You have a special way of picking out the precious moments,
Wringing them until they bleed their last grimy drops of joy
And feeding them to the shrieking shredder that spits them out, transformed to utter crap.
It’s a sugar-sprinkled day, one of those days when the blue sky seems to have stars in it like the eyes of a handsome man during those first weeks of dating before you notice everything wrong with him. But that’s not on my mind now.
The cherry blossom trees unfurl their full splendor. Pink and white petals loop and loll, tracing the wind’s meanderings. Every tree is a many-armed cheerleader sporting countless tufts of fluttering pom-poms, rooting for everyone. Even the concrete swamps under parked car tires and the muddy treads from passing rainboots celebrate, a dash of sugar-cookie confetti smiling from beneath puddles of gloom.
It isn’t hard to sense what the trees are celebrating: the sun has finally awakened from her beauty sleep. Her daughter earth has waited so long for this caress, this soothing of the worry lines that have carved her forehead over the long night.
The wooden bench I’m perched on is just warm enough to consider pulling off my gloves. But I leave them on.
A past professor ambles by. From the way his thermos is primed for action and the determination creasing his forested face, I can tell he’s on his way to replenish his caffeine stores. He greets me. He remembers my name. In the warm air, a smile curls on my lips without any need to shovel cheek-snow first.
2:37. I sigh in one last breath of petal-dusted air before heaving to my feet and donning my strapped cargo halter. Between the petal trees engaged in waltz, I make my clumsy way into Walker via the Automatic CAUTION Door.
The air is inside air; it doesn’t speak petal any more than I speak escargots. A blonde in white skinnies is letting a group of high school seniors and their parents know that we have a good school here, that there’s a nice health center, that a lot of students will study abroad.
The staircases in Walker Hall are the same muddied turquoise color I imagine when I think of Jacques Cousteau’s first submarine dwellings. Slippery and barnacled with rough raised dots for the blind (or so it seems), they are the slowest set of stairs I’ve yet climbed on campus.
Color always buzzes in the language office. Decorations splatter every inch of wall space: the laminated sheet music to the German national anthem; a student-crayoned poster advocating language learning; magazine cuttings from southern regions where leaves are green with all their might.
I take a seat; the only empty one far enough to please the you that ridicules me constantly in my mind’s ear.
2:46. We begin; or don’t; it’s always hard to tell when every other thing you say is directed at the kerchief-potato girl who buoys by and your eyes flirt with the water fountain in the back corner. Being clearly the least interesting object in the room, I excuse myself. I don’t manage to do it without hurting the you that lives in my heart and cares what I think. Eyes streaming like pierced cranberries, I scale the Walker staircase in slow-motion rewind. I heave open the Automatic CAUTION Door. I ponder how it can not hurt you that I spat out such rough-edged errors; after all you do get so ruffled when my French isn’t grammatically correct.
A tree stands by me, or I stand by it. Every line and dot inside each delicate flower is a wild face that my eyes can trace without penalty.
A girl on a bench looks up.
I start walking.
Her eyes sink back to her laptop.
The street is volcanic blood from some stale eruption that was left to ferment, to blacken and to seal the earth beneath in dry phlegm.
Couples titter among the trimmed shrubs. Every girl’s eyelids are free to flutter just like the petals that serve as airborne charms against such riffraff as me, the backpack hauler dragging winter towards the dorms.
It was spring, a sugar-kissed day, a day when “people are beautiful” could truly live in my brain without threat of neural genocide. But now it’s just March. My heart has been wrung out like a tear-soaked washcloth, full of water that’s too dry to drip. Finally I wonder if the cherry blossom trees cry silently to themselves when they must recoil their flowers, or if they trust that there will come another sun-kissed spring?
All photos appearing in this post were taken by Anne Seaworthy in public areas of the Linfield College campus in McMinnville, Oregon, USA.