I'm halfway through my run when I notice: the inside of my head is still. A quiet that admits the bare-branched trees, the grave markers ("Fannie, Wife"), the nok nok of tennis on a pool blue court.
I'm wearing a stocking cap from Chaminade University in Honolulu. I used to work there. It's ridiculous to wear a stocking cap in Hawaii. Unnecessary in San Francisco. But here, in Middletown, nothing makes more sense. I've owned this stocking cap for ten years and moved it from Hawaii, from the flat I shared with my husband, from my tiny studio on the raging edge of the Tenderloin, and I've never worn it until now.
I can see my breath and the sky is clear and I hear a man bellowing, bellowing, growling and shouting as he walks down the sidewalk on the far side of the street. He is with a woman, and a man on a bicycle, and they proceed slowly. I can't tell if he's angry or just loud, him and his cacophonous procession, but I outpace them and the silence is wide enough for me and my feet, my breath, my wandering thoughts.
I don't doubt that boredom and loneliness are ahead. But at the moment I'm afraid of the opposite: what if, at the end of my time here, I don't want anything else? What if I get addicted to solitude, to my routine, to great swaths of time for writing? What if I don't want to travel, after all? So much effort, and noise, and the thousand details and inconveniences of stepping foot outside the country.
And what if I never want to return to San Francisco, and all the people I love, all that life I've built?
Out here, I could be anybody. I am empty and open as a bowl.