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  • Last summer, the hills of Roanoke mended my heart. Mountains filled the fissures and wet summer air left a slick film on my skin, like morning dew on dying grass. The June nights were cooler than I expected, gasps of wind beating my nose as I walked in circles around the small university. The same few songs played on repeat, each word etching itself into my bones and every drumbeat defining the pulse of blood against my brain. After hours of growing darkness and sweet rhythms, I removed my headphones, stood atop the highest hill and paused. The previous year of aching and isolation and starving and weighing and lifting and running began to disappear, swallowed by the swell of night clouds and cricket songs, erased by the surge of life that overwhelmed my withering frame. I was truly alone, truly alive.

    I tipped my head back and lifted my hands to the sky, begging for something - rain, or maybe lightning. Nothing came except another whisper of cool air across my cheeks. My eyes fell down the slope of the hill in front of me, a thin strip of steep blue gravel, and hastily shoved my camera into my pocket.

    I let gravity pull me down, uncontrollable force pushing one foot in front of the other in a downward rush of adrenaline and harsh white that numbed my anxious brain, my raw lungs. I felt my heart stop and wasn't afraid, just kept stumbling forward until the decline met a flat patch of grass. I allowed my muscles to cave, collapsing into green and brown.

    A hole opened in the sky. I saw stars, constellations of light. And I felt, without hesitation or walls. I smiled, laughed, hysteria clawing up my throat, disappearing into the night.

    I exhaled, and watched the wisp of breath melt away.
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