BY SHANNON GUGARTY
You thank your lucky stars that you didn’t have to walk here, and only have to walk back.
The building you exit stands partially up a hill, at the part of the hill where it turns. Going up further, the hill is steadily steeper, eventually spitting you out somewhere near a Catholic high school and a bridge that looks like the big fancy one in Boston. Walking up here would have been a pain. Getting back should be easier.
In truth, you only had so far to walk. Just down to the bottom of the hill, and then down main street a bit, and then a long ways down North St., to where your dorm was. Waiting for you in your dorm was leftover stuffed crust pizza and a Vitamin Water and video games and nothing to do. It would be great. You just had to make it there.
You idly consider pulling out your phone and calling for a ride. However, you know that Alexander is already off campus, and lives an hour away, and that Justin is at an appointment for unemployment, so he can continue paying his rent and utilities. For a brief moment, you consider his heating bill, and a twinge of guilt runs through you. Curse you and your poor circulation…
Earlier today, you saw the temperature. It was seven degrees, Fahrenheit. It felt like it was negative eleven, with the wind chill. You consider wrangling up your phone to see what it is now. You decide against it.
The walk down the hill is relatively uneventful. You soon realize that where cars don’t travel, it’s not very well cleared of snow. The sidewalks look like someone half-assed the shoveling job, and the rest has been beaten down by people crunching through the snow, packing it deeper into something that would probably be just ice after a while.
You adjust your hat and scarf. You thank your past self for thinking, “Hey, I gotta walk in the cold. Better bring my hat and scarf.” You curse your past self for losing your warm Russian hat. This hat feels flimsy, more like it’s made for fashion than anything else. And it doesn’t even match your outfit. Good job, self. You blew it.
Crossing over the street is rather perilous. You forgot how busy this street is. In retrospect, you realize that crossing the street was an awful idea. The sun is dipping lower and lower into the sky, and this side of the street has tall buildings that cast shadows. And the shadows envelop the sidewalk, leaving you in something much, much colder than before.
You realize you can’t feel your thighs.
The bus station is in view. You consider hoofing it in and waiting for the shuttle that will take you to your dorm, where the pizza awaits. You specifically ordered from Pizza Hut for you and your friends, mostly because you had been craving genuinely not-that-good pizza, specifically from Domino’s. You changed your mind to Pizza Hut shortly after you learned what the (possibly former) CEO of Domino’s did (or does?) with his money.
It’s not too far now. You can almost make it to the bus—
… The bus bound for the campus pulls out of the station, just as you approach.
You sigh deeply. Your breath comes in a puff of smoke, almost like a dragon. You’re going to have to walk up North Street. You pause and consider the Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner. A warm drink sounds really nice right about now. You hastily cross Main Street and get yourself a chai. Because coffee is just going to make your insides displeased, and Dunkin’ doesn’t know how to make a good cup of tea.
You exit the building, and consider North Street. There is no sidewalk on the right side, so if another shuttle comes by, you won’t be able to catch it. You cross the street with a grumble and continue on.
Somehow, you always forget that this part of North Street has just the slightest hill.
It’s enough of a hill to leave your breath coming heavy, less like a whimsical dragon and more like a train pulling far too much. Part of you feels guilty for even thinking of calling yourself “too much”, but another part of you doesn’t give a damn. The chai steams in your hand. Your hand is now cold, and it hurts.
Your thighs hurt now. Not because of the exertion, but because of the cold. The bitter air has completely pierced your jeans. You consider yelling at your past self for not thinking to wear leggings or tights under your jeans, but decide against it. Past you had two classes before the walk, and didn’t want to melt in them.
The sidewalk of North Street, until the main part of the university starts, is much like the rest of the city: not really shoveled, and packed down with footprints. You switch your chai to your other hand, so the first one can rest in your warm pocket. You realize the cup is sticky. The barista must have spilled some on the outside of the cup. A dark, cruel part of you thanks that you don’t have to tip at Dunkin’ Donuts.
The campus is, for the most part, dead. It’s nearing four, on a Friday afternoon. The café in the main building is closed. The sidewalks are nice. The music playing in your ears is triumphant, rousing melodies from your favorite game. You sing along a little as you near your dorm.
As soon as you enter your room, it’s as though a butterfly is emerging from its cocoon. You throw your heavy backpack onto the bed, and toss your hat onto the floor, along with your scarf and coat. You feel as though you’re on fire. Your thighs are bright red, almost as red as the sunburn you got from when you and your sister were playing at the pool with her boyfriend watching.
Afterwards, you catch sight of yourself in the mirror. Your face is red from slight exertion and a lot of cold. You idly wonder if you should check the temperature, to tell your friends.
For once, your room doesn’t feel cold, like ice. Your room feels warm, and welcoming. You grab the box from Pizza Hut, and you devour the remaining three slices of stuffed crust, green pepper pizza.
It’s this brief moment, with the crust in your mouth, where you feel accomplished. It really wasn’t all that long a walk, once you think about it. To any of your other friends, it’s only the smallest thing, something every day. But you don’t care about them. You boot your computer and prepare to play video games all day. To you, this is a victory. And victories, no matter how small, should be celebrated.