the trees rose like great glorious fingers against a sky spun of cream and citrus. the shades of rust leaked down on the roof, filled the gutters and spilled onto the slats of the porch where we sat cross legged sipping cold coffees in tin mugs.
it was the summer of my seventeenth, and his twenty second year, lost in that great big woods under those eaves, living like his parents never wanted him to. i liked poetry but no matter how much i tried to describe him i could never get his face right using words. he looked the way is smells after it rains in a forest no man has seen. crumpled clothes and black curls bent over a soft notebook. he had fingers like sapling branches, long and thin and splotched with ink.
i asked if it ever bothered him, living out here in the quiet, so far from everything he knew.
"it's this place that i know," he replied without stopping. "this place with it's streams carving paths through the forest bed, and its howls at night. its this place that i know."
"you ever wish..."
i felt strange saying it, no one ever did because to everyone else it made no sense and we'd accepted the fact. he was the family disappointment; the anomaly among fake friends.
"that you'd chosen different," i said. "that you'd stayed. finished school. found a girl. something like that - got a car and a house."
"this is a house."
"but you're almost never in it, and you know what i mean."
"yes. yes, i know."
and the pen scratched on for a minute before he set it down, tipping his head back, his adams apple drifted up and then down again.
"life is about choosing mountains," he said quietly. "choosing the places where you know you can breathe. where you know you are free. and sometimes, maybe for some that's school... or a car or a girl." his head rocked slowly as he shook it. "but i prefer the mountains that you find when you leave the worn out path behind."
"but what about what they say?"
he shrugged a shoulder. "we all say something. we all yell our opinions at the sky, and when we've finished there's nothing but hot air and people standing side by side... all the same. making cases for why their mountain is the right one. but there is no right one, there's just mountains..."
i looked at him, thinking hard. watching the light paint his face.
"and there's just people... and it's only when we turn them into trail guides that we begin to lose something inside ourselves." his voice quieted.
he turned and looked at me, and i felt that restless longing a bird must feel when it peers between the bars of it's cage and sees its likeness soaring.
"we're all just people..." he said. "people with different experiences and hurts and thoughts and feelings. and some of them think the schools and the cars and the cubes where you write the papers all day will fill them up..."
he paused, looking down at the notebook. flipping it so i could see the inky black trees and a great red sun rolling away behind a jagged peak.
"but sometimes, after you've tried all of it, you realize what you were looking for was never inside any of those. it's home, buried beneath your bed," he laid one hand over his heart. "buried beneath your flesh."
my lips curved and he tore the drawing out and extended it to me.
"the trouble comes when we start talking like people," he said. "instead of mountains."
i hope monday is as rest-filled as sunday, my friends.