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There is a multitude of complexity attached to this pace. High up on the old water tower, I can see far. The air is crisp and clean. The distance holds a hazy brilliance, difficult to define, but easy to admire. Air is nature’s purest form of excellence. Though the aesthetics can manage to take me to a new place, it is one of grudge. It was a damned sorrow. The kind of sorrow that makes me want to p*** in the face of beauty and all it encompasses. Dare I lie to God himself if I said this place isn’t a small glimpse into the majesty of his kingdom, with its flowing creek below me, laced with climbing ivy and large rocks that route the creek’s water in and out of weeping willows, bowing in reverence, memorial, dare I say, for the bloodshed. Blood flowed into the creek, pouring, multiplying by the water’s edge. I’d call it a tragedy, not of Romeo, Juliet. I can’t see where it held honor or sacrifice in order to call it this. I’d call it a love story, but the opportunity to define it never shown through the heavy fog of simple damnation and well, tragedy. I save the definition of this story for a moment when I have a greater understanding. Tragedy, for now, is acceptable diction. Time has caught up to me, though, and as strange as a summer’s snow, I miss her after all these long, hard years. All of these, yes. Hell, it was the summer of 1951. I was twenty and she barely eighteen.
God, if the wood’s beauty was the earth, Carla’s was a raging sun’s; a supernova. I’d go into great detail of her eyes, that shined like wet rocks in the creek below, or her hair, that floated with every turn of her head, like the hanging stalks of weeping willow that sway in the breeze. But, if you can read, beauty has shown in your life by now and you are able to define it. Her voice, as I'm sure you can imagine without me saying, never pierced the air in power, rather, rode the breeze gently in synchronization, landing on my eardrums, reverberating like a young baby’s laughter.

There was a wonderful absence of conflict in our lives. The absence of conflict has run away from me in the years since. The water tower has become a symbol of that in my life. I remember the way it looked back when it was almost new, fresh painted white. The letters,
“M-O-U-N-T-A-I-N-C-R-E-S-T N-E-W-Y-O-R-K E-S-T. 1-8-8-9,” printed on the north-facing side, in proud, bold, black, cursive letters.
The steps winded around it like climbing ivy using an old birch for its ascending into the clouds. A distinct ‘PING’ was heard with every step to the top. We’d always run up the steps, racing maybe. She was usually ahead. My hands rested on her hips, as we’d come to the top. She’d always look back to assure herself that I was there and not letting go, with a semi-worried look that disappeared with a touch to her hand. That was what we did on most days. We called the water tower “Our Place.” Little did we know it would be the last place Carla would ever see. Sometimes I'm thankful for that. Then and now the world can be a bitter and dark place, rattled in misfortune and sadness. To see a place like our place in one’s final moments is a blessing in disguise. An amount of the darkness the world holds found its way into our place on July 22, 1951. A sadness I fear I will never put to rest.
The day started like any other. My 47’ Chevy coupe rolled off the pavement and onto the dirt road, knocking up a familiar plume of dust. Twigs snapped as they brushed against my windshield on the narrow pathway to the tower. Carla sat on my right with her leg up on the dash, wearing a light blouse and a tight knee length skirt. She shot me a come-at-me smile and, well, I usually completed her request. Rolling up to the tower, the quick sound of car doors slamming shut replaced her laughter at an out of place joke I told. We raced to the base of the steps. She stopped cold on the first step and turned to me with her hips back and torso facing me, with lips close to mine. She granted me a quick kiss with a smile and proceeded to the top, reaching back for my hand, more eagerly with every change in altitude. I grasped her hand tight and soon the quick, pinging sound of our footsteps on the steps was replaced with the sound of deliberate, slow thuds on the upper landing. The sun was shining and producing a little heat, which provided a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy the lunch I packed in my bag. Carla sat against the bowl of the tower with her leg extended and the other bent at the knee. I sat down beside her and almost with reflex, her harm went under mine. Assured, she asked what I had for lunch and I pulled out the simple feast I created for our afternoon together. We ate and talked about things that seemed to have no significance then, but mean the world now. I regret taking the simple things for granted and wish with all I have that I could repeat them.
The birds serenaded us with songs of laughter as they flew from branch to branch, occasionally dipping down into the running water for a quick bath. Carla pointed out a vibrant red cardinal that stood proudly on a branch in stunning contrast to the light green leaves of the tree and its brown, spotted bark. It quickly flew away with the addition of a screeching hawk’s scream echoing, a mile away. A large brown buck eventually appeared, flaunting its majestic antlers with every swipe of his thick neck right and left. His skin twitched and contorted with every fly and gnat that landed on and took off from his brown hide.
Carla sat up quickly and yelled, “ Look! He’s huge!”
After a quick, standing, stomp of his foot, he took off into the tree line, bouncing powerfully over a pile of dead timber on the edge of the wood.
“Haha, good job,” I said, as she sported a look of comical sadness on her face.
The beauty of our day was shadowed by one question. A question, though lacking in eloquence, would change our lives forever. The question, asked in calm, collected tone, was not out of the ordinary or outlandish. The question, “Will you hold me on the railing?” carried through the air from her soft and into my ear.

