Hardanger ~ Bob Kesh
I feel my blood lip as the cigarette presses against the slit. I feel that, and taste the blood, more than the tobacco. Beer runs through my system and I grab my crotch. Yesterday was the day of the dead. And though I thought of my dead friend, I never managed to spit out the word “skål” as the drinks went down. Though, it was always in my mind.
I’d sat at the bar and watched my friends dance. They kicked, spun and shook as the music coursed through. I watched them and thought of the last picture my friend had sent me. He called it “his local beach”. There was no sand but he always wrote beach in quotation marks. It was a green valley with thickets of pines and cliffs on the edge of the ocean. He’d told me the locals prefer a beach a bit further away because it had more sand, but he preferred to chill on the cliffs and rocks surrounding the fjord. He’d jumped from many of those cliffs into the ocean. I thought of that and watched my friends dance.
Down the end of the bar a short brunette was dancing. Shaking like the end of a rattle snakes tail. She stopped and took off her heels, stuffing them into her handbag. I prayed only for it not to go silent as long as she danced.
‘The bar’s closing soon’ said Vera.
‘Shit, let’s get a last round!’ George said. ‘Come on guys!’
Our other two friends took their gasps from dancing and wiped the sweat from their faces. We took the drinks George bought us. They finished theirs faster than I did.
A small circle formed around the girl dancing at the end of the bar. She was dancing for herself. Dancing out her life, at the day of the dead. I thought of my friend again. He never danced, but he oozed as much life as he could enjoy. And just as it was with him, it was hard not to smile.
We left the bar and went looking for a ride home. We made it towards the station and saw a man up on a milk crate preaching. No one really payed attention, and my friends were confused when I stopped. He wailed:
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to break down and a time to build up,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to get and a time to lose,
a time to keep and a time to cast away,
a time to rend and a time to sew,
a time to keep silence and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
I don’t know if my friend had heard those words before me. It’s likely. I stub out my cigarette, slash and get down to bed. Before I fall asleep I know he’ll be in my thoughts tomorrow. Along with all my other friends who died before their time.