The loud rumbling of a ’56 Buick cuts off in the open wilderness of Utah. Emmanuel wipes his brow as he struggles to escape the humidity of his once prized automobile, now in dysfunction and a pain in his ass. Further ahead would be the incline of smooth, yet cumbersome rock formations whose top is his destination. He used to come hiking here in his youth with his father, a man of few words and even fewer kind glances. The arid atmosphere matches those times, and here he is again.

After hours of maneuvering in sweat and dust, Emmanuel stands on the flat plateau of the canyon cliff, looking at his dirt-covered limbs through large fogged spectacles. For a moment, he twitches his mustache and scrunches his nose from the labor in an attempt to breathe through the dry air. He sifts through his current situation as he has done time and time again; he had quit a dissatisfying job, exited a long and sour divorce, and kept up with standards just bearable to live on. There was a sore stirring in his heart. It was the stirring of unknowing, what was and what will be, which left the taste of bile on his tongue. Bitter hesitation, like the wind that carried the dust shuffling by him. His wife probably left him for that reason. The uncertainty of a man well past his prime, with no more drive or passion to keep going. Walking further along the unpathed cliffside, he dares to look down the edge.

“Much easier down than climbing up,” he apathetically mutters. The dizzying height only causes a subtle squeeze in his stomach. These days, that feeling wasn’t so unfamiliar to him. Now, things meant to be concrete like high school sweethearts and careers cast a cold confusion into him. Hell, he was resolute in his intentions, but didn’t even know if being here was the best way to execute them. It was ironic, really, to be enclosed by the nature he was so enamored with as a child. It was the beginning and now the end. His life had gone to miserable shit the day he tried looking for a better job. As time passed, he knew he wouldn’t be able to climb out of the trench he had fallen into, as he had done in his youth. It was ironic how such an ugly life was surrounded by inhospitably beautiful scenery.

Suddenly, a stiff bunch of sagebrush to his left rustles. Emmanuel whips his head in anticipation. He remembers watching the late night news report mentioning these parts had dozens missing from mountain lion attacks. It was a segment he could recall clearly, for the unexpectedly playful tone the anchor had ended on.

” . . . all four bodies found are currently unidentifiable due to wounds on the jaw, neck, and eyes. If I hadn’t known any better, it would seem like they wouldn’t have seen the attack coming.” The morbid joke made him laugh then, but it didn’t ring so humorously now.

“Wouldn’t have seen it comin’ . . .” he says under his breath, and waits. Slowly, he steps away from the edge of the cliff. As he intensely stares at the shifting greenery, a small gray deer steps into view. Emmanuel’s buttoned-up chest deflates, and he stares. The tranquil young fawn stares back. After a hushed moment, to his surprise, the creature faintly bows its head and slowly turns to look at the horizon behind him. Before he could think anything of it, the ethereal fawn gives one last look before nimbly prancing with all its grace out of the clearing.

Left alone, Emmanuel contemplates the encounter as he turns to face the cliff edge again. This time, his eyes become aware of the view ahead and above him. He sees the formidable canyonsides, paramount and glowing from the copious amounts of energy from the sun. The lush greens of vegetation blanketing the boundless landscape. He could hear the birds calling out to one another through the crisp cerulean sky, and all of life in this breathtaking scenery. Again, he takes a steady deep breath, and now feels the warm clean air tickle his nose. He remembers this moment, this epiphany, this acceptance of smallness to the greater entity that is the world. The last time he understood all this was when he was a boy. The years that piled from his adolescence onward concealed the place in his soul that carried that awe. To think it would all be brought back from this journey to the canyon, and more specifically to the cliff. The cliff . . . Emmanuel interrupts his epiphany and looks down at his shoes. His lips purse as he closes his eyes and thinks. As he takes one last look at the scenery before him, a noiseless chuckle forms on his lips. With no hesitation, he turns on his heel and his fingers get a hold of the jingling keys in his pocket.

Elena Kim is a first-year Design student—and soon to be RA of the 23rd street residence—at SVA. She is originally from Northern Virginia, and has a pet dog named Mela. Her interests include anime, Dr. Phil, and music groups like Epik High.