Wishing You Were Here

I could hear the sounds of calming waves behind me; they collapsed and made a sssshhhh sound before the cycle repeated. These waves were in my background while I lay on a hammock focused on the rectangle in front of me. While staring ahead, I, for a second, imagined what was happening out on the waves that I could not see. I “saw” the water invade the shore,  but it often retreated into the greater sea. Sometimes, at high tide I imagined, the water worked at full force to overrun the beach. Today, the waves the proved to be a spent force and nothing more than a pleasant sound as I played.

On the screen in front of me, I drove a massive, futuristic jeep on a planet with towering yellow and purple trees. I held down the gas so that I became airborne — nearly clipping the wings of a flock of cyan birds mid-air — after launching off ramps. The aliens, whom I presume built these ramps, placed the structures in curious places. The placement suggested the alien architects were daring me to launch myself into the air at a dangerous speed. So I drove around most of these structures. One time, I gunned the engine and flew off the ramp higher than ever into the sky.  Nothing could stop me.

After launching off of this ramp, everything moved in slow motion as I ascended higher and higher. The cyan birds swooped down to my eye level and pecked at my character’s helmet, but while keeping one hand on the steering wheel like a responsible driver, I swooshed them away. When the birds parted, my lungs sunk into my stomach and my eyes grew wide as I saw what lay before me. I was going down. I was about to land on a glittering, gold beach. As we got closer to the ground, alien butterflies floated around the jeep, an external manifestation of my stomach’s sentiments. I crossed my fingers and closed my eyes.

Thud!

The jeep bounced off the rocky beach like a trampoline — yes, this was not a realistic game — and landed in a sand trap. My character started digging the jeep out of the sand. I hit pause in the game world.

In my world, I could still hear the waves in the background. I got off the hammock and opened the window. The waves evaporated and the pleasant sounds ceased. The sounds of the city replaced the waves as I peered outside. I heard tires sloshing through giant puddles and the slushy sounds of cars driving through wet snow. I heard the rain tap against the roof and saw stacks of snow and ice collapse and crash from the sides of buildings. I saw planes zooming in to land and heard their engines exhale, after a long trip, as they got closer to the ground. I could smell the street meat on the corner and heard both cars and geese honking. I needed ear plugs!

I turned around, unsatisfied with my breath of fresh city air and returned to the game. My character was still digging the jeep out of the sand. While he did that, I took in the game’s beach: the water did not have a ripple in sight and it was sunny. I smiled. I decided to share my joy and took a photo of the screen with my phone. I added a caption, “Wishing you were here,” before sending the photo to a friend.

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