Emily Redfield

Emily Redfield

You have walked through FitzRandolph Gate, and you will never graduate. You keep walking until you hit the shore. You trip your feet along the boardwalk and you win a prize, maybe even two prizes because you have all the time in the world right now. You win a basketball jersey from one of those claw machines that don’t work for anyone but will work for you today. You are in the ocean, not swimming but drifting. Your legs are getting a needed rest after all that walking, and life is coming back to them. You pass some impressive shoals but mostly you nap. When you arrive on the beach, you are refreshed and ready.

It’s Portugal, which is as good a place as any. You make your way to Lisbon, where you find some sturdier shoes and stop for a while to celebrate a festival of sardines. You eat pastéis in a yellow tram and somebody pickpockets your prox, but most doors open without it here anyway. You wind your way up to the National Palace in Sintra and a prince falls in love with you but you really should be going.

In Spain you hit the clubs and you’re really out of it, like totally fucked out of your skull, but a kind lady asks you for directions one day and you get to talking and she lets you borrow her house in Sardinia for a month, so you sober up because that’s a pretty big responsibility. It’s a nice house, good sea views, but you’re restless on such a little island. You entertain yourself by learning to play tarantellas on an accordion and then you are gone, striding purposefully north towards the big cities. In Naples you buy some flattering sunglasses and are briefly engaged to an opera librettist, but he refuses to leave with you so you must get to Venice without him. It is winter by now and the frozen canals sparkle like Murano glass. The cold causes you to develop an illness which makes you very beautiful.

You convalesce in Calzan, a tiny French commune where you are bothered by flies but warmed by the sun. You swim in the pool every day until your heart is stronger than it has ever been. An elderly couple has become very attached to you and they weep when you leave, but you don’t look back.

In London you see the same man on every bus you take, and eventually you marry him in an intimate chapel service. When you discover his infidelity you read the worst of his poetry aloud at weekly open mic nights. Your act is subversive and unpopular, but it leads you to befriend a group of artists who feed you uppers and downers while they photograph the inside of your throat. You are a real scoundrel, but the rain feels nice on your partially shaved head. One day the uppers are too much and you get the hell out of there, with so much energy you think you could probably go anywhere.

You walk through most of Europe without settling down. Your unfortunate marriage has alerted you to the dangers of commitment, and you make it to Turkey without saying more than nineteen words to any individual. In Gaziantep you sit by fountains and eat baklava until all your clothes are stained with honey. You visit museums and occasionally touch things that you shouldn’t. You perform your accordion songs to captive audiences, until your local fame becomes so great it threatens to negatively impact your daily life. You play yourself out of the city with a sad waltz and people throw flowers.

From Turkey you go east, onto the Kazakh Steppe. You learn a lot about yourself as you wander the grasslands, and it is impossible to say how much time passes as you consider the history of mankind and its inevitable devastating future. Your hair grows longer than the roots of the winter rye, which is how you know it is time to move on. You head to Pakistan, where you discover the perfect combination of spices to season a plate of aloo gosht. Your life is very well seasoned you think as you recline on the banks of the Kundar River.

In India you believe you have found love again, with a lawyer who looks at you kindly. Over time these looks become suffocating. You consider a torrid affair with his cruel brother, but you could not break such an innocent heart. You live with a general malaise until the lawyer develops a disappointingly on the nose cardiac condition and collapses. You mourn him, but this is a sign to walk south. Thailand greets you with monsoons and you stand in the rain for weeks until you are fully spiritually cleansed; it is as though you never met that man. You do cocaine on Koh Phangan and get crazy with some Swiss tourists, like really crazy with dozens of them. It soothes you.

Your island experiences push you towards the ocean. You lounge in the water, idly waving to the boats and beasts that pass you as you float. You really have walked a lot recently, and this is a chance to chill out a little. You take things one day at a time out at sea, or even less than that because you don’t have that many things to deal with, if you’re being honest. When you eventually see the approaching beach it is with a mixture of excitement and sorrow. It is never easy to leave the ocean.

Australia is hot and arid, but you find a home in Goolwa where the coastal winds keep you feeling fresh. You are almost fatally bitten by a snake. The doctor who cares for you is later revealed to be corrupt and possibly murderous. You have had two lucky escapes. You establish yourself as a reputable florist, but when you try to run for local office you are soundly beaten and it dampens your enthusiasm for the place. Somebody defaces your posters in a vulgar way that gets to you more than you thought it could. One night you get out of bed and do not even bother to pack a bag.

You have been on a boat for several days when suddenly you feel it. You are somewhere off the southwest coast of Australia and it shivers through your bones like the last jab of cold leaving your body as you curl up beside a fireplace. You have reached the furthest point on Earth from Princeton, New Jersey. You think about that town, with its arches and ivy and archsings and Ivy. It is almost twelve thousand miles away and those miles are full of other things, so full that Princeton is made blurry by everything heaped up in front of it. You may return one day but for now there are other places to go.