I first ran a lap in a scarlet sunrise, magenta clouds parting. Do you remember the way my hands shook as I
tied my shoelaces in the humid mist, double-knotted? Sprinting into the wind so quickly it was suffocating?
Staring at blank, ruled lines was the same and my heart was pounding as I clutched your hand in chemistry,
learning that too much oxygen could poison you. I guess there was such a thing as being too free.

I had only planned on one lap, but I squinted and turned the corner. I would catch my breath. It did happen,
you know, when I flew back to Chicago on the first straightaway and found solace in a yellow-lit desk chair.
Massachusetts winds howled through the cracks in the stucco, but they were warmed in the space between a
bed and a dresser, an alcove above my childhood radiator. You were too far away to chill me, and so I turned
the last corner at a slow jog, my footsteps keyboard strokes as I steadily clicked out a novella. A novella.
It did happen, you know.

I had somehow outrun the wind, now at my back; I clenched my jaw and said it would stay that way.
But by nature, you’re not all that obedient, and I never was all that assertive, anyway.

Now, I am perched on the bleachers and biting away at the skin around my cuticles, like watching a televised
war and feeling the hope of victory plummet from a bottomed-out stomach. Why? I remember my fate, and
I am safe. Yet I still crane my neck back in suspense to inspect myself—a blurry figure going around and
around in dizzying monotony and collapsing into the grass, swarmed by flies in the 11am sunlight.

I watch her crawl to lay under a leafy awning,
a maple tree fashioned for tire swings and picnic blankets.
She’d come back the next day with these relics but for now,
she slips off her shoes, the double knot unraveling like a sigh,
and liquid sunlight cools burning cheeks,
and the whole world exhales.

Back in my pavement-level bedroom, I invite you through open windows.
You brush against my bare shoulders and you are not a sharpened gale, but a
springtime breeze—nostalgia distilled.
For this final straightaway, I will invite myself into your passenger seat, hitchhike
on your pillowy back.
Promise me, and I’ll promise you, that you will come as you are.

Sam Spratford ’24 is a staff writer

Hannah Zhang ’22 is a staff artist