Siren

I stood at the base of the mountain and looked up. I thought I could see the summit peeking out from behind the clouds, but it was probably the altitude, the change in air pressure, some vain hope. When you are named after one of the first men to walk on the top of the world you harbor some secret suspicion that that summit belongs to you, too. After all, like you it bears his name: The Hillary Step. But since I couldn’t see the Step ahead of me, I turned and made my way back through the village. I heard my feet stumble on the cobblestones, felt my heart flutter as I came back down among the tourists, the hundreds of people milling around base camp in some endless dance, happy just to be near the mountain. I was, suddenly, one of them. But like some siren the Step called to me. I stopped. I looked back up at her. I asked to come home.

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Quaternary

I tilted the dish of M&Ms and plucked out four colored discs–two yellow, two red. I put them all in my mouth at once, using my tongue to press each of them between my bottom gum and the inside of the lip. I counted them–one, two, three, four–and the roundness of that number made me smile, made the candies rattle against each other. I chewed, swallowed and started again. Four M&Ms, two different colors, a simple pattern in my mouth. Over and over again, until three M&Ms remained in the small glass bowl. I bristled. Three. My quaternary delight is not obsessive, it does not define my everyday existence. It does, however, rule my enjoyment of M&Ms, nuts, Cheerios, chips, popcorn–foods the right size to count–and so I carried the bowl into the other room and watched as my mother devoured the odd-numbered offenders of the ordering of my culinary world.