VISIBILITY Magazine Issue 02. (April 2017) - Page 46

Up There Midday on the mountain and the man begs the boy to stop. “Hold up.” HIs breath is a rustle of air and snags AJ’s ear softly. He turns on his heel to see Kamesh, hunched, crumpling to the ground. AJ bounces on the balls of his feet and slides in his smooth sneakers to the man’s side—“Here, sit by this”—and he shifts Kamesh’s back to lean against a nearby boulder under a tired tree. Now lightly shaded, AJ sits beside Kamesh, on another rock, panting, hearing the bulbous muscle of his heart pound the inside of his sternum. He checks his own pulse with a finger to his jugular. Hasn’t slowed down at all. Not yet. “God, I miss the taste of Gatorade. Or Powerade? I knew the difference.” He yanks a plastic bottle out of the side-pocket of the backpack they had packed at the last minute that morning. It sweats in beads in AJ’s hand as he grips it with relief. He offers a swig to Kamesh, who refuses with a jerk of his head. “Water.” “Okay,” says AJ, returning to the bag, “here it’s, that’s no problem.” He unscrews the lid and peers into the can- teen. It’s half-full to him. He leans Kamesh’s head back and tips what he thinks is a fair amount into his mouth. With his other hand on the back of Kamesh’s neck he feels a shudder, a symptom of the difficult strength it takes for him to swallow. Sadly AJ knows the tang of water left to warm in an aluminum or really any metal container. He hopes Kamesh can stomach the foul flavor he despises. But instead a cough rips from his chest and milky spittle dribbles spastically over his chin. AJ moves in front of Kamesh and grasping the rough hem of his baby blue dri-fit tank top he swipes his mouth clean. The round face he has seen many times is pasty, eyes that lit up at late-nite shadis sag with stress, teeth that severed red chicken from bone seem to wobble whenever a sound, however small, escapes his mouth. He rubs his lips. “You okay, Kamesh-uncle?” He tries to mask his rising concern. “Shall we go down? We can go down.” “No,” says Kamesh, looking at AJ, “we’re halfway,” before he returns to retching, doubled-over. “Here…put your…place your head on my knee. Come…alright.” AJ squints through a thicket of long eyelashes, smearing away the painful white light that only a summer sun can emit. On their left is the jagged mountain that rolls upward, known as Sanitas. To their right in the distance lies the green valley of Boulder. He takes a moment to revel in the beautiful sight for he had not seen it since he was but a child in another decade. For a moment he can’t believe he’s back here, in this strange predicament he never imagined. Sitting with his hand a comforter and thigh a pillow of flesh. Nothing left to do but wait out whatever worry. His tight eyes soon travel down the side of the mountain where he sees a line of hikers marching up like ants on a dune. Because his eyebrows caught the sweat off his forehead they begin to crust and he feels their weight whenever he stretches his sore face. Peering closely he sketches in his mind the mirage of two tall, lithe figures disappearing around a bend before they return to the path, fixated on their destination like all others on this day. An intermittent breeze sweeps the sienna dust that colors the trail and twirls it in tiny whirlwinds. Sometimes it blows past the two of them and sticks to their slick arm hair. “It is a hot day,” says AJ, reproachfully, with a tinge of anticipation as if it’s a challenge to overcome. He bends down to brush some dust off his bare ankles. He kicks a little with his left foot to stave off pins-and-needles. His low-cut socks ride rough on his dry skin. “Yes,” says Kamesh, “very hot. Very hot. Too hot.” Some saliva drips in strands from his mouth and makes the dirt wet and dark on the ground. Some falls on the side of the boy’s shoes. “Maybe we shouldn’t have climbed today,” says AJ. 39 Abhinav Tiku