It's about a 2 hour drive to Seaside Heights from my house. We didn't leave until the afternoon. It was a spontaneous trip, the very best kind. The drive was uneventful. We spent most of it just talking, at one point my boyfriend declared how stoked he was on life. How everything just seemed really good & now he was on his way to spend the day just relaxing. Around 3pm we pulled onto the bridge that goes over the bay to Seaside Heights. I texted my sister Jennifer & told her to tell Lily, my 5 year old niece who was not-so-patiently waiting for our arrival, that we would be there in 15minutes.
An hour later I had to text my sister to tell her the bridge was broken, we were stuck (see that grey dot up there, that was us) & that we hadn't moved since the first time I texted her. This is probably where I should tell you that, although I'm pretty tough & not afraid of much, I am afraid of one thing & that is bridges. Like, deathly afraid. Like, close my eyes & hold my breath when we cross one afraid. Like, as a child, Jennifer & I visited my dad while he was living in London & during a double decker bus tour of the city we crossed Tower Bridge & they jokingly sang "London Bridge is Falling Down" & I, not-so-jokingly had a panic attack. I am totally afraid of bridges & here we were, well into an hour of my biggest nightmare come true. As people began to get out of their cars & things started to fell very "Walking Dead" to me, we got word that the locking mechanism on the bridge wasn't working and they couldn't cross the drawbridge fully to allow us to cross. Instead, the police would have us all turn around and drive back off the bridge. Once we got off the bridge we would drive up to the next one, cross, and drive down to Seaside Heights. The GPS said it would take us about an hour to travel what should have taken 15 minutes & had already been an hour and a half.
Three & a half hours later we finally arrived in Seaside Heights. My relationship wasn't as strong as when we had left the house & the beach, the one thing I was looking the most forward to, was close. But Lily, my sweet sweet Lily, was over the moon excited that we were there.
Side Note: the summer of 1996 I ran away from home. I packed a bag & took the train to Atlantic City & then caught a bus to Ocean City. I slept under the boardwalk under Jilly's arcade, spare changed for money to eat, made out with towny boys. I was a summer squatter & it was the best summer of my life. Some of the friendships I made that summer were with people I'm still friends with, twenty years later. I have an emotional connection to the shore that consumes my heart the minute I smell the sea air. Even now, almost a week after we went to Seaside Heights my sunburn is peeling & I'm itchy as hell but I still hold every minute we were down there in my heart like a horcrux. A little piece of me stays down the shore withe every visit, ya know?
Anyway, my boyfriend being from the midwest, doesn't have an emotional connection to the shore the way I do. He doesn't see the bright lights shine the way I can. The people shouting at him from the games are alarming, not at all charming. It's loud & crowded & the whole thing is just overwhelming & anxiety inducing for him. So, even though it's none of those things to me & I could walk it back & forth forever, we called it a night & headed back to the house because he deserved that relaxation he had been dreaming about the entire six hour drive & he wasn't going to get that on the boardwalk.
The next morning my family packed up & left Seaside Heights. It was raining as we walked to our car but by the time we got to a bagel shop (the only vegan option we could find in Seaside) the rain had stopped & there was no more in the forecast. We decided to spend the day down the shore, Brian insisting that it was the right thing to do, possibly feeling a bit guilty about the night before. I was psyched! We headed back to the boardwalk,watched a pole vaulting competition on the beach for a little while & then changed into our bathing suits (mine, a two piece from Mod Cloth covered in am all-over banana print). As we laid on the beach in the sun with the waves crashing on the shore I felt more calm & content then I had in so long. It hits me every time I'm down the shore: it is my HAPPY PLACE. My anxiety is non-existent there. I don't stress about work or bills or anything. If only funnel cake was vegan, then I would officially be the happiest girl ever.