W.C.Hussey ~ The Mountains

That win­ter the moun­tains were unbe­liev­able. We’d come back from Trader Joe’s on a tired gray day, hav­ing a tired gray argu­ment, and I’d park and get out and there at the edge of the clouds were the moun­tains: filmed in blue fog, stand­ing stark against the sky­line. Wow, I always want­ed to say, do you see those? But dis­lik­ing peo­ple who appre­ci­at­ed nature was one of the things we had left, so I didn’t.

What I said instead, one Sunday when the moun­tains were espe­cial­ly beau­ti­ful and the argu­ment espe­cial­ly point­less, was that I want­ed to take a walk to clear my head. I said this in the tone of author­i­ta­tive self-care that you always used and that always irked me. I was hop­ing it would irk you too, but your expres­sion was more like Good, you’re final­ly learn­ing to act like an adult. I let you take both bags and shut the trunk hard­er than necessary.

I need­ed to reset, so as I walked I pulled up the mem­o­ry of the night we met. A house par­ty of the worst size, so that we all col­lect­ed into cor­ners to shout polite­ly about how our jobs were going. Somebody’s drunk girl­friend: “You guys! We should all go on a hike togeth­er next week­end!” You, with heart­felt and invol­un­tary sin­cer­i­ty: “Oh God, we should not.” Me tak­en aback, laugh­ing the mas­cu­line stac­ca­to laugh I usu­al­ly left at home. Your smile. Over the years I had played this and played this until it was a sort of blur­ry gif: the dia­logue cap­tion (intact), one mov­ing bit of your face (which felt accu­rate, but might be real­ly a com­pos­ite of all your faces as I had seen and imag­ined them), and then the click of putting them togeth­er, the per­fect remem­brance of bloom­ing under your smile. Sometimes the click worked and some­times it didn’t. It worked less and less; I didn’t know if this was because I played it too often or if it was just degrad­ing with time.

Turning the cor­ner, the view of the moun­tains made my thoughts skip out of their loop. I nev­er took pho­tos, but I want­ed to cap­ture them. They looked dull and small in the pic­ture. I decid­ed I would go home once I got them right. I tried from dif­fer­ent angles, but noth­ing. I tried adjust­ing the con­trast, with and with­out flash, with my arm held far­ther and far­ther out, but noth­ing. I even tried climb­ing the first rung of a tree, feel­ing as always that effort must make some dif­fer­ence no mat­ter how poor­ly thought-out the effort was, but of course, still noth­ing. I near­ly screamed.

I went home. You were sit­ting in the green wing­back arm­chair, read­ing. That chair was the only thing you had tak­en from your par­ents’ house when they down­sized. Unloading it from the car togeth­er (you hadn’t let me come with you to pick it up, but admit­ted that it had been awk­ward to car­ry by your­self), you told me that it had always been your favorite because it sat around the cor­ner from the liv­ing room, in the best spot to eavesdrop.

Looking at you then, I pic­tured you at age five, and nine, and twelve, sit­ting in that chair and eaves­drop­ping. I wished I had known you at every age.

I feel observed,” you said, and shift­ed to swing your legs over the chair’s arm, your back to me. The ten­der­ness turned to hate so quick­ly then. Or no, there wasn’t a turn­ing, I just real­ized that the ten­der­ness had had hate in it all along. It was the same feel­ing, I only ever had the one feel­ing for you.

I didn’t say any­thing, just walked past you to the kitchen sink, turned on the hot water, and stuck my hands in yesterday’s dish­es. My arms were shak­ing up to the shoul­der. I looked out the win­dow and saw that the moun­tains had gone pink. The sun must be set­ting some­where, though it was hard to say where; we hadn’t seen it all day.


W. C. Hussey lives in Seattle.