I climbed a hill on the only path I knew.
At the top I found many paths leading down.
There were sixteen directions I could take.
But to take one would mean abandoning the others.
I checked each after deciding
to choose the one path where I would meet someone.
Each path was empty of people
though all of them had many trees and plenty of birds.
During the next fifteen minutes
not a single animal crossed any of the trails.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
No mammals appeared in the hour.
My patients were rewarded
when a woman with wet hair up in a towel
sidled her wheelchair adjacent to my hip
without the axles making a squeak
or her heaving breath sounding other than
the leafy breeze on a sunny day.
I felt happy to not be alone at the top.
Words fell from both of us for a time
and clattered like stones to the ground
hitting our ears capped by the long pain of loneliness.
It was only then I realized how untouched
I had been for far too long.
The hill top lowered itself
like a city bus with hydraulics for the elderly to disembark.
She put away a self-retracting tape measure
that failed to hook any part of the altitude
to calculate our descent into entanglement
as the earth flattened our way home.
copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney