathing and tossing and turning could get rid of. Everything was just too too too much for her to handle at this god-forsaken hour. Her body was beyond tired, but her mind refused to let her stop moving. A finger twitched. Her eyelids fluttered. And suddenly she was wide awake again. Every single thought she had seemed to come from her stomach and crawl its way out of her throat.
She knew she was prolonging the inevitable. She needed to leave. Eventually, reluctantly –like she was still trying to prove to herself that she could stay, that she could close off her mind – she got out of bed.
Most people find driving in the dark to be either terrifying or liberating. Something about driving down a dark deserted highway with no one for around for miles was satisfying to her. Like letting a scream build in your throat for hours before finally letting it out. She never considered the possibility of dying. Of crashing. It didn’t really phase her one way or another. Maybe she was too stupid to consider it, something about her youth and ignorance.
In the past few weeks this had become her almost-nightly ritual. She never knew quite where she was going to go, preferring instead to just drive. Tonight it looked like she was going to end up on the beach. Her mother had grown up on a beach, so as a child she always felt like a mini version of her mother anytime they took a family trip to the beach. The family trips eventually stopped, but the feeling of her mother’s influence never really did. She should call her mother tomorrow. Well, later today.
The beach, of course, was empty. She almost expected it not to be. But no one was there. She let the dog out of the car, watching as he ran towards the water, sand flying up as his paws connected with the ground. The moon was waning, she thought, and there was not much light, just barely enough to see the water. She walked towards the water, kicking at the cold sand. It had rained earlier in the night, so the sand was hard-packed and cold to the touch. She took off her shoes. Dug her toes into the sand and waited for the tide to come towards her.
The wind was bitter, even for summer. New England waters were cold at night. She could feel it in her hair, the salt air thick and abrasive. There was a light from a boat in the distance, nothing more than a pin-prick of light on the very edge of the horizon. A big boat. It must have been huge to be seen from that far away. How many people would be on it? How many people do you need to operate a boat that big? Do they get lonely?
She watched the waves in the distance, barely visible in the dark blue night, just little white crests above a dark dark dark ocean.
She watched the waves break on the shore. The water rushed up to her feet and it soaked her toes, stinging the cuts on her ankles before retreating backwards.
She watched the dog as he ran behind her. He was chasing something, but it was far too dark for her to see it. She supposed it didn’t matter.
She stayed there, toes digging into the sand, feet cold as hell, arms wrapped around her ribcage for a while. She didn’t know how long. A while though. And then she walked back to the car, opened the trunk and watched as the dog hopped in.
She stopped off at a gas station on her way back. Walked into the harsh white light and grabbed a few things at random. Yogurt and Oreos, she realized. She grabbed a pack of jerky on her way to the counter, feeling rather than seeing the eyes of the store clerk on her.
She waved goodbye to the clerk and then she once again let herself into her car and pulled back onto the highway. She grabbed a blanket from her bed. She fed the dog some of the beef jerky – he was nearly too tired to eat it – and made her way downstairs to the front porch. Covering herself in the blanket and pulling out her newly-acquired yogurt, she made herself comfortable enough to watch the sunrise over the lake at exactly 5:12 am.
Mariana Rivera-Donsky ’25 is a staff writer