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It was a nice night for a long, long drive...

Recommended headline: A nice night for a drive

No sandwich quotes, please -- pm,adl

Column by Gregory T. Huang

The smell of the sea was in the air.

I woke up, rubbed my eyes, and looked around. The beach was totally deserted. Only an hour earlier, there were hundreds of people around; now there was only me sitting on my towel. Had it been only an hour? The sun was drifting down over the water, painting the clouds on the horizon pretty shades of purple and orange.

I checked my watch, but it had stopped at 5:16. I stood up and gasped in pain as I realized my back had been terribly sunburned. I had come to the beach with three friends earlier in the day, but they were nowhere to be seen. Had they left in my car, without me? Quickly checking my pockets, I found that my keys were still there. Good. I put on my shirt and grimaced as the fabric irritated the stinging skin on my back. I started across the sand toward the parking lot.

As I climbed up the tall ridge behind the beach, the parking lot came into view. The whole scene before me was bathed in a dim orange glow. The vast lot was completely empty, except for a small maroon Volkswagen in the distance that I recognized as my own. Farther away, I could see roads and the main highway that I had taken to get here. But, as far as I could see, there were absolutely no cars on the roads, and there wasn't a single person in sight. I turned around to look at the beautiful sunset and the waves crashing up on the shore. It was really quite peaceful.

"Hey there," said a soft female voice. I almost slipped off the ridge as I whirled around to face her. She was about my age, with long brown hair and warm brown eyes. Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, she looked strikingly pretty. And strangely familiar, but I couldn't place it.

"Hi," I replied cautiously. "What happened here? I feel like the last guy on Earth or something." She stared at me for a moment. I felt like I'd just said something stupid.

She smiled and said, "It must be lonely. Why did you decide to stay?" A gust of wind blew her hair over her face. She brushed it aside as I wrestled with the question.

"Well, uh, I fell asleep," I mumbled. There was something very odd about this conversation, but I couldn't figure out what. I knew I hadn't answered her question.

"Ah," she said, nodding. Then she laughed. A cute little laugh, as if she understood something I didn't. I didn't think it was funny. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it. Well, I'll see you around." And she turned to go down the hill.

"Wait a second," I called. "Do you need a ride into town?"

She stopped, looked at me, and then looked over at my car in the lot. "No thanks," she said with a slight smile, "I'll walk." And she did. Soon, she was out of sight and out of my life.

A chill ran up my spine. I'll get used to it? I thought. My world had betrayed me. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by a wave of confusion. I collapsed to my knees, hearing the loud rush of air in my ears as a gust came over the ridge.

I woke up sweating in my bed, hearing the wind as it screamed through the cracks in the wall next to my head. I was back in the familiar surroundings of my room. What a weird dream, I thought. I looked at my alarm clock and saw that I still had 12 minutes to sleep. I hate it when I wake up right before my alarm goes off, I thought. Today would be a tough day, with meetings in the morning, classes in the afternoon and a presentation dry-run in the evening. After that, I needed to fix computer programs for my work with

Lincoln Lab. What a crazy school. I remembered that I had planned to finish my math homework as soon as I'd get up. Of course, now that the time had come, I really didn't feel like doing it. Was grad school really for me?

I sat up and looked out the window. The river was partially frozen over. I was relieved to see cars moving on the street and people walking along the river. I realized that those people made my life what it is. All my goals involved those people: earning respect, making them think, making them laugh, sharing experiences, loving and caring, helping those in need. Yet, it was so easy to lose perspective here, to forget about others, indeed, to lose yourself. To not think about what's going on in the world, to not bother to tell somebody that you care about them, to put off learning something you always wanted to learn, just because there wasn't enough time in your busy schedule.

I thought to myself, From now on, I'm going to make time for those things, because they're important to me as a human being. Work is very important, but you have to live as a thinking, caring person too. I put my head back down on my pillow, hoping my alarm clock would stay quiet for a little while longer. But it went off right away, sounding like, of all things, a splash of water.

I woke up, this time with a jolt, on the ridge overlooking the ocean and the parking lot. The tide had come in, and the waves were rolling up high on the beach. That was a very strange dream, I thought. It was fading quickly, but it reminded me of something, I wasn't quite sure what. By now, the sun had set, and it was getting chilly. I put on my jacket and walked down the hill toward my little maroon Volkswagen. It was a nice night for a drive. In fact, it was one of those nights where you feel like driving forever. I just might do that, I thought to myself. I just might do that.

who

Gregory T. Huang is a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.