The morning air is still and humid. The sun hasn’t risen yet. Jess is sitting to the left of me in the damp, dewy grass. I uproot a few tufts of it, enjoying the oddly coarse yet smooth texture between my fingertips. Its coolness dissipates in my hands and I notice the moisture soaking through my khaki shorts and covering the soles of my feet. Jess had insisted that I take off my shoes in order to “feel” everything.
Yesterday, we had set off to go camping. Last night we had separated so she could do her own thing. She had said that she wanted to experience the area by herself, so that she could fully appreciate it. I don’t always understand her ways, but I go along with it because I know she loves her own company as much as she loves mine. Maybe she loves her own company even more sometimes. The only thing I know for sure is that after being alone for a while, she’s usually perkier. So I don’t pressure her to always be with me, letting her have her space. Giving, so I can take.
I glance over at Jess as the sun begins to break the horizon. She’s smiling.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” she says.
I can’t help but notice her tanned skin and wavy brown hair. She usually places it in a bun or ponytail, but at the moment she is leaving it open.
“Look at the sky,” she says, “not at me.”
I obey, leaning backwards onto my elbows while looking up. The darkness is fading, being replaced by a kaleidoscope of colours. Yellow streaks line the clouds whilst tinges of orange, red and purple are mixing to create something that looks more like a painting than actual nature.
I look back at her, appreciating her form. Her shape is enticing. Her tank top fits her slender yet shapely frame snugly and I lean closer to her cheek, pressing my lips against them, enjoying the softness of her skin. At the same time, I press a finger to the crescent scar on her right shoulder, tracing it gently.
“Dylan, babe,” she laughs. “What did I just say?”
“I’m sorry but the best view is right next to me.”
“You’re so corny,” she says and turns her face towards mine, proceeding to peck me on my lips.
“What do you love about this so much?” I ask.
“The experience,” she says.
“I get that, I like that too, but…it’s somehow different for you.”
“That’s because you see everything in the surface of the moment. A few seconds, then it’s over. That’s okay, I like that sometimes and I do it too. But like, there’s times when I really feel it. Especially when I’m alone. Then it’s like, I don’t need to again, because it’s imprinted in my head.”
“I don’t understand,” I say while pulling her closer to me then rolling over onto my side so I can wrap an arm around her torso.
She smiles, “You only like me because you think I’m hot. You’re so visual. The experience is so much more than that.”
“Oh really,” I say, “tell me more. What am I missing?”
She kisses me again and says, “I will. I wanted us to separate last night for a reason. Do you want to hear what I did?”
“Well I slept, but sure, tell me what you did.”
“Close your eyes,” she says. “I need you to imagine everything I say.”
“Okay,” I respond.
“Give me a minute to gather my thoughts before I start,” she says.
She clears her throat and begins speaking. “It’s midnight and you’re alone. You’ve walked down a trail towards the lake at the bottom of the mountain. You’re standing at the edge of it. A chilly draft of breeze stirs the gentle waves intermittently. Branches and leaves rustle along with the buzz of insects calling to each other. Heavy silence hangs between each sound, and during that time the night seems still. It’s astounding. The way the night is simultaneously teeming with life but also relaxed, calm and asleep.”
I want to laugh and say that I was responsible for the sleeping part, but I know better than to interrupt her when she speaks like this. She becomes absorbed in a world she collects in her mind, streaming it outwards.
She continues speaking, “Your eyes are unfocused because you’re busy with every other sensation. The ones people forget. The sounds, the smells, the taste and the touch. You’re already in tune with the sounds. Next, there’s the soft, muddy ground beneath your shoes. Sweat and dirt cling to your skin, as well as slightly irritating itches caused by the bites of insects. You catch the scent of animal poop, and the freshness of the water. There’s probably some dead plants, animals and other nasty stuff floating in there. The cold breeze bites the inside of your nose and leaves your mouth dry. It’s sort of…bitter. You shiver. You take a moment to refocus your eyes.”
She pauses her story for a few seconds, then continues. “People love sunrises and sunsets. Most don’t appreciate the moon as much. You’re seeing a full moon. There’s a reflection of it in the lake, creating a disfigured copy that ebbs and flows with the movement of the water. The moonlight illuminates the forest in parts. You catch glimpses of the green and brown in the trees. You see the shadows of things moving. Maybe animals or just tricks of the dark. The colours seem to fade into each other. Green into brown, and brown into black. It’s an experience. An atmosphere. A complete sensation. Something you can only know when you’re alone. No talking, no viewing. You see it, but you’re not different from it. You are part of it. You blend into it. You are it.”
I open my eyes and she slides herself on top of me, her face elevated above mine.
“Do you understand now?” she teases.
I smile and kiss her. “I think I see the moon in your eyes.”
“Oh, you’re slipping. You should be saying the moon has nothing on my eyes.”
I laugh and say, “You’re corny.”
As she laughs in response, I think about what she described. I want to imagine it and see it the way she does. I place myself there in my mind. I am there, alone at the lake. Experiencing everything. Seeing the moon through her eyes. I trace the crescent scar on her shoulder again, and I press my lips to it, wanting to experience her fully.