LIE-ing in Wait
We load up the car for our traditional trip East, the destination reflected in our cargo of bikes, bathing suits and books. As we wind our way to the Long Island Expressway, I mentally run through the road trip ahead, remembering every marker and milestone. We have taken this route for as many summers as I have had birthdays, and I know it by heart.
Exit 30, Cross Island Parkway. We veer from the Cross Island Parkway onto the Long Island Expressway. The car’s aluminum body bounces over every pothole and blemish in the worn grey road. With each jostle, sudden metal clanks of bike against rack startle me, then subside to soft jingles. The bicycle pedals sway back and forth with the motion of the car. I think about the family bike rides that lie ahead, alongside the potato fields on Deerfield Road. When we are feeling more energetic, we load up the bikes for a longer trek down Meadow Lane, to taste the salty air and try to outpace the seagulls. I can almost feel my long hair twisting into impossible knots as our rubber wheels trace the white lines on the road, which flutter like ribbons in our wake. I sense the burdens of the school year dissolving into the dust kicked up by the tires and the wind. I am as weightless as the seagull as I drift off to sleep, lulled by the rotation of the wheels, car and bike twisting together.
Exit 57, Veterans Memorial Highway. I awake as sunlight streams through the window onto my face and lap, illuminating the air until I can see dust particles floating like golden feathers around my breath. Everything is gold: wisps of hair, upholstery and water swaying in plastic bottles. Even I am gold, sitting in this golden diorama. The light tastes sweet on my lips, almost like vanilla ice cream. I think about my favorite Village ice cream shop, now only an hour away. Every summer my brothers and I spin on red vinyl stools, excitedly hoping that Salted Caramel is on the menu. The formica countertop is worn from decades of elbows like mine impatiently waiting for the scoops to arrive. I can feel the sweet cream dribbling down my chin, caught by a crumpled brown napkin. Almost there, I think, glowing in our travelling globe, thoughts dipped in creamy happiness.
Exit 70, Manorville. We stop here for gas, every time. I look out the window at the cars speeding past me. Flashes of white, black, silver and blue streak by, etched into my vision, even after I close my eyes. The blurry road forms a canvas that is inexplicably beautiful. It reminds me of the view of the traffic along Montauk Highway from inside the Parrish Art Museum. I always pause at the cavernous window in the Parrish’s front hall, mesmerized by the passing cars, wondering if this vista is itself an art exhibit. Soon we too are back on the road, and Stargazer rises powerfully in the distance, standing as sentry at the entrance to the Sunrise Highway. My mind wanders from this roadside sculpture back to the Parrish, where Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstrokes also stand guard, promising something even more beautiful just up ahead. Suddenly, everything is art to me, and the vacant days of summer lie before me like a blank canvas, uncurated, waiting to be filled.
County Road 39. The road is now dusted with sand, small beige grains nestled into every crease and divot, showing us the way. The speed limit switches from 55 to 35 as we spill from the Sunrise Highway onto County Road 39. My father applies the brakes, and I feel the car slow to a casual saunter. I am impatient with this delay, anxious to arrive already, but the shift in our speed reminds me that it is time to slow down and find my summer pace. I steady my thoughts and synchronize my breathing to match the leisurely cadence of the car. I start to feel that familiar release – the freedom that signals bike rides and ice cream, the license to stare at the empty days ahead of me, unfurling like a long stretch of road, and declare them art. The car shifts into park, waking me from my reverie, because I am