My head feels thick, eyes red-rimmed, and I try to swallow away the slight unpleasant dizziness. These telltale symptoms used to be a comfort, now, they’re something else to power through, as I continue lifting each mud-covered boot up and out from the thick, sticky ground and putting it front of me. One at a time. I can’t stop, for stopping would be to remain stuck here, eventually sinking into the natural filth and becoming part of it, like so many others have; fortunately, no one I know. Yesterday, I wanted to look back over my shoulder and run down the hill – the path I’d forged was already there, bootprints already in existence. But this hill was too slick and a fog marred the landscape. I didn’t want to walk into any more boulders.

There was a time when the grass was light and fresh and I skipped over it, hair blowing behind me. My path was clear. I still wore the same boots as now because they were comfortable, but back then they were clean. It wasn’t as pretty, there, as in this city, but the familiarity of the piles of trash and degenerate human beings dotted across the field were a comfort. I would still dance, just to the music from my iPhone, earbuds firmly clamped to my ears. The way I remember it, the sun was always shining, the temperature ideal but it never really was as my mind saw it. I know that now.

The sludge I’m walking through is, fortunately, the result of heavy, heavy rain and winds. I jokingly call them “Crazy Midwest Storms,” but inevitably, someone will tell me “Pittsburgh isn’t the Midwest.” I don’t care. To me, 400 or so miles from the actual East Coast, this is the furthest west I’ve lived. And I’m still walking west. That’s where the best sunrises can be seen. That’s where I know the ran will stop. That’s where my feet are leading. I just wish the weight in my chest and on my feet were making this trek a little easier. The rain will cease eventually too, but I know that I won’t be able to see those sunny fields again. They don’t exist anymore.

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