Driving DirectionsNatalie Schriefer
Trumbull High School Sacred Heart University
72 Strobel Road 5151 Park Avenue
Trumbull, CT 06611 Fairfield, CT 06825
11min without traffic (only 6.5mi)
- When the final bell rings, run. Dodge the teachers, the loiterers, the knots of underclassmen. Dodge friends and tennis teammates too, anyone who thought you’d get a full ride. In the car, as you reverse, try not to look at your backseat, where your racket bag used to sit. Turn left onto Strobel Road for the last time.
- [0.3mi] Turn left onto Daniels Farm Road. Beat the buses, if you can, their engines grumbling in the afternoon sun, but if you get stuck, look at the houses while you idle. At the graduation balloons twisted around mailboxes. At the yard signs displaying university mascots, whose NCAA divisions you know by heart: Quinnipiac, DI. UConn, DI. Marist, DI. Grip the wheel as the traffic cop motions you forward. Don’t cry.
- [0.9mi] Cross the overpass, then turn right onto Park Street. Make the first right onto CT 25 South. This was the first highway you drove on, right at dusk, civil twilight fogging the boughs of the pines. You could take this road to UConn, if you wanted. To Quinnipiac or Marist, too, through a maze of exits and expressways, if only they’d given you a scholarship. Merge onto the highway. Look at the median, the grass sun-bleached tan. Focus on open space. On new opportunity. The chance to become someone new.
- [0.6mi] Take Exit 8 onto CT 15 South. That’s what the GPS calls it, but anyone from around here calls it the Merritt. It’s a divided highway, where drivers surge on from a full stop, merge lanes short or nonexistent. It’s because of the bridges. They were built during the Great Depression, and they’re beautiful, even in the dark, headlights tracing sculpted scrolls, a drain spout ornamenting the sweep of an arch. The highway department can’t widen the Merritt without demolishing the bridges, so the accidents—and traffic—stay. The past shapes the present, in this way. You hope tennis doesn’t gridlock yours.
- [3.2mi] Take Exit 47. Turn left at the end of the ramp. In a few years, there’ll be a traffic circle here, intended to reduce crashes, but right now you have to prevent your own. This is Fairfield, bougie and quiet this early, but here it borders Bridgeport. Everyone avoids Bridgeport—which means they’ll leave you alone. You’ll be able to figure things out here. Ask big questions like “Was I ever any good?” and “How did I not see this coming?” and “Who am I now?” The silence makes Bridgeport the most beautiful city in the world.
- [0.3mi] Turn right at the traffic light. Drive past the stone Sacred Heart sigil, the brick guard shack. The man inside won’t look up as you and the other commuters stream past, and that’s fine, right, being invisible instead of a failure, your backseat as empty as the turnaround in front of you?
- Turn right into the commuter lot. Park in the shade, by the library, under the trees lining the guardrail. You’ve arrived. It’s warm and the fall sun is shining but you can’t shake the dread. Fake it, for now. Like you’ve been doing all summer. Open the car door and tell yourself: You don’t need tennis. You’ll love it here. You have to.