I brush the long strand of hair that has escaped from my ponytail out of my eyes with frustration. We have to be close. You are ahead of me and I am desperately trying to keep up. I am panting and hiding it, forcing my mouth to remain closed so you can't hear the unattractive noise. I want you to be impressed with me. I want you to be proud of me.
As we round the corner, I see that we are not close at all. Silently, I curse myself for trying to show off when I insisted on taking the 12 mile hike instead of the 8. We have been walking uphill for what seems like 4 miles and I am miserable. You turn around to check on me more often than I am comfortable with, not sure if it is out of concern or you just being YOU. I don't want you to be concerned. I don't want you to know this is KILLING me. For these reasons, I have smiled at you every time you turned around. I want to put on a grand performance...I am loving this. I could do this every day. My face is not bright red and I am not discreetly wiping sweat off my face at regular intervals. This is easy. We should do 20 next time.
The lies I am telling myself abruptly come to a halt as I lose my footing and plunge forward. I break my fall with my hands and make a small noise of surprise. By the time you have turned around and made your way towards me I am on my feet, wiping away the small rocks I have embedded in my palms. I hurriedly assure you that I am fine, purposefully not making eye contact with you for as long as possible. You take both my wrists in your hands and peer intently at them. I am devastated for multiple reasons, positive at this point that you can not only hear my heart pounding out of my chest but can also see that I am a sweaty, unattractive mess. My discomfort deepens as you put down your backpack in one fluid motion and are instantly absorbed with my palms again. You gently wipe away the rocks that remain and peer down at me intently as you do so to gauge my level of pain. I can only look at you for a second at a time before I look away. I feel like you can see right through me and it makes me nervous because I like it too much.
Your eyes are amazing. I've always loved them. But more than your eyes themselves, I love how you look at me. My heart is still pounding and I am no longer sure it's because of the hike. I instinctively try to pull out of your grasp and you won't let me, looking at me pointedly as you pull me closer to you. I'm not breathing. We are so close I can smell the soap you must have used in the shower that morning. I force myself to let out my breath slowly as you take water out of your backpack and explain to me that you are going to clean the wounds. One by one, you hold my wrists as you slowly pour water over my hands. I jump at the impact. It stings and I tell you so. You smile slowly at me and tell me that you know. I can't help but smile shyly back. You do that to me.
Cleaning done, you ask if I'm ready to start hiking again and I laugh and say yes. You laugh too, and keep looking at me with those eyes. Damn those eyes. What are they saying? We are walking side by side now, happily silent. I love being silent with you. It feels so intimate to me. We are no longer walking uphill and I can breathe again. I notice how beautiful it all is. The sun is warm and bright and birds are chirping. It is still and magnificent. From time to time, a hiker on their way down will pass. Every time, you protectively touch my elbow and move behind me to allow them room. I am silently praying for hikers to come more often so you will touch me again and I hate myself for it. I realize once again how pathetic I am and smile wryly. Oh, this man - what is it about you that I am so embarrassingly taken with?
Lost in thought, I remember how nervous I was when we went out for the first time. I played it perfectly, of course, and you never would have known that I had brainstormed questions I could ask you to ensure we never had any of the uncomfortable silences I detest. We had a great time together - we always have ever since. It was different then; safer. We were simply getting to know each other, and that's the easy part. We spoke easily and laughed easily. I always liked you. What came after caught me off guard...
You break into my reverie as you knock me playfully to the side with your hip and ask me what I'm thinking about. I smile up at you brightly and say "nothing." You laugh and ask me one of your questions that mean we are going to be talking for awhile. I love your questions. They are thought-out and interesting. You care about how I answer. You are always interested and almost always want to dig deeper. I can never answer your questions with one word answers. It wouldn't at all be the way "we" are.
We are lost in conversation and I have completely forgotten we are hiking until we reach the top. You stop talking mid-sentence as we look around in awe. It's breathtaking. We look down and around on trees on top of trees on top of trees. The clouds are white and light and look close enough to touch against the stark contrast of the blue sky. We can hear animals but not see them, except for an occasional bird gracefully soaring in the wind.
I sit down on the ground and murmur something softly about beauty as you take a seat next to me. We sit in silence for awhile. You turn your head to look at me as I stare out into the world. I can feel it. Eventually, I turn towards you slowly to meet your gaze. For once, I don't panic or feel the need to look away. So we just...look. You smile at me lazily and I do the same before I sigh and look away. You look at me for a few moments longer before you turn. I regret breaking eye contact instantly. I want to grab you and kiss you. I want to feel your arms around me, slowly moving your hands up and down my back and then entangled in my hair. I want to make you breathless as you make me breathless every day.
You are standing up now and holding out your hand to help me up. Afraid you will be able to see my disappointment, I look down as I stand. You step towards me and hug me gently. I want you to hold me forever. I want to stay like this always. You step back and smile down at me. You are speaking to me with your eyes and I answer back with mine as we turn to go down the hill together.