Katherine

I hear bells ringing from the church down the street and I feel reality vibrate away with them. I know that the surprise day off from class is no more or less real than any other day, but it slips from me like a dream even as I am living it.

A freshman and I set out into what would be woods except for the fact that they don’t extend very far. They’re like a kiddie version of the big scary woods, set near the edge of our campus, so civilians from town go there to hike the trail—couples and dogs and gorgeous, gorgeous old women with long gray hair and artisanal barrettes. There’s a pond that runs into a creek and a place where there’s slightly more water and people swim. There are rocks and trees and prayer flags and the occasional tent.

We get to the swimming area, glance at a sign that tells us that the water is not safe to swim in half the time, take off our clothes, and wade in in our underwear. The deeper we get the colder the water feels, and the more we gasp in pain and stretch our bodies upwards—then we get used to it and begin to swim in circles. We talk and slowly lose our dexterity as our blood chills.

We eventually move our things to the other side of the creek—slowly because our frozen hands are like paws and our legs don’t respond very quickly—and walk through high grass to arrive at a dirt track surrounding a field of wheat. The sun and heat are more profound here. They are just what they are. We walk the track then run back to stand at the side of a trail in a few feet of light—thawing statues baffling runners.

I feel guilty every time I listen to a song or spend too long in the shower or walk around outside for five minutes, because I know I have work to catch up on—and beyond that, general life intelligence to catch up on. But today we spend all day doing nothing and end it at a restaurant with a stupid name and a stupid font on the menus and eat our entire plate of enchiladas and nonsense. I return to my dorm, glance at my assignments, and go to sleep. I felt grateful. The day feels like a little smooch on the top of my head, muffled by hair. ♦