“Why?” I replied.
“I’m afraid, but if you hold me up, I’ll be okay.”

We stood and walked the short distance to the tower’s edge, guarded by a waist-height railing. I held her hand as her foot graced the second bar. As her feet became planted on the top of the railing, I adjusted my hands to each side of her hip.
Carla spread her arms like the cardinal that took flight. I heard her fast breath begin to slow and tense muscles begin to expand. I could feel her face smiling in exhilaration. She was standing on what was her version of the top of the world. Her hair blew in the breeze and my eyes. She began to sway back and forth as if she was really flying. I admired how calm she was. It was amazing to know that because of my help she was able to overcome this fear she had.
The buck reappeared on a different side of the tree line while Carla was standing on the rail. He stared at Carla and I with deep, black eyes, as if he knew something was about to happen. He had a connection, with another dimension, nature. A connection, with danger and survival, one mankind either takes for granted or has not yet attained. He stomped his foot. One. Two. And on his third and final stomp, Carla’s weight shifted forward.
Distracted by the buck, I had let my grip and guard down. I grabbed for her, in any place I could. Dazed and confused, her face looked back at me as she fell backwards with her arms reaching out. Seconds later, the empty, haunting sound that I recall in vivid detail to this day, pierced the air and rammed itself into my eardrum, reverberating, echoing, and pounding between my ear and skull. Thud. I was bent over the railing with my arms extending downward with an expression of terror on my face. My mind was numb and my voice could not utter a syllable nor eye produce a tear.
The screaming sound of the hawk’s bellow and buck’s stomp rattled in my head! Amplified! My breath was out of control. Panting, panting! Panting! Scrambling, re-learning how to walk, I stumbled to the stairway, each footstep a demanding, dark, THUD THUD THUD! Racing down the steps, the crunch of each stride in the dirt grinded through my though. Twigs snapping beneath my feet sounded like bombs detonating in my head. Then.
There she was around the side of the tower. Her limp body sprawled on the ground like refuse. I rushed to her side, sliding both arms under her waist, pulling her close. Her neck fell limp in my hand-shattered. Her hand was clinched tight and in it, she held the bottle cap to the bottle of coke we shared. It fell to the rocky ground with a PING. I held her for an hour, maybe two. My life, now limp in my hands.
I call this a tragedy, now. A solid tragedy. There wasn’t an absence of honor, rather an abundance of respect for the lives of one another. There was never a lack of sacarfice, rather a daily offering of devotion, the kind only found in the rarest of circumstances. All along, there was never an absence of love, either, because our arms reached for each other, seconds, before.
The end.





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lkraft said...
May 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm
Glad you're using this site!
 
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