Arrows

May 7, 2014:

Lines veer together into a sharp point. Arrows point left and right. A maroon arrow looms above, looking down. “Order here” is written in black. In distant places green arrows mark the exits, a sign of escape. I follow the arrow and walk towards the counter, slowly wringing my fingers together.

“I’ll have an iced coffee please.”

“Milk?” The point of the arrow almost grazes the top of his bald head. If I twist my head upside-down his beard inverts to a thick head of hair.

“Skim.”

“For here or to go?”

“Here.”

“What size?”

“Medium?” I squint my eyes up at the menu, some of the chalk letters smudge together.

“We only have small and large.”

“Large.” I hand over my crisp twenty-dollar bill.

Coffee in hand, my friend guides me to the table. She leans down and sniffs her shirt, taking in the rich aroma seeped into her clothes. Her ebony hair glides delicately down her shoulder. I can smell the rich, freshly ground coffee beans. The longer I sit here, the deeper the scent settles into my own clothes. It becomes my perfume.

As I leave the coffee shop, a row of black rugs leads me out the door, spitting me onto the street. I pull out my phone. Right now, it would take you about 7 minutes to drive to St. Olaf College, my phone tells me. A small navigation arrows hovers.

I walk towards my car, pushing buttons on my screen. Some days I wish Stephanie had never told me to download this game. Left, right, down, left, right, left. But never up. My finger unconsciously flicks across the screen as numbered tiles move around. The numbers double as I search for the 2048 tile.

I notice arrows everywhere. In my car, I stop at a street corner and an arrow points left, a large red line slicing through it. Not this way. So which way should I go? I turn right.

Now it’s late and there are arrows in the sky. Bright lights illuminate everything above, followed by loud rumbles, the earth shaking beneath me. The jagged lines keep coming, never ceasing. There’s a fire in the sky.

Three bolts ignite at once sending an arrow straight to the ground. A soft glow from my computer lights my face. I see another flash, this one horizontal. It tears across the sky, lingering for a moment before fading into blackness.

As rain beats on my window, the smell of the damp ground seeps into my room. I sink further down into my bed, looking outside. A shiver courses through me. I see the beauty of these guiding arrows, the beauty of nature lurking beneath the danger. I glance down at my computer screen, the natural light outside blending with my artificial world.

The NEXT arrow flashes on the bottom of my screen, asking me to move forward, to a future after graduation. More applications, essays, and payments. New friends and new places. But I want to go back, to relive what already happened.

I close my eyes, the mouse hovering over the arrow. My finger shakes as my heart pauses. I push down on the thin metal track pad. I exhale and release.

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