The air is still. So still I can barely hear the crickets chirp. The window is open wide to the sultry night and somewhere far down the street a dog barks. It must be midnight. Every now and then, the faintest, coolest breeze kisses my skin. The leaves sigh.
Softly he rests his hand on my arm.
“Don’t. Touch. Me.” My lips scarcely move. The words are a flat monotone in the dark.
His amused chuckle fills the heated space between us, and he rolls over.
It’s too hot. Too hot to touch. To be touched. Too hot to think, to exhale, to remember if I turned the dishwasher on. Even the whisper-soft breeze has stopped. It’s too hot to sleep and I feverishly wonder what tomorrow will bring. If it ever comes.
The sun scorches the trail we’re walking on, and a spotted lizard darts under a bush next to me. Its branches are crackly and brittle, and the dry leaves curl themselves like miniature cups, waiting for water. I take just a sip. It’s warm.
“I want to find the French Trail,” I murmur. I know that is the trail that is shaded and cool. It’s the trail where the trees are the tallest. They stretch and bend their skinny redwood trunks up up up toward the sun and they filter the light in leafy, holy patterns. G-d’s light.
But I am not usually able to find it. I take a wrong turn, start on the wrong path, or run out of time.
“Okay, so let’s find it,” he says next to me. He holds out his hand as we start to make our way down through the trees, out of the dusty, beating sun and over the thick roots and fallen logs. Something scuttles but otherwise all is quiet. The sky stretches white-blue above us and the sweat makes a slow trickle down my neck. I grab his hand. Too hot.
We walk carefully in silence for a while. The roots coil over each other in deceptive lines, and I worry he is going to twist his ankle. He asks if I’m okay.
“Here it is!” I can’t believe it. French Trail with an arrow that way.
I hadn’t wanted to go on a hike that morning. The heat is intolerable, insufferable and the sun bites my skin with iron-hot teeth every time I go outside. I am moody and cranky and only looking for ways to escape, not walk towards, any kind of inferno. Out there or inside.
And there is a grocery list at the bottom of my purse, and two essays waiting to be continued, and it’s an early dismissal day so even less hours to get this sweaty mess together. Who hikes when it’s 95 degrees out… at 9am?
But it is a rare morning of togetherness. A time that caught us both by surprise, when we could shift schedules and be flexible and walk and talk and breathe in nature and in light.
The light floats through the trees and we walk, close but not touching. This is where I want to be, I think, in this cool, shaded silence that smells green and full of hope. Hope that the drought will break, that the heat will ease, that this peace and calm will stay with us today and tomorrow and tomorrow.
And suddenly we are back in the sun, working our way upward to where we started. Because what goes down must always come back up, and it’s hard. The flies buzz around my ears and the dust is in my nose and I stop to gasp mouthfuls of hot, stagnant air every few feet. Slow-going.
“You are so noisy,” I mutter as he tries his own system of inhale exhale. My disapproval is as thick as the air.
“Just trying to survive,” he puffs as he strides past me. I knew he would say that. When I come around the next bend he is waiting for me. We are steps away from the car.
“It was so great until the last part.” I stop right there in the broiling sun. He nods in agreement. And even as the words are out my mouth I know that’s not true. It was great, even the last part. It is great. And it’s not over.
It’s time to say goodbye. To get on with our days, as usual. To try and stay cool, and remember that in the parched dust of our discomfort and in the breathtaking dappled light of love and ease, we are together.
“This was a good suggestion,” I say.
“I’m glad you were available,” he replies.
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers and bloggers gather together to share their versions of a completed sentence. This week’s prompt was, “Each Fall, I…” Hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee, and co-hosted by Julie from Carvings on a Desk, and Danielle from Way Off Script. This is the Fall that does not yet feel like Fall, but every year around this time I notice a shift somewhere nearby.