by Poet on the Piano   Mar 20, 2021

I first saw them at the
bottom of the mountain, consulting
a compass and trying unsuccessfully
to unfold a worn map.

"You planning to reach the summit?"

They didn't act surprised by
my presence, crystal blue eyes
locking with my hazel ones, warming
the frigid air between us.

"It's my first hike, so I'm going
to say no. What about you?"

"I don't like to challenge
the heights. I prefer to stay

They smiled, a crooked and
endearing smile, then
disappeared the next minute,
heading toward a starter trail.

I tried to call out, but
the wind nabbed my voice,
my feet too cold to move.

The second time I saw them
was at the rooftop of what
used to be the city's most
exclusive club, "Vesper".

They saw me approaching
and grinned, "I thought you
didn't like heights."

"A three story building's
a little different than a mountain."

They nodded and we watched
the fire on the horizon,
content with the silence,
the absence of chaos.

When it grew uncomfortably
dark, we parted ways, though
not before they waved a marker
and gestured for my hand.

It wasn't until I tripped on asphalt
on the way home that I saw their
name - Peppermint - etched
on my wrist, lit by the moon.
I smiled, much like they did,
wondering where we'd meet next.

I searched the city for them
every day until dusk, until the
coyotes grew restless and bravely
crossed the sea of bodies
that were still decaying on the
mossy sidewalks.

Then, I woke up, a realization
stuttering in my brain,
dirt and gnats and cacophony
the only speech patterns I recognized.

I glanced at my wrist
and only saw dying stars,
a galaxy wasted on hope.

No one else was left on this planet.

It had always just been
me, at the bottom of the mountain,
a grave marker,

nothing more.


Peppermint is a nonbinary (fictional) character here, with "they/them" pronouns.


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