The past year has been so difficult. All I want to do is run away. It is almost impossible to deal with the grief, for now, anyway. Would this harsh feeling ever go away? Would I ever laugh again, or even just smile? Would I ever enjoy anything again? Or, would all the small things in life be tinged with bittersweet memories of what once was, or what could have been? My heart is locked up right now. I can’t open that door to other feelings and emotions. I don’t even want to!
Here I stand, looking around my apartment. I have to get away for awhile, at least. I don’t know what else to do. I have a strong support system here, of family and friends, but I can’t stand to be around anyone right now.
I pick up my cell phone and make a few quick calls. I decide to run away. I know I can’t run from my feelings and it won’t change anything, but at least, I can be alone for awhile and think.
I grab a bag and toss in a few items of clothing. I don’t need much. I go out to my car and throw the bag in. I know my car is in perfect working order, so, off I go. I just had to get away.
How long will I be gone? That is the question I keep asking myself as I drive along the highway. My destination? The mountains. I am driving from the city so it will probably take me about three hours before I make it there, provided there’s no traffic.
So far so good. No traffic on the road at all. This is the first time that I am going to be by myself. I hope I won’t regret it. I need to be in my head with my own thoughts. I need peace and quiet.
I rented a small cabin up in the mountains. My plan is to just walk for miles at a time. There will be no television, and I am okay with that. I have my laptop so that I can write.
It is late in the season, and the perfect time to still catch some of the fall foliage. The view from the car is extraordinary. The beautiful colors of the sunset are only matched by the gorgeous colors of the leaves on the trees. As I drive up the mountain, the surrounding beauty starts to bring me a small measure of peace.
I get off the highway and take a left, and I find myself driving through a quaint looking town. There are a few small shops to my right. A grocery store, a gas station, a stationary store, a bar and a coffee shop. I guess this is the complete town.
As I proceed further, I pass a number of small homes with postage stamp size yards in the front. Each yard is surrounded by a white fence. There are Beware of Dog signs on some of the gates, intended to scare away potential burglars. The houses are uniquely small. They look like little cottages. Each house is painted a different color; pink, pale blue, yellow and lavender. The driveways hold only the most compact of cars, as there is no room for anything larger. This little town seems as if it’s out of a children’s picture book. A bright splash of color on an otherwise dreary road. Except for the grocery store, which has a few cars parked in front, the rest of the street is relatively quiet. Everyone is home from school and work and settling in for an evening of dinner and homework, a bit of television and then bed. Then, back to the same routine the next morning. Normal life.
I keep driving. There are very few street lamps along the road and the sun has begun to set. I am hoping to reach my destination soon. It gets pretty dark out here and I don’t want to get lost. I am alone.
I see the sign up ahead. I’ve reached my destination. I didn’t really research this place online. I had quickly booked it without even looking at the pictures. It was the first place that popped up on my phone when I googled, mountain cabins upstate.
I pull up to the small parking area in front of the main office. I get out of my car and walk in. There is an old man sitting at the desk. His long gray hair is tied back in a braid, and his beard hits the top of his chest. The office has an odd smell to it. Musty. There is also the stale smell of cigarettes. I notice an ashtray filled with them. I hope that at least the cabin is clean! Of course I know that I have only myself to blame for my accommodations. But, given my emotional state, that is the least of my problems!
“Good evening, young lady.” I guess anyone under seventy is young to this man. I give him a quick smile.
“My name is Joe, and I own this place. I see your reservation here. How was the drive up? I’ve been to the city many times before. I know it’s a long ride.”
Joe is pretty talkative, and I am tired, and not in the mood for his chatter.
“It’s been a long drive. Is there any place around here that I could get something to eat?”
“Just sign in. There is a building on the property with food and drinks. If you prefer I can send you to your cabin and you can call for room service.”
I sign in and pay for the cabin. I don’t know how long I will be staying but it doesn’t look like it’s busy here. There are only two other signatures in Joe’s book.
“I think I would like to settle in. I’ll order room service. Thank you.”
“No problem,” Joe smiles. He gives me keys and directions to my cabin. It really isn’t too far from the office.
I find the cabin easily enough. It is close. There are no other cabins as far as the eye can see. Apparently they are situated about a mile apart from each other. I guess the idea is to give guests as much privacy as they want. Well, that works perfectly for me. There is a light above my cabin door, and a few small lights in front marking where I can park my car. I remove my belongings and go to the door, hoping all the while the cabin doesn’t look like it’s owner.
I unlock the door. It creaks as it opens. I switch on the light. To my utter and complete delight, the cabin is cozy and warm. The living space has a couch strewn with pillows in soft greens and blues. There are two easy chairs in the same colors. Standing near the window is a small desk with a very comfortable looking chair. It’s the perfect spot for me to write, or just stare out the window, if I choose to.
Though the cabin is small, it is quite pretty. The bedroom is perfect and the bed appears to be very comfortable. There is a thick area rug in the middle of the room. Fluffy pillows and a warm comforter sit on top of the bed. The bathroom is spotless with gray tiles and matching towels. To my surprise, I am still able to notice details. Maybe I am not as lost I feel.
I am too tired to deal with room service. There’s a granola bar in my bag, a coffee maker, and water bottles in the small fridge in the kitchenette. That’d be fine for tonight. I will deal with getting real food tomorrow. I sit down on the bed for a minute and the next thing I know, it’s morning. I had fallen asleep without getting undressed or having eaten.
I wake up the following morning and I am starved. The granola bar comes in handy and I wolf it down. I make some coffee and down that quickly too.
I take a shower and dress. I am looking forward to exploring the area, and clearing my head. I like the fact that there is no one around. It gives me the opportunity to think without distraction.
