With the Tide
The last thing Aileen remembered was throwing her phone into her purse and storming out the door. She hadn’t even bothered to lock it. Let them take whatever they want. I don’t ever want to step foot in there again.
Aileen didn’t know where she was going, all she knew was that she needed to drive. A nice long drive with the windows down and music playing loud was one of her favorite forms of therapy, right behind drinking vodka. So she started her car and she usually felt slightly calmer when the engine roared to life. Not this time. Her nerves were still twitching and her hands were still shaking as they held the wheel tight. She turned the radio on and popped in one of her favorite driving mixes. It consisted of all the songs she loved to sing loud while driving.
After maneuvering through the car lined streets of suburbia, Aileen soon found herself on the highway headed towards the parkway. She knew the drive quite well as her family used to spend many summer days down the shore because “down the shore, everything’s all right.” The thought of her family made Aileen’s chest even tighter. Her father was a gambler and her mother was too distracted with the other kids and their troubles to pay attention. They pretended like everything was perfect but behind closed doors, it all fell apart. Aileen basically raised herself from a very young age, forming her own ideas and beliefs. It might seem ideal, but it left her feeling empty and broken.
It was a fight with her mother that sent Aileen on this downward spiral towards being completely shattered. The life Aileen lived was one that made her happy, or the closest to happy a girl with manic depression can get without medication, but her mother didn’t approve. She wanted Aileen to be more but no matter what, it was never enough. Aileen was expected to get married and have children and have a fantastic job but that wasn’t in the cards for her. She wasn’t that type. Some people are made for that life, but not Aileen. She could barely take care of herself, how did her mother expect her to take care of another human being? Her mother made the mistake of having one too many children, and Aileen suffered the consequences of her mother’s decision to not get an abortion.
The music went from mellow to hard basslines and thumping drums which jolted Aileen from her thoughts. Without realizing it, she was already halfway to the shore. The giant green sign for exit 98 loomed overhead. There were barely any other cars on the road but Aileen still used her signal and checked to make sure no one was in the other lane before crossing over. She turned the music down slightly because she didn’t want to wake anybody while driving through the little beach town of Point Pleasant.
Aileen parked her car near Jenkinson’s Aquarium and walked up the old wooden stairs to the boardwalk. She probably should’ve been worried that there would be people on the boardwalk but she wasn’t. Aileen didn’t care. And if she sensed someone that could be dangerous, she might just provoke them enough that they’d attack and kill her.
The boardwalk was such a lonely place when it wasn’t open. The only lights on were the lamps that rose up from the splintered boards. Aileen stopped and stared down the long, empty walk. The windows of games were closed and chairs were stacked on top of tables. Desolate. It was the perfect place for Aileen to be. She felt...safe.
She slid off her flip flops and walked across the sand. Her legs already felt tired, as did her whole body, so each step felt like she was trudging along in thick mud.
There were no clouds and the wind blew around Aileen’s body with such ease. Her long brown hair danced up and around her head. The loose fitting tank top she wore billowed with each passing zephyr. She looked up at the sky with pleading eyes. Searching for peace of mind, Aileen couldn’t decide if she wanted to tear down the stars and rip apart the backdrop or be among them. Instead she sat down and dug her toes into the cool sand.
The air coming off the ocean cradled her body and mixed with the salt of her tears that ran from her eyes, down her cheeks and landed on her arms. The waves swelled and crashed to shore just as Aileen’s chest would rise and fall back down. Each time the water would slam into the earth, the sound echoed in her head. Her eyes drifted closed.
“Why do I have to be this way? Why can’t I just be something for someone? Something more than a fuck up?” She was talking to the waves and to the stars, hoping for an answer. Aileen rested her forehead on her crossed arms that sat upon her knees and her chest started to heave and her body started to tremble. She just wanted it to stop. All of it. She knew they couldn’t talk back and give her an answer but still she wasted her breath begging for them. Breath that she was struggling with.
Aileen picked her head up and stared into the darkness. The only light was the moon’s reflection coming off the water which was very faint. No one would miss me Aileen thought. And if anyone even noticed I was gone, I’d soon be replaced.
Pressing her hands into the sand beside her, Aileen pushed herself up and brushed the sand off her pants out of habit. With a deep, heavy sigh, she felt the weight of everything crush her.
Aileen’s final footprints were shortly washed away by the surf and the only thing that stood witness were the decorative palm trees of the Tiki Bar at the end of the pier.
Three days later a note was found in her car. It read:
There is no one to blame. I’m just not strong enough for this world. There isn’t enough energy left in me to keep fighting. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more.