Closing the Gap

“That’s the worst word in the English language, you know?” You said, your weary, bright eyes still squinted to block out the little beads of light that slid through; between the leaves and boughs of the great pine overhead. “Promise me you’ll never say it again?”
“I promise.” I laughed, “If I asked would you shout at me; to motivate me?” Your lips curled and your brow furrowed.
“Get off your fucking ass and start living in the now!” Your voice echoed a little bit in the park, but not loudly enough for anyone else to hear it, not over the crunch of the leaves beneath their feet anyways.
You kicked up a bunch of leaves with each step, they were carried off on the steady wind coming from the sea. Your toes were showing through the ends of your boots. The top of your boots were warped, bubbled like the crust of a pie that’s full to burst with strawberries or peaches. The bottoms were thick and hard like the shell of a painted turtle, and both told great stories of the life of a vagrant in the blue. Every nick and scar on your boot was the postcard of some tussle with a barn-owl haunting an abandoned loft or a long-faced card shark from the city. Every piece of gum a postcard from Dryden or Camden or Sweden. The feet beneath your boots have seen more earth than most people know exists. To your feet the soil and silt is akin to a long-forgotten love; a warm surprise on a cold lonely night.
You’d told me all the stories of your travels over long fireside teas and short impassioned lunches with friends. Sometimes we’d be joined by a duke or a count, sometimes a man you’d refer to as the “Thirsty Ghost” because of his tiny frame and his ravenous approach to tea and coffee. Your tales were always dynamic, shifting and changing to suit the audience. Sometimes you’d shout and laugh your way through a jaunty tale about a drowned pirate crew, other times you’d speak of the lonely old woman whose only son had plunged off the cliffs near her home. The common bindings in all your stories being the sea, the death of someone once loved and the natural occurring beauty you managed to find at every corner of the earth.
I was taken aback by your shout, despite the fact that I had commissioned it. I paused mid-step and stumbled slightly, but you continued walking. I blinked forcefully and let your command sink in adequately before I hurried my pace slightly to close the gap between us.
“Well I didn’t actually ask. . .” I trailed off. You laughed without turning then spread your arms wide and let go of two heaping handfuls of leaves you’d collected at some point. They contentedly floated to the ground, settling with a satisfying rustle.

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