I like this hill. I’ve been coming up here ever since I was a young boy. Back then I used to think that I could see the whole world from up here. I could see out to the park lands and paddocks beyond the confines of the city limits. As the years and decades passed I watched as the city slowly grew out to swallow up those paddocks. Nowadays the metropolis streaks out as far as the eye can see. Super highways tear black scars into the earth and high-density housing chokes up the old parks. But I don’t find that depressing at all. I think it’s a sign of progress. It almost feels like the city has grown with me, expanding in size as my own experiences expand.
So, it should come as no surprise to you that I met the most interesting person I know on that hill. I almost didn’t notice her arrive. If you had asked me at the time I would have said she just appeared.
It happened in that year-long void between high school and university. I wanted to take some time off and travel the world, but ended up squandering most of it. Sure, I managed to get across to Vietnam for about a month, but apart from that I barely left the city limits. So, time and time again I found myself sitting on the old wooden picnic table that had become my home away from home, simply staring out across the city skyline. On that day the air was still, the sky clear. It was a beautiful day in every sense of the word, when I was caught surprise by a gust of wind.
And then she was there, as if she rode in on the breeze. If she hadn’t spoken I could have almost have thought that she was a hallucination of a bored mind.
“Hello.” Her voice lilted across the remainder of the wind. Her long blond hair swaying gently, testament to the dying zephyr. She wore a one-piece dress emblazoned with a deep crimson floral pattern. There was nothing to identify where she came from or who she was. She was simply a beautiful woman deposited by the breeze.
“Um, hi. I’ve never seen you here before.” I’m a sucker for a beautiful girl. I’m surprised I could get even that much out.
“Well, it is the first time I’ve come up here. I must say the view is fantastic!”
“Isn’t it? I’ve been coming up here since forever.”
Her head cocks a little at my poor grammar, but she says nothing of it. She saunters towards me, her shapely legs carrying her slender frame as if it were weightless.
“Oh really? Then you might be able to show me the sights.”
It was from this time that I knew I was in love, head-over-heels and hopeless. We spent the afternoon searching out landmarks in the city’s skyline, making up stories about the mystical lands that the roads led off to, and generally talking nonsense. It was lucky that we didn’t talk about anything serious; on that first day I was so dumbstruck that I could barely manage to think straight, let alone make serious conversation. The diversion of stupid stories of adventurers departing from the city on quests meant that I could keep my brain in first gear.
And then the sun set.
Watching the sun set over the skyline was one of my secret pleasures. As the orange globe of the sun sinks into the forest of skyscrapers it lights up the world in amber. Windows that have remained dark throughout the day are set ablaze, igniting the city for a few brief minutes.
“I think I can see why you come up here so often.”
“Pretty amazing, isn’t it. Sometimes I daydream that the whole city is burning, and I’m the only one that will survive.”
Perhaps that wasn’t the best thing to say. The girl’s face contorts as she processes what I have just said.
“That’s terrible. Why would you even think something like that?”
“I don’t know. It’s just something that I do. You know, you let your mind wander far enough and anything can happen, right?”
The girl pouts like a child being told to eat their greens.
“I still think it’s a bad thing.”
“Okay then, I’m sorry. I guess I just daydream a little too much.”
A look of worry spreads across her face. I can tell straight away that she wants to say something, but doesn’t know if she should.
“What’s the matter? I didn’t really mean to say that about the city. I don’t really want everyone to die.”
“That’s not it,” she says as she shakes her head. “It’s just… well…”
She stands up to face me, sending her hair and dress aflutter.
“You see… I have this power… the power to make dreams come true.”
I’m stunned. Maybe our talk of magic kingdoms got a bit too much for her.
“So if those are the kind of daydreams you have then I don’t think I should stay with you.”
“Well, don’t worry. I don’t think I’ve actually dreamed that per se…”
She looks as if a huge weight has shifted from her shoulders.
“Really? Well… please don’t make jokes like that. They’re not funny.”
“Okay okay, fine. Anyway, I don’t think I ever got your name.”
I hate this. I do it all the time. I start talking to someone and then never find a good time to ask their name. For some reason names just aren’t that important to me. But this girl is different. I don’t just want to know her name, I need to know it. Even if this is the last time we ever meet, I want a name to put to her face. Something to remember her by lest the memory of this day sink into the oblivion of my mind.
“Elissa. My name is Elissa.”
It sounds like music to my ears. I only wish my name were something more impressive.
“Well, for the record, I’m Peter.”
“Pleased to meet you, Peter.”
The last of the sun’s light drains from the sky and stars twinkle into life overhead. Little can I believe that we have barely moved from this spot for half a day.
“Say, I had best be going, but if you’d like, we can meet up again?” I know that I should ask for her phone number or some way of contacting her, but I don’t want to seem too forward. What if she gets the wrong idea? Wait, what if she gets the wrong idea from me asking her this?
“Sure. I think I’d like that. Maybe you can tell me about your dreams. Your real dreams.”
“Sounds good. How about next weekend?”
“I’ll be there. I mean here…” her laugh titters across the air like butterflies.
“Well, I’ll see you then.” I wave a goodbye and then head towards my car. When I was a boy I used to ride my push-bike up here, but nowadays I can’t find the motivation. It’s not a particularly high hill, but the long, sweeping turns make the ride a lot longer than it needs to be. Driving up the hill gives me more time up top to relax… and without breaking a sweat.
I remember looking back towards the picnic bench and seeing no-one. As I drove down the dark, winding road I started to believe that Elissa never existed, that I had just fallen asleep and dremt the whole thing.
In hindsight, life would have been much easier if it did happen that way.