It’s mid-Oct. in Ann Arbor, a crisp Saturday morning in the fall. Instead of waking up to tailgate music pounding outside your window, it’s the soft autumnal glow through your shades and the rustling of a strong wind through dry leaves that brings you out of your sleep.
It’s 10:00 a.m. and you climb out of bed, feeling physically worn but mentally rested from the activities of Friday night. In your phone are texts and photos from your friends — stories, jokes and moments captured from another late night out.
You throw on your softest top, the one you may have spent too much money on, but you swear is worth every cent. Stepping outside, you head down State St. You pass your old dorm, where you met your bestfriend for the first time in a tipsy bathroom stupor. You pass a family of three taking pictures on the grass. You wonder if the bouncing toddler with them will find as much love here as you have.
As you turn the corner onto E. Liberty, you see the mural you’ve seen a thousand times over. You muse on whether you’ll ever figure out who each person is. It’s been two years and at this point, you’re too afraid to ask. Or maybe you just like the mystery.
Walking further and further down Liberty, the bustle of backpack-clad 20-year-olds and athletes on mopeds fades to 30-somethings with dogs and elderly couples linking elbows. They smile at you, nod their heads, remembering the times when they were that young. You keep walking.
As you hit Main St., Ann Arbor comes alive. You smell cherries, candles, old books, the unwavering, underlying scent of freshly-cooked breakfast food. As you turn the corner you stop into your favorite book store. Alongside the scent of espresso and ink, you discover new books, new ideas, new journeys to embark on. A young woman sits on a bench twiddling her glasses and flipping through a book about France. You hope she makes it there. You exit the store.
You continue to walk as the sun breaks through the morning fog. You close your eyes as it hits your face, its warmth washing over you like a sip of hot tea. As you go, the smells and sights of Main St. dwindle. Coffee and lamp posts are replaced with apple cider and brick roads.
You walk into the Farmer’s Market and feel as though you’ve walked into a field ripe with harvest. A toddler reaches out for a sugar-coated donut. His dad turns him away, but the vendor smiles and sneaks him a piece. Your walk down the aisle is a mirage of color, a new shade hitting your eyes as you go table to table. You stop at a woman who reminds you of your grandmother. She hands you warm cider and a sense of comfort. You continue.
On your way back home you don’t notice what’s going on around you. An old dog plays fetch with his young owner. Neighbors greet each other at the grocery store. A second date starts off at brunch. You keep going.
That night you’re resting on your couch. There is a knock at the door and your friends tumble in before you can even stand up. They’re chattering and laughing and in the middle of a trifling fight that started on the way over. Wine is poured, games are played and memories are recounted. You’ve heard these stories a million times before. You don’t care. You’re happy.