General Musings

Five Quintets

“And why not?” she said mysteriously, her seductive eyes glancing back at her as she briefly paused from glossing her lips. “Well?”
Rachel had no energy left to speak, her mouth parched from the desert heat and her eyes burning as grains of sand lashed against her freckled skin.
“Of course,” she abruptly stood from the chair. “Of course! Hah, I should have guessed.” She threw the lipstick on the dressing table, an old brown laminate with a large mirror, all covered with cosmetics that she pampered herself with while Rachel slouched on bended knee, her arms chained behind her.
The sand dunes nearby occasionally sprinkled a tiny avalanche from a light wind, but the view in front of her, the mountains in the distance and the patches of green tortured her more than the heat. Sweat continued to drizzle from her forehead, though this time sliding quietly into the side of her mouth and she could taste the blood it captured with it along the way.
“He made his choice,” Rachel whimpered with her eyes, though she appeared strong and in control. The sound of laughter echoed in the distance.
“This is epic!” Rachel’s appearance of strength collapsed and she cowered in despair. “You are insufferable,” she said aggressively, walking toward her. “An irritating little saint, this stupid,” she jabbed the side of her head with her fingers, “need to pretend to be an angel. O, but you don’t have me fooled. You already knew, didn’t you? That he cared nothing for you.”
“Stop.”
“You were just a joke to him.”
She screamed, struggling to release herself from the chains. “Let me go! I can’t take this anymore!”
She smiled and muttered, “you are pathetic,” as she glared down in disgust.

~

They sat in silence as the waves lightly rolled over the edge of the beach, the sand absorbing the water as she wiggled her toes over it to listen to the rubbery sound it made as though she were pressing down on a sponge with her feet. The sun was setting over the horizon, leaving a golden layer of burnt orange glisten over the crystal sea.
“I am in love with you,” he muttered, his top lip quivering as she sat cold and motionless. She stood up and removed her shorts before walking into the water, holding up her t-shirt. The cold water made her stomach jerk as it rose up higher over her belly the deeper she went. She paused when it almost reached high enough that a small wave would soak her bra. She could hear him follow behind her.
He pressed his hand over her shoulder before gliding it over her neck, kissing just below her ear.
“Don’t,” she squirmed, pulling her shoulder away. She couldn’t let him, not while she was still hurting. They both paused for a moment.
“What can I say?”
“I know you love me.” She turned her head to face him. “As much as you understand what love is to you. But it is not enough for me.”
“What does that even mean?”
She went quiet again, turning away and looking back over the horizon, now a burning red as the sun had almost left the hemisphere. He shook his head.
“I hate this,” he muttered. “How you go all quiet and say nothing. I don’t think anyone could ever be good enough to you.”
He turned around, slapping the surface of the water in frustration as he walked away.

~

“And how many? So many of them you turned away,” she smiled. “What makes you so special? What suddenly makes you an expert on love?”
“I never said that I was.”
“I never said that I was,” she scornfully repeated. Pausing for a moment, she stared out at the desert landscape as though reading the desolation. She looked beautiful, despite her evil. Her hair with a shade of burgundy gently waved over her shoulders, her black eyes glistened along with the leather she wore that covered her athletic body. She felt no heat. The entire sight of her standing over Rachel in the desert seemed ethereal.
“If you tell someone they don’t know what love is, that would mean that you know.”
“I know me,” she panted from the heat. “You can’t pick up a book and think you know the content without reading it. You can’t love someone you don’t know.”
“Oh, I see,” she said, walking over to the dressing table before sitting down in front of the mirror to gloss her lips. “So you are waiting for someone to read your book?
“I’m not waiting anymore.”
“And why not?” she said mysteriously, her seductive eyes glancing back at her as she briefly paused from glossing her lips. “Well?”

~

Her whole body went into shock as she stood, unmoving, peering down at the snake. It was more afraid of her and slithered hastily into the bushes to her left. All she could do was whisper ‘oh fuck’ repeatedly until she felt safe enough that it had gone, quickly pacing herself away.
The air began to cool as she climbed higher and higher on Mount Barn Bluff in Tasmania, her backpack straining her neck as she struggled up some sections of loose rocks, unprepared for the effort she needed to reach the summit. Her encounter with the snake was just the first of many, along with a cut on her knee, a bruised shoulder and an injured wrist.
As her ascent began to take its toll, she became conscious of the tears and was momentarily confused as to whether she was crying from the struggle of the climb or from the struggle that plagued her mind. Over and over again, all she could think of was the pain about him. About them all. About how they treated her as though their sole desire was to rip her soul out with their invisible hatred. About her escape from them, hiding in the shadows to protect herself from Herod’s wrath, yet she was the baby, fragile and tiny.
“Why?” she wept, aloud. “Why would he do that?”
It was as though the physical exertion was detoxifying her system from the poison of an infectious past, the struggle parallel to the fight within her. Her life felt raw, imbedded in nature, right here, right now.
It took her several hours to reach near the summit. She stared out at the wilderness, the overwhelming beauty and sheer magnitude of the view captivated her in silence. She spent hours sitting quietly on the granite rock just observing. No thoughts. The breeze was cold, fresh, almost like she could taste it.