Thankfully, I have a warm jacket and boots with me. I knew, that it could get cold up here, especially if I am trekking into the mountains.
* * * *
I walk for about two hours. It’s cloudy and cold. But I enjoy the hike. The cold air energizes me.
I pass some of the other cabins on my way up the mountain. I don’t see a soul out and there were no cars parked in front. I feel as though I am the only one up here!
* * * *
The rain begins to fall, lightly at first, and then heavier. I have to get back to my cabin. This weather is unexpected, and even though it had been cloudy when I left, my weather app had not mentioned rain. I turn back and begin to run, but the trail becomes slippery. I slow down as I slip and almost fall but, there are wet leaves all over the ground that make even walking treacherous. I need to walk even slower before I really do fall.
I am getting drenched. I am scared. If I actually do fall, would someone even find me? To make matters worse, the ground is not level and I am afraid of falling on the rocks, which are scattered everywhere! I can’t let my thoughts go there! I have my cell phone. I don’t even know why I brought it! A false sense of security, maybe?
I continue to make my way slowly, and my two hour hike up the mountain becomes a three hour trek down. I slip a few times, but manage to right myself before I land. It’s pouring so hard and at times I can barely see, but I am determined to get back to the warmth of my cabin.
As I slowly walk in the torrential downpour, I see something in the distance. Is that my cabin? By now, I am so disoriented because of the rain, I am not sure if I’m even making my way in the right direction. I am no longer walking downhill. The ground is saturated, but it is now flat. It is a bit easier to move.
I see a cabin up ahead. What I don’t see, is my car. Am I in the right place? Well, it doesn’t matter. I am sopping wet and I need shelter.
I slowly make my way to the cabin. From the outside, it looks the same as mine. I knock on the door. No response. I start to pound heavily on the cabin door. Isn’t anyone around? I know I saw two signatures in Joe’s book. There has to be someone else here!
“Please, let me in. I’m soaked,” I shout. Still no answer. I try the doorknob but it’s locked.
I stand in front of the door another minute or two. I am not sure if my face is wet from the rain or my tears.
I have to continue walking and try to find my cabin. My hands are in my pockets and I hold my keys tightly.
I walk a little while longer as the wind starts to howl. I come upon another cabin. I know this one isn’t mine either. But I am so tired and I am soaked. I have to knock and see if anyone is in there.
This time, I pound on the door with all my might. I think I hear something, but it’s hard to tell with all the noise from the storm. It was such a slight sound. I peer into the window, but the cabin looks uninhabited. I am about to leave when I hear another soft sound. Now there’s a light in the window. I see someone looking out at me. Actually, all I see are eyes. The face is blocked by the window curtains. I pound on the door again!
“Please let me in!” I shout over the wind and rain.
Whoever is in the window refuses to move, and just keeps staring out at me. I am so desperate that I continue to pound on the door. I look at the window again, and the eyes, staring out at me only moments before, are gone. Am I hallucinating? Am I that desperate? I had to get to my cabin quickly or I would lose my mind completely!
I keep on walking, and I am crying. Stop crying, I say to myself. You have to pull it together! Finally, I see my car in the distance. I start to run. Shelter at last!
There’s no car. It appears that this is not my cabin either. Do I even bother knocking? Every cabin I approach is locked and I am all alone out here in the rain and wind. Will anyone open the door?
I don’t bother knocking. I have to get to my cabin. I half walk, half run and finally, I see it. There’s my car, exactly where I had parked it. Home at last!
I pull the key out of my pocket and stick it in the lock. But, it doesn’t turn. Maybe I put it in, the wrong way. I try again. It still isn’t working! I can’t believe that I am locked out! I don’t have my car keys on me, so driving back to the office to get another key, is out.
I am so tired, but it doesn’t matter. I decide to walk to the office. Hopefully Joe is there with a spare key and a hot cup of coffee. It is probably another fifteen minute walk in the pouring rain, but what choice do I have?
I walk, and walk and walk. Twenty minutes later and I still haven’t found the office or Joe. Everything is starting to look the same and I am panicking. I am so lost. I try to retrace my steps back to my cabin....
* * * *
The ringing of my phone startles me. I am so lost in my grief. I sit in my apartment, staring out the window at the trees below. I watch as people are going about their business, and everything is normal.
I don’t want to answer the phone. The ringing has finally stopped. I have tried to ignore everything and everyone. But I suddenly realize that locking up my heart, my emotions, and my feelings, won’t help me get past my pain..
The phone rings again. This time I answer it.
“Hey, girl, how are you holding up?”
It was my best friend. I wasn’t holding up at all, but I was warmed by the sound of her voice.
“I’m not doing too well. But I really am glad you called...”
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This is great, Rebecca! You capitalize on such a universal impulse - haven't we all fantasized about running away to physically distance ourselves from pain? I love how the identical cabins become a metaphor for the many emotions she's shut up to cope with her pain. And I love how we snap back to the present, to the city, at the end. Well done!
Thank you so much for both reading and commenting on my story! You really got it!!! Grief is very hard to deal with and the easiest approach seems to be running away. That never works out, though.
Really enjoyed reading this Rebecca! It's something we can all relate to at the moment with work, Covid and real life weighing us down. I'm from the U.K and I walk a lot in the Peak District, the benefits of the quiet and picturesque scenery are immense. I find that it's always better to go with a friend though! The ending took me by surprise as I was kind of expecting you to meet someone either in the mountains or in one of the cabins, someone who knew your situation and you ended up helping each other maybe. I liked your ending much bett...
"I am still able to notice details. Maybe I am not as lost I feel." This hit me on a cellular level.
Thank you so much for your comment. I am glad that you were able to feel my story and hopefully what I was trying to say.