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  • Kali Kugler

Morning Woman

When life is unseasoned or my days brutalize me with their unforgiving cyclicity, I imagine myself as an old woman – an old woman who has dealt with her life’s responsibilities and cut off unnecessary loose ends. In this fantasy I am on the coastal shore of Maine. The sun is rising, so the sky is a glorious concoction of orange and violet. The crash of the waves sprays my wrinkled, sun-damaged face. There is no pit of regret or guilt in my stomach, only morning coffee and contentment. White sand and chipped sea shells cut the worn surface of my feet. The sun begins to thaw the night's cold blanket. I am unbothered, independent, and off-the-grid, but the most enticing filament of this moment is that I am entirely alone. It's just me, the Atlantic chill of spring, the white-capped surf, and an obligation-free existence.

I met this woman in Maine one summer, during the mild New England month of June. She was running a diner staff like the Navy without even breaking a sweat. The establishment was sweltering from kitchen commotion and grease. We got to talking while she poured my coffee, and I picked her brain about hiking trails in the area. She told me of her dawn routine: Hike the Chandaluar Trail in the early morning darkness before anyone else, make it to Sand Beach by sunrise, and swim out to the cove’s cliff border. She called it her ode to peace.

I, a twenty-one year old, pretend that I am the elderly woman from the diner in Maine. This fantasy version of me has truly lived, but in this moment, she is reflecting, breathing, existing. There is no pressure to be with anyone or be anywhere other than the shoreline. Her responsibilities remain unspoken between her and the ocean. Her mornings are reserved for silent affirmations from the ocean’s curled waves, the salted winds, and the shifting of sunrise tides.

My secret to sanity could possibly be deemed as insanity. I love to hallucinate my existence. Some could say hyperbolize or imagine – I say hallucinate. If I am sitting through a painfully slow thesis lecture where everyone writes the same thing, or I am on a run and my knees feel like they’re going to shatter with one more step, or my mundanity starts to pull the air out of my lungs until my lack of oxygen delightfully disorients me, I pretend to be someone somewhere else. My life in New York City is fast and productive. I built it for myself, and I take pride in that. Though, in the depths of my soul, part of me resents myself for fortifying a life in such a materialistic environment fueled by hostility and status. My deadpan stare on the subway may come off as disengaged or rude, but at least in my mini curated reality I am at peace.

Verbally confessing my alternate reality feels dishonorable. I’ve exposed the potential of my future self to the eyes of readers who will claim to relate to or judge my choice of imaginative venture. My daydream confession is not meant to justify my mental dissociative behavior but to reinforce humankind's magical ability to move through time. In this intangible reality, we can be whoever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want. Daydreaming is the ultimate intimacy one can partake with themselves. Just know, while I write this, I am on the shore in Maine.


Art by Poorvaja Subramanian


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