A particular kind of magic blankets Point Loma Nazarene University when my digital watch blinks “7:00 p.m.” Dusk settles over the sky, painting the campus in grays and blues.
First, it conquers the pine trees, hiding birds’ twig crowns and treetops’ wooden hands, bony without their blooms. Then it hits the sidewalk, masking shoe scuffs and stained paper coffee cups peeking out from the bushes. Eventually, everything sinks into the approaching black. All I can see is blurred perfection.
Tonight, my over shirt taps the back of my knees as I walk. I don’t mind it, the reminder that it is a time of transition – hot enough for girls to flash tanned thighs, but cool enough for goosebumps to invade those same spans of flesh. My steps are relaxed and even, running shoes embracing their new occupation. Last year, as a naïve, go-getting freshman, I sucked miles of running from my body. And as my body screamed in protest, my mind screamed at God, asking why He’d abandoned me to this pain. Now, my legs wait until 7 o’clock to purr awake, stretching and cracking their arches like my poodle at home. During the summer, my mom and I trudge around the block every night at dusk, corralling our adventurous puppy with a few loving yanks of the leash. Now, as I lace up my black and pink Nikes each night, I am alone.
Yet, as I walk, I have company. Tonight, first it was Colby playing tennis, his shadow leaping in the glare of the arena lights. My hand has never itched for a racket, but the slap of my sneakers mimicked the steady beat of rubber against wood. A few steps later, a crowd of soccer players joined my pilgrimage, whooping and hollering as the ball ricocheted off one ankle to another. They pushed and bumped and charged each other, but their real competition was the quickly setting sun.
Now, as I sit and write, bathing in the glow of the abandoned Greek, it is the college freshman calling home.
“I loved debate in high school.” Her words skip down the wooden steps, white paint chipped from the friction of thousands of steps, and climb into my lap. “But now I’m not so sure.”
I nearly chuckle: She has no idea how right she is. The campus only captures my full attention for half an hour each night, but every minute nails another philosophical question onto my conscious mind. How, compared to freshman year’s trials and challenges, can life now be so good? How am I – a selfish, vain, untrusting sinner – worthy of such peace and joy? How much longer will – can, even – all of this last?
A second. An hour. Forever. The red stripes walking across black waves hoard their answers, as do the contemporary worship songs filling my ears, but I feel like I find one anyway.
The girl’s conversation – bouncing from debate team to new friends to tomorrow’s plans to gorge on chocolate chip pancakes with her roommate –finally starts to trail off. Sighing, she stares into the darkness above my head. Softly, “I know. I love you too.”
I might say the same thing, I think, closing my eyes as I swallow the echoes of students’ cheers down the hill, the tickle of the sea’s breath on my bare legs and the vague ache of carved wood digging into my back.
But students singing, “Let it go!” suddenly gather only a few feet away, so I don’t. Instead, I throw a final glance at the palm trees down the hill, wind nailing their leaves at attention by their sides. Instead, I close my journal, cap my pen and leave to finish my walk. Instead, I bob my head to the rhythm of the music, “You are Amazing God” echoing in my headphones.