I stepped outside and breathed yellow air.
I went anyway.
Behind the building, through the ragged grass, the unmown clover.
The walls shielded me from the sound of passing cars as my steps dipped down the embankment
To the rippling water, the muddy edges lined with tall reeds bent from a rain-swollen torrent
Dry channels lined with gravel, stilled eddies warm from the sun housing fat bullfrogs, their baritone croaks and chirrups announcing their presence.
Mallards floating, flying, perching, sleeping, eyeing me warily as I approached.
I saw white clover, robin’s plantain, dandelions, blackberry brambles, henbit, yellow wood sorrel, hop clover, redbud.
I smelled fresh cut grass, my own sweat, the cinnamon-gum breath of the runner passing me on the path, the grease and rusted metal tang from the mechanic’s lot, the fryer grease wafting from the back door of the cantina.
I heard the birds, the birds, the birds, the syncopated footfalls of the ballerinas powering through the walls of the ballet studio, the dog barking, the SPLOOSH of something submerging rapidly at the sound of my footsteps, the wind.
The air conditioners, all of them, already.
The cars, all of them, rushing by on the street, the sound dipping and sliding around walls and fences and trees and earthworks, weaving in and out of the background noises of living things.
The giggling chatter of two women – the local librarians. I nodded in recognition, but I doubt they knew my face.
Far enough, time to return.
And all of it, again, in reverse.
I climbed the hill at the beginning, now the end, wiped crusted salt from my face, wished for a drink.
Wished for the bench overlooking the water behind the Lutheran church, still and silent and inviting to all who would partake of its support, freely offered.
Climbed back in the hot car, sweaty shirt pressed against me, air rushing past my face my hair my eyes my skin, through and around and out the open windows.