Izzy Roberts-Orr

Cairn

 

 

‘Chopsticks’ emanates from underneath one of the cairns by the pony track, echoing across Ben Nevis, and you are ripping the rocks back with your bare hands, getting dirt under your fingernails, scraping your knuckles red raw and white on the grey stones. Rubble flies in all directions, I duck and crouch on my hands and knees. I look up the slope and watch your shoulders roll and heave under your coat. There is a small inland sea between your shoulder blades and I want to press my palm into it and lick the salt. Finally, there is a corner showing. Flaking varnish and rotting wood that looks like it has been flayed. ‘Look!’ you shout, ‘Look!’ and I am, I’m looking at the space you have made in the cairn, this hole in the side of the tallest mountain in the UK and ‘chopsticks’ is still belting insistently out of the ground and there is the corner of a piano down amongst the rocks and you are beaming and waving your arms in circles like a crazed jazz ballet dancer and your face sparkles in the white sun. I skid up to where you are, I get down on my hands and knees and dig with you and you laugh and say something like, ‘this can’t be happening’ but it is. This is really happening and it’s happening to us on the day that we decided to walk with our lungs breaking to look at the light and the rolls of green from on top of this mountain. You’re making little excited huffing noises and your breath is billowing into the cold air like you’re trying to make clouds. All I can think is that this wouldn’t happen with anyone else. I feel brave and reckless uncovering this piano that is playing ‘chopsticks’ under a cairn on Ben Nevis. I think that it’s stupid to think that this couldn’t happen with anyone else. That of course I feel that way, because when you love someone nothing is ever the same as it is with them. That one day when you don’t love them any more or you fall in love with someone else or you don’t you realise you were just two humans. I feel weird about wanting things from you sometimes, or maybe just about wanting so many unnameable things. I think things would just be easier if I wasn’t trying to hold every moment so tightly in my hands. Then we are pulling the last rocks away and uncovering this wreck of a baby grand with its keys grinning at us like teeth and we are grinning too and you’re hugging my neck and kissing my face with a pressure like pressing palms in the smack of a really good high five and I think, ‘fuck easier’, this is happening now. I think it’s enough, it’s more than enough just to be two humans. To be these two humans on the side of a mountain with a rotting baby grand and hands to hold onto it. We take a climbing rope from your backpack and push the piano down the mountain before us, holding the rope together to make sure it doesn’t go careening into the trees. The other walkers look at us with wonder and confusion and respect and we are gleaming with sweat and laughing with ‘chopsticks’ ringing out into the crisp air.

 

 

Izzy Roberts-Orr is a writer and editor from Melbourne, Australia. She grew up between Alice Springs and Footscray. Her current project is a blog of daily writing with photographer Sarah Walker at throwdownwords.com. She is currently spinning around Europe after studying on exchange in Glasgow. Talk to her here @izasmiz.

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