Winner of the 2019 Winter Contest.
He liked to hike at night. When the glow from the headlamp
lit up only a few feet before us. My footsteps soft behind,
he never had to look at the size of the mountain he was climbing.
He would not see it this way. He would say he preferred the bite
of the air, how the stillness was thrilling, the rush of being
the only ones awake under the sky. Once we got lost
at the top in a boulder field. Snowflakes stung my cheeks red
as they spun into midnight. Searching for the fire tower we took turns
in our fear, grabbing fistfuls of indigo, scrambling up and onward,
the path narrow, the splits too subtle and sudden to catch. I wish
I had felt it then, how the fog that swallowed the mountain
would come for us, too. How we would not see the things before us,
our vision tunneled as the beam of the flashlight. Pupils stretched wide
to the lip of the basin, gulping down the night, we would miss
the mountain’s precipice, miss the bends and blooms. If we had paused,
let the crescent moon illuminate every shadow, every inky figure,
we might have turned to face the cliffs, appreciated their enormity, felt
our thirst and taken slow sips of the dawn instead of lapping at darkness.