Just One More Month

Wrapped in my unzipped sleeping bag, I lay on twisted sheets with my eyes opened to the dark. I would have been staring at the ceiling if there was sunlight in the room, but it was too early for that. I felt around for my alarm clock to silence it before it bothered to wake me up. I was too anxious for sleep anyway.

It’s hard to believe eighteen months have passed since I’ve been on a long trail. A year and a half since it was common to wake up naturally with the sunrise or a growing chorus of birdsong. Although, that will all change next month.

I pulled off my sleeping bag, which admittedly has become something of a security blanket, and crept over to the stairs. I felt for the walls and banister in the dark room. I skipped the first step to avoid its creak and tiptoed upstairs, so I wouldn’t wake up my roommate, Liv, still asleep in her room. Eighteen months ago, getting out of bed meant getting off the ground and stretching my arms toward the sky like one of the surrounding trees. My morning routine was to have breakfast, take down camp, then head out to discover the beauty around the next bend. Now, it involves an hour commute, if I'm lucky, to an IT job in Cincinnati.

Just one more month.

When I opened the door at the top of the stairs, I expected more darkness, but instead found the unmistakable purple glow of the TV’s menu screen. I peeked into the living room to investigate. Liv’s niece, a three-year-old with curly blonde bedhead, was kneeling in front of the TV trying to figure out the DVD player.

“Izzy?” I said. “What are you doing up all by yourself?”

“Monkeys,” she said in a soft shaky voice and pointed at the purple screen.

“You want to watch Dora?” I said. After eight months of living under the same roof, I’ve deciphered the nuances in her language.

“Yeah,” she said. She’d been crying. I could hear it in her voice.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

She looked up at me with big watery eyes and her bottom lip pouting. “I hadda bad dweam,” she said.

(Photo: Chocolate face)
I used to believe baby polar bears were the cutest thing on earth, until Izzy first crawled onto my lap, tucked her little head in the crook of my neck and fell asleep. She was so tiny back then, like cuddling a loaf of bread. “Oh,” I thought. “So this is why people have children.” She had me wrapped around her little finger ever since.

“Want me to put Dora on for you?” I asked, thinking about how I’ve taken the DVD player apart twice, because she’s too uncoordinated to put discs in without breaking the tray or shoving multiple in at once. I sat cross-legged on the floor next to her. She scooted over to my lap and pointed to the disc she wanted to watch.

With "monkeys" finally on the TV, I moved her onto the couch and tucked a blanket around her. She brushed the blonde curls out of her face and locked her eyes on the screen. 

I needed to get to work, but I laid beside her until the shock of whatever appeared in her bad dream wore off. After a few minutes of Dora, I checked the clock. "If there's no traffic, I can still make it to work on time."

“Izzy, will you be okay here by yourself?” I asked. She nodded without taking her eyes off the TV, but I didn't move. Truth is, she didn’t need me there anymore and I knew that. It was just very difficult to leave.

Just one more month.

I checked the clock again. "Okay, no traffic and if I drive 80.”

"I have to go now,” I said. “Bye-bye, Izzy."

"Bye-bye," she said, in that sweet little voice.

Just one more month.

People keep asking me if I'm excited for the upcoming trip, and of course I am, but then I think of all the people I will miss. I'm a rolling stone and it's bred to the bone, but in this time off, I've gathered a hell of a lot of moss.

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