We looked at the mountain in all its pristine glory, drifting wistfully past on the screen. We looked, and we knew desire: the urge to seek out this new mirage with its promise of beauty, of love, and paradoxically, of peace. We looked and already we knew also the first delicious pangs of impending heartbreak, for surely no reality could live up to this gauzy ephemeral soaring of tree and sky with mountain-slopes building heart-frames around it like earnest middle-schoolers. In reality there would have been mosquitoes, and bad odours, and shoes that slipped or broke outright, and it would have been too hot, or too cold, or raining. In reality… But I shall never know it, this bittersweet reality we planned for and laughed over. This mountain I could not climb for want of breath shall forever be the loveliest peak in the world, with the most amazing view. Suddenly I miss something I never had, that was never mine to miss, because you climbed a mountain I could not. Suddenly it becomes the lightning rod for all the envy, for all the anger, for all the heart-poisoning misery of perpetual exhaustion I have secreted inside me, for it is no longer one more pretty hill from a random net video; it is a thing we were meant to share and could not, a thing breath denied me and did not deny you.
Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Black Bough, Zin Daily, London Grip, The Madrigal, Acropolis Journal, Lucent Dreaming, and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages, and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her.