Daniel hopped down the last two stairs at the base of the tower and briskly walked out from under its shadow. The university courtyard was its usual placid evening self, with the odd person or couple dotting the iron guardrails that surrounded the ledge outside or walking with either someplace to go or something on their mind. He breathed deep, noticing the clean smell of the mid-spring air. His head and body moved two separate ways as he strained to take in all he saw. His eyes scanned all around him, observing the reflection of the lowering sun in the windows of the building behind him, to the cold sterile steel walls of the library in front of him. His shoes traveled a simple countryside of standard walkway pavement and well kept grass. The tower loomed to his right, twenty or so floors of classes, offices, hallways, stairs- education. He tried to make a mental note of each and every aspect of this place, afraid that years from now he would only be able to remember the odd irrelevant detail or a general sight or feeling. With a slight shake of his head he silently gave up, knowing full well that a memory like that would go completely against human condition. If he had a memory like that he would have remembered everything that had gone on here. If he had a memory like that he would have remembered all the people he had encountered and what they meant to him. Those he knew as simply classmates were fading from his mind already, reduced to just faces and a generalization of personality, someone who existed in a universe opposite his own. Leaving the courtyard behind him, he felt that all-too-familiar blow of melancholy somewhere in his insides. In a matter of days this would all fall away. He might walk those hallways in the tower again, but they would no longer be his. He might sit by his favorite river again, but it would no longer mean anything. He might retrace these very same final steps he as a young adult was taking, but they would then only exist as a memory, in a universe opposite his own-the past.

With his usual half-reckless style, Daniel bounded down the few sets of stairs that led towards the river. He wanted one last look at it, one last walk alongside it. He wanted to say goodbye to this old friend. Approaching the edge of the bank, he closed his eyes and listened. He was able to hear the flow of the water in front of him and down below. Sighing in satisfaction, he opened his eyes. There, reflecting the rays of the sun with its usual tranquility and beauty, was the river. Smiling to himself he climbed down the rock face of the bank, perched himself on a familiar flat rock, drew his knees into his chest and rested his head on them. He gazed out over the entire lake, taking a snapshot of it all in his mind for memory's sake. He counted the hours over the years he had spent by it doing homework, relaxing-anything imaginable. When all he was allowed to do all afternoon was do schoolwork about authors he wasn't interested in or write prescripted stories he didn't have his heart behind, the river sat looking over his shoulder and reassuring him of his work. When the people he knew frustrated him so much that he couldn't bear it, the river cursed their existence alongside him. When the emotions in his chest and burden in his mind became so severe that he could barely make his way out to its shore, the river was there to comfort him. Never once did he cry, so long as the river was there to understand how he felt about any situation in life he could keep carrying on. But the river was unable to help anymore. All it was able to do was say its goodbye in the only way it knew how-through that usual sound of flowing water that spoke to him on every level, resonating peace through his mind and soul. He smiled again to himself, realizing how pathetic he was to be thinking this yet feeling somewhat content that he was able to fully appreciate nature's beauty. Standing up, he climbed back up the embankment. There, on the grass in front of him, lied a rock. Daniel absentmindedly picked it up and threw it into the lake-a token of his appreciation. It made its expected splash and then sunk to the bottom. In seconds the ripples died down and it was as if he had never thrown the rock in at all. He smiled to himself as the delicious metaphor unfolded in his mind. How appropriate-here he was, his Bachelor of Arts in English metaphorically in hand, ready to make his impact on the world. And there in that lake was what likely would happen to him-the rock that seemed so important and unique in his hand would make that splash but in a short time would sink and blend in with the river bed, still existing but unknown to anyone. Daniel smiled to himself and turned his back on the river, knowing his friend had left him with one last philosophical thing about life to ponder.

Checking his watch, he quickened his step as he walked along the road. It was nearing seven, and Kate would most likely already be in the garden. At most, like Daniel's lake, the garden outside the botanical studies building seemed to be Kate's sanctuary from the world, at least only just a place for her to relax. In the four years he had known her he had never asked her how she really felt about this place, no matter how many times he found himself engaged in deep conversation with her, in or out of the garden. He guessed that Kate would now be considered his best friend-someone who was always able to talk to him and knew more about life and people than the river itself. Someone who's beauty and intelligence had left her size-8 footprints all over his heart.

