Talk to the Mountains
One hot summer evening at about ten, I found myself stranded at Coleman's, the grease pit of town. Believe me, it wasn't my choice to be there. I only ended up there because that's where I'd been dumped off when my so called "friends" decided I wasn't going to be as fun to manipulate after all. That's the story of my life. I do or say whatever it takes to get people to like me, so they use me. When I stop giving in, they dumped me. This time, quite literally.
I sat in the stuffy little dining area sipping a quickly melting shake and feeling pathetic. No one else was there, but that's not surprising. It felt like the cooler had died about noon the day before. I know I wouldn't have been there by choice. Unfortunately, I was. So I just sat there in one of the booths, my legs sticking to the vinyl and wondering how I was going to get home.
I must have really been caught up in my thoughts, because I didn't even notice the woman in black show up. One moment she was just there, looking down at me with strange, violet eyes. I stared at her for awhile, idiotically not even realizing she was staring back. She looked strange, and it was a couple of minutes before I figured out why. The woman definitely didn't look like she belonged in our little town. She was dressed from head to toe in black leather biker gear. Despite the fact that the black leather, jacket, chaps and combat boots didn't look like it let in any cool air, she seemed totally unaffected by the heat. Her jet black hair was a tousle of shiny locks, instead of a limp dull mess like my own, and her pale skin showed no sign of shininess or sweat. The strangest thing about her though, were those violet eyes. I found myself drawn into her gaze, just staring. I felt like a deer caught in some one's head lights.
She put her hand out for me to shake, and I just stared at it too. "Hi." She said in a voice that rang with familiarity. I tried placing it, but the only voice I could think of like it was my mother's. That wasn't it, though. Her voice didn't quite grate on my nerves the same way. I finally noticed her outstretched hand. Finding no apparent harm in a simple hand shake, I took her hand. The moment our hands touched, the feeling of familiarity was overwhelming. One of my nuttier friends told me later that she had cast an enchantment to make me trust her. But like I said, that friend's a bit out there. The woman was just extremely charismatic, or maybe I'd met some one like her before, though I can't imagine where. "My name's Ellette." She said with a smile. Even the name seemed vaguely familiar.
"Oh, um, I'm Shannon." I stuttered. She nodded her head, as if thinking the name over and pulled chair up to the table. My thoughts were flowing like oatmeal, really lumpy oatmeal. All I could do was sit and stare at this bizarre looking biker chic.
"Mind if I sit?" I shrugged. She straddled the chair still smiling, and folded her arms along the back rest. "Soooo, you stuck here or something?" She asked. "You really don't look like the type to stick around a grease pit like this." I smiled at her use of the name 'grease pit'. It was the same phrase I always used to describe the place. "A kid like you should be out goofing off with your friends."
My smile died. "My 'friends' dumped me off here." I just about spit the word 'friends'. She nodded knowingly. We talked awhile, and I found myself beginning to almost trust this stranger. It was weird, though. I know that any other time I would have taken off the moment some psycho lady in black leather started staring at me. I'm glad I didn't, though. Meeting Ellette may have been strange, but I've never felt so comfortable around another person. She wasn't a peer, or a lecturing adult, in fact I couldn't place her age no matter how hard I tried. She was a stranger, so she wasn't going to run and tell any one what stupid things I said, and she was the one asking the questions, so I it wasn't like I was out to impress her. I began to feel I could tell her anything and she'd listen. It even seemed like she cared. I told her my troubles and hopes, problems and joys. She asked questions and I answered with more truth that I would have with any one else. I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders by letting out all the stuff I'd been hiding away. "You want to know what I think?" she asked when I was done. I shrugged. "I think you need to learn to live..."
"What do you mean? I know how to have fun, if that's what your trying to tell me." I said, cutting her off. That was one of the things my friends knew how to do well, even in our conservative little town. They threw the best parties, played the best pranks and knew how not to get caught. Half the stuff we pulled wasn't very legal, but that was part of the fun, the rush. She shook her head, as if reading my thoughts.
"Not like that. That kind of living is empty. It does nothing for you in here," she said, placing a closed fist over her heart. I stared blankly at her again. What was this strange woman, some kind of biker hippie? I thought, my rash and obstinate young mind instantly retracting as it caught wind of a possible lecture. She didn't lecture, though, only sat and waited for her words to sink in, and they did. Slowly but surely I understood what she meant. My life did seem kind of empty. Empty and petty. My friends had fun, but almost always at someone else's expense. People like me always got caught in the middle. The dumbest thing about it was that I kept coming back to them. I ran a hand through my damp hair looking Ellette over cautiously.
"Okay, you wouldn't of told me something like that unless you had some kind of marvelous and god-like solution in mind."
She smiled, resettling the collar of her jacket. "No solution, or anything god-like. But I do have something in mind." I raised my eyebrows questioningly. "You ever talk to the mountains?" She asked, her smile turning mischievous. "Apparently not." she said taking my expression for and answer. I just about got up and left right then, but you know that old saying, 'curiosity killed the cat'? They came up with it just to describe me. So when she said, "Come on." I followed like a sheep to the slaughter.
She took me on a long ride in to the middle of no where on her battered motorcycle. I have no idea where we went. I could see nothing but a blur of moon light and shadows as we drove through the night, and into the foothills. We stopped at some cliff over looking a shadow filled valley. If had been light, I might have been able to recognize the place, though for some reason I don't think so. It was like we had totally left all I had ever known far behind, like I'd stepped into my own episode of the twilight zone. Ellette put the bike on it's stand and left it running. The only light was that of the headlight. "These mountains know more stories than you and I could ever comprehend." She whispered, walking to the edge. In the flickering light she looked eerie, something more than human. With the help of the teen-aged diet of too many horror movies, and my thoughts turned ominous. What if this strange woman was some kind of mass murder? I wondered, and praying that she wasn't. Knowing all too well that I was long since lost and would really be up a creek if she pulled a gun. I suppressed the thought with a dubious chuckle.
"What's that got to do with me?" I asked. She turned to look at me where I was still perched on the back seat of her bike.
"You are so caught up with being popular and pleasing your friends." I rolled my eyes. It sounded like more adult lecture stuff, but once again I found that I had judged too quickly. "You don't understand that they don't matter..you don't matter." Those words caught my attention instantly. "Everything they are, that you are, will be gone in just a brief time. But these mountains," she paused to gesture up at the wonders towering all around us, "they'll still be here." She said, her eyes distant as she gazed back over the shadowy clearing.
"That just sounds depressing." I sighed, she'd lost me. It sounded like something phenomenal and deep, but way beyond me.
"It is if you let it." She turned back to me. "What I'm trying to say though, is that you are all you have. Everyone seems to be stuck on trying to please everyone for everyone but themselves. In a blink of an eye they won't matter. They'll all be gone. You can't depend on others to bring meaning or enjoyment to your life." The intensity in her violet eyes seemed enough to change the world. "I think you've already discovered that they'll just use you. Only you can make you're life meaningful." I shook my head, pulling my eyes from her unearthly gaze.
"What does that have to do with talking to the mountains?"
"They won't bring meaning into you're life, but they'll listen to all your problems. They've heard it all, and don't mind hearing again. They don't need anything from you. They don't judge or ridicule. They wont use you or let you down, but they love to listen when you need to just let it all out."
I haven't seen Ellette since that night. She took me straight home and then just kind of disappeared. The child in me that still believes in fairy tales likes to think that she was some kind of guardian angel, come to set my life back on track. The skeptic in me says she was just some strange hippie do-gooder trying to cheer up a pathetic high school kid who was down on her luck. I still can't say I totally understand what she was trying to tell me, but she did start me thinking.
I didn't go out and try to start my life all over again, or even change much. I just started to see things a little differently. I tried to find friends who were actually "friends", though I'm not sure I've found many as of yet. I get in a little less trouble, and my grades could be worse. The strangest thing, though is the fact that I actually took her advice. Every once in a while I'll take a drive up to the mountains to sit on the edge of some cliff and talk away. At first I felt like a complete idiot, but that didn't last long. I know how weird it sounds, but you know, Ellette was right. Those ancient, towering mountains are the best listeners I've ever found.