Prompt: abstract object associations.
1) I see it for the first time in earnest December 2013. My Shiba Inu, Rory, chasing the dead leaves that kick up when there’s a good breeze. The voracious, vicious and revered Shiba Inu hunting instinct manifesting in the form of perked ears and tail at the slightest wind current, the softest rustling of any sort of foliage. And then, when the dried leaves skitter across the concrete, her low, shuffling sort of pounce, nails scrabbling gracelessly and mouth chomping to catch her prey. I’ve pried more leaves from her jaws than I can count, and have been dragged across the parking lot as so much liability on a hunt. I’m typically met with a disdainful, disappointed and judgmental gaze in the aftermath. Her breed is known for its intelligence and its dignity. She seems neither as she pursues her query, yet I’m the one deemed hindrance when I hold her leash.
2) One day, I notice the uniqueness of Florida winters—the word “winters” used loosely, as Florida rarely experiences a true winter (no snow, and rarely temperatures in the negatives)—are a reprieve from the oppressive heat and humidity of the other three “seasons.” Our winters are more like the rest of the country’s autumn. The air is crisp and clean feeling, regardless of where you are, and there’s something to be said about not needing a shower after standing outside, motionless, for less than three minutes. I’ve always enjoyed the other-worldliness of standing in the shade and then in the sunlight, of experiencing their temperature extremes—it’s the closest thing I can think of to the climate on another planet. I love the juxtaposition of sitting beneath a palm tree to enjoy the outdoors while bundled in a sweater with a cup of cocoa.
3) I’ve always wondered about my father’s reasons for taking me to that park. It was a small slice of paradise for me as a child, hidden away between old brick buildings and old brick roads. Primary colors of the experience were always brick red, mulch brown and school bus yellow. My hands would always smell like pennies—the price of playing on metal equipment where the paint had peeled and rust was setting in.
4) Tonight, I walk laps around an empty track, a winding curve of asphalt that surrounds a pair of soccer fields and a playground. I’ve been here countless times to get away from my father, to escape his threats and his screams and the terror he always instills in me. I’ve been here with friends and boyfriends, rolling in the grass or sitting on the bleachers. But I walk now, because anxiety pumps through my veins as surely as my blood, because there’s no way to get the energy out without screaming or crying or hitting something or all three. It’s late, it’s cold. I can see my breath, and my Chuck Taylors hardly keep my feet warm. I shouldn’t be out. I shouldn’t be alone. But I am because I don’t care. I can’t care. Henry doesn’t care. My father doesn’t care. My mother doesn’t care. I could be murdered or worse, and no one would bat an eye. But the energy will keep me up all night until I burn it off. So I walk laps around an empty track.