Portland

Several coworkers and I were in Portland for an event this weekend, and late on Saturday night the day was winding down. I had rented a car, and I offered to drive people home. Hayley, Liz, and Luke raised their hands, and off we went.

As we got into the car I warned everyone that I was going to make them ride around and listen to Kanye with me (more accurately, they would listen to me enthusiastically rap along to Kanye) before taking them home. “We’re going to drive across every bridge in Portland,” I said. There are a lot of bridges in Portland. Everyone liked this idea.

Liz piped up from the backseat: “You know, the ocean is about two hours away…”

I slowed the car. It was 2am. It was rainy. It was cold. It had been a very long day. I was wearing a suit.

“Let’s do it,” I said.

“I’m in,” Liz said.

“I’m in,” Luke said.

“I’m in,” Hayley said.

“So how do we get there?”

We turned left and headed West — music blasting and windows down, rain be damned. I drove, Hayley navigated, and Liz and Luke invented dance moves in the backseat. We marveled at the austerity of Oregon’s road signs: “Trucks,” “Rocks,” “Fresh water,” “Speed 50.” Cannon Beach was 80 miles away.

We climbed mountains in the darkness. We could just make out the silhouettes of the giant pines surrounding us. As we climbed higher we were doused in fog, and it became almost impossible to see. Very few cars were on the road.

Finally we arrived at Cannon Beach. It was very late — 3:30am — and the town was silent. We took a left, drove two blocks to the road’s end, and bounded out of the car. There it was: the Pacific.

The beach was long and wide. It was low tide, and the waves were breaking 100 yards from the water’s edge. From the waves to us was a shallow skim of water many yards long and many miles wide. We danced along it. Hayley shot a video of her hand touching the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

The moon was full and the sky was overcast. The world was a muffled shade of grey. To our left in the distance we could make out the beach’s giant iconic rocks jutting from the ocean. They looked like sleeping monsters. We laughed and shivered and walked in their direction.

We passed two small bonfires with a few people huddled around. We kept moving and eventually came across an unattended fire. We stopped. The fire was bright with blue and green flames. We warmed our hands and I warmed my bare feet.

Giant black birds stood in the waves nearby, and Liz and I walked into the water towards them. The shallow surf stretched from our feet to the big rocks hunched in the haze ahead. Moonlight glimmered on the wet sand. Everything was moving and perfectly still. It was a desert of grey. The world was infinite.

“This feels like death,” I said. I meant it in the best possible way.

My eyes were locked on the big rocks, and they drew me ahead of the group. Even though I was freezing I walked with my feet in the water. I had to be immersed. Even the suit I was wearing was grey.

I reached the rocks and stood before them. Minutes later the others joined me, and the four of us stood and stared. They were beautiful, staccato silhouettes. Luke offered words of thanks to Poseidon. Immediately a wave burst from the ocean and rushed at our feet. We backpedaled with gratitude and laughter.

It was time to head back. The night hadn’t gotten any warmer, and we stopped again at our fire. We warmed ourselves before starting the walk back. I walked most of it with my eyes shut. The drive home would be a long one.

We piled back into the car and I took the wheel. It was almost 5am. Hayley and Liz dropped off into sleep, and soon it was just Luke and I talking. After a half-hour I pulled over and asked Luke to drive. The others woke to keep Luke company, and I dozed off in the backseat.

An hour later I opened my eyes to see the outskirts of Portland. It was after 6am and the Eastern sky ahead was beginning to fill with light. It was morning, and we were home.