Someone unforgettable.

Walking with the setting sun at his back, Daniel felt more strongly towards her than ever before. This was his last chance to tell her how he truly felt. Or was it? Maybe it was better that they parted ways as friends and simply that. Would the possible years of wonder be worth just not saying anything in order to not ruin their memories of each other? He didn't know. All he knew was that no matter how much he had been trained to use his mind, it was his heart that was in charge of this decision. He only hoped in didn't mess it up.

But his heart seemed more preoccupied with other things as he turned his head up the hill which the garden was situated on. There, looking exactly like she had for as long as he had known her, was Kate, sitting perfectly ladylike on her favorite bench, gazing off into space like she usually did. Walking along, Daniel wondered what was on her mind. It could possibly be him, or it could possibly be the million other things that ran through someone's head as they approached graduation. With another thing to ponder he began to climb one of the many staggered sets of three steps that led to where Kate awaited his arrival. As soon as he hit the first step Kate's mind returned and she looked at him, smiling her usual bright smile. Daniel, senses reeling somewhat, smiled back meekly and turned his head towards his feet to seem casual, watching himself as he climbed the ivy covered-stairs. Soon enough he had reached the plateau on which the bench sat. He took a seat beside Kate, breathing in his friend's sweet perfume and enjoying it a last time. They sat in silence for a mere few seconds until Kate turned towards him, smiling.
"So." she started. Daniel grinned to himself, being sure to remind himself to savour this last deep conversation he was to have with her.
"Four years gone by, eh." she said, a hint of melancholy in her somewhat laid-back voice. Daniel nodded.
"Yeah. I knew it'd go by fast though. No different than high school."
"Nope. No different," she replied. She then turned to face him. "You hated high school, didn't you?" Daniel shifted somewhat, taking his time to reply.
"You could say that." Truth was, Daniel did hate it. Perhaps not as much as he now thought he did, but looking back he wondered how he could have stood for the idiocy of his friends, or the ongoing under-the- influence attitudes of everyone who say the weekend as nothing but a binge on whatever it was that got them off.
"So did you hate this?" she asked. Daniel gave her a look. She got the message.
"I guess I could answer that myself," she laughed, beginning to launch into a fairly bad imitation of Daniel. "'what a bunch of bullshit! When are these people going to wake up and realize they can't be idiots for their whole lives? Fuck, give me a break. If they'd just use their goddamn heads half the , it drives me nuts!'" Daniel faked a laugh. By now he was used to Kate's mannerisms. He could have the deepest conversations of his life with her in all seriousness and she would agree with what he said, including what she had just quoted, and even feel sympathetic towards him, but would make fun of him the odd time for it. He didn't quite understand it, but he felt it was a small price to pay for having such a good friend.
"Is there anything you liked about it?' Kate asked. Daniel thought for a minute and Kate looked off into the horizon. He eventually shrugged.
"Yeah, some things." Daniel didn't feel in the mood to talk. Kate had sat through so many of his rants over the years he felt it was his duty to spare her at least this one time, even if it was the final good conversation they would have for some time, if ever again. Part of him inside was screaming for him to let it all out, to seek comfort in her once again. But each and every time he talked to her he could never seem to get his exact point across, and he had always left feeling that he had either said too much about nothing or too little about something that could be potentially hazardous. It wasn't wise to invest all your trust in one person, at least in his mind, but Kate had a remarkable aura to her that permitted him to trust her more than even his own family.
"Like." Kate turned back, half-smiling, to look at her friend, waiting keenly for his response. Daniel shrugged again, running what he would say through his head first, carefully choosing what he would say and how to say it.
"I dunno exactly," he finally said. "high school wasn't exactly hell for me. Sure, it sucked, but I think it seems worse to me now that I'm away from it than it did at the time. Sure, there were a lot of morons, but there were some really great people. And even those people who weren't great people- I got a kick out of a lot of them. All the crazy things they'd do and the way they'd act. It was kinda exciting at time, waking up in the morning wondering what crazy, unimaginable stuff would go down that day."
"That's high school," Kate said, stating the obvious. "you didn't answer my question." Daniel chuckled to himself and shook his head, but remained silent.
"Come on," Kate prodded. "even someone as pessimistic as you must have enjoyed it a bit. You went to class every day. You stuck with it when no one forced you to."
"Well technically, my plans for my future forced me to," Daniel stated in a tone of voice suggesting she should have known this fact. "you don't get anywhere in this world without a that's beside the point. This was a lot like high school- good things and bad things that all amounted to a below average experience. For example, I obviously really loved the freedom. The fact that I could go to residence after class and be in my room, by myself, able to do whatever I was great. My writing became so much better because I had a good deal of privacy and some downtime to write stuff down. But the work, the people, the was hard sometimes, it really was."
"True. But concerning what you said about privacy, I had a roommate, so it was different for me. I loved it though-Charlotte and I connected on so many levels. There's nothing like sitting up late at night, just talking to someone." She smiled at Daniel.
"We can sure attest to that," he laughed. It was his turn to gaze off at the horizon now, lost at the memories of late nights with Kate, the ones where he couldn't sleep or she couldn't sleep and one would call the other for some company, knowing full well they were the only other person who would get out of bed at 1 a.m to go for a walk. He reminisced at how they'd wander the campus, sometimes for hours, having a quiet satisfaction in the fact that they were viewing things from a perspective few if any others on campus would have ever seen. No one knew how eerily quiet the cafeterias in each building could get at night. No one knew how immense the echoes of your footsteps could be down a desolate hallway. Some in favour of late night frolicking could have known how nice the moon looked when reflected in the lake, and maybe even in someone else's eyes, but no one knew how it felt to sit hidden within the rocks of the bank in the middle of the night watching the water, as sleepy as everyone else, quietly flow along its bed to places unknown. Few people knew much about the world that existed between the night and day.

