When I was in high school, I took Spanish at the University of Montana. I can remember walking away from the imposing brick of Hellgate on Higgins Street, through the bright chill of September and October, and I swear I never saw another person.
It’s not possible, of course, because it was the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a busy neighborhood, in the middle of a college town—but I don’t remember other people being there. I remember the leaves with sun at their backs and the sheer blue beyond, a color that is only sky. I remember the sidewalks scattered with yellow and orange leaves, and the rare dry red or purple among them, like mysterious reminders of intensity, as if a hue might evoke a metaphor for all the joy captured in a season, or a single drifting leaf.
And that is what I felt; a bizarre and profound joy, that I could see all this and that I owned this moment, the way I might own a memory or a particularly delicious morsel of food. I could taste ‘now’ in the crisp air and I was powerful.
The walk itself was nerve-racking, though, because I was 17, walking toward a place where no one would know me or even say hello. Those leaves and rushing backdrop of sky were escape from certain impending doom; I would say something stupid, mispronounce a word or fail to understand the assignment. Or worse, I would know more, much more, than my 20- or 21-year-old ‘conversation partner,’ and I would have to whisper the instructions to her in English, knowing all the while that she resented me for it.
Yet somehow, the walk toward loneliness was a refuge from it. Sometimes being alone is just like that – better.
**This post was inspired by Write on Edge’s weekly prompt with a word limit of 300. For more seasonally inspired flashes, click here.