That does it; I need to get out of my dorm room.
I wasn’t in the mood—and was not capable—of handling this newest stress. I was outta there. Or I would be… As soon as I got ready to go.
When I get stressed, I talk to myself. My roommate says it’s amusing, which makes me laugh.
“Where’s my helmet? Freakin,’ freakin,’ freakin’…
“There it is!
“Shoes… Shoes… Shoes… Where’s my sneakers? Ah, there they are. Of course they’d be under a pile of jeans, old jackets, PJs, and everyday shirts. How practical.
“Notebook… Freakin’ heck! It doesn’t fit in my purse…
“Ah, but this one does!
“Pens… Sheesh. I probably have at least ten buried in my purse. No worries there.
“Pepper spray. Check. Stun gun-thing. Check. Jackets—two. Check.
“Lace up sneakers… I wonder where I should go on my bike ride?
“Put on both jackets… Probably down to Boulevard Park.
“Stun gun stuck in jean pocket, within easy reach… Yes—Boulevard Park will be perfect. It’s the best place to write a midterm essay worth 20% of the grade… The one that’s due tomorrow—Yes, that one. Freakin’ heck…
When I finally was ready to go, I stumbled my way down the Eden’s Hall staircases (Well, actually, I took the elevator most of the way down—and then was unsteady on my feet ‘cause elevators always do that to me. Don’t ask me why, ‘cause I don’t know).
After that, it was a matter of untangling my bike from the rack and mess of other bikes. When I had finally freed my valiant mountain bike from that cave of darkness (also known as the storage room for Eden’s Hall bikes), I set out, flying down the hills as I made my way amongst the maze of streets and cars.
I got distracted along the way (not that that’s unusual). I had to take pictures of everything:
Bird’s nest revealed as the autumn leaves fell…
Bellingham Bay and the ships…
The brightly-painted placard telling the history of Bellingham…
Trees and pathways, and pathways between trees…
A staircase leading downward…
The grey sky and the maple leaves and branches above…
Forgotten paths amongst asphalt and moss…
And finally—down the road leading to Boulevard Park…
Presently, I was settled on a park bench and left to my thoughts and ponderings as I wrote the beginning sketch of my midterm essay.
Her hands were red with cold, but she didn’t care. She had until sundown to write and then return.
She was sitting on a broad park bench—by herself; and she didn’t mind that, she told herself.
She looked out over the water, the shifting waves lapping on the pilings below her in a steady, calming rhythm—Soothing.
Her bike was propped between bench and railing, in plain sight, where no one could steal it without getting pepper spray in the face.
She liked that bike; it was a mountain bike that could handle detours across fields, and the rough road down from the arboretum where she loved to fly.
The bike was a lot like herself.
When she went riding, it was to escape her dorm room and all the stress confined in it; confined like a bird in a cage, struggling for her soul to remain sweet, even in the captivity of exhaustion.
A robin sang in the distance—the promise of spring that had kept her going last year, notes rippling upwards and downwards like a Strathspey of mountains and valleys—a song of enduring and stubborn cheerfulness.
A kingfisher called, as seabirds cried out to each other—out over the water in haunting and wildly sweet tones.
So sweet, so wonderfully sweet.
The clouds were painted:
…Dark grey, promising rain…
…Pastel-peach-gold, promising light on the horizon, even if the dusk was nearing…
…A pale, blue sky directly overhead where there were few clouds and no chance of rain to chill to the bone and make her catch cold again…
She was so tired.
She had the boardwalk mainly to herself, though a few folks passed her by, bundled against the cold: An elderly woman walking alone; a young mother and her little child; a young college couple.
She liked her empty park bench, didn’t she?
No—she disliked it thoroughly, but no young man would come sit next to her. And frankly, if he sincerely tried to, he might get a face full of pepper spray.
She looked at the sky once more. Fie on the sky and the cold!
She looked at the sky, and all she could see was how dark it was.
The thud of footsteps on the boardwalk off to her right. She glanced down the way: Another college couple walked past her, talking together and holding hands.
God, she asked silently, why hasn’t that happened to me yet?
Stupid park bench.
She laughed inwardly. To be alone was never the end of the world. Hadn’t she lived most of her young life in this state of being?
She looked down at her left hand. It was stained with watercolors, or perhaps henna blossoms held tightly clasped to her chest. There was a lingering tan of summer, though her fingertips were frigid—each feeling like ice.
On her ring finger were three rings; one atop the other in layers to form the image that it was a single ring.
At the bottom: The thin band of gold, given by a mermaid to her daughter; her Promise Ring. The Promise she had made several years ago to the young man she did not yet know.
In the middle, touching both, largest and solid: The Israel ring with the silver band spinning atop the gold, Hebrew writing upon it. Another Promise—but given to her.
Though she did not see how this Promise was possible—ever. Not today; not when the sky was so dark and the night was nearing.
At the top: The cheap, swirling gold ring—which was supposed to be a toe ring, but she had needed it to be a finger ring.
It had two ‘diamonds’ that closed like a Celtic king’s torc; more tightly bound when the season was winter and her hands grew so cold she feared she’d lose the two rings to it—that even as she used her hands, her precious rings would slip off and be lost.
Once, she had dreamed a horrible dream and woken up very afraid. She had been going about her daily work when the silver band atop the gold was ripped off for no reason; torn away. She wondered if it had meant something. She wondered, if it had meant something, what it did mean.
And she was afraid, though she knew she shouldn’t be. She was afraid that the thing she wanted most would disappear into the mists of the promised dawn; leaving her alone once more.
The sky darkened; but she didn’t want to return—not yet. The clouds darkened on the horizon out over the hills, and a chill settled over her.
She was so cold.
All the stress fell on her once more and her throat felt rough with exhaustion, though her nose drank in the cold air and smelled winter and Christmas on it.
Christmas meant home; Christmas meant a Break.
Oh God, she wanted to just be home and away from all this; to drop everything she had taken on in the last few weeks, and to go home—back down south—and hide in her room for the rest of the quarter.
And yet, she would not give up on this adventure for the world. It was her challenge to take on—and she loved challenges, even when she couldn’t see a good chance of winning.
But this day—this moment—she was very, very weary.
Later, when she trudged up one of the many roads leading up to Garden Street, she led with her bike ahead of her, leaning on it as she put one weary foot in front of the other and tried not to think how tired she was.
Never give in, Never give in, Never give in, her ragged breathing said in the cold, wintry air—Winter, though it was still only October.
Cannot be defeated, Cannot be defeated, I Cannot Be Defeated, her heartbeat triumphantly said over her exhaustion.
Home will come, Home will come—she told herself in rhythm with her breathing, and her heart. The night never lasted forever. Never.
Wasn’t that why Christmas was in the dead of winter? In the darkest of times?—to give cheerfulness and hope to a dying world?
She would stay up here in Bellingham, and she would trudge onwards. She had the Spirit with her—she could do anything. In time, the Morning Star would come. And in time (she hoped), the dawn for her would rise.
The night never lasts forever.
One day, the Lord will come for you. And He promised that He had a young man for you—a Promise made in Israel, the Spirit whispered to her soul.
She fingered the Israel ring.
Faith, her soul whispered to her.
And she continued on.
~~~Arielle Marie, Lyric Class Midterm