As there is little chance of my reaching human aid alive I greatly regret my inability to set out the coast line as surveyed for the 300 miles we travelled and the notes on glaciers and ice formations, etc.

It is strange to wake in the arms of a dead man. A girl, yes, though even there one tosses and turns so as to connect with the other only at a flank, a leg, a touch. And not dead, no. Just that deadness of not wanting to touch again, that early morning shame.

Here, though, Filippo was wholly pressed against me, his mouth lolling open to show me the stub of his tongue. He was not yet stiff, and even his body still had some warmth in it – warmth robbed, I fear, from my own scant store.

I began to pull myself slowly from the bag, afraid to hurry, afraid that once I let the full strength of my revulsion show, I would tear the precious fabric to shreds. He stank like shit, like some animal, but I had to pull myself from him as delicately as a lover, afraid to wake the beloved as you start on the journey away.

Once before this, in the long days retreating from the crevasse, I had had to clean him, when he filled his trousers inadvertently, and this time, too, I could not let him go down into the cold ice unwashed. He was a brute, but, in the end, a loved and loving brute.

The bag I turned inside out before I strapped it onto the sledge. I could not imagine using it again, but knew that by nightfall I would crawl into it with the gratitude of a slave excused a beating. His own bag I used for grave-shroud, and – while I could not dig deep enough for my satisfaction – I laid him in the eternal ice with sorrow. There he will lie, unchanged, his mouth half-open (I could not close it) to show his few good teeth, that insinuating, caressing tongue silenced for good. There he will lie, more imperishable than Pharaoh, as the years turn and the centuries gather over his head, and his memories, his memories of that village Laura, her cruel ways, and that one fleet glimpse of a furry slit attenuate and perish in the cold.

I said none of that above his body, though. No, de mortuis nil nisi bonum. I read from the Bible, from the Song of Songs.

No comments: