I drag my left foot on the jagged earth. The last time I took the foot out of my boot, it was swollen, like a light bulb, the ankle bruised blue. I try to shift my weight onto the right foot, but on the steep slopes I am forced to use the left foot again. I clench my teeth, my face covers with a cold sweat.
I have wrapped my feet in a plastic bag to keep them dry. The bag was left in my backpack from my last trip with her. As I tore the plastic into two pieces my chest turned heavy.
The sky is covered with dark clouds. Sulfurous smoke erupts out of small polygonal protrusions. Around the protrusions, the snow has melted and the soil has darkened.
The lines on my map are smudged, but the compass shows I am walking in the right direction. I keep walking. There is nothing else to do. It would take me longer to walk back to where I started three days ago.
I have not seen anyone on this road. Not even a stray dog.
My feet still carry me. They have carried me up other mountains before. They carried me from her apartment to the subway station, from the subway station to my own apartment. In the station, my fingers reached to caress her face. She said that she needed to get to work, that there was nothing else to talk about. People started to stare at my bare feet. Why was I barefoot?
On my way to my apartment, my limbs didn’t feel like they were mine. I was a collage of myself, cut into pieces and glued back together. A beggar asked me for a cigarette. I looked into my pockets and remembered that I didn’t smoke anymore. “I am so sorry, I don’t smoke,” I said.
“Let’s go home for holiday!” he started to bark like a dog. I wanted to go home, wherever home was.
A stray dog once followed me up a mountain. He walked at a distance behind me at the beginning. He got closer and closer as he started to feel safe. Finally, I was rubbing his muzzle. He licked me with his pink tongue.
The problem starts when you feel too safe. That is when the disaster hits.
“You know how this will end,” she said. My feet were rubbing hers. I could breathe her in.
I knew it well. My tongue pretended not to.
The wind cuts through the skin of my face. I hobble as I walk. My right leg shakes and I sink deep into the snow. The dampness seeps through. I stop walking and pull my hat over my face.
In the foggy landscape, I can barely see what is in front of me.
Babak Lakghomi is the author of Floating Notes (Tyrant Books, 2018). His fiction has appeared or forthcoming in Noon, Green Mountains Review, New York Tyrant, and Egress among other places.