Getting up to watch the sunrise is no easy feat.
Especially not for someone who has been depressed for years.
But today, it is worth it.
It is their birthday. A chance at a new perspective. A new year, just for one.
The alarm rings at 5:30 and they jump. Once the realization hits, they begrudgingly shut off the alarm.
They turn to go back to sleep but are hit with another realization, a promise made to themself.
They were going to go down to the beach today. It was their one wish that year.
They crawl out of bed, fueled by spite for their exhausted body. They dress, old clothes of course, put on a hat, fill a water bottle, and depart.
It is the middle of the summer, and this summer has not held back.
But the vigor of the fresh summer morning is welcoming, staving off a bit of the sleep crusting their eyes and encouraging them on their quest.
They have left too early to see the morning runners, the early dog-walkers, the older couples getting some exercise before the day becomes suffocating. They do not have to worry about others.
They do not have to perform, or feel self-conscious for not performing. They can simply be. Perhaps that was the true gift they were asking for, but they've never been that deep.
The sky is a beautiful gray-blue hue. A shade that would look wonderful painted on the walls of a kitchen. The birds wake and a new day is beginning to dawn when they reach their destination.
A deep breath,
and they proceed.
The beach they chose this morning is not special.
The rotting community center sits up the hill, and the rancid "freshwater" from the pond they've been walking along flows to the sea underneath it.
At a younger time, they would have followed that water as far as they could but, well, it is no longer that time.
There are two levels to the beach they've chosen. An upper level with some picnic tables and a gravel parking lot, and a lower sandy level that lets the sea in.
Currently, the tide is in, so there is no lower level, and the water is almost high enough to touch from the board-walk barrier.
They decide to take a further step back in time and visit an area they used to play at. They follow the gravel lot to where it narrows, and the pond turns abruptly toward the water.
Above the culvert pipe is a platform covered in sand and secured by massive boulders.
They wonder how those rocks got there,
whether they were intentionally placed (they were) or whether nature had plucked them from a distant shore and placed them carefully in place to never move again (they weren't,
but it is a beautiful thought).
They sit on a boulder they must have sat on a hundred times, back when a fear of spiders and the unseen wasn't there to stop them from building masterpieces out of driftwood.
At the hint of a sunbeam they move on. Before leaving their little sandy platform, they choose a rock.
A blue-green stone, oblong, but not obviously, and hold it in their hand as they climb back to the gravel.
They take a seat on the sea barrier. This is what they wanted, right?
A car pulls into the lot, they ignore it. Privately, they are disappointed in the company.
With one knee tucked under their chin and the other dangling near the water, they sit.
They contemplate what they want from the next year, fiddling with the stone in their hand, feeling the grains of sand with their fingertips before letting them fall back into the water.
The gulls have long since awoken and are searching for their breakfast in the slowly receding tide. The sun has risen a good deal more over the far mountain range, and the light is blinding.
They simply move the brim of their hat down and keep staring. They savor the taste of salt on their tongue as the breeze moves the scent of the sea toward them. They don't know what time it is.
What time does the sun even rise in August? They realize it doesn't matter.
A few cars come into the lot. A few people unload gear and ready their row boats to paddle to their motorboats anchored in the bay. They are probably getting a head start on the day's fishing.
Is is crab season? Or salmon? They don't know. Unsurprisingly, they have found yet another question they do not have an answer to.
Despite the melancholy thoughts they are faced with, they feel good. Better than they had in a while, but they know it won't last.
As soon as they leave this beach, trudge up the hill, and back to their childhood home, any peace they have consolidated this morning will melt away.
They will return to the husk they were for months.
They will have to face their mother's surprise that they were actually able to get their lazy ass up and walk all the way to the beach that morning.
They will feel worse, like it really was just an anomaly rather than something hundreds of people do every day, and they will sleep until noon tomorrow.
They dream of a future where they don't feel like this. It feels real, it feels attainable, but in reality, they know it will just be more of the same.