Walking Pacific

creative nonfiction by Jamie Vassar

Walking Pacific

          Early spring breezes carry the smell of stagnant rain down Pacific Street as you start your walk for coffee. A restless night pushed you outside. Tires gliding across wet pavement creates a tide that washes past you until a busted muffler hiccups the cycle. Remnants of long-gone holiday decorations litter the sidewalk: four forgotten-outside-the-gate plastic Christmas trees, each one progressively hunched and bitter, a snapped candy cane light, and an assortment of crushed eggnog cartons in a lawn where Bud Light bottles would normally reside. Strange for late February.


          Two years ago, when you saw the Shizuoka seaside for the first time, the 75 degrees in October also seeming out of season, you listened to real waves. There wasn’t sand, only small, black stones too gorged to skip, but comfy enough to roll together between your palms while you made clunky small talk with that guy you shouldn’t have kissed. You saw the sleeping, still ocean— how beautiful it was, how gentle it seemed. You thought about walking up to it, crouching down and placing your hand out flat above the surface so it could get your scent before engaging in a full meeting.

          The sudden thought of Tōhoku city made you stumble. You felt the betrayal as if you were the one bitten, your home the one shifted out from under your feet. The footage of the wave, the wreckage, the fear stained faces being swept away seeped back into you until the hard slap of water against stone somewhere brought you back, breaking the train of thought before you sank too deep. The boy told you to follow him up onto a ledge to have a better look, offering his hand to help you up, then putting it in his pocket after you refused it. The Pacific foamed at the mouth of the rocks, the sound of the last sky-shot droplets hitting the surface quickened your heartbeat. That’s when you saw the fisherman sitting on the ledge, composed as his line sat unanswered. Strange choice, to fish by the rocks.


          You slow your pace as you get closer to the coffee shop, not wanting to arrive too close to open. The sun’s just now starting to peek through the clouds that seem to be following you this morning. You stop to watch them slink past each other. Returning geese, perhaps too early, emerge in various pockets of their wispy cover. Your shoulders drop thoughtlessly as you exhale, your brain finally slowing and beginning to feel tired.


          Summer in Japan was wet. It was almost impressive how frizzy and how soldered onto your skull your hair could be at the same time. On the fourth of July, friends wanted to celebrate your homeland with an Obama bobble head and a barbeque on the beach. After you’d soaked yourself in bourbon, you decided to strip yourself of inhibitions and shoes and chase the ocean. Your friends laughed at the first part but called out in concern for the latter, as the rocks tumbled under your socks, stunting your pace and threatening your balance. It was dark enough, and you were far enough from the fire not to see its infinite body, only the creeping handshake of the tide. As you tottered closer, squinting to make it out, it came too soon, and the freezing water shot past your ankles, then receded, taking your gasps and giggles with it. In a few months, you’d be going back to the landlocked Midwest, back to the familiar. The water came again, but this time you winced less, realizing how at home here you’d become.


Jamie Vassar

Jamie Vassar is a short essayist, podcast-junkie, and wanna-be dog mom. She currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska, where she lives as a cynical barista by day and a hopeless romcom fan by night. Vassar is a content writer for Luvdaily.co and has previously collaborated with 13th Floor Magazine and Hear Nebraska.