We had to move quickly. For four weeks we dreamed days and walked in our sleep. Five hour sheets. Sometimes we did not see sheets at all, and during those moments I felt grateful for the sleeping sack that I composed out of a cotton cloth and lugged around with me. For four weeks our waking hours were timeless transitions between sleep and the next goal. The moments that felt slow—sitting in a plastic chair for several hours after we finished our chai; allowing ourselves time to explore one small stretch of street for four hours—reminded us we were awake.
Dance class with Ellen on Wednesdays.
My leotard fits like a wetsuit. The neck clamps onto my skin under my collarbones, and my thighs feel suppressed. Today Ellen wants me to hold a yellow scarf while crossing the room diagonally. She loves it when we are graceful. Maybe I could be graceful if my leotard did not feel like a vice. She wants all of the girls to look the same on Saturday. We are turquoise and shiny like spandex, but without the stretch of spandex. Our waists are crushed like tight denim jeans.
Dance class with Ellen on Wednesdays.
That moment that I swiveled the wheel around that last time, pointing the tattered car back towards the long line of sweaty teenagers, victory flooded my limbs. I succeeded. The inspector would grant me my adulthood. I glanced briefly at his apathetic face, my palms tingling and twitchy, to ensure that my feelings were justified. I looked back at the envious faces of people in parked cars, impatience dripping off their tongues. A piece of hair, lodged in my left eye, finally wriggled free. The inspector wrote illegible jargon on a receipt and handed it to me: my temporary license.
It is standard for New Yorkers to walk aggressively, ignoring their sidewalk neighbors.
It is standard for birds to fly South in flocks.
It is standard to eat bread with butter.
It is not standard to experience a hailstorm in the summer.
It is not standard to eat applesauce on top of yogurt.
It is not standard for children to hate television.
One time my Mom read me a book about a boy that wished to become a butterfly—even though the standard life span of a butterfly was so short.
I associate the meaning of the word “standard” with butterflies.
Fresh vegetables were what I craved for two months in India. While some of my travel buddies had no qualms with munching fresh tomatoes and lettuce that just happened to be served on their plates, I stayed clear of them. I watched people crunch on green produce with envy and resorted to my cooked breads and lentils. The upside: I never got sick. The downside: I became obsessed with open markets and could never indulge in the rainbow of vegetables.
Upon arrival in Munich, Germany, in transit from Delhi to Paris, I bought heaps of greens. I had it all.
I never knew it could be like floating. Like magic.
Yesterday, my father and I awoke at the crack of dawn, flew to Salt Lake City and drove for four hours to Moab, Utah. We arrived for dinner.
All day today, we saw nobody except for our guide within a one hundred fifty mile radius.
On mountain bikes designed by ingenious engineers, we cruised up ledges, down copper dirt, through wet sand.
Patches of snow speckled the eroded sandstone.
Rock salt stains formed plastic shapes in fissures.
A waterfall froze into an ice armchair; my wheels glided over.
I sprung onto Potash and glided on fossils.
Sunlight guided us up, then west.
First I shed my jacket. Then I kick off my boots. My hat and scarf get a bin for themselves. My backpack can slide in on its own. My laptop comes out of the case, and I (very gently) place it pressed against the edge of a new gray bin, so that the sticky plastic ridges do not soil it while it slides along the conveyor belt. My bracelets of course, because copper sets off the metal detector. Then I chug my water, send the bottle through, and hold my ticket out so that I can enter the airport gate.