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I cannot believe how happy I am to be home, how completely mesmerized I am by my surroundings. Every day I run through town on a pitiful two mile loop that makes me feel inordinately accomplished and strong. I somehow manage to run slower than I walk, but still, it's something. It's a routine. Afterwards, I swim underneath the bridge on main street, then change clothes and go to Mont Vert Cafe to drink iced coffee and try to work out wedding details, but I never know where to start. I mostly just read my book. My friend Sam from high school owns the place, and the brief but warm conversations we have as I place my order is what constitutes my social interaction for the day. It's perfect.
The weather is completely weird- chilly and wet, like early fall. It's my favorite weather. Sometimes, when I'm passing through those small-town streets that are so familiar I barely notice them, a feeling of joy and expansion washes through me with such force that I feel almost deranged. As if I've taken a great deal of opiates.
I remember feeling that way when I was a kid, especially around the holidays, or in the summer when whole weeks would breeze by with nothing but swimming in the river and watching rented movies in the evenings. But as an adult, the experience of pure happiness is rare. There's always something, some glitch, some burden, some knowledge of a future obligation that weighs you down. To catch a little bit of that joy again makes me feel as if I'm time traveling.
When we arrived back in Vermont after driving all night, Dave immediately hopped in the car with four kayakers from North Carolina who were waiting for us at my parent's house, and together they drove another 30 hours to Labrador, Canada. Dave later told me they survived by listening to Harry Potter on tape.
The rivers they are on have never been run before. The boys found them on Google Earth. Every couple of days I get a SPOT device signal sent to my phone: Still alive! Love U!
I drive all around my home state: to Burlington, Waterbury, Stowe, Ascutney. I visit with Kerry, my English teacher from Adventure Quest, and have a sleepover in her basement with the one other girl who attended that high school with me. Alex lives in Kenya now, she's the head of some farming non-profit and her life sounds wild. "Do you feel safe there?" I implore, sitting across from her at a tiny bakery in Waterbury.
"Oh, sure," she says. Then she pauses, "Well, no. Actually, no. I mean, it does feel like at any moment, anything could happen."
I drive to Bethel to see my friend Joanna, and we walk into the completely empty, completely silent main street to buy ice cream with her little daughter. The town feels like a movie set. I climb to the bottom of the Quechee Gorge, go off the rope swing, ride my bike, I try and keep up with the torrent of emails coming through from the caterer, the DJ, bakery, florist. It takes me an entire day to order name cards, different colors corresponding with different entrees, everything spelled out correctly. As soon as they're ordered, four people cancel. Three others RSVP yes, out of the blue.
I'm terribly disorganized. I write notes on the back of receipts or magazines and they pile up around my bed and in my car. I'm trying not to eat too much, trying to shrink a little bit, do a daily weight regiment in a last-gasp attempt to tone my arms. At night I study them in the mirror from different angles. I look exactly the same as I always do.
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One evening, I leave my house to go swimming under the bridge in Quechee, and while I'm out a hurricane blows in. The air is suddenly full of hail and leaves. When I try and drive home, there are trees down everywhere across the road. The farmhouse at the bottom of our driveway has been crushed, the trees smoking and split down the middle by lightning. The farmer is standing out in his yard, hunched shoulders, old flannel, scratching his head. He gives me a ride back home through the forest on his four wheeler.
The next day, the vice that's been twisting and tightening in my chest the whole time gets so painful, so restrictive, that I give up and go to the hospital. They hook me up with wires, do an EKG, take chest X-rays, monitor my lungs. The doctor is very serious and won't give in to my nervous attempts at humor. He's chewing gum. But he can't say what's going on with me.
When I get home, I hear from one of my best friends back in Asheville that he's had a similar day. He's been in the hospital with the same symptoms, was put through a battery of the same tests, and went home without any answers. He says the whole thing actually scares him. I tell him it scares me too.
"But it's obvious to me what's going on with you," I say. "You just broke up with your girlfriend. You're stressed. It's just anxiety."
"Well, it's obvious to me what's going on with you," he replies. "You're about to get married. You're stressed. It's just anxiety."
I put down the phone. I say, "Shit." David's been gone for nearly three weeks. I wanted him to go, but I now realize how completely overwhelmed I feel. In addition to the wedding, we're also hosting most of our friends at my parents house, some for a whole week. It's been raining continuously for the last few days, and cold, and it hits me that we don't have nearly enough blankets. I walk over to the linen closet and count the spare quilts. Then I write David and ask him to come home early. He writes back a few hours later: "Of course."
When he drives up the road just a few days later, all the tightness in my chest evaporates for good.
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