By: Erin Lantsberger
Hometown: Pleasant Hill, CA
The sun glistened on the rims of the old Volvo as we sped on the 101. The old car stunk of overcooked hamburgers and greasy fries from a cheap burger stand on the way to the campsite. Liam, dressed in dark, conservative clothes adjusted his sunglasses, his disposition changing as the miles toward the campsite became fewer and fewer. He moved his right hand from the top of the steering wheel and gently placed it on my thigh.
The Volvo sputtered to a stop on the top of a hill, coated in decomposing leaves and fallen branches. As we walked along the path, the smell of the dark earth filled our lungs and brought peace to the moment. Liam walked in front of me; my eyes were transfixed on the immense evergreens that lined the path. I followed the trunk of the tree all the way to the top. The tip seemed to dance in the wind, the sky and the earth coming together as one in this moment, both sharing an equal influence on the other. We could hear the waves crashing on the shore far in the distance, growing ever louder with each step.
The path ended abruptly; the dirt gave way to the damp sand of the beach. Turning around, I could see the number of trees becoming sparser as the ocean arose to meet the land. Inside, the campsite had tents of all different colors. Greens and blues and reds and yellows. The small plastic things looked so out of place amongst the towering trees.
Liam tugged my shoulder with such force that I worried he dislocated it. Without turning around, he sang a sweet sorry and continued pulling me—a little gentler—toward the crystal blue waters. His movements were like the fluid and forceful waves crashing on the coast and I could feel my feet falling in line with his. The sound of his large clumsy feet slightly overpowered the pitter patter of my small feet, and I could feel myself succumbing to his will as we marched to the water.
The constant push and pull of the waves at the shore and the spray of salty water confined me. I had nowhere to go unless I choose to plunge in the unforgiving, powerful waves. The churning and swirling, the turning and rolling waves seized control over the helpless beach. In a moment of desperation, I turned from the shore and ran. My body tensed as my shoes filled with coarse sand. I ran with all the strength I had. To the campsite. To the hills. To the path lined with trees. I ran, but the waves followed me. Their force engulfed me and trailed me until I reached solace among the evergreens. Away from it all I found peace again. The tall trees stood strong to protect me from the unrelenting sea. The stoic Evergreens allowed a gentle breeze to tickle my cheek but that was all it they let me feel.
I could hear Liam far in the distance and the waves echoed his pleas. I stayed as still; the evergreens and I rejected them both.
The sun sank deep below the horizon, bringing with it a pomegranate pink, rays of orange, and lemony light. But only for a moment until the night stole the sky. Warm air rose from the dirt, granting me its heat. I could see the stars through the trees. They twinkled and played in the infinite sky, entirely unaware of me sitting gently below their brilliance. They danced above me, freely displaying their exceptional loveliness.
The rhythmic percussion of the sea pervaded my thoughts. In the solace of the forest the remanence of the ocean still haunted me. Liam came back to me, calling out for me though he could never find me unless I wanted him to. I gave up on the evergreens. I gave up on light breeze. I gave up on the warm dirt below me and went to him. He held me, and I trembled under his cold body. I succumbed to him and went again to the ocean.
The stars were with me, and soon I would be among them.