I rode my bike to the park and scanned for an open spot of yellow, unshaded grass--one free from the couple on the plaid blanket, the mother trying to keep her two girls still long enough to snap a picture, the roommate quietly reading with an apple in hand. I wanted space of my own. I expected this to be a challenge, considering it was a sunny Saturday in Rexburg, but there were only sprinkles of people and I found space: toward the back edge of the park by the covered picnic tables and the little shelter overgrown with ivy. It was a warm spot and dried mud broke through the grass. With a ringing clunk, I placed my bike on its side--the back wheel still spinning--and draped my sheet over twigs and little flecks of last fall's brown leaves. I thought about how long it had been since I'd sat by myself in such fresh air.
There's something about being alone that is fresh, too. I breathed in till the air filled my body, took off my sunglasses, and laid on my stomach, propping myself up with my elbows. I fished in my bag for The Art of the Personal Essay, bent the entire book backwards on the page I was to begin with, and read. (I always bend my books backwards. This could explain why I have so many with ruined spines and missing pages, but I can't read any other way. I tried once when I borrowed a book from a friend, but it destroyed the story. All I could think about the entire week was how much will power it took me to forego book-bending.)
I read one essay, watched another couple go by on a black tandum bike, watched a newly-dating couple (you can always tell) toss a frisbee back and forth, watched a dad run while pushing his daughter in her stroller, and decided I was cold. The sun had disappeared behind a cloud--not a thin, cheese cloth cloud, but a heavy one, with grey in the middle. I counted about 4 minutes until it passed and the time between the end of that cloud and the beginning of another was small. I calculated: the time spent laying on my sheet would entail much less sunshine than anticipated and much more heavy-cloud-with-grey-in-the-middle interception. I accepted this as a Rexburg fopaux, and continued to lay chilled on the cold, dried mud, with only a sheet separating the two of us.
I thought about how I was cold and hungry, how I didn't want to begin reading my assigned literature from the Dark Ages, even though I signed up for the class. I put my book down and called my mother. No answer. I formed my backpack into a pillow, clearing all valuables from potential harm, placed my head in its center, and closed my eyes in the direction of the sun--desperately drinking in what it had to offer (when it did have something to offer). This trip to the park was to clear my head. I didn't know where to begin. I wished the sun would suck it from my eyes, through my pores, dry up the thoughts that repressed me.
After an hour of lying on the chilled earth, I stood to regulate the bloodflow through my legs and to my brain, sliding my arms through the looping straps of my backpack. I dizzily groped for my handlebars, managed to snatch them, and mounted. I rode the opposite way I came to avoid the eyes of those who occupied the other temporarily-sunny spots and to ride in the direction of Pita Pit, where'd I'd buy myself lunch. And that was my trip to the park.
P.S. I am lucky to have such great friends. Especially this one in particular, who is male and lives in Calgary, who makes me laugh every day on the phone, who can't get enough of my blogs, and attends comic conventions on the weekends. But seriously, I'm lucky.