Sunset by Emile Yousem

The lake is smooth and my boat navigates easily through the water. The setting sun cools my face while colouring the sky with glorious shades of pink, orange, and purple. This is my fifth day out. Five days of pink, orange and purple and it never gets old. I told my boss I’d be back in four days, but I’m sure he won’t even notice that I’ve returned one day late. My co-workers won’t notice either. Right now, I bet they are sitting in their grey cubicles, looking at their grey computer screens surrounded by files and fast food wrappers.

“OK,” I say to myself. “I need to stop thinking about work, and things that make me mad.” I’m on vacation. Dr Stevens says it’s a time to relax by myself. Instead of work, I think about my paddle, powering my boat. Dip, paddle, paddle, paddle, dip paddle, paddle, paddle. My canoe glides across the water to this rhythm. Dip, paddle, paddle, paddle.

I start to play this game with myself where I notice really detailed things. I get my brain to focus on the nerves in my hand to focus on the rough cherry wood grip of my paddle, and the nerves in my ankle feeling a loose thread from the pack I’m sitting on. I hate to change the subject, but this pack is the best. It has nine pockets but really ten. The tenth one is a secret one that takes a really good eye to see. Fortunately I have good eyes, and I can find that one pocket. I keep my lucky bracelet there, the one that my parents gave me when I got my first job. They didn’t think I could do it but I did. I hate my job filing papers. And my boss. He really needs to lose a couple of pounds.

My parents say that I need to work on being nice and making friends, but I don’t have the time because whenever I get time off I go to the lake and paddle around. And plus, I’m not really good at making friends. Socially awkward. I’m socially awkward, but not weird.

OK.

Dip paddle, paddle, paddle, dip, paddle, paddle, paddle. I’m running behind schedule. I was supposed to be on land one hour ago. I start to paddle faster, but I lose my rhythm and continue at my normal paces.

The sun is almost behind the coniferous trees on the horizon, but I don’t worry. In fact, I slow down to soak everything in. It is just so beautiful. Dr Stevens says that sunsets are my repetitive interest. She says this is normal for me. I don’t get what repetitive interest means, but I just really love sunsets. No one else gets it like I do. I look ahead. Now I can see the campsite, marking the end to all this. I focus on the rough grip of my paddle and reluctantly stroke forward.