Earlier this year, I went to the Grand Canyon. It’s sort of dull, at first – and then you realise that the reason it’s not vivid, the reason it’s not peppered with excitement, is because it is so big, so deep and long and shimmering, that you cannot actually process it straight away. It takes a few hours. And then, you just think – holy shit. That’s really big. Anyway:
Evan takes a few steps away from the group. Their voices drop away, lost in the cool sun. He negotiates clumps of hardy grass, rocks tinkling from his boots, and finds a gap in the fence. Steps out onto flattened stone, curving out over the great fall. Feels the stillness of the air in his fingertips. He closes his eyes, alone, and is content.
Zoe watches Luke rummage through his things, fumbling with his words, grinning. She says nothing, lips hovering millimetres apart. This room is new to her. She’s never seen it. Too late, now. She needs to go soon, needs to pack and to sleep and make do. But Luke’s taking his time, and she’ll wait for him. She’ll wait at least for that.
When he opens his eyes again, Evan knows what he will see. He waits just a moment longer, tries to feel his eyelids pressed together, tries to hear every vibration in his ears. His thoughts betray him, scattered and full of questions. There’s nothing else to do, then, but look out across the wide canyon, its outer edge hazy with distance. He does so with a smile. His thoughts laugh with him.
They exchange gifts, laugh, nod. Zoe says something she won’t remember later. She’ll try to remember, try so hard, and it will bother her for hours as the plane rocks her back and forth. Desperate to send her to sleep. The pilot will fight a losing battle, on that front at least. For now, she watches Luke sit and skirt truths as she searches for an excuse. She’ll get on the plane soon.
Back down the track, someone drops their camera. There’s a crack on the ground, a cry and a laugh and some scattered chatter. Evan smiles briefly, thinks about walking further away, until all the scattering is gone too, but knows he’ll have to get back on the bus soon.
Outside, the air is heating up. Streetlights are starting to flicker on, red glow burning to white. Zoe and Luke stand on the footpath next to Zoe’s car. Zoe looks over Luke’s shoulder, back at the house, at the voices inside. Luke doesn’t look. He kicks at Zoe’s tyre, says something stupid about something he doesn’t know.
He sends a piece of himself to every corner of the canyon. Parts of his mind ricochet and swim into the deep depths below, older and slower than anything. He lets his breath ease, and feels every corner, feels them right now, tries to hold on to them, keep them for himself.
There’s a moment where they might hug. It almost passes, but Zoe won’t let it. She reaches out and grips onto jumper and wonders why he’s wearing it. It’s hot. She pushes him off, and gets into her car without saying anything. He kicks her tyre.
Evan’s feet feel fixed to the earth. He can’t see any further than right in front of him. It was a fight, but one worth toiling over. Now he stands on the edge of a great width, and knows exactly why.
Zoe feels it first in her toes, twitching and restless. She pulls over, only a few minutes from the house, and turns into a quiet car park. Steps out of the car. Starts to walk. She’ll give herself a lap of this small shopping centre, just that long to figure it out. Because any later than that, and it will be too late, and she’ll have only herself to count on. She steps out of the car, and doesn’t know why.
He can remember everything. He’s a sum of his parts, a beaten whole. It’s good to be here, he thinks. It’s good to be far away. A bird whistles past, brings him back. Draws his mind to the nearby voices, hidden by a turn in the bushes. He doesn’t mind. Evan picks up the pieces of himself and tucks them under his arm.
Maybe she should turn back. She could, she definitely could. But she won’t. So she’ll go, and hope that wherever she ends up someone will be waiting for her. Zoe gets back into her car. Puts her key in the ignition. Feels the car rumble beneath her.
Evan steps back onto the bus, full of voices, and sits by himself. Leans his head against the glass. He closes his eyes, alone, and is content.
Words copyright Matt Vesely. Image copyright David Keen.