Daniel and Kate were quiet once again, Daniel preoccupied with what he was going to eventually admit to Kate, and Kate with who knows what. Finally, Daniel broke the awkward silence.
"So where does Kate's magical mystery tour take her next?" he asked with the somewhat sarcastic undertone Kate loved.
"To a job, hopefully," She replied. "I got some great lab experience working for the forensics unit here in Ottawa-maybe they could let me continue as a lab technician." She sighed dreamily. "Then from there I could get out into the field and do the real work."
"Just like CSI?"
"Just like CSI." They shared a laugh.
"So what about you?" Kate asked Daniel. "What's your plan to reach fame and fortune?" Daniel grinned to himself.
"Well, before all that fun stuff I need to get a real job and make some money. I'll probably see if I can get in as an editorial assistant somewhere-a publishing company, a literary magazine, anything-just so I can see what exactly it is these people look for. I'm going to have to conform my ideas to get my foot in the door, whether I like it or not."
"Well that sucks," she said. "especially for you. You hate conformity."
"Obviously," deadpanned Daniel. "But it's what has to be done. The first few books I release, assuming I eventually get a deal, will have to be a bit watered down so they sell. Got to please the masses and all. It's hard to try and achieve artistic vision from the get-go. I have no credibility as a writer, so unless I'm somehow able to produce something legendary right out of university, things are going to have to get a bit worse before they look up."
"Have you submitted anything good yet?" she asked. Daniel shook his head.
"My story I wrote at the end of last year has been rejected by two publishing houses so far with no criticism-just an uninterested rejection slip. They do that one more time and I'll have to scrap the idea."
"You'll give up?' Kate asked, shocked.
"No, no, no." Daniel replied, dismissing her notion with a wave of his hand and then stopping himself halfway. "Well, just on that story. It takes about a decade to get published, you know. If I don't get any constructive criticism or feedback I'll assume the story just simply isn't good enough and I'll just use another one. Cripes, I'm on the verge of finishing one right now, and it's even better than the one I've submitted. I could fire it off in about a month."
"Right on," she said, pausing to think for a minute after and smiling to herself. "this is some pretty heavy stuff. Here we are, actually doing something with our lives. It's not a dream any more-it's a goal. A dream with a deadline."
"You read my mind." He replied, leaning back on the bench as he began to relax a bit. Now that he was into conversation with Kate his nerves were slowly slipping away. "It kinda scares the hell out of me. I mean, I'm actually writing serious stories now. Actually submitting them. Actually trying to get a job as an editor. All of that stuff I've imagined doing since I was 's all happening."
"It's all happening." She echoed.
"It's hard to believe."
"It is." She smiled at Daniel again.
"You think we'll actually do it?" he asked with a look of concern on his face. He found no worry in Kate's eyes as she looked back at him as if to let him know what he said was unnecessary.
"Of course we will. I mean, how hard can it be?"
"Pretty damn hard. It's one thing to be a forensic investigator or an editor, but an actual people try their whole lives and never get anywhere at it. It's an art never know how people will interpret it or if they'll see any value in what you'll do. You need a lot of luck than skill I'd say. And I don't think I have that."
"Well why don't you?"
"Because I've had too much of it already." Daniel stood up, sighed, shoved his hands into his pant pockets and took a few steps around before he spoke.
"I've never suffered a profound loss in my life. My parents are still together, I was either too young or too old to be seriously affected by my grandparents dying, no one close to me has ever been seriously ill, I have never been seriously hurt, and I've gotten good marks throughout school, maintained an average popularity and am generally liked. I have to reason to be given anything else."
"Well why do you need a reason?" Kate asked. "Plenty of popular high school or college athletes and musicians have gone on to be famous. You not think they had enough good luck and fortune growing up?"
"Yeah, I guess." He muttered.
"You have as good a chance as any other writer out there. Just because you haven't suffered a lot doesn't mean you can't write emotionally or well. I've read your work." Daniel shrugged again. Kate made perfect sense but he almost didn't want to believe what she said. He seemed to subconsciously be in love with his pessimism.
"Besides, it's normal to have doubts," Kate reassured. "you're just out of university, the whole world's at your fingertips, you're about to make something out of your life-thousands of other kids feel the same way right now." Daniel stopped pacing. His head snapped up to send a fiery stare towards Kate.
"A thousand?" he asked, angry and bitter. "A thousand other people feel the same fucking way I do? Oh that helps Kate. That really does."
"Don't yell!" Kate said defensively. "I'm only trying to-"
"Great. I'm a goddamn textbook definition," Daniel spat. "my feelings are all normal, typical. Goddamn it!" He walked further away from Kate now, down to the end of the gray brick edge on which he stood and Kate and the bench sat. He looked down the row of ledges that led to the street below and back up the row of ledges which led to the street above. He turned and faced the river, feeling the cool breeze from it blow in his face. He shook his head, spat again, and started to pace back to Kate.
"Why don't you ever listen to me?" she asked from the bench, annoyed at Daniel's actions.
"What do you mean?" he asked, stopping to gape at her in surprise. "I always listen to you!"
"No you don't." she countered, crossing her arms. "You might pay attention and hear me, but what I say goes in through one of your ears and out the other. You don't ever consider any of the advice I give you. Do you think I'm wrong or something?"
"Not usually," Daniel replied. "all I said a second ago was that it doesn't help, you telling me of how I'm the same as everyone else. I don't want to hear that."
