There were the black volcanic rocks, bulbous and accidental, balancing like teeth along the ridge. They were farther off than we’d thought.
We won’t be able to reach them and get back before dark, he said, shading his eyes.
So we stayed on the trail and followed it down through the brush and over a rushing stream with soaked stones the color of chicken skin. Above us, the snow-capped peak of Tangariro wore a halo of steam. It was cold when the sun went behind the clouds and the wind blew my hair into squeaky knots. I ran ahead and squatted by a trickle of stream that had escaped while he took photographs of the land. When I heard him coming through the trees I kept my eyes on the water.
He aimed the camera at me. Click, click, click. Now he wanted one together. I shrugged and looked around.
C’mon, he said, up here, with the mountain behind us.
He lead us further along through the pines, up the hill to where the valley opened and we could see the great blue volcano again, the old hotel at its base like a tiny train-set accessory. He took the camera from around his neck and searched for a good sturdy place to set it up. I shivered.
I want to go back to Bali, I said aloud. To the heat of the equator. Though I remembered how when strangers had called to us, “Taxi? Taxi? Happy honeymoon!” he had laughed, shaking his head vigorously, quick to correct them, them to whom it would not matter. On the sky-train in Bangkok three weeks earlier, on our way to find the royal palaces, I steadied myself with one arm hooked around a pole and stretched to peer out the windows at the city below. Everyone wearing the same yellow shirt with the face of the king, fragile Thai girls glued to the arms of pale, sweat-stained men, the kind of human swarms I feared. I tried to catch his eye, to make certain that we came from somewhere else, that there were still real places other than here.
Hey, I said. Hi? I tried to look into his face, but I lost my balance, knocking us both against the wall of the train.
Why do you need me to look at you? he said, flinging his hands up with impatience. Look around, look at where we are.
On the way back to our hotel in the late afternoon, he told me he missed me. Where were you today? he asked of my silence.
Now he wants to throw his arms around me and capture it in a still image, and I know it’s only because I am leaving soon. But he’s wearing the blue sweatshirt I found at the vintage store on 7th Street a month before we set out, and he’s gently nestling the camera into the crevice of a rock and setting the timer.
Nina Boutsikaris is a copywriter and publicist in New York with a BA in writing from Ithaca College. This piece comes from a longer chap book she’s putting together of prose poems and poetic prose based on traveling in South East Asia.