Thursday, August 07, 2008

Writing Day

I wrote the following piece last week. Since I've taken today off work as a writing day it seemed appropriate to share. I'm interested to hear what you think.

Slipping Away

We are walking along together when the path gets narrow. I am surprised but we are talking and it doesn’t seem important. You asked me out here specially and I recognize a gift when I’m given one. It would be the worst kind of rudeness to cut this short, to speed it up or change it in anyway. Later, out of the corner of my eye, I see that the path drops off. Its edge is steep and rocky and goes a long, long way down. I am frightened and, laughing, I say so.

“Don’t look down. Just look at me.”

So I do and we keep walking and the path continues to narrow. Eventually you have to turn sideways and inch yourself along so I turn sideways too and reach out to hold your hand. Loosely joined we shuffle along. We are awkward like two old men in a retirement home gymnastics competition.

When it happens it is, at first, in slow motion. There is time, so much time that I am able to think, “This is going to speed up. Any second it will speed up and it will all be over. I need to pay attention.” And pay attention I do as your hand slips from mine and your arms pinwheel. We both gasp and flail and reach each other again in a one handed cross grip, wrists secure in palms like a medieval greeting. No swords here just muscles pulled taut with the work of it all. My footing is inexplicably firm while yours deteriorates. Your toes, now bare, scrabble for purchase to no avail and eventually reach the end of the sandy, pebbled ledge.

Then you dangle from our melded hands like washing on a line. My back is firm against the canyon wall and my arm is fully extended, its whole purpose made up of reaching you where you hang. I can see the darkness all around you but I don’t look directly at it. I look at you, just you, right in the eyes.

What we never talked about is that I know you. At least that’s what I tell myself. It is at the bare minimum true that when you, the book, are open I can read the language with a certain fluency. Right behind your sparkling blue eyes I see what you are about to say and, in my heart, I hear myself thank you. Thank you for not saying it right away, thank you for holding on just one more second, and thank you for the next one and the next and the one after that.

We are connected by our fingers now. It hurts which is good I think because it reminds us to keep paying attention. I will not look away from you. I have one job, you gave it to me back there when we were both on the path. “Look at me.” I will. I will keep looking, if not unflinching at least unblinking, until we’re done here. Or me here and you there but done just the same. All our concentration is in the tips of our delicate digits. Every drop of sweat is a seismic shift and I watch your eyes, waiting to see you say the words.

“Let go.”

As fast as everything that came before it was slow you do. Some might ask how fingernails can let go but they can. It’s an act of will but it’s possible. I let go too. Not because I want to but because I know that I’m to do as I’m told. So I let go but I don’t pull back. With that arm outstretched I keep my eyes on yours as you fall farther and farther away from me. Even as the rest of you goes small in the distance I pick out the pinpricks of those ice blue eyes and hold them with my own.

I don’t hear you land. I’m told, much later, that the bottom of the fissure is just too far away. I stay a while just in case, though. What if you were stuck on a ledge and needed, well I don’t have any rope but what if you needed…some company? You don’t, of course.

Alone again I realize that only steps in front of me the path widens out and the way is clearly marked back down to base camp. I’ll take it slow. My arm is still sore, I’ve broken some fingernails right down to the quick and my breathing isn’t yet back to normal. I’ll get down there, though, in my own time, and when I do I’ll tell them that you said goodbye even though you didn’t.

I didn’t either. We didn’t have to.


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  2. Anonymous7:19 AM

    Kizz, that is awesome. Not only is it great writing that had me on the edge of my seat, but I feel like you crawled into my soul and wrote what my heart couldn't say.
    Thank you.

  3. Holy wow, that was intense... no wonder you mentioned last week that your writing was affecting you... that must have been difficult to write... very proud of you...

  4. Thanks Auntie, you're very kind. And you keep your soul especially neat in here.

    JRH, oddly enough that isn't the difficult thing of which I was speaking. This one rolled out like it had been waiting.

  5. Anonymous6:45 PM

    Wow! Very, VERY intense! Great stuff.

  6. Thanks for reading NHF.