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The deadbolt clicks with finality as I rotate my key in the lock, initiating the beginning of my time. While this time isn't stressful or pressured, it’s the passage of time nonetheless. One, two, three, four steps down to ground level. Twenty-one paces West. Then, I'm standing at an impasse, unsure of which way to turn in the vast negative space that extends before me. The crisp fall air caresses my skin from left to right, and I let it carry me as I leave the warm confines of my mid-town apartment.

Loose gravel and asphalt crumble under my feet, my favorite tennis shoes sending the small rocks bouncing over the uneven ground. The first of fall’s leaves line the gutters, I notice, though they are few in number and sparsely scattered. They swirl and spiral as clear irrigation water cascades down the deep ravines, carrying them alongside my strides. I close my eyes for a moment and inhale deeply, consuming the sheer feeling of fall, willing it to become an intrinsic part of my soul. Indistinct traffic pricks my ears like a distant river, babbling, adding texture to the afternoon. I turn towards the noise, curious, and continue my probing exploration.

Red brick buildings radiate a vibrant orange glow as the setting sun casts its rays over my little college town.

Dimly, I notice that I'm somewhat ensconced in a little bubble, living just a block from Main and Center Street, and yet, still separate from the hustle and bustle of the late September afternoon. The traffic is much more apparent now; the hum of motors are accompanied by squealing tires, screeching breaks, and thick exhaust. I observe the passing vehicles from the sidewalk; the smooth, uniform concrete beneath my feet, the dark green lamp post at my side. They both ground me and support me, companions to lift me as I continue forward. Sweet smells find me now; sticky coffee from the shop on the corner, pizza from the joint across the street. Food intermingles with flowers, city, perfumes, and old architecture. Each new scent adds texture and flavor to the backdrop of the tapestry in my mind. Each stroke of the brush adds detail to the picture of this perfect afternoon.

Rounding the corner at Main and Center, my eyes are immediately filled with warm amber sunlight. The sun has nearly disappeared now, although not entirely. It’s the phase of sunset when the sky is no longer adorned in fiery oranges and piercing reds, but soft ochre streams and gold rays. My periphery detects shades of mauve, amethyst, and periwinkle on the horizons, as though nature herself is trying to fade daytime to nighttime using a twilight watercolor pallette. The air is colder now, but I don’t realize it until small goosebumps coat the skin on my upper arms. The atmosphere tastes clean and crisp here, a refreshing contrast to the suffocating mugginess of midday.
Two street corners. Nine sidewalk cracks. One stop sign. Sighing, I make the familiar corner and turn onto my uncommonly wide street. Ornate Victorian buildings line the curbs, adding a nostalgic element to the evening. As daylight dissolves, muted crickets and soft birds begin their nocturnal sonatas. I come to rest, my footsteps falling silent.

I close my eyes one last time, embracing the moment. Absorbing the music of the night.

And for the first time in a long time, my world begins to fade.

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