By Diana Creel Elarde
I cross the campus in the silence of the early morning. Even if the cars on the avenues around here tried to make noise, their tires remain quiet as they roll over the fresh layers of snow. The silence has caught my attention. In a city of cars, buses and light rail, there always seems to be the air of noise. Usually their noises float past my thoughts; they integrate themselves into my mind, a constant background to my city day. Today the silence of it all captures my direct attention, making each step I take sound gigantic in nature.
Perhaps they are gigantic. I never dreamed I would be on a campus, at least not officially as a student. Yet here I am; a world beyond where I was a year ago.
The old snow starts to crunch under my feet, and I find myself wanting to establish a rhythm with each step. My being, my “crunch-step being,” seems like the only sound in the world. The aloneness amuses me, the aloneness then makes me sad. I stop the thought before it can go further. One day at a time, I remind myself, gauging the time with the distance left to reach my class.
I shift the books in my back pack, adjusting their weight to be more even across my back.
“Wait up,” I hear a voice behind me yell. I dismiss that it is for me.
“Hey, wait!” summons the second command. Stopping, I look behind me, still wondering who is being hailed.
“Never thought I would catch up with you,” the breathless voice expresses as she comes up to me. I remain confused, not sure why she signaled me. She, like me, re-adjusts her books and then pushes her funny-looking winter hat down below her ears.
“What’d you think of last night’s assignment?” she asks as we as we continue our pace together. It then dawns on me that she is in my psychology class and normally sits across the row from me.
“I’m not sure,” I say, hesitating to pass on my opinion. No one in the class knows my past and I’m not so open to starting that conversation this morning.
“I think people choose their life, and if it is homelessness then that too is a conscious decision. Well, maybe the exception is people with mental health issues, but that’s different.” Getting her point across, she waits for my response.
I also wait for my response. We crunch snow together as we move closer to our building. This feels like the only part of us in sync this morning.
“Let’s sit here for a while” I suggest to her, motioning to the stoop at the entrance of the building.
“What? Are you crazy? It’s snowing and only 28 degrees out. I’m not catching a chill.”
“That’s my point. You, me, we have a choice this morning. We can enter the building and sit in the warmth of the classroom and learn psychology, or go sit in a coffee shop, sipping something hot. We could even just sit here, if we wanted to. What if there were no choices? What if sitting huddled along this building was the only relief from the wind and snow you could find?”
We stand in quiet, both in different worlds. Mine one of recalling, hers trying to understand.
“Not much of a choice,” she says to me, as we cross the building threshold.
“Yes,” I agree and quietly add, “thankfully today not the only one I have.”