"Well, I have news for you, Daniel Dodd. You're not the only one who's ever felt the way you do. You're not the only one who's been upset, who's been stressed, who's been afraid. You're not the only one who struggled through high school and university trying to get somewhere. You're not the only one taking on the whole world and trying to leave your mark on it. You're one of millions and millions who are doing it and have done it. I don't care if that's what you want to hear or not." Daniel was silent for a minute. The truth of Kate's words strung him deeply. Here we was, going off again getting upset about how hard things seemed to be for him, when really many others in many other places went through the exact same thing. He went over and stood beside the bench, still silent.
"Sorry," he said. "you're right. I'm not the only one who feels like this."
"You're certainly not." She said, the cold edge of her voice still slicing through Daniel. She then changed her tone and began to speak more like she was correcting him, like a teacher would. "But you should take that as a good thing. You should rally around those people who feel like you do. How many times have I told you about how I feel so pressured by my parents to do something with my life? They wanted me to be a doctor, you to school for a decade, get all my degrees and everything, get married, set up a local had my whole future planned out for me. When I decided to be a forensic investigator, it broke their hearts. Do you know how much pressure it puts on me? If I don't succeed at this, or not do it well, or mess up in any way, they'll tell me I was wrong to do it, tell me I should have been a doctor, tell me I should have done that instead. Do you know what that feels like?"
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do." Kate continued. "That's what you don't understand. When you think to yourself about how you need to leave your mark on the world, how no one will remember you unless you write something memorable, how no one will care about you unless you're famous, how you want to change someone's life-that pressure is the same thing as I feel. The only difference is you put it on yourself, but you can't change that. The fact is, it's pressure and it wears at you, just like mine wears at me. We're the same, Daniel." Daniel considered this for a second. Thoroughly defeated, he sat down.
"I know." He said, leaning forward and resting his arms on his knees, searching the dust on the ground for the right words to say. "I know. That's why you're my friend, Kate. You feel the same way I do about so is like we're the same."
"I know." She replied. Daniel looked up and felt himself lose his gaze in her soft brown eyes. The pull he had felt towards her now was stronger than it had ever been. His fear had left him completely. All he wanted to do was hold her, kiss he had to do was tell her.
"You know, Kate, if I hadn't met you.I'd be a wreck." Daniel confessed, sitting back up and moving closer towards her. "I know it might not seem like it to you, but the fact that I could relate to really helped. All those times where I felt hopeless, knowing that kept me going."
"Aw, Dan." Kate said. They embraced for a few seconds, holding onto each other tightly. After they had parted somewhat, Daniel still held onto Kate. He looked intently into her eyes once again.
"I don't know how to say this, Kate." he started. He closed his eyes and paused for a second. He felt her grip on him tighten somewhat. Opening his eyes once again, he found she was still looking up at him. "You're honestly one of the best friends I've ever had. The way I feel towards you, it's 's ." The two were enveloped in silence for a second.
"Really?" she asked curiously. Daniel could only nod in return. "That's so sweet!" To his surprise, she broke his grip and moved back down to her end of the bench. "I feel the same way about you." She continued, looking back at him just as intently as he had to her. "There's no one else I can talk to like you."
"I know," he said, struggling to catch his breath. His heart was in his throat now. "I mean, I consider you to be above everyone I know. Just up on your own pedestal. Only you."
"Really?" she asked again. This time, however, her tone was more puzzled than serious. Daniel felt himself deflate somewhat as he sat. He was basically naked now.
"Well, yeah." He said, put off and starting to show it. "There's no better person I know than you."
"Aw, thanks." She said. But whatever trace of understanding had been in her voice before had left. "I wish I could feel the same about you." She then laughed. Though she was only trying to remove the awkwardness of the situation, her laugh only served to pierce his heart like a bullet. "I mean, I like you and all, but I wouldn't raise you on a pedestal or anything. You're a great friend, but not my only friend. Certainly the best one to talk to though." Daniel stood dumbfounded. Only one thought was coursing through his mind.
"Jesse, right?" he could barely say.
"Yeah, Jesse too. He's cool to hang out with." She said. Her eyes gazed upwards as she thought "And Josh and Erin, all of them. I have the greatest friends." It was all clear to Daniel now. He was only her friend. He meant nothing to her.
"Yeah, guess so." He said. "Jesse and Josh are good lads. I don't know Erin though."
"I 've never met her." She continued, oblivious to Daniel's now-declining mental state. "Great girl though. Almost as good to talk to as you."
"I see." He said, numb all over. Kate smiled back at her friend. She walked over to him and hugged him once again.
"I've got to go," she whispered in his ear. "I have so much packing to do!" Daniel could barely squeeze her back. Breaking contact, she sighed and looked up at him again. "Promise you'll call me this summer."
"Promise." He said like a zombie. She smiled her cute grin at him again and kissed him on the cheek. Daniel felt nothing. Giving him one last hug, she whispered how much she'd miss him into his ear and turned away. Daniel stood and watched her walk. After five feet she turned back and waved one final time. Daniel robotically returned the wave. Then, in one turn on her heels, she walked again, beginning to climb the stairs. He continued to watch as she eventually hit the final stair and continued onwards. She was almost at the horizon on his view now, fading in a blink she was gone, her blonde hair disappearing over the edge of the final ledge at the top of the garden. Daniel was alone.

