My friends from the vast city drive to a dirty town at the
base of a hill on a weekend at the fag end of summer.
Everything is distance, the low sky shimmers, the warm
air gleams with light.
Good, says everyone. Excellent. They take their luggage
up to their rooms, wash the grit from their hair,
humming. The town is as old as a stony hill and large as
one decrepit neighbourhood. Night fills it like a slow
water thick with dreadful secrets.
My friends never have to choose between logic and
excitement. They plan the hours carefully, then walk in the
morning to where fifteen empty buses sing love songs
while their pilots sleep among the vacant seats, forever
condemned to dream of flight.
Precise late morning shadows mingle beneath the feet of
small town tourists: awful shirtless men holding baby
boys, families the size of wedding parties, married girls so
blank-eyed they might have left themselves elsewhere, in
that other hot and ochre town where they were born. My
friends slowly turn brown or browner, full of a careful
happiness among the waterfalls and the sensuous
boatmen who wander, oar in hand, half in dream and half
Good, says everyone. Excellent. The night smells of fish
and old granite cooling. And also of pineapple, garbage
and rivers. friends drink in their hotel room at
evening. Caught between despair and understanding, we
presume to touch the heart of things. Places we see yield
their light, their memory for what would still green
trees be if they were not trees tor us?
And that is the holiday at the base of a hill in the town
with the white-haired waterfalls. The vast city is untidy,
complex, full of lies and defeat. My friends will disappear
into it, their car joining twenty others at a murderous red
light. We have seen them for this short while—only
because the town was tacky and little, and they were in
their brightest summer clothes.