I sit in the bathtub with my hair braided into a loop and pinned to my head. In two weeks, Strawberry and I will be moving out of the dorm and into our first real place together. Now, when I run errands, I try to be intentional about where I look. This neighborhood will soon become another silvery scale in my armor, another scalloped edge in the closed book of my past, and, before I go, I want to notice everything.
The ginkgo leaves like tiny open fans, the setting sun herniating over chrome buildings in a torrent of blue, pink, and orange. The corner greengrocer with its plywood walls and gold-and-purple stacks of fermented radishes and pitted plums. Moving downhill through the red, saturated air, my breath hot inside an ice-blue surgical mask. Eyes darting. The butcher’s display. Styrofoam trays of eggs and dangling cuts of meat (I stare, disgusted and mesmerized, at the florid fat swirls surrounded by ribbed tissue, swaying on a hook: the colors and textures remind me of a ruffled cream-and-crimson underskirt in a Rococo-era painting). The dilapidated double doors leading to the dormitory’s underground passage. The old cork bulletin board with its evolving sequence of neatly-typed notices about the pandemic. The dark mouth of a sprawling garden.
Jumping across stepping stones. Climbing up a ladder and then sliding down several rungs. A cicada struggling on its back. The perennially empty flower store with the striking, blue-veined blown-glass vase in the window. Rain smacking the pavement with the flat of its hand. Waking up fully rested and clear-eyed, like a woman newly escaped from an enchantment. A stray phrase catching on an edge of my mind like unraveled thread on a thorn.