Every morning, she walked down to the seashore to watch the sunrise.
They had won a five day, five night vacation to this place in a contest held at the neighborhood grocery store. She had never won anything in her life before that, and when they called to notify her she was the winner, she was pretty sure it was really her brother-in-law and his idea of a joke. But it was legit: five days and five nights in a place called Driftwood Beach, on Saint Simons Island off the coast of Georgia on the Atlantic Ocean. All they had to pay for were snacks: lodging, transportation and meals for two were included.
When they had checked into the resort five days earlier, she felt a little like Dorothy in the Emerald City: everywhere she looked were high marble walls, fancy carpets, spiral stairways, and a host of other things she’d only ever seen on TV. She half-expected to hear Robin Leach’s voice describing it all. Her husband, too, seemed almost something like moved by it all.
Although they had been given a resort map when they first rode up to the compound, and she had suggested several things she would be interested in trying, he figured out the location of the various bars in the place within 20 minutes of arriving, and at one or the other of them he had been for most of the last five days. She would be asleep when he would come in, beginning a nightly ritual that started with a sickening smell of alcohol, tobacco and sweat, and ending with angry words and tears. Her favorite night had been the one he was so drunk, he didn’t make it past the couch to the bed.
In other words, it was exactly like home.
What wasn’t like home, though, was the ocean. She would wake, very early, and taking advantage of the twenty-four hour coffee available in the lobby, head out the back door of the resort and off into the dark to watch the sun come up on the beach. The first morning, she wasn’t really sure if it was safe (she would never walk outside in the dark at home), but a kind of recklessness had come over her, and she charged out into the black like she’d been doing it her whole life.
The ocean says things in the dark that it doesn’t say in the light. In the light, the ocean often defers to the sun, or the clouds, or even the birds, but at night, it has the floor to itself, and it spoke to her of hidden things, and secret wishes, and desires she’d never admitted of to anyone, least of all herself.
As the last vestiges of night began to peal away, she looked over at the now-familiar driftwood. Driftwood made her sad; these had been living trees, roots planted firmly in the soil, leaves open to the sun, drinking life in slowly and growing surely. But they’d been torn away from their roots, shorn of their leaves, and set adrift on an ocean large and more chaotic than they were built to handle. To see these bits of wood now, they had always been homely and gnarled; but they had been glorious, once. They congregated on the shore, whenever possible, within sight of their still-living cousins, who seemed to spread out their branches to shield them, to give them whatever dignity was possible. Much like this resort had done for her.
She thought about divorce, but, unless the grocery store was running another contest, she wasn’t sure how she could afford it. The sun was up, now; and foamy waves reached out to tickle her bare feet. In a few hours, the car would take them back to the airport, and back home to real life.
Real life, ha! she thought. Strange term, considering it’s neither.