The First Mountain

After a long silence, walking several paces behind him, she looks ahead to see him break into a run. She frowns, wishes to follow, but feels a powerful, almost sickening, resistance within her body. She grits her teeth, takes a breath, and fights it. Somehow she pushes her body into a run up the slope. 

And quite suddenly, this tremendous effort transforms into a jolt of freedom as she breaks from the trees and sees the entire world rush to meet her in a blast of night air. A dazzling display of light tilts her world, the horizon dips and dives with the moon, and she feels her feet fly quick and light across the bluff as the wind lifts her hair into flight.

And then she sees him. She stops, almost disappointed. How could she have resisted that run? It was an effort. But now her heart is pounding. Her breath is freeing. And she has to let it out.

"It is so beautiful!" she cries, her voice full and free.

He turns his head from where he sits out on a limb of an old and gnarled tree. "Yes," he says. "No need to shout."

She stands where she is, breathing heavily, but her eyes glare at his back. She doesn't need to take his coarse words. "Why not?" she demands. "I can shout all I want! La la la la!"

She dances across the mountain top, yelling at the top of her lungs. He groans from his place.

"What?" she finally asks, coming to a stop at the base of his tree. He tugs on his shoe. "Are you too lost in thought to spare a moment?"

"Spare a moment? This moment is too precious to spare. Why don't you join me?"

She laughs just as loud as her shouts had been. "Why don't you join me! I'm the one having the most fun! Look! I can stand on my hands!" She does a handstand and falls over into a bush.

He laughs loudly and comes out of his determined silence. He jumps down from his tree branch and walks to meet her.

"Okay," he says. "Let's sit on the rock and talk. I obviously cannot share a silence with you."

"Is that what you wanted?" she asks, climbing out of the bush. "You wanted to...share a silence with me? Wow Daniel. That sounds rather...intimate." Her eyes are laughing at him, and he shakes his head, and turns away.

"If you weren't so sincere, I'd call you petty."

"What?" She grows serious as she sits down beside him. "You sure are a mystery. 'Cause I have no clue what that comment was supposed to mean. You know, you really are good at dealing these subtle blows of cruelty. You don't even know you're doing it, I bet. But don't worry. I can take it." She takes a breath and admires the view.

He glares at the lights below until they blur, his silence almost angry as he tries to think of a way to explain himself. "That's not what I'm trying to do. What I mean to say is...you don't seem to appreciate the silence. You always want something to be happening. Even sharing a silence...you thought there'd have to be more going on."

"I was kidding about that," she says.

"Well okay."

"Yeah. Okay." Her voice is forceful. "So explain your remark about being petty."

"People who always want things to be happening. People who always fill the silences with whatever comes to mind. You know...people who just fill moments with meaningless banter...they're petty."

"I see." Her voice is purposefully cold. She is waiting for him to explain how this relates to her. 

"You however, though your shouting and dancing and..." he laughs, "falling into a bush were all rather spontaneous...as if you were just trying to fill the moment...they were sincere instead. Like for a reason. You were expressing yourself...I guess. It's only that..."

She nods, and her voice is gentle now. "Well I didn't understand when you told me to shut up. Then I heard the owl. It doesn't mean, because I am dancing around, that I am missing out on the moment."

"Well no..."

The wind takes this moment to whip around them and fill their ears with the distant wild that moves with the night.

"Look," she says. "You can see the lights from the party."

He laughs. "Now there are some people missing out on the moment."

"No," she says, her voice insistent. "Don't you see? You're doing it again. The people down there are enjoying the moment too. Just in a different way. A way you don't understand. Maybe a way that you've already judged too harshly."

He frowns. "I hardly thing that losing your mind to alcohol, doing stupid things, ruining your body, and exchanging bodily fluids falls under 'enjoying the moment'. They're obviously not experiencing life on the same level."

"You can't make that judgment!"

He is annoyed. "Surely you must agree though! When you were shouting at the top of your lungs, you were alive! Maybe that moment had changed your life in some small way. When you get drunk with your friends and do stupid things, you don't even remember it the next day!"

She is unsure how to press her point any further. "Yes. That much is true. It's just...you can't judge them so harshly."

"I am not saying I am better than anybody else. I am not comparing our souls. I'm just saying that I am experiencing life in a much more clear and meaningful way than those who are drunk down there at the party. Can you not agree with me that much?"

"Okay...so maybe this is more meaningful in a heartfelt way." She takes a moment to lick her lips and gather the courage before pressing onto further issues. "Did you really mean everything you said at the party?"

"...I was lost in a heat of passion."

"I'll say."

"I did not speak honestly because I wanted my words to have more of an effect. I wanted them to change their minds...or at least to question their actions."

"And when words weren't enough..." She leaves the sentence with a wide-eyed expression and a missing laugh.

"Yeah," he concludes. "I stooped to their level and blah, blah, blah."

She snickers. "You kicked some butt."

"I did not kick anyone."

"Okay...so you threw them to the ground."

"They threw themselves to the ground. I just guided them."

"I see. It was pretty impressive though."

"They were half drunk already."

She smiles, and hugs her legs close. "So what now? You can't exactly show your face anymore, hey?"

"No? I guess I'm sent packing."

She turns to him. He tries to keep his eyes forward, but turns his head instead. He raises his eyebrows. "What?"

"You are serious too. I can tell."

He lets out a breath and lies back on the rock, his hands behind his head.

"Where will you go?"

He sighs. "I don't know. But it's not like I'm a fugitive now. I can take my time. Do what I want. Buy a vehicle from my Uncle. And I'm gone." He sits up again and points his arm to the horizon. "Like a bird." He steers his hand in the wind, his eyes wistful.

"Like a road trip," she says.

"That's right."

"Except not. Because you'll be alone. Running from home."

He lets his arm fall to his side. He turns to her with a frown. "No. Home is here." He jabs his thumb into his chest. "And I'm going to find it."

"I see. And where will you look for this missing heart of yours?"

He laughs. "That is not what I meant. I meant that home is wherever I make it. So I'm going to explore this world and find it. My heart will tell me when I have found it."

"Well. Isn't that sweet. But what about all your friends? What about the people you've met here?"

"I have to leave them behind. They're stuck in one frame of mind. Maybe something out there in the world will pull them from their parents' homes...one day. But me, I gotta leave now. And I'm going to meet so many people along the way anyhow."

"Right...I'm not stuck in one frame of mind."

He smiles. "No. You're not. You should leave someday too."

"Yes. I really want to. Any chance I get."

"Yes. Well, I mean, no one should stay here too long. It's not a bad place to grow up. But it's too sheltered. People go round and round until they're insane."

"Like you?"

"Like us."

She smiles as the silence pulls away across the night.

"We climbed a mountain tonight," she whispers. "Do you think we could climb another one? A bigger one?"

Her voice is open and naked, wavering perhaps, but warm and confident. He feels fear bubble up in his stomach. But by the time it has reached his heart, it has somehow turned into excitement.

"I don't know. How spontaneous are you?"

"Rather spontaneous."

They both pause, wondering if they are discussing the same thing.

"So..." she hesitates. "Should I pack my bags?"

He lets out a hurried breath. "If you want to."

"Okay."

She pauses and then clarifies. "I want to."

The End

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