~

She screamed, struggling to release herself from the chains. “Let me go! I can’t take this anymore!”
“You are pathetic,” she glared down in disgust. “You still blame them?” Rachel suddenly stopped struggling and was defeated. All she could do was cry, her face folding into her chest. “Oh, pity poor Rachel.” She bent down with one knee on the ground, glaring with a mordant expression. “You are only useful to them, no one cares about who you are. They don’t see you, do they? They don’t see that you are funny. That you are kind. They don’t see the love bursting inside. All they see is someone that can help, someone that will give them something they need.”
Rachel stopped crying as though the heaviness became unbearable that sadness no longer mattered. “You are right,” she muttered in exhaustion.
“Right?”
“It’s my fault.”
“No!” She got angry and stood up. “No, you stupid girl, can’t you see that all of it was me? I am your only friend!”
“You?” Rachel glanced up, though tears continued to seep through her curious gaze. “How could it possibly be you? He did it. They all chose to hurt me.”
“Fool!” She laughed, walking over to the dressing table and collecting a can of soda from the corner. She clicked it open and drank. Rachel wriggled her hands and shoulders from the discomfort of the chains. “Do you honestly believe,” she continued, placing the can back on the table, “that you could have prevented that from happening?”
“You don’t choose your family or who you work with. You don’t even choose who you love. You have to live with it. But…”
“Hence, you fool.”
“What are you saying? That I chose to get hurt?”
She licked her lips, the taste of the sweetness made her grin deliciously as she raised her eyebrow at Rachel as a way to say yes. “You wanted it,” she pouted.
Rachel paused for a moment at the epiphany. “No.”
“Nevertheless,” she sighed as Rachel contemplated intently on the subject, “that is the way that it is and was and will remain.” She flicked her hand up as if to confirm that the discussion was a pointless endeavour and it is time to move on.
“No.” Rachel repeated, this time gluing her eyes on her captor.
She fiercely charged toward Rachel, bending down and grabbing her by the hair. Forcing Rachel to look away from her eyes so that she could whisper into her ear, “your time is over.”

~

She slipped, the rock below was too moist and she slid down, lightly knocking her head on the ground. She laughed at how people may have reacted had they seen her, though it was just her trekking through the rainforest, practicing navigation and how to read a map. ‘Idiot,’ she muttered, trying to stand again as her compass necklace strangled her. Her backpack made it even harder to stand.
She had been walking for hours now, sometimes crossing paths with others following trails, sometimes to stop and take some wilderness shots with her camera. The continuous yet ambient sounds of birds singing to one another and insects flying near by or buzzing around her felt more musical than any song she had in her iPod. The strong wind and the drizzle of rain lifted the fragrance of the ferns that brushed up against her as she trekked through them.
She loved nature, reminiscing the time when she went on an excursion in primary school to the Dandenong Ranges on a cold and wet day. She loved it and her teacher noticed, buying her the book Fern Gully and calling her Crysta. Everything, from the moist bark on the redwoods that she touched as she walked past them and the occasional glimpse of sunlight piercing through the tall trunks and gently touching her face, helped her overcome the fear within her. She was free and her mind clear. She reflected, reminisced the choices she had made and what she would need to do.
The wind suddenly ceased and the orchestra of trees come to a brief halt. The ferns that once ritualistically danced with the music of the wind as though waving their hands while honouring the heavens above abruptly paused and for a small moment it felt as though the entire forest was staring down. She suddenly became conscious of herself. The ritenuto continued the dramatic effect of the unexpected silence as her feet became the tempo, each step crunching down on broken branches that had peeled their way off trunks, the casual melody of the Robin in the distance indicating to the ensemble that the upcoming opus is near. In that moment she realised that composition of her, of her place in the world, that there was no such thing as time, that there was no past neither a future, but her, only her, right now. The present alone. As though applauding and congratulating her awakening, the trees once again blasted into an exhilarating orchestra of sound as the wind resumed. She smiled and closed her eyes, absorbing the song of the wind.

