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When we summit the hill I find a mailbox. I cannot believe Antoinette has a mailman, but perhaps she has. She has a mailbox, after all. Though the question of if she receives mail is a question for her, not I, and we are not currently talking. I place a stick neither large nor small, neither hard nor soft, neither beauty nor beast, neither straight nor bent, in her mailbox. I address it: To my wife, I say. This may seem unwise considering what you know I am about to do, but I do not know. Yes, I do know in an Oh no what am I about to do sort of way, but I do not know. Nothing has happened yet. Or nothing has yet to happen. I do not remember which. I do not remember what is about to happen. The truth is I mail the stick in Antoinette’s box to Reb because I love my wife and have never missed her so much as now.
* * *
The Author engages the toilet with his urine. This is life. He aims for the side of the bowl so as to not make so much noise, even though from years of experience he suspects this increases splashing outside the rim. That is life. He feels a little better; he really needed to pee. Life.
He has been told he has a small bladder because he has to pee often. He does have to pee often, but when he pees he pees for a long time. While he figures this engages him more with life, this being his incessant bodily need to urinate which arouses his constant mental need to urinate which consummates with what some would plead is an obsession with where he will next urinate and others would moan under their breath is a passion for when he will next urinate, he also reasons without contradiction that he has no choice because he drinks a lot of coffee and water.
He would like Mary to measure the volume of his urine on any given day and compare it to others and then tell him to volumetrically more engage life. Good luck saying that, he would say to her before she says it.
He doesn’t flush so as to save the world 1.6 gallons of water and make it more like urinating outside and not wake Lilly.
He exits the bathroom. Lilly is awake. Lilly is wailing. Lilly is waiting.
He had had an idea for Palo but he doesn’t know if he remembers it.
He finds a clock under a couch cushion. He doesn’t know if it’s in the same time as the darkened computer. But the email conversation with Mary took something more than 1.5 hours. Add on his dithering and urination. Equals naptime.
He stands there. Lilly wails harder. He wants to write down his idea. With barbed spears. For Palo. Salting her meaty face in tears. Palo is stuck. Adding to the ocean’s woes. He is stuck. Adding to the ocean’s depth. His story is stuck. Adding to its concentration of salt.
The idea is gone. He throws the pen. He has no dog to fetch it back. It’s okay, his pen is the least valuable object in the house. It doesn’t go very far until it hits something, some piece of crap, there are so many pieces of crap in the house, and no dog to eat them or to crap in the house to make the crap literal. The pen hits a wall. The distances between walls in his house are not significant. The pen makes the slightest of dents in the wall. Mary will never know. No one will ever know.
He is not mad at Lilly. He’s not mad at Mary. He’s not. It has nothing to do with them. It has to do with doing. With what to do with one’s time. With how and whom to make love.
He wants to go outside. He wants to go back to the bathroom. He wants to live and write and make and walk.
He abandons Palo. He goes upstairs to fetch his daughter. He will hold her and she will curl against him and his old sweatshirt will absorb her salty tears and she will be warm and he will hum a tune and she will cease wailing and he will be heart-warmed thinking nothing and neither will say anything, neither can say anything, and that moment will be enough for as long as it lasts. He knows this is what will happen because it happened yesterday and the day before and the day before the day before, for as long as he can remember, which is not very long.
* * *
I still hear the roar of a road far below. I cannot be within this crown of larch without silence. So while I wait for Antoinette to complete her toilet so I may perform mine, I climb up from the top of the hill. Which I can no longer honestly term a hill considering the lengths to which I have climbed. The hill has become an unequivocal mountain or more likely it always was, since hills do not under normal conditions become mountains very quickly. Not that any of this is happening particularly quickly. The hill-cum-mountain steepens, as it must to perpetuate vertically because there is not much space for it to narrow before it thins to nothing.
The crown of golden larch ringing where the hill-cum-mountain happens descends below me as I ascend. I am above tree line because there are no trees. I am above snow line because there is snow. I climb because I can still hear the whine of automobiles. I am above rock line because there are rocks. I am above goat line because there are goats. Still I hear the vehicular roar oceancrashing against land. I am above cloud line because I am in a cloud to which there is no end until I pass above sun line and there is nothing but sun and mountain and I still hear the braying until I make her cabin on top and go in and shut the door behind me and encounter silence.
You made it, she says.
I say nothing.
Where have you been? she says.
Out, I say.
Now you’re in, she says.
And you are out of the bathroom.
Go in if you like, she says. It’s that door, the only door, except the one you came in by.
* * *
He does the normal sort of thing for what remains of the afternoon, which is not much. It is November with Lilly.
* * *
I pass the raccoon again but much higher. On the side of the by now thin thin mountain rather than beside its thick base. Perhaps it is a different raccoon. Is there any difference between raccoons? Striped tail, dark circles under its eyes, smarter than it deserves, smarter than is handy, not quite smart enough and all that. Higher than you think it should be, for a raccoon. Perhaps it is a marmot. But the dark circles. Bigger than you think it should be for a marmot or a raccoon. Perhaps it is a bear.
No matter what it is, its existence with a stick in its mouth indicates that I am approaching Antoinette’s cabin because these animals, no, there is only one animal here though the possible animals it is are many, this animal then surely lives off the scraps of Antoinette. No raccoon, marmot, or bear could survive on this rocky unvegetated wild spire without the leavings or affection or at least the unconscious or conscious excess of a human. Not up here, in the air, in the rarefied sun, in the superalpine altitude. Which is to say the mountain here is a sliver in the sky on which nothing lives.
So I am close to Antoinette, whom I have left behind, whom I no longer follow, whom I therefore lead to her residence where she is using her toilet. Which I also use.
I don’t know if I’ll make it. The view is staggering, and this is taking forever.