Long walks

“I don’t do long walks at midnight!” She stopped in the the middle of the path of the path, exasperated now.
“Come a little further, I promise it is worth it.” He coaxed her with the patient tone mothers used with impatient toddlers. “There is a gate just around the bend.”
She looked up at the depths of the cloudless night sky, a deep inky purple, and felt her soul stretch up and expand into the space. Deep satisfying peace spread through her, and she breathed in the clear cool air, and held it, her thoughts quiet finally, her entire attention right there in that moment focused on that breath.
“Walk a little further,” he whispered again softly as though aware this was a special moment. “There is a gate, then a small bridge just around that bend, and then a little spot I have to show you.” He stayed a few steps away from her, letting her decide. She suddenly felt ashamed of her petulance, aware that he had been more than willing to carry on a one sided conversation, discussing his friends, the discussions they had, geopolitics, poetry, the comparative literature of three cultures, a range of topics to cover her frozen silence. He had waited for her at the trail head, and she had ground out just one sentence as she locked her car, “I don’t want to talk, ok?!”
“The perfect woman!” He had teased her with a grin.
But she was beyond all casual conversation, her thoughts in chaotic cacophony, locked in battle mode with no enemy to fight, she was slashing into her own life, watching it crumble and collapse. They started walking on the gravel layered levee, arid expanses of dried marshland on either side, an occasional wild hare darting through the scrub. In the distance, lights gleamed faintly on the bay, and from time to time she heard the restless fluttering of birds. He had cheerfully chatted for over an hour, she had barely even acknowledged his words in the beginning, not even pretending to glance at him to be polite.
“Five more minutes,” she muttered ungraciously. “It’s going to take an hour to get back!” He nodded, and they started off again, this time in silence, the path barely visible in the darkness. She was a city girl, her nights were filled with the reflected glow of streetlights and neon. They were in the middle of nowhere, and he was probably going to show her another view over the bay, proud as though he had invented the beauty of expanses of water. And she would be expected to sigh over it, probably he expected her to be so overcome by the sight that he would finally make his move. Men!!
The bridge, a rusty, bolted together metal sheets which had cracked and bent, a few slats of wood thrust through pegs, was a sorry excuse, the water underneath and around had dried up. She stepped gingerly on it, and it groaned and creaked. Romantic, now the bridge was making it clear she was heavy, she bitched internally. She didn’t need that reminder that she was no longer a slender gamine, instead an embittered crone, wizened and bitter.
“Stop here for a moment,” he called out. She sighed- another stop? She was really done with the experience. She would insist on returning to her car, alone if need be. She joined him at the side, and looked in the direction he indicated. There, in the distance, past the evaporation pools and low straggly bushes, waves of marsh grass and crowds of birds still on the water’s edge, past floodlit cinder block warehouses and even brightly lit office parks, there was her town, the place she called home. She could see the city hall, and the library, the dark expanse of the central park, the movement of cars of the major streets, and then beyond, the blunt hills with pastel mansions set in straggling rows. She traced the developments south and found her own neighborhood, just below the blunt peak of the local hill, the deep brown scar on the slopes caused by a landslide four years ago when the rains had been specially heavy. Her eyes filled with tears as they tracked the BART train snaking its way to the station, the apartment complex near there where she had first lived when she had arrived in the U.S. In the distance she saw the tall tower of the college where she had done her Masters, so proud to have finally achieved what she wanted. The hospital where her children were born, the parks she had taken them to run off their energy, the gym where they had learned gymnastics and the school where they had traced their first letters.
She was crying, the tears finally running down her face, her life laid out in front of her, the life that was so completely shattered that she could do no more than grieve over the pieces. She cried for the girl she had been, the pride she had taken in working hard and dreaming, the trust and love she had felt. It was as though the anger holding her feelings in check, finally gave way, the futility of fighting with the inevitable dawning on her. Finally she stopped, messily wiping her face with her sleeve. She took a deep breath and turned towards him, still standing there a few feet away. “Sorry for the bawling.”
“Eh, what can you do! Women are such weepy emotional creatures,” he replied in a wry, taunting voice and they started back towards the parking lot.
©alka