~

She bent down and grabbed her by the hair, forcing Rachel to look away from her eyes so that she could whisper into her ear. “Your time is over.”
The dread that had almost cost Rachel her self-control completely ceased and the calm severity of her piercing eyes surprised her captor that she was taken aback, letting go of the firm grip she had while holding Rachel’s hair.
The sound of chains falling loosely on the ground staggered her in disbelief, the heat of the desert cooling rapidly and Rachel stood up from the sand, the tears that no longer fell reversed the anxiety. “It cannot be,” she muttered nervously, standing straight again along with Rachel but stepping backwards and away from her.
“Rachel,” said Rachel. “I now understand. You need to go now.”
“Go?” She turned but there was no escaping.
“Please,” she turned back to Rachel who had walked to the dressing table and opened one of the drawers where a dagger sat waiting. “Please,” she whimpered again.

~

Even with her snow boots, the ice near the cabin entrance was slippery enough for her to pace her way slowly to the brackets to hang her skis. ‘Maybe I should just take it inside,’ she thought as she almost lost her balance.
She found an empty space in the cabin, taking off her jacket and throwing it on the heated floor specially made to dry the wet. About thirty or forty people were taking a break inside from the freezing snow that had covered the mountain with an astounding white, making it imperative to wear polarized sunglasses to deflect the glare. She could see the sting in the young amateurs eyes sitting near her who clearly came unprepared.
“Hey, Rachel!” waved Tess from the other end of the room amidst the crowd having lunch and resting. She grabbed her jacket and walked over to the table with the others.
“How did you go?” Ben grinned at the sight of her. “You look exhausted.”
She smiled coolly as she grabbed a handful of trail nuts from the centre of the table. “Dude, I crossed the reservoir bridge to the other side.”
“What? You are crazy! In this wind? Half the wind-blocks were shredded.”
“Seriously?” Tess stared, her stare continued for a few moments even after Rachel had responded with a nod.
“Awesome,” Ben said, amazed.
“Where is Michael?” Rachel tried to change the subject.
“I think he wanted to go down Wombats,” Ben smiled. “Can you imagine, Michael freaking out as he whirled his way down.”
Rachel laughed at the thought and though she cared for Michael like a brother, “moron,” was the only thing she could say that felt right for the scenario of that giant, awkward man rolling down a steep and busy hill covered in snow.
She was a natural skier, a ‘nature kid’ her soccer coach once remarked when she crawled up to the top of a tree to show off. She remembered the time she ran away from home down to the local creek when she was twelve, determined to make camp as she imitated Crysta and created a magical world of her own. Despite the vicious wind, strongest at the fenceless bridge over the reservoir and where, being slippery due to the icy conditions, the danger of falling off and directly into the water was a strong risk. Yet she felt no fear and slid her way over as though she were dancing in an elegant ballet.
She stayed inside waiting for Michael as the others left for another round of cross-country skiing, small crowds of people coming and going, drying off while drinking a cup of coffee. There was something about the timber walls of the log cabin that gave her a sense of wholeness, the smell of the timber with the snow falling heavily outside that she could still see through the steamed window in front of her. Though her body ached from the previous death-defying struggle against the wind, she strangely felt at peace. So real.
A couple sat together on seats against the wall in front of her, sharing a cheesy bun and giggling. The entire scene reminded her of the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, her sitting there as a woman who was bold and fearless enough to take on the challenge of life on her own, who, in her spirit of adventure sought to find a peace of mind in the absence of any dependency or conformity. And one who remained alone. “Happiness is only real when shared,” she muttered as she glanced at the couple, tears unexpectedly slipping down her cheeks at the beautiful sight. It was as though she had awakened from a deep sleep.
She slipped her hand in her jacket pocket and pulled out her phone, staring down at the screen as though the pause would build her confidence somehow. There was no point waiting for things to be made right. She could no longer tell the difference between her feelings anymore, whether she loved him or hated him. But he was gone now. He was never there. They all weren’t.

Hi, its Rachel. My number changed again, haha. Anyway, I was wondering if you are 
free next week sometime for a coffee… or tea? It would be nice to see you again.’

It was not long before he responded. She liked his honesty, his genuine carelessness at social cues and how he never hid how he felt from her.

‘Yup, though I’m still pissed at you. Free on Monday night for breakfast? If you’re 
still scared to drive, I can pick you up?’

She smiled.

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