I met him on the highest mountain in an island, far, far from home, a swift-footed boy, silent and amber-eyed. For two days and a night I followed no farther than three steps behind him, through forest, stream, and stone, up, up, above the greenwood canopy, the white, gnarly trees and clouds, to the mountaintop. When we found ourselves upon the summit’s great plain of rock, the dawn had not yet broken and everywhere an icy gust blew. But the moon loomed full and luminescent, and the stars looked close enough to pluck from the darkish velvet sky, and so we perched upon a ledge, and huddled close against the wind, and stared at the pinprick lights of cities down below, and waited for the sun to rise. As we waited, we talked and laughed and huddled closer. He laid his arm around my shoulders and whispered in my ear the names of the distant districts—Ranau, Kundasang, Tuaran, of the mountain’s many crests, of the constellations by which he navigated as he traveled under darkish velvet skies. He gazed at me, then at the moon and back, and told me I was beautiful. I said that I was cold. He held my hand. We trekked down the mountain like so, arms linked, while the sun climbed up the sky. As the air grew warmer, so did his smile, our words and quietudes, the amber of his eyes. The swift-footed boy slowed his steps, and we ambled down the winding trail, prolonging goodbye.
He would fly after me, he said, we would see each other again—our parting under the rain a pathetic fallacy. I came home with a tale about a heart lost on a ledge four thousand meters above the sea, stamped but not returned to the addressee.