The night felt shorter with you beside me, and in the morning, I am pulled from sleep by wind whipping through the trees. It’s never windy here, not enough to make the pines sway like drunken ballerinas, hardly enough to shiver the leaves of the populus tremuloides. Quaking aspens, they’re called commonly, you said. Quakies, trembling poplars, because the petioles are flexible, flattened, and so the leaves shudder in the slightest breeze. A tall tree, its white trunk distinguished by thick scars and gnarled knots, both black. Intolerant of frost. A poor fuel source, but cheap and plentiful and burned anyway because it’s useless for building. You taught me none of that. I looked it up.
The sun is rising, but the moon still hovers on the opposite side of the hill, its full white fading fast, eaten away by blue sky turned filmy from smoke and dust. Fires in the east. When you left, I shaved my head because I wanted to be clean, and even as I dragged the razor across my scalp, over and over, I knew it was a mistake. Now each morning, I run my palm flush against my skin, feel the stubble mounting, thinking, Hair grows. Hair grows. Half the lights I went through on my way to work turned yellow as I approached. I didn’t stop for a single one.
Entrainment (zoology): to adjust an organism’s internal rhythm until it falls in line with an external one, like the light or the dark. Entrainment (biomusicology): to synchronize organisms to the rhythm of those around them, i.e. fireflies flashing, mosquito wings clapping, human feet tapping, rocking chairs rocking. Dutch scientist Christian Huygens had a room full of pendulums in 1665. Even if he started hundreds of them swinging at different times, eventually, they all fell into one rhythm. One.
It’s fall. Suddenly, the year has passed. Suddenly, nothing has occurred in twelve long months to take me a single step closer to anywhere I want to be. I smell fire and feel wind and taste ash, hot and dry on my tongue, and think of all the places I was supposed to go: the deserts I would wander, the mountains I would climb. Even when you told me I shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t. How was I to know you were right?
You told me, You’re going to be a writer. You said it just to keep me quiet. You didn’t use the other tenses: have been, are. Because I hadn’t yet achieved the public status that would make your statement true. I still haven’t, and I know to you, this means I’ve failed, am failing, haven’t brought your blessed prophecy to fruition. You’re going to be a writer. What I should’ve done right then was left you and, from the door of your house, said, There is no “going.” I already am. I should’ve walked away and breathed in, not your breath, but the cool night that brought relief from the day’s heat. I should’ve kicked the ground and taken to the air, shaking dirt from my roots, flown away and remembered how I trembled, always–something you, in constant stillness, would never understand.