the little brick apartment with the dirty carpet. an oversized dresser and 150 square feet, all your own. the true meaning of solitude — and how it wraps around your bones in its quietest moments. the first 40 hours at a desk; a summer of fluorescent light sun and cubicle trees. how do people survive this? not finding an answer for years. introducing yourself to so many strangers that it stops twisting your stomach in a knot. ironing out your story a little more with each one. the realization that you don’t have to become your parents, and then feeling stuck. erasing, starting over. feasts of burnt chicken and still-frozen vegetables—but cheap red wine so you don’t taste it. 2,049 rides on the metro and the day you realize you’ve memorized all the stops. the big house downtown and your first home home. 3am drinks over a mint green countertop. the sound of those old wooden stairs; knowing somebody’s always up or down. frozen pipes and the worst phone call yet. tears and front porch cigarettes; a stomach full of ash. taking off your shoes at a bar and then a claw-foot bathtub. carving a well for resilience to pool underneath your chest. birthday parties where there aren’t enough chairs, in a good way. dinner and drinks and the ability to walk away. 2.5 years and the ability to walk away. feeling misunderstood but knowing that means you understand yourself. growth — maybe? more plants and solitude that doesn’t weigh you down. learning that good things sometimes hurt at the beginning — and that’s not always a bad thing. after a long night, there’s always a sunrise. and if you hold an ending in the sunlight, you’ll see the sheen of something new.