The darkness burrows under my eyes and into my chest as I walk the streets a little after five o’ clock. It weighs me down, fuelling the pain of the cold raking against my skin under the layers of warmth I foolishly thought would protect me. The cold is omnipresent here, following me like a dark thought I can’t shake off, making its way into the safest, warmest places, pushing my spirit somewhere I can’t quite reach it. The early nights only emphasise it, it seems the sun sets only minutes after I rise. The mist in the air clings to my coat, leaving everything just a tad damp to the touch. I close my eyes and give in to that constant ache in my stomach, for a second letting myself imagine the searing heat of my hometown beating onto me, the warmth of thousands of strangers brushing past, the smell of smoke and rich tea all around me. The damp turns into a sheen of sweat, the hills into narrow bustling streets, the heavy clothes into an airy dress. The ache eases and then returns as I open my eyes submerging myself back into my reality. I think of my mother laughing as she buys yet another bouquet of flowers, my father meticulously readying the house, my brother ignoring them both. I gaze up at the twinkling canopy of lights above me and wish they were decorations for another festival entirely, the glimmering strings making me feel even closer yet so far still. I take a deep breath and the crisp cold air feels foreign as it enters my bloodstream.
Just seven hours later I stroll the same streets laughing so hard tears come, smudging the heavy black kohl that lines my eyes. The wind tugs at the high, high hem of my skirt making me feel as if I’m walking on air. The warmth in my stomach and the arms linked through mine keep me from feeling its bitterness as I stumble my way through a terrible joke that I know my friends will laugh at anyway, it’s too late in the night for them to tell the difference. The comfortable weight of their bodies leaning into me keeps me grounded, our fingertips connected as we belt out lyrics that are unintelligible through our smiles. I look straight ahead at the boy standing 20 feet in front of me, the golden light illuminating his slanted smile as he beckons for me. I run down to arms that suddenly feel like home, I belong in this place, in this moment in time. His heat envelops me, weaving a safety net around my shivering figure. A heady rush of adrenaline fills my veins and I throw my head back, the clean air washing away the haze from my vision and my thoughts. A crowd of jostling, screaming strangers carries me to my destination, the sudden warmth of a room of hundreds of pulsing heartbeats knocking me into my senses. I feel more alive than I ever have, my nerve endings on fire as familiar hands pull me into the crush of laughter and the energy almost pushes me off my feet. I am floating on the love and ethereal luminescence flowing inside me.
Image: Frederick Childe Hassam via WikiMedia Commons