I was a man once, or a boy at least.
The day I became the mountain I was following my older brother along the path, where foolish goats are prone to wander. He was bigger than me, older by more than two years and he moved with practiced speed along the narrow path. I was panting with the effort of matching his stride so I stopped to rest, leaning against a section of sheer mountain face. Strange phrase that—mountain face.
I don’t know if he ever found that lost goat, because I became rock.
One second I was leaning on rock, the next second, staring out from behind rock. But I could easily see everything surrounding me, surrounding the mountain. I could see all the way across the valley, past my village. I could see the ocean.
And I saw the seasons sweep through and I saw the weather rolling in. But I didn’t feel the cold, or the rain or the wind. I didn’t feel anything…until many, many years later. So many years. My brother long dead. Then one day the earth trembled. And I felt it! I felt my whole self shaking!
There was a woman walking the mountain path, as the earth shook. She cried out and ran inside a cave. She called out, “Oh God, oh mountain! Fall on me! Hide us!” She clutched at her stomach and she fell down on her knees. And the rocks tumbled to block the opening.
And when the feeling was gone, all that remained was the woman, sobbing. I felt like weeping too. For all I had lost, for all the time that was yet to come. I spoke then, for the woman to hear. And the sound was of rocks grinding, pebbles shifting, earth groaning. The blockage at the cave entrance started to shift, and I know she made out the words. “Live, woman,” I said. “Get out and live.”
It took her hours to pull the rest of the stones aside and carefully squeeze her round belly through a gap. But she walked away. And everything was quiet again. Until a few years later, there was a young boy, who seemed to be searching, who walked into that same cave.
He ran his hands along the walls and leaned against the cool rock. And although I could only sense, and not really see him, I felt as though I recognised his face.
The dog insists, so we walk. We walk up the hill and down narrow residential streets made narrower by too many parked cars, through a tiny park with a compact plastic play structure, and back the way we came.
Yesterday we were swooped by a plover and he didn’t even notice, but I think I hurt my neck from the involuntary jerk of my head. I covered my embarrassment by talking low and soothingly to him about how we’d be okay and how good he was. He just pulled me along.
He sniffs many trees, posts and garden edges, but there’s always one spot that’s different for some reason, a scent that needs putting in its place. I prise the folded, biodegradable doggy bag from an ingenious hidden pocket in my walking shorts, careful to check the front door key is still safe.
I’m thankful he’s a small breed as I use the bag like a glove to grasp the small, golden nuggets.
The bad room
Andy got in the habit of calling it ‘the bad room’ after a weekend of re-arranging. Every useless bit of furniture and gadgetry was shoved in there.
When I couldn’t find space in the cupboard for my winter blanket, he swooped in. “I’ll just put it in the bad room.”
It feels like abandonment.
One night, the dog curled against my side wakes us with frenzied barking. A loud grating sound I only half-registered, from the room next to ours. The bad one. We venture into the hallway.
Andy tries to open the door but there’s resistance. He pushes again, creates a small gap. Nervously, with shoulders hunched and body turned, he reaches in. Relief fills his face. “It’s just the mirror.” A full length one, fallen and wedged.
One day, I’m alone in the house. As I walk past the bad room, I’m distracted by the reflected flicker of movement in the mirror, now propped haphazardly against a filing cabinet. I pause to look at myself. I’m unnaturally looming from the odd angle of the glass.
There’s something off. My image−quivering.
I step forward. From the corner of my eye, I see the door closing. Then, a grating noise.
I don’t work in an office anymore. That could all change in 2015, but for now I’m working from home as a freelance writer. Apart from the uncertainty I feel about making enough money, my newfound freedom is good- but it’s taken a while to get used to. I’m used to being confined to a cubicle (when not in meetings) and rushing from one task to the next.
At my last job, the only thing I could see from my desk was other desks. I didn’t like that. Usually I’ve been near a window. I think having natural light and being able to see the world waiting outside is important. Of course it matters little on those days when motivation is lacking. On those days when the only real ‘work’ you can do is willing 5pm to tick over…I wrote this poem on a day like that.