October Fourth

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October 4th hasn’t historically been a good day for me. I’m the kind of person who keeps track of days (I have a book full of them), and every time October 4th rolls around, I climb out of bed with a sense of foreboding. What will happen this year? I wonder.

My movements are slower on October 4th. I don’t guzzle my tea, I sip it, slowly, watching the leaves fall outside my window. I take my time with my hair. I choose to wear purple. Lots of purple. A whole dress of purple.

It hasn’t always been a day of rejoicing. For me, it’s a long day of remembering. October 4th was the first day of a long, long journey–a journey I thought I wouldn’t survive.

But today I thought, well, I have. I survived.

I went on a drive today and rolled the windows down–the windows, the sunroof, opening the space around me to feel the wind and sunshine on my face. The air had that smell–my favorite smell: clean, clear, chilled, a little smoky. I have good memories of that smell…and bad memories.

There were nights like tonight where that smell intensifies with the lower temperatures. Nights where I sat shivering from more than the cold, in company but so very alone. Nights where I’d look anywhere but forward, only to look up at the stars and think that surely they were accusing me of some crime, and the black spaces between them stretched wider like a mouth that was going to swallow me whole. October nights like that nearly spoiled for me the hopeful smell of autumn at its onset.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if October 4th never happened. What if nothing had occurred, and my brain would have no reason for remembering it, marking it invisibly on every calendar I will ever own.

As I drove around the town today, my hair lashing around my face, I realized that I hadn’t thought about it being October 4th until that moment. I hadn’t gone about my morning very slowly. I hadn’t thought to wear purple. Even when I thought about October 4th, my brain wasn’t assaulted by a flood of unwelcome flashbacks. I felt no fear, no sadness, but rather a strange peace, a sense of completion. As I walked under the stars tonight, feeling the first chills of autumn nights to come, I looked up, astonished to see the stars smiling down at me. It’s alright, they said, it’s over.

Because of October 4th, I am stronger. I am wiser. I am deeper. In spite of October 4th, I am loved. I am blessed. I am happy. I am free.

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