November 17, 2017

Wanderer

Photo courtesy of youtube.com

by Abby Johnston ’17

Eighty degrees and bone-dry. Not a cloud overhead to mar the plain of stars. And the concrete driveway that had been baking all day long now felt like a floor-heater on the expanses of back where her tank top dipped. This was how Susan would remember draught. Utter stillness. But this was also every summer since Ronny had left. The same summer he fled to Hawaii, the rain didn’t come and the grass didn’t grow, and the crickets didn’t sing. Susan wiggled her bony shoulders closer to the warm concrete. Yes, she decided, he could take it all. Good riddance. It would probably eat him up, anyway. And she liked this new era of her life—every single change.

Still, she cast her mind back to sunsets at the end of flowering trails so narrow that the petals stuck to her damp arms and legs. Bees, grasshoppers—bugs had been everywhere. They had both been dripping in sweat but still he had insisted on holding her hand. It was all disgusting—twice as sweaty as the rest of their bodies, their fingers slipped and slid between each other. At the top of the ridge he had pulled her down beside him on the rusty, splintery bench which had dried up and faded to grey, ancient in comparison to the sparkling steel and glass buildings below. His shoulders had sagged a bit and his leg jittered as he scrutinized the city below.

The roar of a speeding car brought Susan back to the black night, and into the realization that she had wandered down the wrong memory. It was futile to mull things over, to replay the scene, each time giving herself different lines, though always cutting out before his line, the one that she could never change because everything else revolved around it and without it, there was no story.

Besides, she had better things to think about. Like imagining her soon-to-be future at Microsoft. At an entry-level job, she would spend all day shuffling other people’s code, but it would be worth the nice city apartment, the future career, and life she had imagined for herself.

Ronny had drifted away from all that…well, dashed was more like it. Not from an apartment and career per se, no, he had a decent job and apartment lined up, but Susan always felt he could have done better. From the beginning of the spring semester of senior year he had begun a habit of appearing in her apartment with a green backpack filled with tents and food for two, half-sized notebook in the mesh pocket, GoPro crowning his grinning face.

’’Ya ready?’’ he’d say, a glint in his eye, as if this weekend, for some reason, she would suddenly have time.

After trying and failing to talk her into going on a trip on which she obviously couldn’t take her textbook, he would pick her up and pretend to carry her off. Of course that made saying goodbye easier, but weekend trips turned into skipping classes and March turned into April and work only piled up and the weather only became better. He never failed to stop by before leaving and when he got back with stories of waterfalls, fellow backpackers, even a quick bear cub sighting once. Then the semester had finally ended, and they had finally taken that backpacking trip above LA and he had left her with that question again. But what was there in Hawaii?

Susan jumped off that path on her own this time, and came back to the present. It was so warm the birds had started singing while the moon was still over the house. That was something she hadn’t heard in the concrete desert of LA. She pictured Hawaii becoming a scene from the Hitchcock movie, then laughed at herself and went inside to pack her bags.

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