It's a little after 7. I'm in a bad mood. Fine, I decide I'm going out for a while. Set my away messages on AIM and Yahoo Messenger to "Out. Walking. Not sure where. Don't care." Turn off the lights, grab a jacket, lock the door, head down the stairs. My RA is on the landing one floor below mine. She greets me cheerfully. I'm not in the mood for cheerful. I try to force out a cordial "Hi." It sounds more like a growl. So much for that. I hurry down the stairs, across the lobby, and out the door between A wing and B wing.
Down the sidewalk, turn towards Birchmont. Look both ways, decide that since I usually head south towards campus, this time I'll head north. Walk past the houses I can see from my window. Then past more that I can't see, down the street. Someone's lilac bushes are threatening to overtake the sidewalk. Manage not to get my hair snagged on the branches. I keep walking, past that one huge house by the lake that reminds me of some English countryside manor. Past that one park, I think it's called Cameron Park, maybe? I look down the hillside. Someone's having a big picnic party down there, like a family reunion or something. They're laughing and chatting and eating with a big pink and yellow plastic tablecloth draped across the picnic table. Bully for them.
This is the farthest I've ever gone in this direction before, but today I walk farther on. The sidewalk ends, and I keep going, in my mind remembering Shel Silverstein. I walk for a few more blocks. I don't remember exactly how far I got. I remember walking past the sign for 28th Street, and continuing for a while after that. The houses remind me more of my neighborhood back home. Mid-block somewhere, I realize that I don't really know where I'm going so I turn around and go back. I feel the inner sole of my left shoe starting to wear a blister on my foot and remember that there's a hole there somewhere. I get back to the sidewalk, walk past the park again. That family is still down there, having dinner amid the cold damp breeze. A red truck turns onto the road that leads down there. The driver looks at me curiously as he passes. He must be going to join the group.
I get closer to my dorm building again and spot a girl I knew from high school walking toward a car parked on the street. She lives on the same floor as me. I ask her why she's parked all the way out here. She explains that it's her mom's car, and that she doesn't have a parking permit for it. I nod, she goes her way, I go mine.
I'm not interested in going back inside yet, so I walk past my building and down the street again, towards Diamond Point Park. The houses in this direction are more familiar; I see them just about every day walking to class. They're nice, cute little houses. I wish one of them was mine.
I reach Diamond Point, planning on walking right past, but the one huge tree near the sidewalk catches my eye and I walk towards it, circle around it once, and head towards the lakeshore. I ignore the paved paths for the most part and just walk through the grass, the ground still soft and wet from yesterday's rain. As I approach the shore I notice two pairs of mallard ducks swimming out into the water. I stop by a tree, lean up against it, and watch. Soon, I notice that the graceful, happy duck couples are not the only birds on the shore. There are lots of tiny birds, of several different varieties, flying around, skiffing across the surface of the water, singing in the trees, investigating the green-gray-brown detrius on the edge of the lake. There's a red-headed woodpecker up in a pine tree to my left, a beautiful crimson bird of some variety sitting in a tree to my right, what I think was a baby oriole in the sand in front of me, and lots of other birds that I can't identify. Suddenly a flock of birds lifts into the sky and scatters across the water, and I look up to see what startled them. A woman jogs by with her dog. I wonder if she wonders what I'm doing out there, standing so still. I'm not really sure myself.
I look out on the water and notice that even with the breeze, the water is calm and only slightly rippled. In my head I compare it to silver-grey silk, and try to come up with some sort of sensual image... A silk dress on a beautiful woman is the only thing I can think of, and I decide that sounds cheesy, so I decide that if I write about the water, I'll just call it silk and leave the rest as an exercise in imagination for the reader. After a while I remember to look at my watch. It's five minutes to 8. I've been gone nearly an hour. It's getting colder out, and the light is fading, so I decide to walk home.
Leaving the lakeshore, I head up to the paved path and follow it towards Birchmont. The only deviation I make is to cut across the corner instead of following the right angle. As I do this I remember taking a walk with my dad while he tries to explain the Pythagorean theorem to me. I was 8. When I asked him which was the shortest way home, he told me that the sum of the squares of two sides of a triangle were equal to the square of the hypotenuse. I asked him what that meant. He tried to explain as we walked. Funnily enough, I understood.
As I walk down the sidewalk past the Native American Center, I see someone walking past on the other side of the street. He looks familiar, like someone I remember from New Mexico. I try to get a better look at his face. He waves, and I realize that I have been staring. I wave back, look away, and wait for him to get past me. I cross the street into the parking lot by Birch and walk through to the Linden lot. A car drives past me and pulls into a parking spot in front of me. The car is a baby pink Cadillac, and I immediately want to ask the driver if he thinks he's Elvis. I curb the urge and walk past, up the sidewalk past Tamarack and towards Oak. There is a puddle by the corner of Walnut Hall, and I walk carefully to avoid dragging the cuffs of my pants in the water. Then it's inside, across the Oak lobby, up the stairs, unlock my door, take off the jacket, light a candle, get my water bottle from the fridge, and sit down. It's 8:15. I start typing.