Clearing

Clearing

Getting off the C1.

Intersection—Oregon Street meets Campus Drive—late fall—last day of Thanksgiving break if I’m precise. Dead leaves breaking under my feet as I step off the curb into the clearing beyond.

Bullshit on my mind.

School, to state the obvious. Found out a couple hours ago: final presentation I’ve got in four days (haven’t started yet), book I’m supposed to have read in two days (yeah, right), mess of final papers, projects, other garbage I’m supposed to be wadding as fast as possible up the weeks ahead until Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving to me. What was that all supposed to be about, again?

Field cracking under my shoes. Abandoned—gray. Blades resisting, bending, giving in inevitably to the pressure of steps.

Nice little area I suppose.

Just cold.

Last drips of sun are melting themselves against the limbs of stripping trees. Land—hollowed out at some point to the efforts of some unknown groundskeeper. Mower-truncated stabs of grass poking up at empty skies. Blower-pushed leaves all forced out away of the clearing as if to make us forget.

We don’t, of course. It’s never really that simple.

Thoughts bulge inside at me as I walk. More things I should’ve done, haven’t started, need to do or else. Should’ve texted my girlfriend (first day heading back to college—God she hates it there) should’ve started this article (shit—still don’t know what I’m writing for that) should’ve done a million things and here I am, why the hell is this where I am, over these dead blades and under this dead sky.

Too much. Too much.

I walk on.

There is a little path I can see as I crest the top of the hill the clearing sprawls out overtop of. Weeds—gray, dry, empty as the rest of the waste—are pounded down seeming at random winding into the woods. They claw, tired, against my jeans as I move into them.

Ugliness intensifying in the trees.

Nothing romantic about this wilderness. Nothing clear. Tangles of deadness caging in at all the sides. Limp little mud-creek, crawling its way through the slash of ditch it must’ve carved out in another universe—back when there was still rain, still motion, still life. The creek that pulls itself from nothing to nothing. Pours itself along the center of my makeshift path—shallower, shallower—sputters out to flatness as the way gives way to thicket.

The last flames of gold floating off the last of naked limbs. Wind rustling at whatever’s left. Somewhere—a bird, struggling in the twigs.

Why did I bring myself out here? What are these woods supposed to say?

My footsteps stop. The silence of the forest sinks in around.

For a moment I am still. Listening.

The world is crowding in at my brain—hushed and huge, poised at the fringes of consciousness as if on the brink of some ultimate revelation, twisting in my ears with the strains of a music I can’t quite hear, movement I can’t quite see, epiphany waiting for me just outside my reach and I gasp, I grasp, I reach out as if begging, Who are you? What is it? What is it?

The forest rears up in front of me. The trees groan, my ears strain, it is whispering around me and I can almost hear it and it is— it is— it is——

My phone, buzzing in my pocket.

Text from my girlfriend. Guess it’s time to go.

I turn away.

Dead leaves breaking as I make my way back to the street.

Photo by Matt Wisner