Sleet pinches and nips at my bare forearms. A cold wind whips at pink flesh and goosebumps form instantaneously. I like the sensation. Just enough discomfort to keep me lucid.
The rest of me is warm. I'm working hard. I've pushed through the fog and woosiness of a hangover; the pounding heart and complaining limbs. Before that I slid out of bed and made a cup of coffee, drowsily doing things in the wrong order; still getting used to new cupboards. Before that I awoke at 05:55, as I have every day on the dot for weeks... an internal alarm that needles the darker recesses of my mind. Instantly awake, seeking the filed away thoughts, bring them to the fore. Not ready for that, I quite literally walked away from them, trapped in the creases of the unmade bed.
Out of the door, after more confuddled faffing. Routine hasn't yet been found. Fresh air acts as smelling salts and briefly awakens me. I walk down the ginnel at the bottom of the back yard, breaking into a slow jog, not quite fully committing to what will come. Thirty seconds of tarmac ease me into a semblance of rhythm, which is quickly broken as I step offroad and gently climb. Ooph. Nausea washes over me and I pitter patter onwards, borderline jogging on the spot. Ducking off down the first available singletrack brings relief. I'm forced to concentrate as I accelerate through tight arcs, skip over roots, hop from rock to rock. I'm playing, I'm distracted, I'm happy.
Musical motivation plays in my ears. I feel guilty that I am not listening to the sounds of late winter, but it feels like too much of a sensory overload. Familiar songs on repeat allow my mind to wander, and it does – shooting half thoughts at me like machine gun fire. I try to catch some, but I'm not fast enough today and they disappear up the trail.
Choruses loop in my head, my legs chew through mud, my nose runs and my arms play a semaphore of balance. Kind people keep on telling me that they hope I will find happiness. I already have. This is it. It never went away. There hasn't been a day since Jenn died that I haven't smiled once. It, of course has not been the overriding emotion, but that doesn't matter. I know where to look when I want it.
Threatening clouds scud above me, and the temperature drops further. I can feel the cold creeping into my gloved hands, clinging to my wet calves. I have a windproof in my little pack, but I don't want to pause to put it on. I want to feel my environment. I keep moving, now pointing back home.
The snow of earlier on in the week has all but disappeared. Patches hide in the lee of tufts of grass and gorse on field edges, the rest now flows down the trails in streams. I end up wading through a flooded section, too tired to think of an alternative route. My feet begin to go numb. The next few hundred metres of trail are clumbsy and I kick roots, tripping and faultering. As I break out of the woods, the sun reappears and with it warmth.
I still have miles to go, but a thought strikes me. I'm not dreading getting back home. I will return to somewhere that has things put in the right place. An order. It's an order that I crave for my thoughts, I know that will come.
When I eventually return, I sit on my new backstep. It is still in the shade, and cool. I use stiff, sausage-y fingers to undo my laces and kick off my shoes, peel off my wet muddy socks and sit. Still. A wave of sadness hits. I miss sitting next to Jenn on the doorstep. I miss the smell of our fresh sweat hanging in the air.
So, I step inside, flip on the radio and let choruses loop in my mind.