Almost as if into a cloud about the scrub and juniper and the rain heavy blond sand they were diffused and I followed as close as the mist would afford. I believed in the fortuitousness, or at least in the persistence of my shadowing, that I would be guided to some unveiling of a truth that I had heretofore excluded myself from allowing to irradiate me. It was a delicately elastic connection, following through the fallen cloud. I worked to keep their forms just barely material as they trudged. Yet the volatility of the mist to the winds that peeled out of the walls of the canyon often laid us all three bare with a crisply foreshortened stretch of wort or sand gathered up immediately so that I might almost tap him on the shoulder and ask “where are you taking me?” My heart would freeze in the expansion of a drawn beat and all the blood in me seemed to swell and hold with my breath until the gauzy arms once again barred me from them.
Tapered into that faint sheer once he looked back with his lips pursed, his eyes widened and welled. Had he recalled my face from the field outside the motel I wondered what secrets he might now share with a familiar, but also knew that the fear of a reemerging face, though similar to his in blunted expression, might hurriedly erase him rushing into the thick fog.
As it was, after a few more safe exposures in the valley they hurried off without looking back, and gave over themselves, from where I still trudged, into the consuming silver powder. It wasn’t until I had risen up a hollow on the cliff face where the canyon narrowed that I saw them above me on a series of switchbacks buttressed into the face of a looming monolith. The cloud stood away from the dark emanations of the cliff. So much lay back in the porous sleeping beast, mostly lightless impotence to time but also inklings of life slipping through in sheets of water for thousands of years before a brief, uneventful slick out into the air. The rock excluded us. The thought of all that interminable massive repellence stirred my tendencies once again, coursing like a lead narcotic. But the thought, a flash that I couldn’t quite fathom that somewhere deep through the molecular passages and rifts thinner than inked paper opened a nocturnal hall, or even a cell, size being irrelevant in the complete darkness, injected an accelerant into my neuroses that threatened to claim me totally. I felt myself fully drawn to the rock curb on the trail. It was less the passing thought of that little dark cavern, which was almost certainly a reality, than the necessity that for me to conceive of this tomb I had to conceive of myself in it and how it might drive me mad in seconds as it threatened to do even now as a fleeting black arrhythmia.
At this time as if hurrying away from me I saw them slip into the canyon face at a slit just above a waterfall that had blackened the rock with a primeval excrescence and they were gone. When I reached the notch myself they were again deep and high above me down the finger canyon worn by the waterfall’s little stream. The narrow rift had a clear termination, where, choked with refrigerated Ponderosa Pines that rose along its nadir and rose vertically out of narrow ledges that couldn’t possibly have sustained them, a fringe of countless waterfalls hung in the air. They appeared to dissipate into dull tails that fed the saturated air. Still escarpments and the cuts of the trail below the precipices of the falls splattered and pooled from direct hits. My clothes were soaked fully through. Small falls had pricked through along the rim of the little canyon from what must have been a swelling sea consuming the entire plateau above. Amidst their white coagulation, a thin sheet of running water covered all the rock faces gathering thickness as it was fed by the splashdown of the falls.
They had stopped near halfway up the canyon face and described the arcs of the falls with their hands down into the pine grove. He pointed down where a larger cataract broke into white spray and where a white and ashen reflection of the sky sieved through the foliage. I was nearly halfway between them and the hidden trench floor of the canyon. He was close enough to the edge that I could see him though nearly directly above me and close enough that the thin sheet of water, moving toward the canyon floor and off to mix away into a mass that could no longer recall its delicacy, easily drew him lightly off his feet from the ledge, sliding down peacefully for a moment still in contact with the rock, then out into the mist dissolving fortunately enough before cracking through the pine limbs with the only sound distinct from the hiss of the falls.
The older man was back from the ledge hidden. Perhaps still guided, perhaps that trajectory mapped out to include the accident contains a plan for the endless development of my guide’s consciousness or perhaps its destination of the accident had allowed me to helm that trajectory now, at least for what might have to him been the foreseeable future. I found myself at a restaurant in the night where the older man was drinking wine out of a tumbler at a high round table near the bar. Jarred, or lulled out of my parallelism, my spectralism, I wheeled around with my can of beer and let him watch me pry it open.
“No hiss. My wine is bad too. I have only ever been here one other time, but in Green River, in the biggest motel room I’ve ever seen. There was so much bare carpet I didn’t know what to do. I just stayed on the bed. When I was in Moscow in the seventies I met a man. He was so friendly. He invited me to his apartment. It was so barren and dreadful. It looked like it had been built in a city all at once, all identical, during a few months in nineteen fifty-two. I brought a bottle of vodka to be nice when I met him there, and he insisted that we finish the entire bottle. I never had had so much alcohol. I didn’t even know where I was. I looked around the room thinking it was my room in Green River and that I lived there and that everything else had been stripped away and the motel just repeated into a whole city. I thought that this was all there had ever been, just a bare bulb and some shadows on water-stained walls. You know when you order drinks here they make you pretend you are going to eat. They put a menu on the table so that at the very least you have the intention of eating. In Russia at the restaurants they would come to your tables with menus but when you ordered they would say back to you ‘Chicken Kiev.’ No matter what you said they would say ‘Chicken Kiev’ back to you. Even if you never relented they would still bring you a plate, every night. It was bleak. Nobody ate in the restaurants. They did the strangest thing. If another diner came in they would seat him at my little table with me out of the whole empty, one-meal place. Although I wouldn’t have otherwise, I met some wonderful people that way.”