I waited for her outside the old building, the building that was known for being old and nothing more, named after people long since forgotten. I leaned against the steep, cracked stairs and read my statistics book, which if you’ve ever had statistics you know was uncomfortable and dull. I heard the door open and her laughter filled the air like music. I instantly smiled, an involuntary reaction, kind of like a moth flying toward the fire, knowing that it’s danger but not being able to stop its wings from taking it there.
And that’s Katrina Elizabeth George, my fire, my blindingly dangerous light.
I looked up from my book when I felt her standing in front of me. There she was, large brown eyes waiting expectantly.
“So,” she began. “Do we have a plan for this evening?”
I shook my head, “I guess we can just go out or something.”
“No, we always do that… Let’s not decide right away. We can walk down by the riverfront and go from there?”
I smiled and took her hand; I couldn’t say no to her even if I wanted to. She has boundless energy. Though I grasped her hand holding her to me, she skipped ahead and waited, skipped ahead and waited, like a dog at the end of a leash, always looking back eagerly. I couldn’t help laughing at her excitement. We strolled down to the riverfront and along the riverbank.
She spoke endlessly about politics, religion, life… I kept prompting her with questions just to hear her voice and her responses. Kat saw the world in different colors than the rest of us, seeing the truth in things. I liked her like this, when her eyes were bright, speaking of things she loved. She never cared to be wrong either. Welcoming my opinions even when they clashed with hers. You learn by disagreeing, she would say.
I picked up a rock and threw it aimlessly toward the water, and Kat grew silent.
She bent over, searching long slender rocks like knives in the riverbank. Once she found one to her liking, she launched the rock on top of the silky smooth water and it skipped obediently. On the fourth skip, it plopped into the murky water. I tried to beat her four skips to little avail which delighted her.
The sun set over the river, glowing reds and yellows mingled with blues and purples hidden in the clouds. She watched the sunset vividly and I saw her fire mingle with the sun’s. I was so very sure that was where she had gotten her fire, she stole it from the sun to give to me. My Prometheus, I thought, saving me one smile at a time.
In an instant, though, her fire extinguished. Just for a second, I saw her far off gaze. Her eyes would do that, take on a melancholy glaze, and she would disappear from this world. Just for a second, she would cease to be the sun and instead, take on the persona of the moon, lost and lonely, frozen and cold in the darkness of space. Even as I grew closer to her, she became more and more a mystery to me.
The melancholy was broken when she glanced at me. She took on a Cheshire cat smile that glowed in the dusk. “I have an idea,” she said.
She grabbed my hand, interlocking it with hers, and raced off toward the train tracks. I balanced on one side, she on the other, and together, hand in hand, we tightrope walked toward her ‘idea.’ I wobbled to one side, then the other, rocking my hands out behind me to keep balance. She let go of my hand to let me balance. As swift as a thief, she needed no help. She could run down these rails without falling.
She told me stories of how she used to play on these tracks as a child, setting coins on the metal and waiting for the trains to come and roll over them. Her father, she said, would make necklaces out of the flattened pennies. After a while, she jumped off the hard metal and veered off to the side where an old locomotive sat. Weeds grew up and around, tethering it like chains to the wild earth. She climbed up into the train and sat in the conductor’s seat. I scampered up beside her.
She led the way through a small hole that led up and onto the top of the train. She sat atop the smokestack like it was a throne. I was content to stand beside her, her kingsguard. The sun was almost gone, and we decided it was time to walk back to campus. We meandered on the way home, glancing up at the stars. I named them for her, telling her stories of how each came to be.
“And that one? Tell me that one!” She demanded, arm extended to the sky.
“That one’s Orion,” I told her, narrating the chronicles that led to his imprisonment in the stars.
Our feet touched campus sooner than I would have liked. Standing by the fountain, she seemed to sense my unwillingness to go back to my dorm. Her eyes burned like fire and she smiled her Cheshire grin.
And in an instant, she pulled off her shoes and socks, throwing them to the side and began rolling her jeans. She bounded toward the fountain and jumped with a splash inside the water. She shrieked and like a child, she danced in the fountain.
Hands that skimmed across the surface like water bugs, eyes that made their own light, laughter that echoed off the metal, water that roared around her.
“Jump in.” The voice that passed over her lips wasn’t louder than a whisper, but it was a command, urging me to follow suit. I watched her lift her hand and beckon me.
It was humid, my T-shirt clung to my skin. The cool water seemed inviting. And I would do anything in the world for her. She had but to ask. I stripped my socks and shoes off my feet and eased into the fountain, looking back and forth for any campus police. She took my hands and we danced together. We danced to the music of the jarflys and crickets under a canopy of leaves in the middle of a school campus.
Kat epitomized the concept of college, pushing not only your boundaries but the boundaries of society and living. I can still feel her wet hands in mine. I can still see her clothes clinging to her body and her hair falling unkempt in her eyes. I still hear the orchestra of bugs and water, the her laughter and mine.
I loved Kat. She was my fire.