top of page
compressedBlankenship - Nose_edited_edited_edited.jpg

Jennifer Dunn

Middle Ground

          If I’d known this morning where we’d be right now, I’d have told you not to be so sparing with your natural peanut butter and low-sugar strawberry jam. “Seriously, spread them thick, sweetheart,” I would’ve said. “Go wild.”
          I know you would never have agreed to pancakes slathered in butter and real maple syrup with a side of perfectly crisped bacon —or even a fluffy, delicate-but-satisfying spinach and feta omelette, accompanied by some gorgeous golden hash browns—but, given the circumstances, I think I would have needed to insist. Even though I had an extra piece of toast alongside my boiled egg, I wish I’d had something like that to eat instead. You know, a real breakfast. A real last breakfast.
          “Before a hike?” you’d have said, and I’d have shrugged. You were the one who wanted to go hiking in the first place, and it took some convincing to get me to agree. Dinner tomorrow night at the restaurant of my choice, which, honestly, would probably just have been some greasy fast food. Burgers at Five Guys, or even Taco Bell. But I would have felt guilty—what would you have eaten? I guess we won’t have to bicker about it, after all. You’re off the hook.
        I’ll admit, hiking was fun, for the most part. I wish we could have gone again, but with more snacks. The fall . . . well, that was my fault. I know they put those fences up for a reason and we weren’t supposed to climb over them, like you said. I know we were supposed to come back down the trail and leave the park before sundown, like you said. But the sunset—wasn’t it wonderful? What’s the point of hiking up a mountain if you don’t stay to watch the sunset, anyway? What’s the point of having all this nature “practically in our backyard” (like you said) if we can’t enjoy it how we want to? I know, I know, how I want to. . . .
           No point in arguing about it now. Looks like I’m done for, and that’s that. I can tell because thinking about all that food did nothing for me. I can imagine all those glorious tastes, and so many more—luscious desserts, cappuccinos, my favorite full-bodied wine—swirling it in the glass under my nose and catching the notes of tobacco and cedar . . . but thinking about them doesn’t make me crave them. I’m just not hungry. If you were telling the truth all those times you said you weren’t hungry, then I guess, in a way, I finally understand you better. I just always had this feeling that most of the time, when you said that, you didn’t quite mean it.
           I wish I could thank you for trying to save me, for trying to catch my hand when I stumbled, for grabbing onto my backpack in the almost-darkness, and for not letting go. I’m sorry you went over the cliff with me, but I think things are going to be okay for you. I know that right now you can’t move well at all, and it looks like you’re pretty sad to see me go, which is really very touching. With all that diet talk lately—I mean, “healthy lifestyle” talk—I was starting to wonder if maybe you didn’t want me around anymore. Not like this, obviously. But still. Anyway, I think all you need to do is wait out the night, and in the morning, someone will find you. There were some people on the trail with us today, so I’m sure there will be more tomorrow, too.
           I know you can’t hear me, but I just have to say this anyway. When you get out of here (I know, when is still if at this point, but I’m trying to be optimistic for you), lighten up a little about all that health stuff, okay? In fact, try to lighten up a little about, well . . . everything. I mean, be healthy, but don’t be so stressed. Stress isn’t healthy . . . Of course, you’d say I’m too lightened up, but I’m having a wise moment here, sort of an epiphany—kind of ironic that it’s happening now, but I guess that’s how it goes. There’s a reason you asked me to marry you. There’s a reason I said yes! We love each other!! Oh my God . . . loved. I wouldn’t have actually made you take me to Taco Bell. Five Guys is better. And they’ll wrap your burger in lettuce if you don’t want a bun! Why anyone would do that, I can’t imagine, but you’ve done it!! You could have done it again . . . Or we could have gone to Subway—sandwiches and salads!!
           I can’t believe this happened. Our whole future, gone . . . Oh, my darling, I’d give anything to come back and compromise, day after day, with you. I can see it now; I can see the middle ground. I wish I could ask you if you see it too, how close we were, and what we were missing.
            You hear that too, don’t you?
            A helicopter. Look—search lights.
            Wave, babe, wave. They’re coming for you. Looks like you’ll be out of here sooner than I thought. I’m going to miss you so much. I just—I can’t let you go. In fact, I think I’ll tag along in the helicopter. I mean, they’re taking my body, too . . . Seeing the two of us lying side by side on those stretchers, I just can’t believe—but now I can’t see anything—now I’m blinking—wait, I’m blinking?—and this is the most pain I’ve ever felt—I feel pain. It’s everywhere—and you’re looking over at me—oh, you have the loveliest eyes—you’re crying again, you’re trying to reach for me, and you’re saying— “Oh my God, I thought you were dead.”

Jennifer Dunn’s writing has appeared in CMF Magazine, The Woven Tale Press, and Trident. She holds an MA in English literature and lives in Nova Scotia.

  • Twitter


bottom of page