Public Key (xcvi)

We walked at night, and slept and loved by day.

She never asked about Oakley’s basement. We didn’t talk much at all. We just walked, for two nights through, moving slowly in the blackness of a waning moon.

We walked around mountains and along ravines, moving through rivers and dashing over roads in the night. We rested in the bush and stubble of harvested fields. We stayed away from villages. We kept far from the roads. We camped on the edge of a bare-rock mountain and then in the shallow of a riverbed gone dry. It took everything I’d learned of the land and of walking it. But we made it, and made it unseen.

We crossed the main road two hours before dawn. We followed a river some twenty feet across. In the age of the world it had cut a daggerstab through the high Lesotho plateau. There were mountains to either side of us like towers astride a castle gate. As we walked we gained altitude but the mountains grew faster still, until they were canyon walls that towered nearly half a mile above us. It was like being held in the palm of a great hand. It made me feel insignificant, and somehow comforted.

We passed a village hard on the side of the mountain. Then there were small groups of homes clustered about pasturage and pens. Then there were lone rondavels, single homesteaders here and there. The soil here was poor. We saw fewer and fewer crops, then none.

Dawn broke, and for an hour of walking we hadn’t seen a home. There was no road here, not even a dirten path, just tire tracks barely visible on the hard soil of the mountain side.

The canyon walls curved in from either side. The ground before us swept up to become the plateau above. A nervousness grew within me: we had missed it, we were in the wrong canyon, it had never been there to begin with. Then we came to a rondavel with six vertical lines chalked on the door. Six lines. Guitar-strings. Here we were.

I stood back and looked at my new home. It looked much like my old home at the bushcamp. That is to say, it looked like home. Round walls of mortared stone, a thatched roof, a fire-pit to one side, an outhouse to the other, a little well just up the hill. There was a wooden shed against the outer wall of the hut. It was full of firewood. It wasn’t my handiwork. It would do.

The rondavel was just above a small oxbow. A few hundred feet upstream and the river split into two forks, each of which went on to disappear into the heights above. The mountain whose feet we sat upon stood more than two thousand feet above us. Perhaps an airplane could fly above us or a bounty-hunter come to our door. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

I knocked on the door: nothing. I tried the handle: locked. Hannah leaned forward with a key and in a moment of jiggling the door swung open. There was a bed with heavy quilts, a camp-stove with plenty of propane, shelves covered in bags and jars of supplies, and a set of chesspieces I had made.

We dropped our backpacks to the ground. Our clothing followed and we fell into our bed. We wrapped ourselves around ourselves and fell asleep as one.

We were home.

 

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~ by davekov on 20 March 2011.

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