From your seat in the kitchen, you hear the buzz of the postman’s 105cc motorcycle.
Ah, you think.
I went for a trip up the coast. Just by myself, this time. I wanted to try to remember who I was.
Here, there is crossed-out text, unintelligible.
I had to find my way between the salt and the clay. I don’t think you’ve been to the coast, so let me tell you.
It feels like it should be warm, but it often isn’t. You step out the car and immediately get salt on your lips. It’s cold. But there’s something refreshingly raw about it… I wouldn’t dismiss it easily, you know?
I started out in the city, and I expected to finish my trip up in that other place in the north. You know the one. Rust and glass.
For a while I had the window down, until my eyes started to water. I don’t think it was the salt, either.
I didn’t feel like this when I was coming down from the mountains. That was a warm, soft, springy place. Like summer moss in a patch of shadow. You could really curl your toes in it.
This place doesn’t make me feel like that. It makes me wonder when I’m going to die. Because, no matter what, it won’t make a difference here. I’ll be here, and then I’ll be gone.
I caught lunch at a small restaurant, at the top of a cliff. I ate my grilled cheese sandwich watching the waves break against the rocks. The restaurant felt like one I’d seen ten or twenty times, placed there like a broad brush stroke – kitsch shingles and panelling and tchotchkes on the counter.
But down at the bottom of the cliff, those waves are pushing into the land, and I know that in ten or twenty or thirty years, or even after one big storm, this restaurant won’t be here.
I didn’t bring it up to the proprietor. She looked like she wouldn’t care, anyway.
One of my rest stops was just sort of by the road, keeping out of the way of the trucks. Someone built a house out there on the point – can you believe it? I can’t imagine what it would be like inside during one of the winter storms.
I’m sure that house is at least half sea salt. Maybe that’s how they make their living.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I bribed the owner of the jetty to let me drive my car on it. He seemed like a pretty down-to-earth guy, but he was a little surprised at my request.
I guess it’s not something he’d get asked often.
The afternoon was coming in, and the sea had turned to sluggish cellophane. Even the waves weren’t breaking. More like sullenly coughing themselves onto shore.
On the jetty, it was just me, the sea, and the birds. It made me feel exposed, but that was okay.
So, like I said, I was gonna end up in ol’ rust-and-glass, but there was a turn-off halfway up the coast that just looked so enticing…
A short way up the road, I found a couple of old derelict barns. I didn’t go in. They looked like they were about to fall down. But as I was about to hop back in the car, I looked back towards the ocean for the last time, and something about the poetry of the rolling hills against the sea broke something inside me.
I felt prickling behind my eyes, and I had to turn around. I couldn’t stay near the ocean. Not like this. I had to find something safe, comfortable.
I thought wine country would do the trick. We control the land here, or at least we say we do. We can’t even pretend to do that with the ocean…
The tasting rooms weren’t much to write home about. Guess I’m doing that now, though. Nothing special. I didn’t go too far into the hills. Maybe there’s something better there.
I sat for a while amongst the vines, and that was hot, and dry, and dusty. The earth was cracked beneath my hands, and the air was a stifling blanket.
Air conditioning sure is a gift from god, huh.
Over the hills is a valley. It’s a big one, as far as valleys go. I guess it’s more of a space between spaces – flat lands between two big mountain ranges – but the maps say it’s a valley, so I don’t think I have any right to not call it that.
On the way down, I saw a turnoff, and I took it. Life’s too short to not take the turnoffs.
All I found was a place where they pull money out the ground. The wind shifted for a moment, while I was sitting on the rock, and my throat got coated in grime from the burning oil.
I didn’t expect it to be like this. I wanted trees, and cabbage fields, and sunset through the trees…
So – and, I know, I know, I’m not actually supposed to do this, and you got so mad at me last time, but – I took a detour. I don’t think the land belongs to anyone, so it wasn’t that bad. I felt fine about it.
Eventually I found my way back to the road. I needed the fresh air.
Somewhere between the land and the road, I passed through the veil, and I dreamt my way through the forest.
Well, I don’t know whether I dreamt my way through, or whether it dreamt its way through me. The evening’s air got chilly fast, and the smells of asphalt and pine needles took me back to… well, you know.
This is the last one, sorry. I ended up at the highway. GPS sent me to a bed and breakfast, right next to an offramp, and I slept like a baby.
I’m still not convinced I exist. I’ll get back to you on that.
This last postcard smells like apricot jam and stale cream.