We walked down the forest path on a nice winter’s day. The snow crunched underfoot, even after being packed down by the many boots that had crossed over it in the past weeks. The air was a balmy twenty degrees, yet the wind nipped and bit with the ferocity of an annoying little dog.
We walked in silence, besides the crunch, as the sun dipped lower in the sky. It was somewhere around three, yet it was already growing dark. The joys of winter, I once heard someone say. Who that was, I can’t remember. A professor maybe? Most likely some student I heard in passing. It didn’t matter.
The trees branched out overtop, creating a canopy of shade, if they had any leaves. In the spring, it will be amazing. The path will be full of families going for picnics, and others walking their dogs. Or it may be flooded by the rains and melting snow. Either way, it will be a sight to see as the new leaves grow in, replacing where the old used to fly. Along the path wild flowers will grow in pastel colors, small animals will scurry about eating them, and the ever-elusive snake, or any other predator, will wait patiently for one to come too close.
He was a few feet in front of me, the cord to his headphones traveling from under the hood of his black coat into his pocket. No doubt it was plugged into his iPhone. Every now and then, he would move his hands, as if dancing to whatever rap song was blaring in his ears. I drifted closer, hearing the rhythm of the song like a heartbeat. He didn’t notice. After all, he thought he was alone. He had left his friend’s house earlier than the rest.
The sun sank lower yet, and the canopy overhead opened up letting in the last few rays of light. I stopped at the last trees and watched him walk under the Water Street bridge and back toward his home, wherever that would be. Maybe it’s downtown, or in one of the nearby neighborhoods. It could be anywhere.
Eventually, someone would see me, trust me. Someone would swim the river with me. Whether they come from the bars along water street, feeling braver than they truly are from the liquid courage, ready for any challenge thrown their way. Or maybe they would venture out onto the ice on a bet, the ice starting to crack under their feet as their friends urged them closer and closer to the water that moved faster than it looks.
Faster than any can move, the current sweeps them away, and their deliciously warm coats only weigh them down as they start to struggle. From the depths I grab their legs, from the river side I taunt them on, from the path I follow and whisper in their ear. I wait for my next friend, my next companion, as comforting and fluid as the water itself, until the river is done with them. Then I throw them on the shore, where they will, eventually, be found. But it would not have been quick enough. Then, I wait once again.
I can be very patient.
The summer does always bring tubers after all.