As I got ready to leave to say my goodbyes, I noticed she got up to head upstairs before me. It was curious behavior, consistent with what I’ve seen from her all night. I made my round, hugging each person who had touched my life this clear misty morning. The subtle shadows of pine needles from the outside greens were starting to darken on the nearby windows. The sun was creeping into our consciousness. It must have been 6:03am.
I made my way around the room, peering into dilated pupils and wired, grinding teeth. The room was dark, of course, lit by a few groupings of candles and random strings of lights draped about. Their flickering gave the walls a somewhat friendly face, but I had the feeling I shouldn’t keep my back towards turned them too long. And, ah yes, the ubiquitous scent of weed could still be felt tickling my nose.
As I was heading towards the stairs, I couldn’t help but to glance at the coffee table one last time. The clumps of yay on that glass-mirrored centerpiece reflected off of it in a way that reminded me of powered mountains on a remote pristine lake somewhere – somewhere barren, quiet and lonely, a place where echoes are forgotten in wisps of desolation. It struck me as a place where many visit but never return. The thought of those mountains massaged my mind. They were covered in perfectly balanced snow, untouched by any impurities or defects, free from pesky humans who sought to soil their majestic perfection. The slopes were stiff and rigid. They would swallow up any who dared to chase down them.
I made my way to the stairs to head up towards the ground level where my exit awaited me. I glanced off to the left and noticed the bathroom was empty. She had made her way upstairs.
I ascended. The house was impressive. I had no idea where I was, only that it was in a well-to-do neighborhood. The house was easily worth 7-figures. I was in the presence of dignity. I admired the art on the walls as I put my feet before me stair by stair, feeling the resilient cords of soft fabric under my white worn socks.
The art was deep. I could only imagine the time when the owner purchased them. What was their meaning? What did they feel?
I finally made my way to the ground level. The entrance – and my exit – lay off to the left. I turned the corner and saw her there, preening her hair in the hallway mirror. She was looking into her eyes, and thumbing through her nostrils, ensuring they were ready for public visibility. The blow had rattled her good, I could tell. It was a moment of self-reflection. I could almost sense her spirit revolt.
“Goodnight.” I said.
She looked over my way, acting as if she wasn’t expecting me, but I knew better. “Oh. Goodnight.”
As if by prompt, she made her way past me. I was a little intrigued by what she was doing. This was the third or fourth time that she’s done that this night. Her energy was something different – something elusive. If I didn’t know any better I’d say she was up to something. But who was I to speculate?
I continued my way to the entrance. My shoes were lying in front of the strong sturdy door that led into this remarkable abode. My mind wandered from my shoes to her. I couldn’t help it. Where was she going? I was compelled to think about her in a way that was deeper than I should have for that moment. She couldn’t have been more than 22. Her figure was perfect, drawing the attention of every guy in the place for the majority of the night. I could tell it had caused her much trouble and strife in her life, yet the particular details of this personal dilemma of hers were left in a murky haze of my own dreamy, tattered imagination. I could only think of how many men chased after her in a typical day, and what sort of life that must be.
She had walked around the corner away from the entrance. I could only assume she was going to use the bathroom that was close by. I knew that someone was already in there. Why didn’t she use the one downstairs? Was she up here to make contact with me? She was the only person I had not talked with all night, and – notably – vice versa.
Oddly, I felt compassion for her. Something deep struck a vivid chord within me. What was I doing? Saying what was on my heart?
“You take care of yourself.” I echoed through the hallway, making sure it reached her around the corner. For whatever reason, I had genuine concern for her, whatever that might be.
She was still within earshot. I could only hear her reply. “Oh, thank you.” It was brief and to the point, almost automatic, as if pulled from a nearby filing cabinet.
I could hear her around the corner, trying to get into the bathroom but finding the door locked. Rejected, her footsteps grew louder as she returned towards my direction. By this time I was fumbling with my shoes, getting the right one on my foot. It was a stubborn shoe that loved to resist my heel. Fuck it.
She made her way back to the mirror. Her preening continued.
Something grew within me. I’m still not sure what exactly it was. It was as if a connection was to be made that moment, no matter the cost, no matter what the sentiment. I don’t think she got what I was saying.
“Hey, I mean that. Take care of yourself.” I volleyed back, somewhat unconsciously and bordering on uncontrollably. I’m not sure why I said it. I’m not sure what it meant. I was breaking through the same typical social banter I’ve grown so conditioned to. Yes, those fucking barriers. For once, I was sharing a concern for a total stranger I’d never even met.
“Oh, thank you.” she mimicked back once again, almost parrot-like. It was polite but I couldn’t help but to feel like she was treating me like she would an overprotective father. Maybe I was acting like one. Maybe I deserved it. I’m not sure what came over me. Her comment was so direct, in much the way someone might say “I know how to take care of myself, thanks.”
But at the same time, her preening had slowed. A certain feel moved over her, as if by a dream, or maybe a dreamy hallucination. I could tell by the way she was looking into the mirror that something was different. A certain calming rumbling energy had fallen over her. Her eyes almost looked void, as if peering into herself for the first time with genuine care, searching for a certain kind of warmth she had not felt since she was a child, when things were simple and plain.
She was in the mountains somewhere, the trees flowing with hazy dew and soft greens tickling the empty air. She was looking for that embrace from long ago, from someone she no longer knows – or remembers. I could tell this by the look on her face, in the dark shadowed reflection from the mirror across from her.
Afraid of getting caught, I turned my attention towards the floor, where I was wiggling in on my left shoe, snapping it into place without much effort. Good job, left shoe. I focused towards the strong giant door and grabbed the cold ringing handle of a knob. Daylight was starting to paint through the stained glass. Turning the handle, I opened the door and headed outside into the morning mountain air, leaving her behind me, never to be seen again – preening hair, void stare and all.
I walked out onto the wet, dewy sidewalk. My car was in sight.
Now, where the FUCK was I?