On Top of the World

No reason commands 

North to be ever atop

In chaos, Freedom

Hopeful? Yes. For what? I cannot tell.

 That unusually colourful summer evening something of meaning dawned on us: we were free - it seemed we would always be - there was nothing to fear. Our world was as bleak or ecstatic as we - us free people - made it, Youth persuaded. I remember well the time that thought first really occurred to me - and the memory I recalled just a few moments before it did.

My memories of that time taste of that certain nostalgia that tends to envelop great periods of self-change. They are sweet to remember, somber in that I know such times exactly will never come again, for I learned something that will last my lifetime, that I will never forget, only build upon. The unchangeable lesson I learned on the road that summer - that I was suddenly convinced of as if by revelation -  was that life really was worth living - some of it at least.

It was the same day I told you about the other night. We had sat silent for a while. She, gazing beyond the horizon with as unplaceable expression as usual, and me, pondering what she had said about her old man, but also about where we were going. She had said what she did in a way so unlike her that it worried me. I thought that, of all times, now was the one to be free of the past.

“Are you going home after this?” I said, keeping my voice as calm as possible. And when she did not reply - instead lit another cigarette - I added “or do you want to get some space between the two of you”. She smiled strangely as she pocketed her lighter “does it matter? We’re here now either way, ain’t we?”.  It felt unlike her to resort to denigrating the question, but I knew and appreciated that convincing her of anything was a fool’s errand. So I asked if I could have a cigarette. I hadn’t had one in quite some time. Morbid as it perhaps is, our friendship started over cigarettes, all those years ago. As she handed one to me, I reminisced:


It was the dreary end of a dreary day; I had lost my friends in the stuporn crowds of a cheap nightclub called The Underworld - or something of the sort. You know - I was expecting something somewhat enjoyable, but it was as loud and noxious as usual, and I quickly wanted to be anywhere but that place. It was not unexpected, I could not and still cannot stand loud noises or crowds of people. As I stood as a lone observer in a filled barroom, drowning in mindless music and savoring that certain melancholy of expectations unfulfilled, - I was not quite virtuous -  I saw someone feeling vaguely familiar slip out through a sidedoor I had not yet noticed. And thank the gods she did, I feel that my sanity would not have stayed together much longer. I went towards the door, leaving the search for my friends and my thoughts behind me, hoping the courtyard or whatever it would be would be reasonably empty. And as I walked out into the courtyard, with that peculiar feeling of post party depression, I saw that face that now, years of change later, was just a few feet from me. I remember, she asked me if I had a lighter, then asked without flinching, as I obliged, if I could give her a cigarette to go along with it. 


A chuckle. “You wanna light that or no?!”. I snapped back to the present. To that face that had changed so much over the years, had become so much more alive, as we both did. “I would appreciate it” I said quietly.  She lit it as deftly as ever, and then she said something that surprised me, for it was the sort of sentiment she usually kept to herself: “It always was about getting through it wasn’t it? The last years?”. I gave her a puzzled look as I took a drag of the cigarette, the familiar taste bringing up happy memories from unhappier times. She continued, with a tone of strange nostalgia, and a faint smile “we’d get payed, we’d get drunk, we’d get by. And now-” she looked over to me, possessed by some momentarily marvelous ingeniation “the open road, on and on from where it began. This Freedom thing… a wonderful drug” she paused, then looked at the cigarette in my hand.


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