Thumbnail graphic by Rachel Yoon / North by Northwestern
  1. The flowers I bought for myself two weeks ago are dying. Evanston winter is dark again this year, and the flowers fold in upon themselves. I watch them from my bed, reluctant to put them to rest in the common area trash can. The petals are withering, fading to more gray than pink, a soft decay.
  2. Leaving the dorm to replace them is a product of will and several layers. My mother’s voice in my mind reminds me that I should feel ridiculous in my winter gear or else I’m not doing it right. Socks, shoes, right foot, left foot. Hat. I’ve always hated how I look in hats. Scarf doubled around my neck in that one way my roommate, in her Southern charm, found unbelievable.
  3. College is an exercise in repetition. Go to the store, buy things I need and always at least one thing I don’t. I listen to the same music, walk the same path through Target, buy the same items to replenish my stockpiles. Walk home, through slush and cold.
  4. Ever since the first snow, the floors in buildings have been stamped with salt footprints. I learned recently how corrosive that specific salt is.
  5. I think of my roommate when I wander the fluorescent aisles of Target alone, juggling tissue boxes and snacks in a desperate attempt to not use a basket. I am reminded of fruit popsicles, the good kind she always gets. I buy candy hearts and balance them on top of my collection.
  6. They don’t sell flowers at Target.
  7. It is winter in Chicago. Someone has gone outside and walked my every path before me, tossing down a layer of salt to make my steps easier.
  8. I believe that love and death are inextricably intertwined, but it is hard for me to look them in the face and know they are there.
  9. When I was younger, I was obsessed with the idea of a legacy. I wanted to grow up to be someone who made a difference. I loved the thought that someone might think of me after I was gone, that someone might consider me worth remembering.
  10. Once, as he drove me home from college, my father and I talked about death. He told me that my brother and I could bury him wherever we wanted, so long as we found comfort in visiting his grave, if that was how we wanted to remember him.
  11. I discovered recently that I have a condition called aphantasia, the inability to remember mental images of objects that are not present. Only about 3% of the population has it, yet here I am. I cannot picture my relatives, no matter how I try, no matter how many pictures I look through and save to my desktop, no matter how hard I fight to secure these images in my mind.
  12. When my grandfather died, I watched my father give his eulogy. I spent the remainder of the funeral hiding in the side room, eating cheese and crackers with my younger brother. I didn’t understand how to hold myself or accept condolences. How do you explain to an elementary schooler what to say back when someone says “I’m sorry your grandfather had cancer?”
  13. There is something terrifying about the passage of time. I have spent hours looking through old photographs of my grandfather and great-grandparents, trying to secure their faces in my memory.
  14. Every year for my birthday, my grandmother gives me Polaroid film. I got one of those knockoff Polaroids in middle school but rarely used it. The film sat in drawers, waiting for some memory worth remembering.
  15. Northwestern is littered with the footprints of people worth remembering who have walked through campus, hallowing halls in their wake. Names on yellow-lettered signs outside buildings that echo with the last breaths of their memory. Buildings erected in honor of Pulitzers and Nobel Prizes.
  16. When I was a sophomore in high school, I collected every photograph I could find in dusty boxes across my house. I taped them on the walls in my room, surrounded myself with snapshots of memories I could no longer recall, building a shrine to things I wanted to remember.
  17. When my childhood cat got sick during my senior year, I think my mother breathed a sigh of relief that she wouldn’t have to call me home from college to tell me that my cat had died. I picked her out when I was four years old, and she had been with me through every stage of life, from dressing her up during playtime to cuddling with her while I started reading chapter books to seeing her asleep on my bed after driving home from school. But she was sick now and wouldn’t make it through the summer.
  18. We gave her the best summer. What else can you do? She got to walk on the porch in the sunshine. I spent her last night curled up on the bathroom floor with her in my arms.
  19. I left the room before the vet put her to sleep.
  20. The walls of my dorm room are covered in memories. An ink print of my cat’s paw is stuck above my bed, notes pinned up on my bulletin board, and pictures taped up on a shared wall, a collection of memories with my roommate. Our faces fill the plastic borders of the Polaroid film I finally have a reason to use, a shrine to days I am holding onto.
  21. My roommate is a bit of a magpie. She is obsessed with little things, scraps of paper found lying on the floor. We both watch our steps as we cross campus, walk to the store, walk home, on the lookout for concert tickets, sweet notes, grocery lists to add to the collection of little beautiful things.
  22. There is something beautiful about the passage of time, the way my mind traces all the paths my feet have walked before, wandering near the sites of past mistakes, rounding the corners I have stood on, sitting on the same hidden campus steps I have cried on countless times.
  23. There is something so alluring about the way that it feels to tip my head back and breathe, open my mouth to the sky. In, out, watch the little puff of air fade off to the side.
  24. I think, sometimes, that I would like to stay here forever. Let my feet meld with the ground and listen to my own heartbeat slow as I freeze over like the sidewalk on Sherman Avenue.
  25. I think everything I write comes back to love and death. The way that flowers look as they are dying on my windowsill. Fallen leaves on a barren wooden desk. The water levels dipping low. The empty plastic bottles I used to desperately keep them alive for just a few days longer.
  26. May someone find my grocery list and marvel at the scribbled list of half-meals and soap and things I have since lost. May my memory mean something.