Season to Taste

Season to Taste by Molly Birnbaum

Book: Season to Taste by Molly Birnbaum Read Free Book Online
Authors: Molly Birnbaum
car onto the frozen ground, I felt my stomach clenched in fear. I had forgotten how to balance myself unaided. I couldn’t remember how to bend my knee with each step.
    “How do you walk again?” I asked with a nervous laugh, worried that I would fall on a patch of ice or that a gust of wind would flip me right over onto my side, brittle like a stick. But Alex stood close by as we walked step after aching step from the car to the bridge, a distance no longer than a football field but one that felt as if it extended for miles.
    We passed over the bumpy, ice-encrusted landscape. My leg, still encased in the thick metal brace that ran from ankle to midthigh, felt weak. My cane seemed too thin to bear the weight of my body, and I moved stiffly. When my feet hit a patch of ice, Alex held on to my arm and guided me to solid ground. We arrived at the bridge, which hung low over the dark flow of water, and paused for a moment at its peak. The final rays of light cascaded through the bare limbs of the willowy trees near the river. I could see the first dusting of snow limp on their branches. Standing with Alex as the cold air whipped around my cheeks, it was easy to imagine this was a different time.
    My high school friends and I had often driven to this spot. We would stand on the bridge, laughing and joking and relishing the freedom of not being at home. We walked through the woods and threw rocks in the pond. We weren’t particularly rebellious teenagers. We spent our time playing in the marching band at football games and watching movies at one another’s homes. We took swigs of the vodka stored in one parent or another’s liquor cabinets, giggling and unsure. But here we had just goofed around amid the scent of bark, of damp stone, of crisp running water.
    Alex and I had come here in the beginning of our relationship, too, when we were shy high school juniors. In those bashful early days, we spent a lot of time wandering outside, the first blush of an “us” arriving alongside the scent of fallen leaves and freshly turned earth. A favorite spot of ours was the local arboretum, a lush park in the center of town, where we would walk on the gravel paths in the afternoon or lay on a blanket in the grass waiting for the stars to emerge in the early-autumn sky. I remember the scent of that field, green and sweet, breathless as we moved toward our first kiss.
    Standing there on the Old North Bridge six years later, it struck me how painful it was to be close to Alex again. Despite the pleasure of his friendship, which had only blossomed again in the aftermath of the accident, he was my ex-boyfriend. He was my first love. I missed our easy relationship, the one that ebbed and flowed through high school and college and made me feel that I would always be loved. I missed skiing with him in the winter, running on backwoods trails with him in the summer. I missed the way he put his hand on the nape of my neck from the passenger seat while I drove.
    What I missed most, however, was something that no longer existed. I missed the smell of his favorite T-shirt, which I had taken with me to my first semester of college and worn every night to bed, cuddling in its known odor of home. I missed the soft scent of his skin, salty after exercise and sleek after a shave. I missed the familiarity of his embrace, of his home, of the haunts of our past—the kind that only came with that textured depth of scent. Without smell, without that present and its tie to the past, I felt like I had lost part of him. Perhaps the most important part. Alex wasn’t Alex, really, without his smell. My memory of that person had been lost in the accident, too.
    I looked back toward the car as we stood there silently. I measured the distance with my gaze. “I can’t believe I walked here,” I said, finally. “It looks like such a small distance.”
    “You did good,” Alex said with a pat on my back. “You’ll be running again in no time.”
    I STOOD AT the

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