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the ocean, 5 am

3 am, you know it's going to be worth it to sleepily roll out of bed now. 3:30, hushed voices in the kitchen, writing names on sandwich bags with half-working sharpies. butcher's knife meets solid watermelon rind, coolers rolled out to the trunk. everyone, pile in to the car! heather calls shotgun, it's cool. (happy birthday, darling.) backseat + blankets + bodies. 4 am, we cuddle. stop at the gas station for ice that will later melt and destroy our lunches. 4:45, turn off this exit, borrow light from the faintly brightened sky to read the sign. follow that boat! all boats lead to the ocean, she says. (funny how half asleep mutterings become catch phrases.) turn right + go straight + turn left = free parking. 5 am, film cameras, coolers, blankets, books--they all find hands to be carried by and together we tiptoe down the boardwalk. deserted sands, used to multitudes of beach goers, tourists, and whiny kids, stretch for miles empty and hushed, save for the repeated metronome of salt water thunder. enter wind whipped attempt to flatten the blankets against the sand, and finally we say, forget everything, we're going in. earth noises momentarily dampened by body submerged under a bracing wave. forget everything else in that moment, because the only thing worth knowing is the present. oh, what an ocean does to a person at 5 am.