Saturday, June 2, 2012

EXCERPT: Cloud Touching Mountain

This one will go in my next anthology, if I'm ever lucky enough to be offered another:

Cloud Touching Mountain
Eric Arvin
copyright 2007

Cloud touching mountain. High above the plains. Casting its shadow so far the sun can be forgotten. It stretches to the ends of everything. At least to the ends of anything I know. I don’t get far. I stay with my fields. They need tending to.

I watched from the farthest field; the one with the freshest upturned soil. So many things had disappeared into that mountain. All my life I had seen things leave that way. But this was the first time it ever affected me so tremendously. I lost something when he left. Something I never realized I had had to begin with. None of the other men mattered this much to me. But he did, and I couldn’t see it until he left. Not clearly anyway. Stupidity is so ignorant. What we see, what we don’t see. We are born equipped, I think, with life-blinders. Only a few of us ever shed them, and then it is usually too late.

For a while I didn’t know what I had seen. Was he truly gone? He had said he would leave, but he had said that hundreds of times before. I asked, Do you want me? Don’t you want to be with me?

He never replied. Not with words.

He did not want what I wanted. Not in the way that I wanted it.

The last I saw he was a shadow climbing, a silhouette disappearing upward. Into the clouds. Like an angel taking the hard way home to Heaven. Or a devil trying to sneak in by some cunning mortal trick.

I had to follow. There was nothing for it. My fears of everything else were overshadowed by my fear of losing him. Love is the worst thing. Painfully pulling us this way and that, jerking us around like rag dolls. I hate love.

Love is both Life and Death. I could never explain that adequately enough to the other men. The ones who worked my fields before.

There was no way I could even think of heading back home now. Not without him. It would be like a house without a roof. Did he love me at all?

I could have taken care of him. He didn’t have to leave. I take care of my fields. I took care of the other men.

Hearing my heart, the fear too real, I kick through the dirt and dust toward the mountain. Toward the white billows of cloud that crown its height. Maybe he’ll be there. Maybe that’s where he’s headed. To the very top, then he’ll stop because he can go no farther. Maybe he’ll scream at God. Maybe I will when I get there too.

What had he been trying to tell me? He had been silent for so long. His eyes spoke their own language. I just couldn’t decipher what they were saying. You would think if it were love, if it were real love, I would be able to know what he meant without him uttering a single syllable. One glance and I would know. But we were still a mystery to one another. We’re all mysteries looking for our solutions in the reflection of another’s eyes.

I hate love.

I thought he was sick. I thought that’s what he was saying. Maybe I was wrong. I should have asked him outright. Why are you leaving me? Stay and help me tend the fields. But he only stared back with an expression of…what was it? Fear? Resistance? Discovery?

Signs. There are always signs. Except when their too quiet, too subtle. Then they’re just gestures. Then you need sign language. But there again, I’ve never been too good at other languages. The language of love. Isn’t that what some aching poet called it? Well, it’s a cryptic, secret thing this language of love. There are no right words. It changes daily.

Kisses and touch. That’s a language. Tenderness. I was well-versed, I think, in that. Perhaps he disagreed. Perhaps that mountain is a metaphor; a big, tall symbol I have to climb over.

Come back! Don’t go so high. So far up. So out of sight and gone. I see you now. Maybe I didn’t before, but I do now.

Love is a battlefield. Love hurts. Love kills. Love is all those clich├ęs because it’s a vicious emotion. It feeds off us like a sweet parasite. We carry it. We are its hosts and it feeds off us. Once we’ve had it we can’t live without it. Say no to drugs but whatever you do fall in love.

I thought I was in love before with every one of those other men. They helped me tend my fields. They help me still. But that wasn’t love. That was companionship.

Falling. I hope he doesn’t fall. How would I live? Would it be better to have him dead? Or alive somewhere in the world…without me? It’s a question for a psychopath. For a lovesick obsessive.

Each of my fields has a name. Each is named for a man I thought I loved.

What if I killed him? What if I found him and he spoke? What if he told me he was running from me? From me? I think I would kill him. No one else could have him. No one else would feel him inside them, on top of them, under them. He came into me first. His world and mine in that one beautiful moment and I begged him to stay. He agreed because I gave him what he needed. But it was he who planted the seed.

And now he wants to leave me. I could kill him. I could take a rock and bash his ungrateful brains in. His beautiful, lovely, ungrateful brains.

There are some rocks in my fields. Each field has a pile of them, and each a wooden cross in the center of with a name of a man I thought I loved.

I’ll find him. But I won’t kill him. I’ll knock him out and take him back. He’ll stay. I’ll force him to stay. This one is different.

He is blinded by obstacles is all. I see clearly. I see by love.

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