Like Being the Only Grain of Sand on the Beach

One by one by one the day hikers all made their way back down the side of the mountain on the foot path to the parking lot, taking and retaking digital pictures and tossing organic snow peas at the marmots and chipmunks. Haley and I sat up on a large rock that rested on top of a huge pile of other large rocks, a miniscule hill on an immeasurably larger one, randomly amassed right on the edge of the September snowline. A week from today Haley would be back in her senior classes, waist deep in novels and textbooks. I would be home in Wimbledon, cooking in a popular pub on the Thames. We watched as little beaming children ripped rare delicate flowers from their stems, peering into their centers and throwing them aside, while their parents rattled off brand names and stock tips, complaining about the horrid reception at seven thousand feet.

"I wonder what it's like to be like that," said Haley.

"Probably hollow," I said.

"I know, but I wonder what it's like to be like that."

"To drive a huge car with four televisions and satellite tracking? You might feel satisfied, because you're keeping up, but you're really not happy, not inside."

"Yeah I know, but I mean, what is it like?"

"Just be glad we're not like any of them."

They were right to start heading off the mountain. It had just passed into evening, and in the space of a few minutes the close cancerous sunlight became smothered in a dam burst of roiling clouds, pouring fog both above our heads and under our feet, the temperature dropping a degree for every passing minute. Haley and I climbed off the rock hill and started down the trail, jumping from stone to stone across a wide shallow stream, ambling down flights of man made rock staircases embedded in the ground. Haley made us stop to speak to each and every animal that had come out of their borough searching for dinner. "I wonder what it's like to be a Marmot," she said. I didn't have an answer.

As Haley and I went step by step a few thousand feet down the mountain the fog grew exponentially denser, and the closer we got to the parking lot the less we could see in front of our faces.

"This fog is like pea soup," Haley said.

"Those classes are finally paying off in metaphors."

"It's just an expression."

"It's a terrible expression; this fog isn't like pea soup at all, not in color nor texture nor anything."

"You have a better one, scholar?"

"I don't need one. The fog is thick, that's it. It's dreary fog, and it's covering everything so I can't see anything around me."

"But what's it like?"

"It's like really, really, really fucking thick."

The closer we got to the car, the less sure of how close we were to it we became. Haley and I were shivering now, our arms pulled into our tee shirts, hugging ourselves in desperation to save heat. We had been walking alone, there had been no other hikers behind us or in front of us for some time. The lower, more trodden half of the trail wasn't a typical wildlife trail; it was a cement pathway, a dislocated city sidewalk that, unlike your typical dirt trail, didn't register footprints, or any other impressions. No other proof existed that any human or anything else had been on the trail before us, except for the actual existence of the trail itself. Haley and I saw less and less in front of our faces, from thirty feet to twenty feet to ten feet.

"I wonder what it's like to be either you or me right now," she said, reaching for my hand out from under her shirt, pressing my palm in hers.

About the author:

After completing literature studies at the University of Washington, Ian F. King fled from the grey skies of Seattle to the grey skies of London, where he currently earns his keep working in the offices of both Granta Publications and David Godwin Associates. He enjoys long commutes and short attention spans.