The warmest place in my memory

There are days when I think of Arashiyama. The water was warm as I stepped in, toes slipping on mossy rocks. I waded deeper, dodging boulders, my blue shirt floating around me. The fog wrapped around the mountains, and tiny raindrops fell, invisible in the blackness, murmuring a soft tune over the water.

You took off your trunks and swam naked in the night river; Jack sat on the pebbled shore, our sandals and clothes scattered about him. A boatful of tourists floated our way, with Japanese men lighting torches and fish-swallowing birds performing tricks to loud, enthusiastic applause. Balls of fire illuminated the dark green water, and we hid in a bank canopied with willows.

And I remember the hill in Nara. We climbed fences and endless steps to the top, treading on deer dung, drenched in sweat.

“How much further, Chris?”

“Just be patient. And don’t look back.”

(I looked back when he wasn’t looking.)

Crows circled above us, painting black streaks across the thin sky. The wind howled between the mountains while we stood still, silent in the face of such inimitable perfection. The fog cottoned up the sunset, casting an ethereal glow over a city lit pink and blue by 10,000 candles in honor of the dead. Temple roofs shone with the day’s rain.

We lied down, the warm, baritone wind blowing over our bellies, humming in our ears, combing the grass. Cigarettes never tasted so good. Mine burned quickly and with the tobacco sweetness in our mouths, pine resin lingering in the air, we looked at each other. Your clear, honest eyes disarmed me, so I closed my own and let my thoughts take flight.

nara-photo

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