From a park in mid-August

It’s quiet. I’ve gone so far that all I can hear is the wind in the trees and the buzzing of wings all around me. I’m walking in circles and now I can’t remember which direction is home. It doesn’t matter; I won’t be going back. I sit in the grass up against a tall, thick tree and I gratefully take a few sips of water. The shade affords some respite from the heat but my legs are tired and heavy. Still, I am content to stay here a while and just breathe. I notice a couple of bees playing nearby and I wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to have such short, simple lives. I’ll bet a bee never felt the need to run away. I can sense the wind starting to cool as the sun falls and at once I feel the weight of my eyelids. Placing my backpack behind my head in the most comfortable position possible, I let my body drift into light sleep.

Foreign sounds wake me from nonsensical dreams. It takes me a moment to remember where I am, although saying that I can place my location would be untruthful. My eyes adjust to the darkness and I decide to walk a little farther. I am not used to the rough terrain and the lack of daylight makes for slow progress. I should probably stay where I am but my mind is too restless for sleep and my legs are itching to keep moving. My ears pick up on the sound of running water and I am surprised to find that trusting my instinct is more fruitful that I would have guessed. I follow the sound and come upon a shallow spring. I begin undressing but hesitate; I am not accustomed to such freedom. Recalling that there is no one around, I strip down to nothing but my bare skin and slowly dip my aching body into the cool water. It feels better than any hot shower I’ve ever had. I lay on my back and float for a while, gazing up at the tree canopy above me. My eyes trail off to glance at my naked body and a laugh escapes my lips. The sound seems far away and unnatural. I’ve been gone less than twenty-four hours and already my sense of normal has changed. My eyes relax again and I stand in the water looking around for signs of movement. Somewhere nearby I hear a scampering of small, quick feet through the leaves. For a moment I am sad to think about the beloved cat I left behind. He would be fine of course, with regular feedings and affection from others, but I wondered if he’d miss me at all. For so long he was my only confidant, and I felt a twinge of loneliness without him. I couldn’t have brought him along if I’d wanted. He was domesticated and becoming quite fat, and would never have been disciplined enough to stay by my side. I remembered that loving something sometimes meant leaving it be, and realized that he was much better off at home.

Out of the water, I had slight chills but decided to remain unclothed for a while longer. How liberating it was to be free from anyone’s judgment! Remembering that I am still alive and will have needs to attend to in the coming days, I laid out my sleeping bag and allowed my mind to still so that I could get needed rest. When I awake at daylight, I will eat and move forward, intending to make it as far as I can before night falls again. I am not sure where I am going, or where I will arrive, but if the journey takes my life I will be content to know that at least I did not die a slave to my circumstances.

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