Where the Other One Goes by D.E. Hardy
You are on a hiking trip. Pinnacles National Park for five days, a test run of the dream we’ve been working toward for years, when we will quit and sell everything, buy an Airstream and disappear. Off the grid forever. By day, we will explore the great, green earth, and at night, we will fuck each other so thoroughly our college selves will apparate to watch in awe and take notes. We’ll eat breakfast next to a stream at the foot of the Sierras, of Wheeler Peak, of the Tetons. I’ll send postcards back to my ten-year-old self—just hang on, someday the whole world will be your backyard—while you sprint ahead to your last day, to double-check this really gets to be your life from now on.
I couldn’t go on the Pinnacles trip. Someone has to stay with the girls were the words I claimed. The words my OA means I can’t hike like that anymore remain in my mouth, or maybe they darted ahead to wait for us, standing with one of my future selves, a murky figure with deformed feet. Tonight, the throbbing of my big toe, of my knees, of my hands will wake me again and again. I will hobble a bit in the morning until my joints warm. I will make age jokes. None of them will be funny. I’ll text you some anyway. You’ll send me a laugh-cry emoji and a picture of yourself from a peak I can’t climb.
When you get back on Friday, we’ll snuggle in bed with a map of Pinnacles. You will show me all the places you’ve been. You will say, we should do this trip together, just slower maybe. I won’t say, extra time isn’t the problem. I’ll be years ahead, sitting outside the Airstream. You’ll have been hiking all day. I’ll have remained behind. Someone has to stay with the dog. At dinner, I’ll scroll through your pictures, look at them so many times my mind will memorize them as my own. We will sit hand in hand, watching the sun dip below unavailable hills. The words I’m sorry my body betrayed us will sit on my shoulder. I will utter something hollow instead: this view is a blessing. You will glance at my shoulder and say, your body is a blessing. I will almost believe it when you say it. You will hug me close and fly us back to this moment in our room. You’ll push the map aside and say: no, really—we’ll always both be where the other one goes. We will hold each other all night.
D.E. Hardy's work has appeared in New World Writing, FlashFlood, Clockhouse Magazine (Pushcart Nomination), and Sixfold, among others. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be followed on twitter @dehardywriter.