SUMMER MEMORY

The Wind Provides a Needed Push

Friday, July 27, 2007

A good book and a bike ride seemed the antidote to the loss of a partner -- until Bob dropped in.

At the end of the summer, my girlfriend moved to California to start graduate school. She was very ambitious. I stayed behind in D.C. She said we'd stay in touch, but I knew better and settled down with a good book and a bottle of wine -- my way of getting over people. Five books and many bottles of wine later, I got fired from my landscaping job. I checked "Gone With the Wind" out of the library purely on reputation and length and settled down for the long haul. It was a solid thousand pages, and I was sure when I was done with it, I'd be done with her.

Five hundred pages into it, I was still not over her and hadn't left the apartment in three days. When I reached the battlefield scene in Gettysburg, I decided maybe it would do me some good to get out of town for a while. I didn't own a car, but I figured I could get to Gettysburg in two days on my mountain bike.

Things weren't exactly coming together for me on my bike ride to Gettysburg. When my sleeping bag accidentally unfurled while I was zooming down a steep downhill, I had a vision of my life unraveling with it. That night, lying awake on top of my sleeping bag in a cornfield, I considered riding all the way to California.

But Western Maryland turned out to be an unending ripple of hills that got steeper and steeper as I broached the Pennsylvania border. I was miserable, but there was no turning around now.

If I had been watching television or listening to the radio instead of obsessively reading "Gone With the Wind," I would have known that Hurricane Bob was roaring into Gettysburg right behind me. It seemed suddenly windy, and the sky had a strange green cast to it.

I started to feel prickly with nervous anticipation. The way the sky was looking, a sleeping bag and a cornfield were not going to do it for me. Fat raindrops started landing on my face as I zoomed past the historic Gettysburg battlefield. I gave it a quick glance. The sky was an angry black color, and the wind was snapping the trees back and forth when I flew past Gettysburg College.

I could see students running back and forth carrying duffel bags, bicycles and boxes of textbooks from the parking lot to the dorms. They were lining up outside the dorm, and considering the weather, it seemed perfectly reasonable for me to line up, too. I was older than the rest of the people in line and a little scruffy around the edges, but no one seemed to pay any attention to me.

I found an empty room on the third floor and unrolled my sleeping bag on one of the two twin beds. It was the softest, most wonderful bed I had ever been in. I apprehensively watched the door, worried that my "roommate" would make an appearance. But nobody showed up. I took a long, hot shower and then stayed up late reading "Gone With the Wind" and listening to the winds howling outside.

The next morning, I came outside to a scene of total destruction -- trees and power lines crisscrossed across the soggy ground. I toured the battlefield in complete isolation before spending a few days biking to Lancaster and then west to Harrisburg.

That was as far as I got. I was done with my book -- and the sight of the mountain vista that greeted me in Harrisburg was intimidating enough to make me decide I was over her.

I turned my bicycle around. The trip home was all downhill.

-- Adele Levine, Wheaton


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