Nothing Beyond This

I held back my breath for a time, but you didn’t. You had been to the very edge of the world. You knew the sound of the wind, low and constant, thrumming against the land, the ice, the sea. You’d seen how the pale gray-green earth disappeared beneath ice and snow, and then how that white arc of land thrust into the slate colored sea. How that arc dwindled towards the horizon, and, on the very edge of vision, fell apart, ice collapsing into the sea. There the pieces bobbed, then vanished over the edge. As far as anyone in living memory knew, there was nothing beyond. Only more sea, though some stories from long, long ago said there might be more ice further north. More ice, I thought, shuddering not with the cold, but with the wonder of it. That there could be a place colder than this. Every winter here I say I have seen enough. I’ll be saying that until you hack me a cold, shallow grave. But that will be seasons into the future, if I stay hale and fortunate. That day, though, steam puffed from your nostrils and lips, and your golden lashes and hair were so incredibly, blindingly fair in the cold sunlight that you looked frosted over. The god of ice and the end of the world. I wondered: if I tasted those lips, pink as an alpine rose, would there be any warmth? Your hazel eyes were the same color as summer forests. The color of the living world behind us. Your smile slow, nearly lazy, bloomed in that barren landscape. That’s when I began to understand. Not why I had come to this place, so far from everything. I didn’t. I haven’t. It was all chance as far as I can tell. But I could see that I was nothing; we are but tiny things, tiny lives. And perched on the very edge of the world, it seemed to me very wise indeed to love you, after all. There was nothing beyond this, anyways, as far as we could tell.