May 17, 2011
By Graham BRONZE, Atlanta, Georgia
Graham BRONZE, Atlanta, Georgia
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They had been friends since he was born, living on the outskirts of the city where each house was unique, and the cool summer wind flowed through the trees like water.

Now, she was 26, and he, being a year younger, was 25. They had always thought of one another like siblings, and they shared a sense of comfort while in each other’s presence.

His name was Stephen. Her name was Camille. Around 5 O’ clock one day, he called her on the phone.
“Hello?” she answered in a strained voice that sounded like she was lifting a large box.
“Hey,” he responded. “How are you?”
“Oh hey,” she said. They hadn’t talked in a week or two, so she was gladly surprised to hear his voice. He heard a thud, and her tone relaxed. “What’s up?”
“Would you like to grab a slice of pizza down at the park later today?” He was very direct and matter-of-fact, not like a drill sergeant, but more like a professor. Small talk seemed like a waste of time to him, so he tried not to engage in it. It was as though he was trying to conserve his energy by saying as little as possible.
“I’d love to,” she said.
“OK then. I’ll meet you there around six.”
“That’s a big 10-4,” she said (she liked to use that phrase jokingly in conversation).
“OK. Bye.”

At the pizza parlor, they sat outside. The breeze blew through Camille’s hair like a spider web: listlessly, as though it was tired somehow. Stephen tore the end off of his straw wrapper. He blew into the open end and launched the remaining paper into her face.
“Gaa!” she cried. They both laughed, and she lobbed her wrapper back. He was always a bit sillier around her; giddy, almost.
“Shouldn’t you be at work?” she asked.
“We closed early today. It’s a holiday in the boss’s country or something.”
The waitress came up to their table to take their order. They each got a plain cheese slice, and she ordered a salad on the side. The wind had stopped blowing. He looked at his bicycle that he had parked a few feet away.
“Why do people need to climb Mount Everest in order to experience reality?” he asked. “I mean, who is to say that there is any less reality in the drug store across the street than on the peak of Mount Everest?”
“Is that a quote from My Dinner With Andre?” she asked.
“Well, yes,” he smiled. “But that doesn’t make it any less true”
“People climb Everest because it’s there,” she said.
“Didn’t George Mallory say that?”
“Well, yes,” she looked at him. “But that doesn’t make it any less true.”
He paused. “Isn’t a drug store ‘there’ as well?”
Camille sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Have you found a job in Chicago yet?” Stephen asked.
“No,” she said.
“So… why are you going there again?”
“Just because I want to go some place besides here.”
“Is it boring here?” He looked at her intently.
“I just feel like I’ve seen everything I can.”
“Well, it seems like you should find a job first. I mean, it’s not like staying here a few more days to search for a job there could hurt.”
“Whatever. I could probably work at a restaurant until I find something better.”
The waitress set their pizzas down on the table.
“You know,” he said. “Once you get to the top of Everest, you can’t say ‘because it’s there’ any more, because if you were finally on the top, you would have to say ‘because it’s here.’”
Camille thought about that. “Well,” she said, “once you get to the top, I guess the ground is ‘there.’”
“But you just came away from the ground. If the summit of Mount Everest is so special, why do they ever come down? Why don’t they just stay there until they die?”
She sighed. “I don’t know, Stephen,” she said with her mouth full of pizza crust.
Stephen looked at her empty plate. “Well, I didn’t bring my Frisbee for nothing. Wanna play?”
“Sure,” she replied. Stephen put down a $20 bill on the table as they left.
“You know I love you, right?” he said.
“That’s a big 10-4,” she replied.
As they walked down the path, the wind rustled the leaves around them. He looked at her longingly, for he knew he would not be able to see her very often after that day.
“Do you have any friends in Chicago?” he asked.
“Will you write?”
“Absolutely. I could even call.”
Stephen’s muscles seemed to relax. “Good,” he said. “I’ll miss you.”
Her hair flowed with the wind as they were walking.
“You know I love you, right?” he said.
“That’s a big 10-4,” she replied.
He held her hand in his, his eyes wet like morning dew, even though he could not have been happier.

The author's comments:
I based this story upon "A Long Walk to Forever."

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