Everything felt crisp and happy. The whole world was biting into a cold, sweet apple; opening a fresh, blank notebook; sliding between cool, clean sheets. The air touched her skin and set it free: she felt infinitely open and infinitely comfortable and infinitely light. The sun watched from a distance, throwing down light--clean and clear--without heat.
She swung her arms as she walked. Well, at least she did in her mind; it was hard actually to swing them with a drink in one hand and a heavy bag on her shoulder. She felt good. She felt at peace. She had just enough control of her life to feel safe and optimistic. She felt capable, though challenged; unburdened, though busy. Her life was, as always, a beautiful conglomeration of oxymorons and ironies, paradoxes and asterisks. Everything was overwhelming, but nothing overwhelmed her. It was a good feeling.
Her comfy boots hit the brick path in a perfect steady rhythm, carrying her between two rows of young trees. The wind whispered to them what a good day she was having. In happy response, they sent two red leaves twirling down in front of her. She knew they were for her and she smiled.
Out of the corner of her eye, between two trees, she saw the world ripple and shimmer. This took several seconds to register, and when it did, her mind labeled it "spiderweb." But a second later, she slowed her steps and glanced back. She did not see any spiderweb, and as she recalled the peripheral memory, it seemed less like a glittery web and more like a thin, shiny, warped window.
Her smile twitched wryly. Not too long ago, she would have taken the sight as a portal to another world.
This thought stopped her. She stood on the brick path, a few paces past the mysterious shimmering space between trees. It had to have been a web. But...was anyone watching her?
She noted no one in front of her and no one behind her. Someone might be watching from a building nearby, but that would be okay. She felt too happy to feel foolish.
In a fragment of a moment--so sudden that she startled herself--she must have decided to go back and look again. Her bag bumped her hip and the ice in her drink rattled as she turned and trotted back a few steps.
She did see a spiderweb, but it was small and strung among the leaves and twigs of one tree. Nothing filled the empty space between the two trunks. She must have imagined the shimmering; it must have been a trick of this beautiful sunlight and clean air. She allowed herself just moment to be sure before continuing on her way, bag bumping and drink rattling. There wasn't anything between the trees. She knew that.
But it bothered her. She didn't go back, but it bothered her. She should have stepped between the trees to be sure. She should have put her hand there. She knew it was silly; she knew it was the light.
But she didn't, was the thing. Years ago, she would have gasped, run back, and reached her fingers into the shimmering space. She would have half expected to see her hand disappear into the force field and feel some alien air on the other side. She would have followed her hand with her body and been Who Knows Where. It would have been magic--maybe. Maybe.
But she didn't, was the thing. Today, she didn't think to try, really. It hadn't been a spiderweb; it hadn't been anything. Just a trick of the light.
Maybe this was the time, she wondered, fully joking--but fully distracted by an unnamed loss. Maybe this was the time it was real, the first time I did nothing, the first time I didn't try. Maybe that's how people miss things: they grow up and stop trying. Maybe it was Narnia and I wasn't looking for it and I could have gone. But if I think so, and I try, aren't I looking for it? Doesn't it then go away?
It wasn't really anything, and she knew that. But it bothered her.