Islands in the Stream

My friend and I woke early one morning, while it was still dark, to climb a mountain. A little early morning exercise to avoid the heat of the daytime and also because she was busy for the rest of the day and I’d wanted to see her before she left. She was a student, of course, home for break. But for all the time we’d had to meet up, this morning, before the sun rose, was the only time we could agree upon. And I said to her, I’m glad we’re doing this, as we looked up at the mountain peak silhouetted against the night. She agreed and then zipped up her jacket because it had started to drizzle, and took a step forward.

We climbed through thickets and under drooping branches, and slipped a couple of times here and there. Each time I slipped she would ask me if I was all right, and I would say I was, and then she would make some joke about how bad I was at hiking, to which I would reply that I hadn’t gone hiking in over six months. I commented that we should have checked the weather report. The rain had come and gone and was coming again. We moved as quickly as we could until we found a ledge, under which we waited for the rain to pass.

We sipped our water and watched as the rain fell in front of us. I asked her how school was. She said it was fine, How is yours? Fine, I said. She asked me about some of the things I’d learned. I told her what books I’d read, which authors had made an impression on me. I asked her if she was ready to be a sophomore. No. Time flies.

The rain stopped, so we put away our bottles and crept out from under the ledge. I almost slipped again, but planted my hand on the ground and caught myself. I removed it, shaking off the gunk. Softened by the rain, the mud held the imprint of my hand. My friend pressed her own hand to the ground, laughing, and we stood and admired the marks we had made.

Come on, she said. We’re almost there.

We hoisted ourselves over the top of a fairly large rock, which was mossy and wet with the dew of early morning, and, straightening, saw a light spread across the ocean. My friend turned and high-fived me with her mud-covered hand. The wind brushed her hair, which floated like a piece of driftwood on the surface of the sea. She smiled and said, I’m going to hate to leave this place.