The karst rocks of el Torcal de Antequera rise up against the sky like bodyguards, sheltering us from the blinding mid-June sun. We should have bought more water in the over-priced gift shop, but as usual, we were too hasty. The moment you spotted the moon-like, limestone landscape, you hurried off – as though bringing us back here could change things. Like a fool, I followed.
Now, parched and sun-scorched, we lean against the vine-strewn entrance of a cave, unnerved by the insistent buzzing of flies within. Less than half way round the trail and we need to pass through, but neither dares – until you ask me to lead the way, too politely. So I do.
It’s cool and dark inside, but swarms of flies land on my cheeks and there’s no room to swat. Back outside, I wipe my face on my vest, trying to remove the dirty feeling of flies against skin. You catch up quickly, as though I might disappear and offer the last of our precious water. I wet my lips and feel revived. You take a gulp, stare at the empty bottle accusingly.
Exposed under the piercing blue sky, I shelter my eyes and try to enjoy the formations. I think I see a camel. You say – it looks like a snail. When I shrug, you tell me – it’s all about the angle. I resist saying – isn’t that the truth? You walk ahead, avoiding what I’m thinking.
Trailing behind, I shape-spot amongst the towering rocks. Look carefully and you can imagine all sorts – bears, a Sphinx, the Eiffel Tower, Mickey Mouse. I wonder what you’re imagining, several metres ahead with a determined stride.
I used to love this place when we’d walk hand in hand all day, comparing notes. Do you remember when we sneaked from the path to make love in a bed of red peonies? We stumbled across a Griffon vulture. It stretched its vast wings and swooped, sending an alarming shriek into the valley below.
These rocks we tread are 150 million years old. In that time, the landscape changed from seafloor to mountain range – the ammonite fossil, encased in limestone at the end of the trail, the only proof. How sad, to remain in the same spot for so long, to witness so much but have no voice.
Above your head, I spy a curious mountain goat peeking over the summit. I try to call your name, but it sticks in my throat.
I wish I could pull you to me, make love in peonies again. I would explain why I cheated, and why I’d never do it again. Maybe then, we’d finally morph and grow beyond it, instead of replicating this wilderness?
In twenty short years of freeze-thaw marriage, I fractured and crumbled. Like the ammonite, the hurt is embedded too deeply as proof in your heart. Despite the June sun, I shiver. My skin puckers into tiny formations of its own.