The first time you feel existential dread you’re nine and the babes of “Baywatch” kick sand on Santa Monica Beach. Sandwiched between your parents on the couch in front of the TV at your house in Phoenix 386 miles away, you say, We’re all going to die. Your parents grumble. You’re being dramatic, or causing trouble, but you’re terrified, this thought landing with a smack. We’re trying to watch the show, your father says. He cranks the volume up a few notches so the room fills with the crashing of waves, this room in the desert. You visit that beach every summer. You save your allowance all year and blow it in one swoop in the Hello Kitty store. Fatten that wheeled little kid suitcase. Older, your vision grows blurry or sharp. Lights are too bright. You want to close your lids against the glowing world, but you still go on summer vacation to the beach. On the drive, you read an erotic story in a women’s magazine and try not to picture the dripping peach as your father navigates over sizzling asphalt. Those little white crosses dot the roadside. At the beach, you’re suddenly terrified to walk across the bridge between the sand and Pacific Palisades Park. Afraid your legs will give out somewhere above the pink and purple Barbie house or that the constraints of reality will pull away and you will fall to the highway below, dropped from above. Wait, you call to your family. You walk fast to get the pain or fear over with quickly. And maybe this is why you rush through every task and milestone, to get through, never reaching a safe other side. The other side exists, but the relief upon reaching it evaporates. Or there is no other side, only the shuffling toward it. There are always more bridges. You promise yourself you will finally talk to someone because to not enjoy your favorite beach is the last straw. You look forward to this all year, every year. You listen to the TV show’s soundtrack. The theme song sings to you that some people are afraid of the light, but that you’re not to worry, you’ll be rescued. You’ve been talking all along but maybe not to the correct people. Back on the screen, they run toward the waves.
Suzy Eynon is from Arizona and lives in Seattle where she works in college admissions. Her fiction and poetry are published in Newfound, Overheard Lit, Hungry Ghost Magazine, King Ludd's Rag, and others.
Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower