"once, with my dad." the leaves were rustling at every step as we headed for the river beside the woodland rays. the daylight wasn't particularly bright nor warm. just enough to spill a sight suitable to see the crooked pathway.
"he told me that there are seasons where the fishes are abundant," i continued. "and you don't need any assistive gear during those."
"assistive gear," he repeated. "like spears and arrows, axes and daggers?"
"crossbows and maces," i corrected. he smiled.
the peak of autumn meant the presence of color schemes. usually, they'd range between red and orange, yellow and brown. when the leaves overlap upon each other, as though a smaller tree grew under a slightly bigger one, they'd give off a faded golden streak of gleam like the sun's rays. i hadn't been sure if i ever told him yet, but if you put your palm precisely under that line of light beneath the leaves shone by the sun, you are, by which, a witness of a heavenly body grasping hands with a portion of this world. it's like holding a part of the sky, a similar thing made from the same element the rain gives you.
"how about you?" i asked.
"what about me?"
"have you been to a camping trip like this before?" i remembered the first time going to the mountains with my family. although the view was beautiful, exceptional, exciting, insert all other adjectives that describe the stars the same, i couldn't stop thinking about how the ground was continuously uphill. and the more we stepped, the higher we were. what exactly was the probability of us falling into this den of bushes that was actually a forest of trees below, and the number of broken bones limited to survive the way back home? yes, the journey was memorable, i could say. but breathtaking was a more fitting term to me. both literally and its figure of speech.
"i've been to high places before, and those sceneries," he looked upfront. "definitely are one of its kind. but huge forests? not as of i can remember."
"you don't overlook everything, do you?"
"like snakes being around these branches or spiders on the tree trunks. worms under your shoes?" i looked at where we were stepping, the shades of leaves reflecting on ground. it reminded me of how john green described them. the sky being split looked like traces of cassiopeia.
"no," he replied. overthinking, it might've been my middle name but i always knew he wouldn't do such a thing. "but it's just like walking at a park, don't you think?" he continued. "a city or a town park, but with maces and crossbows as you say. so it should be like taking a stroll through the woods sixty five million years ago."
"definitely to not try and steal some fishes from their ancient rivers," i uttered. we laughed.
the flowing water sounded closer the further we went. the birds were chirping as well, but not too loud either. they were dispersed high enough to stay on branches of trees median in height. this forest was always closely intertwined in equidistant symmetries, and i always thought i was the complete opposite of it.
the river was already visible upfront. we stopped by the nearest tree as i tossed my backpack, and he placed his next to mine. i retied my shoelaces tighter as i focused on a creek that laid a little upfront. we headed there.
the flowing water wasn't as strong as i expected, which was a great thing, of course, because falling into the depth of that i-don't-know-what-in-the-world-lies-in-its-dark-oblivious void was probably not a good idea. rocks were sitting by its sides and across, some huge enough for its surfaces to remain untouched by the stream. my dad once advised that between these solid platforms laid the most vulnerable paths of prey. i leaped through a few of these spaces, a meter fall by its edge, and i was going first as he followed behind. we stopped at the one with the least strong current as i could see a few fishes already jumping alongside.
"salmon," he said from my back. i faced him.
"and catfishes." i could see their whiskers flashing droplets as another jumped by. we both bent down on the rocks we were at, the space between these platforms managing as our possible source of dinner.
"i'll try to catch it first?" i said as another one leaped by. he glanced at me then back to the flowing water.
"since they're slippery, i'll serve as the second bait."
i nodded in agreement. i wiped my hands on the sides of my shirt (wasn't anxiously sweating, was i?), prepping them closely on the little space this time. i looked upfront as a salmon, which i assumed was heading to our direction, rapidly curved itself for a jump. i raised my hands just in time to catch it, trying to grip its slimy skin. it slipped up and i grabbed hold of it again before it swiveled its body, leaping towards him. he moved fast enough to clasp its body, as they fell down the edge in the water below.
there was a quote i remembered that virginia woolf said in her book "to the lighthouse." it went as, "so fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea." although he wasn't weightless and i knew not that he could (possibly, you know) fly, but he was like the wind virginia woolf described at that specific moment. not the clouds but the sails up on the sky, and not the sails but the clouds into these waters. and i couldn't tell if that were of any good at all.
he was glaring at me, a meter below, arms crossed with his hips down in the water, as drops of the river streamed on his forehead from his strands of wet hair. i could still see the movement of the surface as the fish hurried away from him.
"i, uh." i covered my mouth, trying to find the words at first, because i believed it was pretty much the most rude thing i could ever do to laugh at what in the world just happened. but i did, i laughed, a bit much i became teary. i looked back at him, expecting an eye roll or probably a punch or a slap (either of which i'd gladly accept), but as i did, he started laughing as well. i shook my head before kneeling down on the rock to offer him my hand.
"i'm so sorry," i said, wiping my eyes with my other hand. "i didn't think that would happen. i should've warned you that you might fall belo--" and before i could process my words, i was already beside him, drenched the same, after he took my hand and pulled it. he laughed and so did i, our voices echoing amidst the trees nearby and the sound of the flowing water.
i couldn't tell which part my head was remembering, which detail i couldn't tend to think. the ever-changing colors of light, splashes of autumn leaves' shadows falling and swaying by as they reflected on the surface of the water, or the way he was happy. i looked at him for a split second. sometimes, i whisper to God how beautiful life is, how infinite are the little things. we are tapestries, and we are astonishments of His marvelous wonder. but i glanced away just immediately as he faced me.
"i think," he said. "there are edible mushrooms we passed by earlier. we can have those for food instead." i laughed a little and nodded in reply.
the actual wind settled in, rippling the water as it did. i thought of the stars and the figures they lined we call as constellations, as if the waters don't show the same. at once, i wanted to say it out loud, how the river, this river, would take us back into the becoming of something that was beyond the lingual way of differentiating moments over photographs, something light and time couldn't capture in its exact. about how diane arbus said that "a picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know." and i knew in that moment that even if i could stick a camera under his nose, about how he was asking why i was smiling under my breath as we walked back to our bags, clothes wet and soaked, that i wanted to write my gratitude to green, woolf, arbus and more, for expressing things i myself failed to do so. that i wanted to freeze, in light and time, a genuine smile i hadn't seen yet. something i could hold to my palms, underneath the rain and the sun's rays. someday i pray for, someday i will.