She stood at the helm, pounded by rain, quarreling with her place on the sea. The nauseating falls from crest to trough, the loss of horizon, the boat was at the mercy of the waves and nothing else. The more she fought, the more the sea tried to expel her. Only when she embraced the storm did the calm return, the skies cleared, the horizon came into view. Only then could she settle below deck, the gentle lapping on the hull a lullaby for sleep.
For anyone watching, her sorrow was evident, arms crossed and grasping at her sides, eyes red and swollen. The room was crowded with people she had known for years, acquaintances and friends, and on that day, they should have been one in the same. Yet on that day, they might as well be strangers, all save for one. As she turned to leave, he stepped in her way. He spoke no words, but his arms, tightly wrapped around her, said everything.
He refused to stop the car. She had no choice but to open the door and jump. She felt her sweater slide through his fumbling fingers, a sensation that played out in slow motion before the impact jarred her consciousness. She tumbled across the gravel, her skin marrying with the rocks that sliced and shredded it. Then the sharp awakening of the road transformed into a profound fear as she plummeted off the side of the cliff.
He woke at 4 a.m. to begin his nineteen-hour-long ride for the day after sleeping for less than two hours. He had heard stories of other cyclists hallucinating from deprivation, but thus far, his training had spared him of such complications. But twelve hours in, the muscles in his legs began to seize. Then a truck swerved and flipped in front of him, its load exploding. His legs, no longer his own, pedaled straight for the flames.
She dug the hole and sunk a five-gallon bucket into the ground. Across the top, she lay twigs and leaves, concealing the opening. By morning, her crude trap had caught two rats. By lunchtime, she had skinned and gutted the rodents, and added them to two potatoes and a cup of acorn flour in a pot of boiling water. By dinnertime, her family had joined her around the dining table for their Thanksgiving feast.
The view hovering above the baking asphalt oscillated in the heat. Dehydrated and plagued with exhaustion, she stumbled along the road having given up running a while back. After a few misguided steps on the black tarmac, the rubber soles of her shoes had begun to melt. She took to walking on the white line that separated the lane from the shoulder, it being a few precious degrees cooler potentially saved her life.
The driver asked her a question that she did not understand. When she failed to respond, he asked it again, repeating the same foreign words, emphasizing one at a time. She pulled a business card from her bag and showed him the address scribbled on the back. He shook his head and mumbled under his breath words with a lost translation but a tone direct and universally condescending. Regardless, he put the taxi in drive and she was on her way.
With a pick axe and a shovel, she ripped out the grass from the small plot of lawn behind her house. She tilled the soil and then planted the seeds that she had acquired by way of trading her mother’s quilt and a ball of twine. In a few weeks, she would have thriving rows of wild asparagus, fireweed, and cattails, all of which were edible, all of which were essential for surviving her new way of life.