I don’t know how long I stared at them, mesmerized by the white, foam, crashing onto the rocks a thousand feet below our own. My feet moved to grip the rusted rock of the Cliffside, but I could feel it begin to give way. I looked down as the earth hacked and spit up dirt and rock, casting them down into the sea. I casually stepped back, unfearing of the drop, and looked up towards the barren sky.
Despite the sun, fixedly boring down upon us, the air was mellow, wind slight. But the smell, I had nearly forgotten the smell, the smell of the ocean. The salted air was heavy, pressing upon my cheek. You could almost taste it, the air, winding its way through your nose and onto your tongue.
I needed to get out of the city, desperately. When I woke up that morning I rolled to my side, restless, staring at Ian’s warm, sticky backside. Looking over his shoulder and out the window I could see the sun had already begun to rise. I could feel him breathing slowly, up and down, up and down. The breathing began to rattle, louder and louder, up and down, up and down, louder, louder. My skin began to sweat, itch; my breaths became deep, heavy. Something was pressing down on me, choking; an invisible hand, holding me, daring me to struggle. I couldn’t do it any longer. Our once, small, crooked, kindly apartment had become severe and oppressive. My body shot up in a rage, unable to stay put any longer.
“What’s wrong?” he breathed at me without turning or opening his eyes. “Nothing.” “Nothing, huh?” he said, finally turning to look at me, revealing the nightly spot of drool upon his pillow. “Alright, that’s a lie,” I grunted, “I just… we’ve gotta go somewhere. I gotta get out of here.” “Why? Right now?” Without a blink, “Yeah. Now. Sorry.”
I was ready in ten minutes, as I rustled around our 300 square foot nest, packing bags with an apple lodged between my teeth. He’s never been as quick, sitting on the couch in only those tattered sweat pants, staring at the computer screen for the first hint of change in the world. “Hurry up,” I scratched at him impatiently. “Where are we going?” “Don’t worry about it,” I told him, “It’s all up here.” With another half hour he was up and we were gone, out the door, on the road, ready for anything.
We sped past field after field, rolling into hills, trees, vines. With the entrancing sounds of Radiohead the scenery melted together, I focused hard on the road twisting in front of me. The snaking river raced the car, rushing to catch us. Soon the river dispersed, trees thinned, to open up to the sky. Cows lined the green open pastures along the road, slowly chewing on their cud, swatting their rough tails as they knowingly watched us pass the barrier into Tillamook.
Tillamook: the land of many waters; that’s what the sign said at least. The trees stretched over us along the windy and shoddy road. Trees on one side, shallow, open waters on the other. I watched the bulbous yellow flowers begin to bloom along the side of our car instead of watching the road as we bumped along.
The road became longer as we climbed, edging our way towards the heavens, reaching for the last glimpse of perfection.
There she was, lying before us as if she were a woman; naked, sprawled, unconcealed, patiently waiting, waiting as if she had been waiting for us all her life.
I parked the car just off the road, jumping out in nearly too much of a rush to remember the door, rushing for the sea; it had been too long. With the trees behind me I stepped out upon the lookout. A fence stood between us, barring me from her. I needed more. The air whipped my hair as I hopped the barrier to get a closer look, to catch a glimpse of the infinite. Tentatively, we walked to the edge, looking into the bounds of everything, all at once, converged in a single moment, a single space, connected.
I looked down, estimating the drop. Whatever the math was, it was a long way. Far enough to crush a fair amount of bone, clawing at flesh all the way down, tearing muscle away from itself. I wondered what it would be like to fall, to fall into the rocks. Would it hurt? Probably. Or, would you pass out before you hit, before your skull scraped stone, before the blood stirred the water? Maybe it wouldn’t hurt at all. What if you tripped, just now? It would all be over. You would be clumsy, just for a moment, and that would be it; brains running all the way down.
These are the things you think about when you’re so far up, above everything, as if there couldn’t possibly be anything higher, higher than you at least. I closed my eyes for a moment, erasing the image.
The grass crept carefully toward the crumbling precipice, giving way to thick brush, which bit at my leg with every step, pulling me down. Remember, just one false step, and that’s it. Climbing over a crooked branch, I slid down an incline on my knees to inch my way towards the end of the world, at least the civilized one. I stared into the open right there, crouched on all fours, out into the frontier, the unknown. This was it.
The shadows of the cliff grew upon every angle, spotting the rocks. The water rushed into the horseshoe curve of the wall I peered over, crashing over the bouldering rocks and through the dark cavernous holes that splotched the side. I wondered if anyone had ever been down there. Would the sea allow it?
“What’re you doing down there!” Ian called to me in panic, sucking me back. “I was just lookin’,” I called. I had forgotten about him. “Oh my god, you’re gonna die! Jesus, please, Monique, come back up before you fall.” “Is that what you were worried about,” I said, clambering up to dust myself off, “Alright, alright. I’m coming.”
Looking back up toward the sky, I murmured my farewell. It was an unfortunate duty to return to that strangling civilization, the schedule of repetition, but I had to, which was, perhaps, the most unfortunate part.
He held out his hand for me to grasp, as I scrambled back up the incline. And turning my back to the sea, I walked back toward society and away from humanity.