Walking to the bus stop on the dark, wet winter mornings had almost been enough to send Maria back to Phoenix. The rain pounded the streets and sidewalks relentlessly, splashing up under her umbrella and seeming to hover in the warm orange orbs of street lamps. She was always cold. How could it possibly rain this much?
The bus to the university roared and steamed along slick city streets. Headlights swept intermittently over her face as she gazed out the window into the darkness. The campus was a vast expanse of muddy grass and damp cement. Her classes were interesting, but her mind wandered. She kept thinking her way back to the desert.
She would imagine the heat, first. Just the feeling of closing her eyes in the sunshine and being warm through. Then the light off the sand, and the hot wind. The tiny geckos that skittered around her doorframe, and the smell of chiles roasting and creosote after the rain. She ached for these things. At her apartment, she huddled by the radiator with mugs of Ibarra, wrapped in blankets, while the interminable rain beat at the windows.
She had made some friends in her classes, a group of South American girls. They got together to search for authentic tacos and complain about the rain. It was nice to use her Spanish more regularly; she was forgetting some of it now that she was living apart from her mother.
The outlines in Arizona were crisp and clean: the adobe houses, the spikes of aloe and agave, the mesas and canyons. Their crispness was stamped in her heart, her ambitions. She had come to study architecture, dreaming of drafting bold, minimalist public buildings inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.
But shapes were softer in the Pacific Northwest, fuzzier. The rain dulled them, and the soil, and the innumerable leaves and needles. Her thoughts began to mirror this. Her plans became less distinct, less fixed. She began to sketch A-frame cabins in the woods and mountain getaways.
Spring was gaining a delicate hold. The sun was returning — a weak, tentative sun that peered through dirty windows into her apartment. She turned her face to it. Outside, small birds fluttered and ruffled in damp leaves, and light sparkled off pools of water.
One morning, she awoke to find the city covered in cherry blossoms. She went outside to mail a letter to her mother. Occasional bursts of wind sent cascades of flowers down like snowflakes. They fluttered in the air, formed snowdrifts in the gutters. She tucked a few of the petals in the envelope before she sealed it.