This is the last night you’ll ever drive these dirt roads. The sun sets behind you and the mountains are cooling, darkening to a deeper blue. The blinding heat of the day fades to a whisper as clouds of dust rise up behind you, where you’ve been now lost in the distance. A shallow mountain river thick with boulders runs beside the road and you wonder how many times you have been in that water. Sometimes you swam alone, the river and the birds the only sound beyond your breath. Other times you slept on the warm rocks, your bodies touching, less alone than you ever imagined possible. But as with this last day of this last summer, you know there is nothing you can truly hold onto and the more you have tried the more quickly you have lost what you’ve had.
You loved this place, the mountains stacked one on another and rising to the east, clear streams and cold rains, sleeping under moonlit skies, the long pines blowing overhead. But you hated that through it all you still felt lost. So close to perfect and so utterly wrong.
You pull the car off the road and step onto the grass. Beside the river you see a cloud of midges hovering above a still pool. You can smell the sweat that has dried to your skin and you reach your arms into the cool river to cleanse yourself, ancient hemlocks darkening the valley. There are no words for what you feel, at least none you can recall, so you look at the sky and the water and the hills and wait for it all to pass. You know you’ll never be back, but that is not your thought. Instead you ask the forest to tell you what it is that you fear you have missed, that you are always missing, that will never come again. The trees are quiet as darkness falls.
The gravel crackles under the wheels as an owl crosses the road ahead, noiselessly, lit only by the headlights. Of so many nights, this one is the last.
From Oakland, CA.