He didn't know how long he had sat there, but he assumed it has been at least ten minutes. He couldn't explain how he was feeling. He was sore physically and mentally but not overwhelmed with pain. He felt tired physically and jaded mentally but had no intention of lying down or spending the rest of the night on the bench. He was numb, but not so numb he couldn't think. His mind wasn't whirring at a million miles an hour, but it was working. He seemed to be caught in some limbo halfway between despair and feeling average. Nothing made sense. 'This was what it feels like to be rejected,' he thought. Or was it.? It was to him, but maybe it was more painful to others. He was probably just dramatizing his own suffering, as usual. No one loved him. Or did they? Did someone? Did anyone? Did Kate? Did he say what he wanted to say? No. Not at all. His intelligence had melted faster than his gaze in her eyes when he had tried to seriously talk to her. Nothing made sense. When he held her, squeezed her tight, he felt something from her. She had squeezed him back. But had she only meant it as friendship? Daniel stood up, the weight of the questions in his mind nearly toppling him over. Had she been teasing him? Leading him on? Did he have an idea of how he felt? He walked down the stairs. Millions of questions bombarded him. Why? He felt himself sinking intro the concrete. Why? He was walking along now. Why? By the lake. Why? The lake had no comfort to offer. How could this happen? No ideas came to his mind. Kate. All Daniel could do was walk back to his room. Alone.

