Curls of smoke isolate themselves against a black, velveteen backdrop as the cool August air hangs still around me. My back is not arched, not hastened to bend by the cold hands of authority, but erect and unfettered. My eyes are alert, leaping between the washed out circles cast by the streetlamps on the broken pavement, and I am filled with a sense of validation, a feeling that my toil and strife in my sordid former home have finally amounted to something significant and tangible. There is a certain energy in the air, an electric wind that blows through my body and soul and all that surrounds me, bringing with it a tingling that I haven't felt for longer than I can remember.

There's something inside, a muscle, constricted and mangled and atrophied from years of dormancy. Too long have I been complacent but yearning, idle but restless, trapped in a prison of routine and mundanity. Tonight, a night unmatched by any in my life, I can feel that muscle flexing and pulsating to the beat of a thousand warriors' drums. Here, alone, in these grey midwestern streets, passion burns within me like a holy fire. Pursuits of knowledge, of courage and lifelust, things that before seemed like nothing more than abstract concepts on a hazy horizon, are now so close that I could reach out with trembling hands and seize them without abandon.

I am gripped now with an all-consuming urge to advance, to go forth from this springboard and see and hear and feel and know all that I can of this terrifyingly beautiful world. I want to love with the intensity of a thousand white-hot stars, to channel the phoenix flames burning within me into something pure and whole and good. As the cigarette end falls from my clumsy fingers and smolders on the asphalt, a single word hangs on my lips, just as it has on the lips of those poor, crazed, impassioned souls before me. With the last puff of acrid smoke escaping from my mouth, I whisper invictus.

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