I dropped my backpack and sank into the couch on Thursday afternoon, home from class with the entirety of my fall break stretched before me.
“You look like you’ve become one with the couch,” my housemate, Ceili, said.
“I’ve only been here for like five minutes, max,” I said. “Let me enjoy this.”
And thus, our weekend of submitting applications and getting our lives together began. But, it was more than just a chance to catch up on each of our never-ending mountains of obligations. It was also an opportune time to travel down memory lane.
I spent Friday morning cleaning the house as Ceili slept, and I thought back to sophomore year in Stoddard Hall. So many mornings I spent quietly tidying the room we shared before going off to classes. She’d tease me about how nice my bed always looked — neatly made each morning, pillows in all the right places. Somewhere along the way, I lost my knack for keeping things perfectly straightened. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find my room in disarray, clothing and belongings dropped in a trail as I run from one obligation to the next.
“It sounds like you’ve been running for a long time,” my therapist said later that day. “What does it feel like to sit still with your thoughts?”
I had to think on that for a moment. Then, I said, “For a while, it felt like the walls were closing in on me, but I think the path is slowly widening again.”
Afterward, I drove to the Kenwood Mall to return purchases I’d had in the trunk of my car for months in an “I’ll get to it eventually” pile. I remembered all of the times I’d do the same thing freshman year, when I had all the time in the world to make the nearly two hour round-trip excursion. Back before this newspaper became a full-time job, before the 15 law school applications sat waiting to be filled out.
I decided to take my time, leisurely walking through the thickets of families with little kids toddling around, a group of middle-school aged girls gushing about some drama that shone brightly on a phone screen passed around the circle.
I bought an olive-green sweater. My mom always said I looked best in blues and greens. I thought of her as I pulled it over my head in the dressing room, and proceeded to wear it for the rest of the weekend after I shook it from its tissue paper wrapping and washed it in the Gain detergent scent she picked for me three years ago when I moved into my freshman dorm.
I wore it to the Oxford Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, where I ordered my requisite cinnamon roll and loaded havarti and egg sandwich. I sat at a picnic table in Uptown park and remembered the weekend I spent with my parents sophomore year, where we ate the same meal and they made sure I got a flu shot at the wellness tent at the market. I mentally made a note to get a flu shot this weekend as I watched a little boy in a stocking hat run between the animal statues in the park, stopping to jump on each one.
I sat in the kitchen Saturday night, an intermission between Beat and the rest of the evening, as Ceili made us a frozen pizza and moscow mules.
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“Remember when this was the only drink I’d ever order?” I asked.
Ceili laughed. She remembers most things about the last few years better than I do.
“You need, like, a GoPro attached to your head, so I don’t have to remember shit for you,” she joked as I wrote this piece.
After my mom died my sophomore year, my memory got hazy, like what once was a crystal clear magnifying glass was inverted and fogged. My therapist said that’s what happens when you grieve. But, slowly, the memories come back.
I ran my fingers up and down the copper mug Ceili handed me and hoped that every weekend spent in Oxford will help bring it all back, just like this one.