East End Eternity

Written By: Olivia Dartley

The receding lights of the muted cityscape are the only witnesses to the steady rumble of car wheels on a grey speedway. The whoosh of passing cars rock a steady lullaby as the radio plays tunes from the century before.

I lean back on the seat and quietly slip in my earphones — the left bud dangling perilously down my shirt, a victim of my dog’s destruction. He is sleeping softly, his snores punctuating my parents’ hushed conversation.

It’s another Friday night on the highway, another dusk staring out a dimmed window at the slowly emerging stars. The vehicles beside us share our direction, but their destination is hidden in a blanket of quiet mystery. It’s easy to feel alone as the warm dusk settles over you — special, even — for you are the lucky winner of escape from the busy streets of Manhattan. It is from there my family flees, making the two-hour journey to Long Island without complaint every weekend and each summer of my twelve years.

The privilege, however, comes with a price.

I chuckle softly to myself as I realize the secretive nature of it all — I try not to mention to my city peers that I spend time in The Hamptons for fear of being called snooty, just another entitled airhead. I also try to keep my week-long location shrouded from new acquaintances made at East End beaches, camps and playgrounds — I don’t like wearing the gritty label of city person, either…. being regarded as a tourist, just another leech on the body of the East End.

Yet, all week long, I rest comfortably in the knowledge of having an alcove tucked away on the stormy tip of the tri-state area. Only 85 miles away from Southampton, the city seems an eternity from the emptied beaches of the Island. I feel… secure, carefree, all my problems light-years away.

I’m… flying.

I don’t feel like an entitled city-goer, a tourist, yet I couldn’t know. It’s almost comical, the scenes on social media — wild, electric nights at the social clubs and restaurants seem so foreign to the East End I know.

The East End, to me, brings up memories of a young child laughing wildly, intertwined in her father’s arms as they swing around, dancing on the beach as waves clap and crash in the near distance and the sun sets over the clouds.

The East End is pulling up to a small little house with the yellow walls and light plywood floors — horribly outdated, albeit my home.

The Hamptons bring to mind potato fields and drive-in movies, burnt popcorn.

The thought of the East End conjures up memories of sitting down to eat at a dented table, munching on freshly grilled corn and dutifully flossing before climbing into a small twin bed, falling asleep to faint shadows of trees and cars passing over the horizon. It was waking up to an empty house and the loud twittering of a robin, lying in the serenity of it all, waiting for my mother to make thin pancakes with.

Long Island brings to mind memories of a torn rope-swing and screaming with glee as I almost crashed into several oaks. The East End was hearing my neighbor warning me to stop but joining in on my laughter as I did it anyways.

I think of the first time I ever traveled out into the ocean, hugging my father for support as we walked out into the unknown, together, singing songs from the radio as the shoreline receded. Now, a bit older, it was dunking my head in the foaming waves and feeling my hair fan out peacefully, my scalp fill with sand.

I am jolted back to reality, the warm darkness of the car. The highway is flattening out now, factories shifting into trees and buildings melting into water. My family travels over paths and tiny back-roads, pavement churning under our wheels into gravel. The stars shine now, bright and undying. The roads are empty, but I am not lonely.

“There’s the water,” my father gestures.

I peer over the tilted angle of the window. We are passing over an arching bridge, the water below glittering wondrously.

We are home.

A small smile escapes from my face as the rumbling of the vehicle, warbling of the radio and snoring of my dog rock me into a steady sleep.

All moments would soar and eventually pass, but the memories — my fond, golden recollections of the East End — would last for an eternity.