The dormitory was unusually desolate. Most of the students had gone home by now, but the laws of the world always seemed to dictate that when one is in a bad mood, they encounter people. 'Twas was not the case this time. Daniel considered himself lucky as he grabbed his book bag and suitcase. The last thing he needed was someone to put up with. He had finally managed to shut out the questions in his mind, and he was using all of his energy on focusing on the task at hand so as to keep the questions away. He gazed at the bus ticket in his hand. He was only a few hours away from liberation from this place and all that came with it. The bus ride home served as the severance between home and school. During his journey he would be rid of all the thoughts and feelings he had been harbouring for the past eight months. He would be back home with its familiar emotions to deal with instead. He would be back to what he considered his real existence. The part of him that remained the same year after year. The sights. The smells. The feelings. All the same, and all seemingly things that seemed to good to be true. All he wanted to do was go home and be away from everyone and everything.

On the way back down the stairs Daniel encountered no one once again. He was left to have a mental conversation with himself, giving himself a reminder that the echoes of his footsteps he was hearing off of the concrete walls of the stairwell would never be heard again by his ears. This would be his final escapade down the tower, the final time he crossed the courtyard, went down the stairs, followed the path, and went out into the street. This was the end of it all.

Daniel went back outside into the setting sun. He crossed the courtyard, gazing longingly at the path he had followed to see Kate minutes before. That path, like his life sometimes seemed, could have lead to something greater than it had. But it was not to have been. Daniel shook his head as he reached the stairs at the end of the courtyard. All was silent as he walked down them to the path below. He continued on it out towards the street. There was still no one to be seen. The path wound between the last few buildings of the campus, past the square where occasionally classes were taught outdoors, past the cafeteria where he and Kate would sit late at night, past the other residence buildings. Daniel walked the final few steps of the pathway that led to the road. Turning back, he faced the university once again. The memories he had been considering the past hour, the past month, instantly flooded back- the days and nights spent in all sorts of places, the people he knew, the girl he loved, the life he led, how it all felt like it would amount to something clenched his fists as he had a revelation.

It was all nothing.

The personification of the river, the serenity of the night, the mystery of the halls-he had made it all up. Just like he had made up the idea that Kate could have loved him, that he could have been hers. The river was just water and rock. The night was just an absence of the sun. The halls were just tile and some polish. Kate was just another meaningless girl. Life itself was nothing but the fact of existence-no beauty, no horror, and no drama. Without so much as a thought of an adieu, he turned his head and walked away, never to return to that place again.

All was empty and silent.

Mere seconds after university and all within it had forgotten about him, Daniel had forgotten about it also.

It was almost like neither one had ever really existed. It was almost like it had just made up.

Like it was never really anything at all.