by Stella Lei
On March 28, 1941, Virginia Woolf, renowned author of many novels including Mrs. Dalloway, drowned herself by filling her coat pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse.
Step 1: Begin packing a week in advance.
There are many things you will want to bring, but you will forget most of them the first time you try. There are the obvious: bathing suit, towel, sunglasses. The small: sunscreen, charger, hat— crumpled in the corner of your closet and coated with dust. The things you will not think of until an hour before the train leaves and you are tugging on your socks: music for the trip, extra change, a creased copy of Mrs. Dalloway that sits on your bedside drawer, Clarissa Dalloway smiling into space.
Step 2: Impulsively buy what you should have brought but didn’t.
Enter a boardwalk shop, sand crusting your skin, and flip through postcards of the same faceless scene. Pick up shells. Put them down. Buy a collection of sea glass, deep green and faintly glowing under the fluorescent lights. Pay quickly and don’t look up.
Step 3: Go to the beach.
Spread out your towel in the most abandoned area. This is where granite claws out of seafoam, where algae snares ankles and gravel cuts feet. Page through Mrs. Dalloway, but don’t let the words pierce deeper than the skin of your thoughts. You have memorized most of them anyway. Instead, peer at the families on the other side of the beach. The children will tumble and laugh, sticky with salt-sand-sea, candy-colored swimsuits bobbing through blue. The parents will sun, languid, or help their children pour kingdoms out of plastic buckets. You will not join them.
Step 4: Wait until nightfall.
The families will leave once dusk films the sky and cold sweeps in over the water. Wait for stars to prick through dark and sow jewels in the inky sea. You should have brought a blanket, but you peel your towel from the ground and wrap it around your shoulders. Sand sifts down your spine and halos grit around your waist. You will find it creased in your skin for days.
Step 5: Stand at the waterline.
Line your sea glass down the shore, the green a luminous shadow against the waves. It is the same color as the necklaces your wife wore—the necklace she still wears. When the water laps them away, know that she will braid them into her hair, thread them with the reflections of stars. She always liked her jewelry to match.
Step 6: Close your eyes.
Do not shout or cry—she cannot hear you beneath the waves. Her eardrums are clogged with brine and breath, collapsed lungs sighing into eternity. Instead, trace your words in the sand. Carve them strong and deep. Do not hesitate. Write to her about how clouds snagged on branches that morning, how they reminded you of when her dress caught on that old nail and tore. Write to her about Debussy, about keeping her piano in tune. Write about the sky.
Step 7: Observe the tide.
Let it swallow your feet and creep up your legs. Let it catch on Mrs. Dalloway, carry tear-blurred pages over rocks and salt, ferry her to the horizon. Watch your words melt away, pockets primed to sink.
Stella Lei is a teen writer from Pennsylvania whose work is published or forthcoming in Four Way Review, Okay Donkey Magazine, trampset, and elsewhere. She is an Editor in Chief for The Augment Review, she has two cats, and she tweets @stellalei04. You can find more of her work at stellaleiwrites.weebly.com.