It rained on the day we went up to the mountains. It rained and we stayed in our car for the most part, eating takeout from a nearby restaurant. We planned to eat it by the waterfall, but our sandwiches would’ve been soggy. We sat parked on a cliff-side, overlooking the mountains, the greens and reds and oranges and yellows of the treetops swaying gently with the breeze. We sat silent for a while as we took in the overwhelming feeling, the largeness of it all. We ate our takeout, but we didn’t feel worthy to be there in all the beauty. This moment was bigger than us. And I remember you said quietly and defiantly, “Someday, this will be home.”
I left the house in a rush. In one burst of manic energy, I packed for a couple days. I was at the point where I couldn’t think about anything but getting away. Anywhere was better than here. In a perfect world, I would’ve thought for months about this trip, but the fact that I didn’t have a plan made it more exciting.
It felt like everything that happened these last few months, all the pain and exhaustion, it was all leading up to my break anyway. This was bound to happen. I wouldn’t consider it a break, but my best friend called it that when I showed up at her door with a text, “Hey. You’re coming with me. We’re going to the mountains.”
“You’re crazy,” was her answer. I wouldn’t have expected any less. She packed her bags and was down in fifteen. From the driveway, she looked insane. More insane than I was. Her black hair was put into a messy ponytail with flyaways illuminated by the midday sun. She wore a gray sweatshirt and black leggings. Her backpack, stuffed full of clothes and camping equipment, was a forest green and held her sleeping bag atop it.
“I need this more than you do.”
She told me that as she threw her backpack in the backseat of my SUV.
“Hold on, do you have a tent?”
I hadn’t thought of that.
“Uh, no. Don’t you?” I replied.
“My brother is using it this weekend.” She groaned. I rolled my eyes.
I wasn’t sure when it was that it set in that I was an insane, spontaneous person, but by the fourth hour of our road trip, it had crossed my mind a few times. Emma loved me for it. She could always count on me for a last-minute mania induced trip in which we find ourselves, only to lose ourselves when we come back to work the following Monday.
We laughed. We laughed a lot. The entire drive was filled up with conversation, never a dull moment. Never a moment to think about just getting stood up or not getting that promotion I really could’ve used to fuel these trips. I didn’t think about the date I was supposed to go on until Emma had fallen asleep and as I laid on the hard ground, the only way to distract myself from the pain my back felt was by thinking about the pain my now-ex caused.
I realized a while ago that I shouldn’t let myself get wrapped up in someone like him, someone still obviously going through his partying college days even though he dropped out two years ago. I knew he was bad news, Emma tried to tell me, but I didn’t care. I liked the way he looked at me when I told a story, and I liked the way he laughed too long when I told a bad joke. I liked how his hair looked in the morning before he showered, and I liked how he’d cook breakfast for me.
I knew the mountains wouldn’t have an answer, and I didn’t care. It was a distraction at least and at most it would be another story to tell: two way-too-stressed 20-something’s go on another spontaneous trip in attempt to find themselves, only to find themselves with smaller bank accounts and bags under their eyes.
The gentle breeze, the streetlights illuminating my walk home at twilight, the eternal silence throughout the streets. I am grounded. I can think for what feels like the first time in years. I spent so much time feeling like I was drowning. Drowning in work, drowning in expectations, drowning in my relationships. And now, walking home at 2 am, I feel hopeful.
And it’s hard to feel hopeful when everyone around you is so different from you. When you hate where you live, it makes getting out and doing anything nearly impossible. And I try not to dwell on it, I’ll hopefully be able to get out of here once I get serious about my writing and finish this book or get a real job, but it gets hard. I sit at home most days wasting time and daydreaming. Writing feels like climbing a mountain sometimes. I sit by my computer with an empty Word document open with no clue where to go with it. Much to hard on myself and not enough coffee sends me spiraling.
But at 2 am, these problems feel a world away. All that matters now is getting home. I guess one upside to living here is I never feel nervous on these night walks. I can walk home and just worry about what’s in my head. And then I start to wonder which I’d prefer: safe streets or safe thoughts.
But the stars were always my favorite part of these night walks. The stars kept me hopeful. People say thinking of how small we are in the universe makes them feel insignificant. It makes me feel empowered. Because if the world really is that small and insignificant, why worry? I’ve spent so much time anxious about these little problems that don’t matter, and if there are aliens out there somewhere, they probably have more important things to worry about.
And I worry so much. I spend so much of my time worrying, looking at the stars is therapeutic. And on clear nights, when every star is visible, I can breathe again. Breathing felt impossible for a while. For a good portion of last year, life felt like treading water in the middle of the Atlantic with no clue when I’ll be rescued. And just because I live by the ocean doesn’t mean I know how to swim. When you’re out there all alone for so long, it gets hard to see when things will start to look up again. But then it’s summer and you’re walking home at twilight after a laughter-filled night with close friends and you don’t feel like you’re treading water, and you don’t feel like you’re climbing a mountain. You feel like you’re floating.
Lay on a rock
by the mountains
after a long hike
it’s soothing at first
but then begins to hurt
much like you did.