THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT


Two Men

by Dash Elhauge

published April 10, 2015


Two men folded their bodies in the wind. One of the men panned his red chin over the landscape. The flurries rose and the sun fell. At the edge of the white hills, where the snow sparkled, there was nothing.

 

One of the men turned and the other tilted his head. One of the men pivoted his buried heel and the other tucked his nose beneath his collar. One of the men put his hands in his pockets and the other pocketed his eyes deep in his skull. Their eyes ached as they traced the snow.

 

The men huddled and unzipped their jackets, pinching the lining of their pockets. They rubbed the smooth of their chins against each others' shoulders and clasped arms. They stared at each other lovingly, eyes wide.

 

One of the men ran his fingers through the other man’s hair. The other man pulled his hat down to his neck. The man did the same, and they were silhouettes of faces. Neither could see the other smile. And the other man fell back and the man caught him. The other man whispered as he fell but the man saw only mist. And the man squeezed the other’s hand and the other man watched as it broke and became only flesh.

 

The man lit a cigarette over the other and withdrew a book from his pack. The spine crinkled in the wind. He recited:

 

A man leans over a bridge and sees his reflection. He asks, Why can’t I distinguish between my son’s eyes and my hand on his cheek? His reflection distorts in the wind, and he thinks this is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. He bends down to get a closer look and falls. He drowns.

 

The ashes of the man’s cigarette fell to the page. The other man saw the glow through the weave of his hat and felt lonely and the man whispered in his ear and he swallowed. The man pulled the other man’s hat off and the stray wool rained down and the other man raised his face to the dust and the man held the other man’s hand as the piling snow buried him and his eyelids creased and his thoughts traced a story he’d heard long ago, when he was very young.

 

And the other man’s eyes shut tight to keep out stinging flakes leaking through the bottom of his hat and the snow formed little hills on his eyelids. And the other man leaned down close and watched as the sun set on the dying man’s eyes.

 

And the man looked up and the stars collapsed into one another and he wept in fury. He pulled a wool blanket over the other man and rose, head blended with night, and turned to find the sparkles. But the moon was swept in dark clouds and he could not see. In the distance, he heard the shifting of flurries that hang above the frozen blanket, which drift and sting at ankles. The man pulled off his hat, gathered his pack over his shoulders and pushed toward the sound.

 

And as the man walked he thought of a story he’d heard when he was very young, that he’d recite to himself under the sheets when darkness swelled in his room and the din of sparkly earrings and creased overcoats and hollow laughter strained his eyes in the darkness:

 

There was a boy in a village. Every day the boy got water from the river for his ailing father. But one day the boy heard trickling before he reached the river. So the boy followed and followed the sound of the water, until he came upon a hunched man in a cotton blanket. And the man looked up and said he did not hear the water, but there was water where the sun met the ocean. So the boy walked on for many miles. He saw nothing, but heard trickling, and walked on. It was raining. It rained for many years and the boy never returned home.

 

The man’s legs dragged against the snow, pulling against his creaking knees, and slowly, as he wrestled control of his breath, the man’s legs met, and he came to a stop. The man heard the shifting not in front of him but to the side. He blinked his hidden eyes. But when the man tilted his head the sound shifted. So the man tilted his head again, but again it shifted. And over and over the man spun his head and the sound shifted louder and louder and the man pulled some cloth out from his pack and shredded it and shoved pieces in his ears but they would not stay so the man reached into his mouth for spit but his mouth was dry and the pieces of cloth fell from the man’s ears and now the shifting was louder than ever and seemed to be coming from right beneath him so the man dug and dug and before long he realized he wasn’t digging to get out he was digging to find the other man. And he found him he found the other man but he was without a face and he parted the snow around his head and lay down with him and kissed him gently on the cheek but the man had no cheek. So he dug further but there was nothing but the man, so the man removed part of his own cheek and lay it on the other man, but when he bent down to try and kiss it there was nothing so he removed more of his cheek and again there was nothing. So the man removed his nose, too, and there was nothing and his eyes and there was nothing and his ears and bit by bit the man faded into the other and the wind swept and the flurries rose and the little bits of snow that never find a place to land shifted and landed firmly over the man and again, there was nothing.